BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday commended Britain’s decision to list a group advocating independence for the far-western region of Xinjiang as a terrorist organization, a step that bolsters Beijing’s claim that it faces an organized violent separatist movement.
China welcomes moves by the international community to recognize the danger posed by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.
“We are willing to work with relevant parties including the U.K. to enhance pragmatic cooperation on anti-terrorism,” Lu said.
Resource-rich Xinjiang is home to the Turkic Muslim Uighur (pronounced WEE-gur) people, many of whom chafe under heavy-handed Chinese rule that they say has marginalized them economically. China blamed a string of bloody attacks in Xinjiang, western China and Beijing over recent years on the ETIM, also known as the East Turkistan Islamic Party and the Turkistan Islamic Party.
The British Home Office made the listing this week, citing a number of attacks within China claimed by the Pakistan-based group and saying it was also active in the Syrian conflict.
“TIP is an Islamic terrorist and separatist organization founded in 1989 by Uighur militants in western China. It aims to establish an independent caliphate in the Uighur state of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of northwestern China and to name it East Turkestan,” the office’s notice said.
Some foreign scholars and terrorism experts have questioned whether the ETIM has sufficient influence and organizational capability to direct attacks within China. However, the presence of Uighur fighters in Syria has been reported by multiple sources.
The Home Office gave no explanation as to why Britain was moving to proscribe the group now. China and Britain have sought to strengthen economic ties since a “golden era” in their relations was announced during a visit to Britain by Chinese President Xi Jinping last year.
The announcement also came ahead of a visit to China by British Treasury chief Philip Hammond and follows the British vote to leave the European Union that has thrown its trading relationship with the continent into question.