BEIJING (Reuters) - The struggle against Islamist militants in China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang should become an “important part” of the world’s war on terror, China’s foreign minister said, following the attacks in Paris.
Hundreds of people have died in unrest in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur people, and other parts of China over the past three years.
Beijing has blamed the violence on Islamist militants, led by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group it says has ties to al Qaeda. More recently China has reported that some Uighurs have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic State and other groups.
Speaking in Turkey on Sunday on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the international community to form a “united front to combat terrorism” in the aftermath of Paris attacks, state news agency Xinhua said on Monday.
“The UN’s leading role should be brought into full play to combat terrorism, and a united front in this regard should be formed,” Wang said.
“China is also a victim of terrorism, and cracking down on ETIM should become an important part of the international fight against terrorism,” he added.
Both the United Nations and Washington placed ETIM on lists of terror organisations after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
Many foreign experts doubt that ETIM exists as the coherent group China portrays.
Rights groups and exiles say the violence stems from widespread resentment among Uighurs at Chinese controls on their religion and culture rather than an organised militant group.
Xinhua pointed out that ETIM had claimed responsibility for three recent attacks, including a fatal vehicle crash in 2013 in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in which five died.
Chinese state media has already sought to link China’s own “war on terror” with the Paris attacks.
Over the weekend, pictures appeared on the microblogs of state-run newspapers showing Chinese armed police supposedly on a mission to root out militants in Xinjiang, pictures put out to coincide with what happened in France.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore