Muslim terrorists killed in China raid
By Richard Spencer in Beijing
Chinese police killed five people they said were Muslim terrorists preparing to fight a "holy war" for control of China's western regions, state media said.
The brief battle between security forces and presumed members of a militant group took place in Urumqi, the capital of the western province of Xinjiang, which is home to the largely Muslim Uighur minority group.
It began with an unexplained incident in which three of the suspects raided a beauty salon and attacked the Han Chinese owner with knives.
When the police arrived at their apartment "hideout", the gang resisted arrest, shouting "sacrifice for Allah" and saying they would die together, the reports said.
"After police used tear-gas on the premises, a roomful of people tried to break out, waving knives and injuring one policeman," a spokesman said.
Five were shot dead immediately, two more were injured and taken to hospital, and the remaining nine members of the gang were detained, the authorities said.
According to the report, 30 knives were found at the apartment and those arrested confessed to have received training for the launching of a "holy war" to kill "heretical" Han Chinese, the ethnic group to which 90 per cent of China's population belongs.
In line with normal practice for sensitive incidents, police spokesmen were unwilling to discuss the issue further.
As in Tibet, there has been a history of protest and dissent among the Uighur population which has occasionally spilled over into violence.
However, Uighur exile movements deny the existence of an organised terrorist campaign and say previous incidents, such as the arrest of a woman claimed to be trying to bring down an aircraft in March by setting it on fire, are made up or exaggerated by authorities to win international support for repression in the region.
The authorities also said in March they had broken up and arrested members of a group that were threatening to sabotage the Beijing Olympics.
Beijing warns of its own holy war
Published Date: 10 July 2008
By Ben Blanchard in Kashgar
IN A back street in the old Silk Road city of Kashgar, the Chinese government has been spray-painting signs on dusty mud brick walls to warn against what it says is a new enemy – the Islamic Liberation Party.
Better known as Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group says its goal is to establish a pan-national Muslim state, or caliphate.
China claims Hizb ut-Tahrir is a terrorist group, and says it operates in the far western region of Xinjiang, home to some eight million Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uighurs, many of whom chafe under Chinese rule.
Yesterday, in a sign that such an insurgency may be active, Chinese authorities said police had shot and killed five people who were seeking "holy war" in Xinjiang.
China's official Xinhua news agency said the police had been on the trail of three men in the group whom they suspected of stabbing an ethnic Han Chinese woman at a beauty salon in the regional capital, Urumqi.
But despite such reported incidents, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and some observers, say they do not espouse violence, and they accuse China of playing up the threat as an excuse to further crack down in Xinjiang, ahead of this summer's Beijing Olympics.
"Strike hard against the Islamic Liberation Party" and "The Islamic Liberation Party is a violent terrorist organisation" read the signs in Kashgar, written in red paint in both Chinese and the Arabic-based Uighur script.
Residents passing by appear to give little heed to the notices, accustomed as they are to daily barrages of propaganda from the government denouncing "splittism", "illegal religious activities" and calling for ethnic unity and harmony.
As in Tibet, another strife-hit Chinese region, many Uighurs resent the growing economic and cultural impact of Han Chinese who have been encouraged by the government to move to far-flung parts of China.
Beijing accuses militant Uighurs of working with al-Qaeda to use terror to bring about an independent state called East Turkestan. It claims to have foiled at least two Xinjiang-based plots this year to launch attacks during the Beijing Games.
But the emergence of Hizb ut-Tahrir is a recent phenomenon in Xinjiang.
"The organisation is extremely resilient and its influence, although limited to southern Xinjiang, seems to be growing," said Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch. "The prison authorities are also worried about the influence of Hizb followers on other inmates," he added.
But it seems unlikely they represent the threat to Xinjiang that China likes to portray, said Dru Gladney, president of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College, California, and a Uighur expert.
"For most Uighurs who are activists, though some of them are very religious in their Islam, their main goal is sovereignty for Xinjiang. Hizb ut-Tahrir doesn't support that. They support a worldwide caliphate, not any one independent region," he said.
Exiled groups and human rights campaigners have long chastised China for its religious restrictions, even as the government hits back and says it guarantees freedom of religion in its constitution, as long as believers respect the law.
Many are not convinced that Hizb ut-Tahrir is the threat the Chinese government says it is in Xinjiang. "This does not exist. They have come up with this group's name themselves," said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress. "They are trying to mislead the world and deflect from concern for the Uighur people."
For its part, Hizb ut-Tahrir denies it advocates violence. "Hizb ut-Tahrir and Muslim voices that do not toe the government line have been severely oppressed by the Chinese government," Taji Mustafa, a media representative for Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, said in an e-mailed statement.
"It is well known across the world that since its founding in 1953, Hizb ut-Tahrir has exclusively engaged in non-violent political and intellectual work," Mr Mustafa added. He did not comment on whether the group was active in Xinjiang.
Yet China maintains the threat is real. Hizb ut-Tahrir is likewise banned in countries such as Uzbekistan, where it has also been blamed for violence.
In November, China's news agency announced sentences, ranging from death to life in jail, for six Uighurs accused of "splittism and organising and leading terrorist groups", and implicated Hizb ut-Tahrir.
One of the men was found guilty of "proactively carrying out extremist religious activities and promoting 'jihad', establishing a terrorist training base and preparing to set up an 'Islamic caliphate'," Xinhua reported.
In April, the Xinjiang government blamed Hizb ut-Tahrir for inciting protests in Khotan, in which the World Uyghur Congress said about 1,000 people took to the streets.
"By linking the unrest to Hizb ut-Tahrir there's legal cause for suggesting that these individuals were involved in a transnational conspiracy to set up an Islamic state and destabilise China," Mr Gladney said.
Yet while some Uighurs say they have heard of Hizb ut-Tahrir, they dismiss it as being irrelevant to their situation.
"What we want is simple – freedom," said a Uighur resident of Urumqi. "But there are too many Han and too few of us."
HIZB ut-Tahrir was established in 1953 in Palestine by Takieddin al-Nabahani al-Falastini. Since its inception, the organisation has denounced armed struggle and operates primarily through the distribution of literature.
The party's stated aim is to unify Muslims worldwide under a single caliphate. Its leadership believes that there is no truly Islamic state in the world. HuT considers western-style democracy to be unacceptable for Muslims; according to the party's theoreticians.
Today, however, given the sheer number of Muslims in the world, HuT thinkers admit that such an approach "would have turned into a farce". Instead, they say, the decision regarding the creation of an Islamic state should be adopted by those wielding the most influence, such as prominent politicians and businessmen.
Muslim terrorists killed in China raid