OPINION: China Leverages a Lexicon of Terror to Crush Dissent in Xinjiang

Since 9/11, Beijing has used trumped up threats of terrorism to justify the development of a high-tech security state in Xinjiang

The News Lens
Date: 2018/06/20
By: Michael Clarke, East Asia Forum

Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG

China’s concerns with terrorism are almost entirely focused on the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Xinjiang’s geopolitical position at the eastern edge of the Islamic and Turkic-speaking world and the ethno-cultural distinctiveness of its largely Turkic-Muslim ethnic groups have constituted a challenge to the centralizing imperatives of successive Chinese governments.

Domestically, this has resulted in the extreme securitization of the Uyghur identity that has culminated over the past two years in the internment of up to 1 million Uyghurs in extra-judicial ‘transformation through re-education’ centers.

Internationally, Beijing has consistently appropriated the lexicon of the post-9/11 “war on terror” to label Uyghur opposition as “religious extremism”, linking it to the influence of regional and transnational jihadist organisations such as al-Qaeda in order to generate diplomatic capital for the ongoing repression of Uyghur autonomist aspirations.