U.S. adds Chinese group to terror list

Switch in designation of Muslim separatists aims to ease October talks

August 27, 2002|By COX NEWS SERVICE

BEIJING - Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage announced yesterday that the United States has added a Chinese Islamic separatist group to its list of terrorist organizations, a move sure to please the Beijing leadership.

China has sought international support for its assertion that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, known as the ETIM, is part of Osama bin Laden's global terror network. Washington had not been receptive to the claim, emphasizing instead respect for human rights and religious freedom in China's restive western region of Xinjiang, where the Muslim Uighur minority chafes under Beijing's harsh rule.

But two months before a scheduled summit between President Bush and China's president, Jiang Zemin, Washington shifted its stance on the Islamic group. Meanwhile, as expected, China announced restrictions on the export of missile technology, a move long awaited by Washington.

"After careful study, we judged that it was a terrorist group, that it committed acts of violence against unarmed civilians without any regard for who was hurt," Armitage said.

He said that adding the ETIM to the State Department's list of terrorist organizations would help dry up the group's funds. He said he also discussed with Chinese officials the need to "respect minority rights, particularly the Uighurs' in this case."

Armitage's statement comes only a day after China announced regulations on exporting missile technology. China's missile exports have been a major sticking point in relations, with the United States accusing Beijing of transferring sensitive technology to Pakistan, Iran and other nations.

The two announcements appear timed to remove tensions and improve relations before Jiang visits Bush at his ranch in Texas on Oct. 25.

Armitage's announcement on the ETIM is a turnaround from Washington's position last fall. When Bush first met with Jiang in Shanghai in October, he was skeptical of Beijing's efforts to link its long-running suppression of Uighur separatists with the U.S.-led war on terror. He told the Chinese leader that "the war on terrorism must never be an excuse to persecute minorities."

Human rights groups accused China of using anti-terrorism as an excuse to justify its repression of Uighur activists.

In January, China issued a long report detailing attacks committed by the ETIM and blamed it for 162 killings between 1990 and last year. It said the group is receiving training and funding from bin Laden but offered no evidence.

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