Stop dou­ble stan­dard on ter­ror­ism

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

Agroup of ter­ror­ists, armed with dag­gers and home­made bombs, attacked po­lice of­fi­cers in­ves­ti­gat­ing ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties in Shufu county of the Xinjiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion on Dec 15. The clash that en­sued left 16 peo­ple — two po­lice of­fi­cers and 14 at­tack­ers — dead. Six sus­pects have been ar­rested with in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and raids that fol­lowed in the county, which is ad­min­is­tered by Kash­gar.

For the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, the Shufu at­tack is another act of ter­ror­ism — the lat­est in the list of Uygur­re­lated ter­ror­ist at­tacks this year. For the Western me­dia, how­ever, the in­ci­dent is another re­ac­tion to China’s “re­stric­tions on the cul­ture, lan­guage and re­li­gion in en­ergy rich Xinjiang”. The US re­sponse to the at­tack once again ex­poses the dou­ble stan­dard the West uses in the global fight against ter­ror­ism.

The US played the same game even af­ter the ter­ror­ist at­tack in Bei­jing on Oct 28. While China said the jeep crash on Tian’an­men Square was a ter­ror­ist at­tack, the US re­fused to re­fer to it as an act of ter­ror­ism and the US me­dia stood by their gov­ern­ment. CNN even pub­lished an op-ed ar­ti­cle ti­tled, “Tian’an­men crash: Ter­ror­ism or cry of des­per­a­tion?” by Sean R. Roberts. This evoked a bar­rage of crit­i­cism from Chi­nese me­dia out­lets, which ac­cused Roberts of sym­pa­thiz­ing with ter­ror­ists and us­ing dou­ble stan­dard in the fight against ter­ror­ism.

To get to the bot­tom of the dis­pute, it is nec­es­sary to take a look at the ter­ror­ist at­tacks through the US’ of­fi­cial lens, or how the State Depart­ment, the FBI, and the de­part­ments of Home­land Se­cu­rity and De­fense de­scribe ter­ror­ism. They use four ba­sic fac­tors: Ter­ror­ist acts are per­pe­trated by non-state en­ti­ties, they in­volve vi­o­lence or the threat of vi­o­lence, they are de­signed to have psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact far be­yond the im­me­di­ate vic­tims, and they have a po­lit­i­cal aim.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions into the Shufu at­tack have re­vealed that the as­sailants were part of a 20-mem­ber ter­ror­ist group, led by a man iden­ti­fied as Hasan Is­mail. The group had watched videos on ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence and ex­treme re­li­gious pro­pa­ganda, and used bombs and dag­gers to at­tack the po­lice of­fi­cers when the lat­ter were pur­su­ing crim­i­nal sus­pects in Say­ibage town­ship.

In June, ri­ot­ers in Shan­shan county of Xinjiang killed 24 peo­ple, 16 of whom were from the Uygur eth­nic group, and in­jured 21 po­lice of­fi­cers and civil­ians.

The two at­tacks, even ac­cord­ing to US of­fi­cial def­i­ni­tion, qual­ify as ter­ror­ist acts, be­cause they were car­ried out by or­ga­nized groups, in­volved vi­o­lence that claimed in­no­cent peo­ple’s lives, were meant to spread panic and fear be­yond the im­me­di­ate vic­tims, and had clear po­lit­i­cal aims.

Ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial US def­i­ni­tion, an at­tack does not have to be car­ried out by a rec­og­niz­able or­ga­ni­za­tion to be termed ter­ror­ism. The rea­son: “lone wolves”, mo­ti­vated by ide­ol­ogy of a ter­ror­ist move­ment and op­er­at­ing out­side any com­mand struc­ture, could launch ex­tremely de­struc­tive at­tacks and there­fore present a greater threat than or­ga­nized groups.

All th­ese fac­tors, plus more, were present in the Shufu and Shan­shan at­tacks but still the US con­tin­ues to use dou­ble stan­dard in the fight against ter­ror­ism.

In fact, some Western me­dia out­lets have based their anal­y­ses on the fol­low­ing ar­gu­ment: Crude in­stru­ments used in the Xinjiang at­tacks sug­gest they were not the work of a well-or­ga­nized group, and there is no ev­i­dence to show that Uygur ri­ot­ers are in­volved in large num­bers in the global Is­lamic ter­ror­ism move­ment. Such an ar­gu­ment, how­ever, is nei­ther vi­tal for the Amer­i­can def­i­ni­tion of ter­ror­ism, nor can it be used to jus­tify a ter­ror­ist act.

The point will be­come clearer if one com­pares the Shufu and Shan­shan at­tacks with the Bos­ton marathon bomb­ing in April that left three civil­ians dead and more than 200 in­jured. The two brothers sus­pected of car­ry­ing out the at­tacks were “lone wolves” and had no or­ga­ni­za­tional con­nec­tion with any ter­ror­ist group. Their mo­tive was to de­fend Is­lam from the US that has “dev­as­tated” Iraq and Afghanistan, and the weapons they used were two home­made (pres­sure-cooker) bombs. US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was quick to call the Bos­ton marathon bomb­ing “an act of ter­ror­ism”, say­ing that if “any time bombs are used to tar­get in­no­cent civil­ians, it is an act of ter­ror”.

China, in sharp con­trast to the US’ dou­ble stan­dard, con­demned the Bos­ton marathon bomb­ing and showed its sol­i­dar­ity with the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

But de­spite the Bos­ton bomb­ing and Xinjiang at­tacks be­ing strik­ingly sim­i­lar in na­ture, the US re­fuses to term the lat­ter as acts of ter­ror­ism. The use of dou­ble stan­dard by the US-led West is block­ing a uni­ver­sal agree­ment on the def­i­ni­tion of what con­sti­tutes ter­ror­ism. And the lack of a glob­ally bind­ing def­i­ni­tion of ter­ror­ism is se­ri­ously un­der­min­ing in­ter­na­tional ef­forts in the fight against ter­ror­ists. The au­thor is head of the China sec­tion at Ger­many’s Max Planck In­sti­tute for For­eign and In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Law.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.