May 4, 2012
The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) released a response in late April to the latest list of Uyghur “terrorists” prepared by China’s Ministry of Public Security. The TIP communiqué was entitled “A Statement Regarding the Declaration of a ‘Terrorists’ List for the Third Time by the Chinese Government” (Islam Awazi, April 23).
Seal of the Turkistan Islamic Party
The Chinese list of six suspects, complete with descriptions, aliases and photos, is consistent with previous Chinese statements that describe Uyghur militants as members of the now defunct Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) rather than members of the TIP.  Leading the list of suspects is Nurmemet Memetmin, who is described as the “commander of the ETIM.”  According to the Chinese list, Memetmin was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in a “South Asian country,” (i.e. Pakistan, which is always described this way in statements with possible implications for Chinese-Pakistani relations), but had escaped in 2006 to take up the planning of new attacks against China, including the July 30-31, 2011 attacks on civilians in Kashgar allegedly led by the late Memtieli Tiliwaldi (see Terrorism Monitor, April 26).
The TIP used the statement to reject their categorization as “terrorists” by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security:
No doubt those who were accused of terrorism by the oppressive Chinese government are the martyrs who died in the torture chambers defending their religion, honor, and all their rights deprived by the aggressive Chinese…
Let everyone know that the jihad in Turkistan is not a terrorist act but rather it is an aqida [belief] and religious obligation and responsibility that is laid on our shoulders because of the aggressions of the Chinese against us… It is a legitimate right for the Muslims of Eastern Turkistan and it is prohibited for any person to describe it by another name.
The Uyghur Islamists see in the latest list an effort to create divisions within the Islamic community in Xinjiang:
The purpose of the Chinese government in [making] these lists is to cut the link between the mujahideen and the Muslims morally and materially, and safeguard its rule in Eastern Turkistan, but how could they do that, since our proud Muslim Turkistani people, who have intelligence and foresight, knows the cunning of communist China and the extent of its crimes?
The TIP concluded their statement with a call to the international Muslim community to “answer the call to jihad and join the ranks of the mujahideen” in the struggle against the “atheist communist government of China.”
China’s Ministry of Public Security also announced that the suspects’ funds and assets would be frozen, though this was likely to be little more than a formality given the unlikelihood any of the six have funds or investments of any significance in Chinese financial institutions.
Given the arms used in many of the attacks recently attributed by China to the ETIM (knives, agricultural implements, etc.) and the apparent lack of planning or coordination in these attacks, the remark of a Ministry of Public Security spokesman that the ETIM was “the most direct and real safety threat that China faces” can only be interpreted as an indication that Beijing believes there are no other significant threats to China’s security (Xinhua, April 6). Nonetheless, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, Hong Lei, did not refrain from suggesting the Uyghur militants posed a major international threat: “The evidence is incontrovertible that this organization’s violent terror activities seriously threaten not only China’s national security, but also the peace and tranquility of the region and the world” (Reuters, April 6).
Meanwhile two Uyghur prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp have been freed after ten years imprisonment without charges and four years after a U.S. court ordered their release. China has demanded their extradition though the United States, which has determined Uyghur prisoners will suffer persecution at Chinese hands, has banned the prisoners’ entry to U.S. soil. The Uyghurs will thus be settled in a willing third party nation, in this case El Salvador, following earlier resettlement of released Uyghur prisoners in small nations such as Switzerland, Bermuda, Albania and Palau (Reuters, April 20).
1. For the list, see: The Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, April 6, 2012, http://www.mps.gov.cn/n16/n1237/n1342/n803715/3197850.html. For an earlier list, see Terrorism Focus Brief, October 20, 2008.
2. Other transliterations of the name from the Chinese version of the Uyghur name include Memtimin Memet,Memetiming Memeti and Nurmamat Maimaitimin.
This article first appeared in the May 4, 2012 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor