The report said Xinjiang has become one of the main sources of ISIS fighters due to "significant economic disparities between the ethnic-majority Han Chinese" and the local Uyghur Muslim population, who are "subjected to substantial state repression through restrictions on Islamic practices like growing beards or wearing head coverings."
Chinese official media today dismissed as “groundless” a US think tank report that claimed China’s policies in the northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have driven local Muslims to join the ISIS.
The Washington DC-based New America Foundation on Wednesday released a report based on leaked registration documents of ISIS fighters provided by a defector from the jihadist organisation, which include 3,500 foreign recruits, among whom 114 came from Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.
The report said Xinjiang has become one of the main sources of ISIS fighters due to “significant economic disparities between the ethnic-majority Han Chinese” and the local Uyghur Muslim population, who are “subjected to substantial state repression through restrictions on Islamic practices like growing beards or wearing head coverings.”
A report in state-run Global Times quoted Pan Zhiping, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that the report is groundless and illogical since the Chinese government never interferes in normal religious activities in Xinjiang, and both the Han people and Uyghurs enjoy holidays during Ramadan.
Pan said many ISIS fighters were found to have come from Western countries, including the US, the UK and France.
Does it mean “they (the fighters) join the ISIS because of their governments’ repression?” Pan asked.
According to the report, 37 fighters were from France, 53 from the UK, 24 from Germany, nine from the US and 194 from Russia.
Li Wei, an expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that people coming to Iraq or Syria to join the ISIS has become a global issue.
The UN has urged all countries to intensify efforts to stem the flow of foreigners looking to fight for ISIS and to prevent and suppress sources of funds for terrorism.
The US’ excessive international military intervention is the main reason for the ISIS’ rise, Li said, adding that the US has become a troublemaker rather than a global defender of peace and stability, as it has been inciting disputes in the South China Sea instead of fighting terrorism in the Middle East.