China has beefed up border security in the volatile Uyghur Muslim-majority Xinjiang province to counter terrorists returning from Syria following the defeat of the Islamic State terror group, a military officer said. China has deployed large number of security forces in Xinjiang bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Kyrgyzstan to deal with the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which was blamed for a host of violent attacks in the province and other parts of China in the past few years. A number of Uyghur youth reported to have joined the IS in Syria to undergo training and China apprehends that they would return to stage attacks in Xinjiang. Up to 5,000 ethnic Uyghurs from Xinjiang were fighting in Syria, Syria's ambassador in Beijing, Imad Moustapha was quoted as saying last year. "The control and management of immigration at border areas here has been strengthened in recent years," said a military officer of border defence in Xinjiang's Kashgar prefecture. Guard rails have been set up along the border to avoid terrorists sneaking into China, the officer was quoted as saying by the state-run Global Times. Also China has reported to have plans to set up a counter terrorism centre in Afghanistan to deal with return of Uygur militants but the Chinese Foreign Ministry declined to confirm it. "I have not heard of the information mentioned by you," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said here yesterday when asked about the proposal to set up the centre. During the past few years China has also been pressing Pakistan to launch a crackdown on training bases of the ETIM in the tribal areas. Earlier reports said China and Pakistan border police have launched joint patrols along the border to prevent infiltration by militants. China faced a "prominent" risk of a terror attack, said Ji Zhiye, head of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, at an international relations forum in Beijing last month, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. "The number of jihadists captured on China's borders (in 2017) was more than 10 times the number from the previous year," Ji said. An accurate count of IS jihadists coming to China could never be confirmed, said Li Shaoxian, head of the Arab research institute at Ningxia University in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. "But the situation has been harsher," Li said. Many terrorists do not conveniently choose to cross the border into Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, he warned. "They just fly to cities like Beijing and Shanghai with their Chinese passports, posing like any other citizen who comes back from another country, which makes counter-terrorism work more difficult," Li said. China has been trying to monitor and manage the terrorist threat, building an information system and contacts for counter-terrorism work, Li said. In September 2017, a division of the People's Liberation Army in Tumxuk near Kashgar installed 10 special security scanners at road security checkpoints. "Counter-terrorism work benefits the whole country and many European countries under threat of terrorism have also strengthened immigration monitoring and management," Li said. "It was therefore irrational for some western media or countries to misinterpret China's counter-terrorism efforts," he said. In March 2015, Zhang Chunxian, then party chief of Xinjiang, said authorities had broken up terror groups plotting violent attacks on Chinese soil after fighting in battles in Syria with IS. Xinjiang passed its own version of the counter-terrorism law in August 2016.
The law is a supplement to the national counter-terrorism law approved in December 2015 to define terrorist activities and the corresponding punishment. The law added provisions, including one which states leaders of extremist groups will be placed in solitary confinement and another that recruiting people for terrorist activities would be considered an act of terrorism.
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