Chinese authorities are on high alert in western Xinjiang province after the appearance of an Islamic State propaganda video featuring militants from China’s Uighur ethnic minority group.
In the 30-minute video, distributed by the Al-Furat Province division of Islamic State (IS) in western Iraq, heavily armed fighters and children give speeches, pray, and even kill “informants.”
One Uighur fighter is filmed saying, “Oh, you Chinese who do not understand what people say. We are the soldiers of the Caliphate, and we will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenge the oppressed.”
The video released in late February marks perhaps the most serious IS threat against Chinese territory since the militant group encouraged its fighters to launch operations in China more than two years ago.
Chinese officials are taking this threat seriously. In early March, a spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing was ready to work with the international community to combat terrorism. Normally, China has dealt with security issues on its own, or has worked with other states within the framework of regional groupings, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).
Beijing has long worried that disaffected ethnic Uighurs — a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority in Xinjiang and in neighboring Central Asian states, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan — would attract the attention of, and support from, Islamic State.
Ethnic Turkic-speaking Uighurs in China have long faced restrictions relating mainly to the practice of their religion, Islam. Now, under new regulations implemented last fall, their ability to travel apparently is being restricted, with residents of western Xinjiang province required to hand over their passports to police for "safekeeping."