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Internal Threats and Terrorism in China

Although the government defines the outlawed Falun Gong movement as the major internal threat and the People’s Armed Police Force actively pursues its members, Falun Gong is, nevertheless, not classified as a terrorist group, and it has not committed or sponsored acts of violence. Muslim separatists in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region present China with its most significant terrorist threat, which emerged in the late 1980s. In 2003 Beijing published an “East Turkistan Terrorist List,” which labeled organizations such as the World Uighur Youth Congress and the East Turkistan Information Center as terrorist entities.

These groups openly advocate independence for “East Turkestan,” and, although they have not been publicly linked to violent activity, the separatists have resorted to violence, bomb attacks, assassinations, and street fighting, which Beijing responds to with police and military action. During the summer of 2004, elite troops from China and Pakistan held joint antiterrorism exercises in Xinjiang that were aimed at the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, an organization listed as terrorist by China, the United States, and the United Nations (UN). This and other Uygur separatist groups reputedly were trained in Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The East Turkistan Islamic Movement was established in 1990 and has links to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which operates throughout Central Asia. Premier Wen Jiabao joined leaders of other Asian and European nations in Hanoi for the October 2004 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Hanoi, where the delegates reaffirmed their call for a war on terrorism led by the UN.

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