Chinese authorities link Xinjiang unrest to Hizb ut-Tahrir
The International Herald Tribune spotted a Chinese language press release in which Chinese authorities fascinatingly attribute the protests in Khotan as well as various forms of unrest and troublemaking in Kashgar, Urumqi, and Kizilsu Prefecture to the international Islamic political organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, or the “Party of Liberation.” Hizb ut-Tahrir, or HUT (kind of like Jabba) has garnered quite the reputation in Central Asian nations as a rallying point for Muslims bearing religious grievances against oppressive, secularist governments. HUT has an elaborate set of written guiding principles, and allegedly one of these embraces non-violent means as the only proper means to attain the group’s goal of restoring the Caliphate, thus, their main methods remain limited, on the surface, at least, to the propagation of the “right ideas” through lectures, sermons, booklets, and pamphlets. There have been several instances where violent activities were attributed by governmental authorities to HUT, but as usual the facts surrounding the case always get sucked into the abyss of propaganda and ulterior motives so the extent of the actual involvement on the part of the accused in the incidents remains nebulous at best – a situation quite familiar to anyone who has been following unrest in the West of China over the past month.
I managed to find the article mentioned by the Herald Tribune here at Tianshan net. It’s quite brief, so here’s a quick translation under the break.
Illegal Demonstrations in Khotan, lawfully dispersed by authorities, were planned by Hizb ut-Tahrir
From the evening of March 22nd to March 23rd, Hizb ut-Tahrir distributed and posted reactionary leaflets in an integrated operation occurring in Khotan, Kashgar, Urumqi, Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture, and other areas, with the goal of inciting the masses into demonstrating on the streets. The three successive, illegal demonstrations which occurred in Khotan from 2:50 to 4:15 on the afternoon of the 23rd were planned by Hizb ut-Tahrir and were swiftly halted by authorities within the scope of the law.
The relevant governmental departments are presently investigating the splittest elements who masterminded the incident.
The guiding principles of Hizb ut-Tahrir include the elimination of secular regimes, and the establishment of a unified, religious governmental structure, and the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate under sharia law. The world publicly recognizes Hizb ut-Tahrir as an extremist organization, a significant number of countries have designated it as a terrorist organization, and countries across the globe have adopted active measures to combat their activities. Hizb ut-Tahrir’s efforts to instigate and bewitch the masses into establishing a sharia-law Caliphate are against Chinese law.
Nice and to the point, eh?
This is the first attempt by the Chinese government to link unrest to Hizb ut-Tahrir that I’m aware of. It represents a significant and curious clarification of previous allegations of international involvement in Xinjiang incidents, the vast majority of which have involved a hazy specter of “international terrorism” or exile Uyghur organizations whose goals and aspirations remain quite distant from those of religious organizations. Authorities in China may be coming to the realization that in order to lend a greater air of credibility to their place in the global war on terror, they need a more well-defined enemy to point to, and as EurasiaNet’s archives amply demonstrate, HUT is an organization that leaves enough of a paper trail to be accused of seditious activities and also has a set of religious guiding principles extremist enough to convincingly sell them as a threat to national security – which is what practically every Central Asian country has done and what China appears to be doing right now.
By pointing a finger at distinctly Central Asian Islamic extremist group (HUT didn’t start in Central Asia, but it has received the most traction there), China also is framing its local War on Terror as a phenomenon belonging quite clearly to the realm of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a mutual-security organization a la NATO whose two big players are Russia and China and whose remaining members are located cozily in between the two behemoths in Central Asia. Accusing HUT, legitimately or otherwise, of stability threatening activity is an exercise that has already been practiced several times in the ‘stans, and by participating in that discussion China is not only lending credibility to the former claims of Central Asia’s despots but also is energizing the core message of SCO joint military operations such as the annual “Peace Missions”, which have all been conducted quite unambiguously against a fictional “terrorist/separatist” enemy.
I think this represents a significant change of course in the way China talks to the world about its “Islam” problem. Let’s keep an eye on whether or not this shiny, new bad guy will reorient China away from Western forces, engaged with Middle Eastern, “Al Qaeda” style extremism, towards Russia and Central Asia, who are dealing with Central Asian “flavored” extremism.