The Uighur rebellion


02 Mar 2017

First Uighur claims of allegiance to IS in new video

In what is seemingly Islamic State's "first direct threat" against China, a half-hour video has surfaced, featuring China's Uighur militants vowing to return home and "shed blood like rivers".

This is the first time Uighur-speaking rebels have claimed allegiance to the IS, reported Dr Michael Clarke, an expert.

China has regularly reported threats from the ethnic group, many of whose members complain of extreme repression.

The video

What's the video about?

What's the video about?

"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 avenging the oppressed," a fighter says, according to SITE Intelligence Group, before he beheads an "informant".

It features images of the Chinese police on strict patrol and arresting men. The Chinese flag is shown burning.


Who are the Uighurs?

The Muslim Uighur community was the dominant group in western China's Xinjiang, before the province was subsumed into a new state forged by the Communists after the fall of the First East Turkestan Republic, a short-lived attempt at independence, in 1949.

Under Beijing's new resettlement policy, thousands of Han Chinese moved there, reducing the Uighurs to less than half of the region's 20mn people.

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Beijing's restrictions

Beijing's strict control in Xinjiang

Beijing's strict control in Xinjiang

Beijing has steadily strengthened its control on Xinjiang, limiting the number of Uighur pilgrims to Mecca, banning fasting during Ramadan, and politicians appointing Imams at mosques.

Cultural curbs too have been imposed: the Uighur language has been gradually phased out of higher education, travel bans imposed, and the few who manage to move out to other Chinese cities just about eke out a living.


The rise of radicalization in Uighurs

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and emergence of independent Muslim nations in Central Asia, open support for separatists has increased.

After the 2001 US invasion, many otherwise moderate, peaceful and tolerant Uighurs were discovered in guerrilla camps in Afghanistan, signalling a shift to a more fundamentalist approach.

The Uighur uprising

As support for separatists increased in the 1990s, China strictly clamped down on street protests. But things escalated post the Beijing Olympics in 2008, as hundreds, mostly Han Chinese, were killed in large-scale riots in provincial capital Urumqi. The situation has worsened since then.

Major attacks

Major attacks post the Beijing Olympics

Six Uighurs allegedly tried to hijack a Hotan-Urumqi flight in June 2012 before being overpowered.

In May 2014, 31 were killed when explosives were tossed from cars into a crowded Urumqi market.

Two months later, in a major outbreak of violence, 96 died in riots and 215 were arrested.

In September 2015, at least 50 people died in a knife attack at a coal mine.

Anti-terror fight

China ups 'anti-terror' measures

The IS video was released on February 28, when over 10,000 personnel, circling choppers and armoured vehicles gathered in Xinjiang in 2017's fourth mass police rally in the province.

1,500 policemen were dispatched to the cities of Aksu, Hotan and Kashgar, where too violence has flared in recent times.

Authorities have also announced rewards of up to $730,000 for anti-terror tips.

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