US removes from terror list a China-alleged, non-existent Xinjiang group

China has maintained tight security in Xinjiang amid fears of Uighur separatism. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

(, Nov07’20) – The United States has said Nov 6 that it had removed from its list of terror groups a defunct or non-existent group regularly blamed by China to justify its harsh crackdown in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region. Like many other countries, the United States had, in 2004, listed the “group” with no proven record of terrorist activities as a terror group in diplomatic concession to Beijing. 

In a notice in the Federal Register, which publishes new US laws and rules, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he was revoking the designation of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a “terrorist organization.”

“ETIM was removed from the list because, for more than a decade, there has been no credible evidence that ETIM continues to exist,” the AFP Nov 7 quoted a State Department spokesperson as saying.

China has also sought to label the Tibetan Youth Congress, a Dharamsala-based Tibetan non-governmental organization committed to restoring Tibet’s independence by non-violence means, as a terrorist organization.

The report noted that the administration of George W Bush had in 2004 added ETIM, also sometimes called the Turkestan Islamic Party, to a blacklist as it sought common cause with China in the US-led “war on terror.”

China routinely blames ETIM for attacks to justify its highly repressive measures in Xinjiang, where more than one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslim people are incarcerated in re-education concentration camps.

Scholars say that China has produced little evidence that ETIM is an organized group or that it is to blame for attacks in Xinjiang, which independence campaigners call East Turkestan, the report noted.

Washington-based Uighur Human Rights Project has called the State Department’s decision “long overdue” and a “definitive rejection of China’s claims.”

“The harmful effects of China’s exploitation of the imagined ‘ETIM’ threat are real – 20 years of state terror directed at Uighurs,” the group’s executive director, Omer Kanat, has said.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman has on Nov 6 expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the US decision”, urging the US to “stop backpedaling on international counter-terrorism cooperation”.


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