A global war that only one side is fighting and that only one side even acknowledges is being waged.
“Hundreds, maybe thousands, of Chinese Uighurs fighting in Syria, warns Beijing expert,” by Ananth Krishnan, India Today, January 14, 2016:
There are “many hundreds or thousands” of Chinese Uighurs from the country’s western Xinjiang province involved with the Islamic State (IS) or other groups to wage jihad in Syria, according to a leading Chinese strategic expert who advises the government on its West Asia policy.
The Chinese jihadists, involved “not only with the IS but with other Syrian forces”, posed “a major threat” to China if they returned home, warned Li Shaoxian, a long-term West Asia expert and the Vice President of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a Beijing think-tank with ties to the Ministry of State Security.
“Whether there are Chinese citizens involved in IS, the answer is certainly yes,” he said in an interaction with journalists on Thursday.
“I don’t have the specific number but I think there are possibly many hundreds, or thousands, of them. As a researcher I have been following the situation closely. I believe there are quite many Chinese citizens fighting in Syria, not just with the IS but also other forces in Syria, where there are all kinds of groups who have people fighting who are from China.”
China has recently stepped up its diplomatic engagement with Syria, in recent weeks hosting both the Foreign Minister and top officials of the Syrian National Council representing opposition groups.
Li, who met with representatives from both the Syrian government and the council during their recent Beijing visits, said China was in a “unique” position to play a role in bringing about a political settlement. Referring to the divergent interests of both the United States and Russia, he said China was “the only major country without selfish interests involved” as Beijing “has no specific agenda.”
Li did not say if the issue of Chinese Uighurs – an ethnic Turkic Muslim minority in China’s western Xinjiang region – in Syria figured prominently during the recent talks, but described the matter as a serious concern for Beijing.
“I believe this will be a major source or threat because if these people come back to the country of origin they could constitute a considerable threat to the security of the country of origin.”
China says that Uighurs have been travelling to Turkey through Southeast Asia, and Beijing has accused Turkish missions in Southeast Asia of facilitating travel by issuing documents. In July, more than 100 Uighurs were repatriated from Thailand.
The move was criticised by rights groups who say the Uighurs were no terrorists but merely refugees fleeing persecution in China. While Beijing labelled them all as separatists who wanted to join jihad, rights groups have pointed out there were women and children among the group, which was detained on return to China.
Uighur exile groups say the majority of hundreds of travellers who are leaving China for Southeast Asia are doing so to escape what they describe as religious persecution from the authorities.
Li, however, pointed to a group of Uighurs who carried out a mass knife attack on a railway station in Kunming in south China in March 2014, stabbing 29 people to death. Chinese authorities said the 8 knife-wielding and apparently trained attackers had tried – and failed – to travel to Southeast Asia and then to West Asia join jihad, before carrying out the attack.
“If you remember the terror attack in Kunming train station, it is very clear these people wanted to travel to another destination via Southeast Asia,” he said. “According to material I have seen, I know that some IS elements are responsible in Southeast Asia to organise these people and bring them to Syria.”…