In a step that has upset China, the United States recently removed Islamic extremist organization East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) from its list of terror groups.
While US secretary of state Mike Pompeo signed the order on October 20, it was made public on Thursday (November 5).
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China blames the organization for terror attacks in its Xinjiang region, which houses the Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic minority. According to rights groups, China uses the ETIM threat as an excuse to impose restrictions on Uyghurs.
Blaming the outfit for triggering violence in the far west, Beijing says the group wants to carve out an independent state of East Turkestan in Xinjiang.
The ETIM, an Islamic separatist group, was founded by Hasan Mahsum, a Uyghur Muslim from Xinjiang’s Kashgar region. He was shot dead by Pakistani soldiers in 2003. The group, which once is said to have had links with the Taliban and al Qaeda, is designated under the United Nations Security Council resolution 1822.
The revocation of terror tag of the outfit by the US comes at a time when the Donald Trump administration has been critical of China for its human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson deplored the US’s decision when it was made public on Thursday and stressed that the ETIM poses serious threat to the security and stability of China.
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“China deplores and firmly opposes the US decision… Fighting the ETIM is a consensus of the international community and an important part of the international endeavour against terrorism,” news reports quoted Wenbin as saying.
“Today’s revocation removes any Chinese justification that it is fighting terrorism in East Turkestan,” said Dolkun Isa, the president of World Uyghur Congress, while reminding how China had justified the mass detention of 1 to 3 million Uyghurs in concentration camps as a counter-terror measure.