China recently implemented legal sanctions for spreading false information about terrorist threats (or, really, disagreeing with the official narrative about terrorism in any way.)
Two business executives from an unnamed firm have now been arrested for posting a false alarm at their company, warning fellow employees that a veritable army of Islamic State militants has infiltrated their city.
According to the Associated Press, the false rumor claimed that 300 militants from Xinjiang, the northern region where the restless Muslim Uighur minority lives, had been trained by the Islamic State and sent into the southern Chinese city of Guangming to carry out terrorist operations.
As the AP notes, violence in Xinjiang has resulted in hundreds of casualties over the past few years, creating a major security concern for the Chinese government. Critics of China’s repression of the Uighurs charge that Beijing uses them as an excuse for increasing the power of the Chinese security state and cracking down on dissent.
The Chinese government demonstrated its extreme sensitivity to the Uighur question on Tuesday by kicking French journalist Ursula Gauthier out of the country, saying she had “offended the Chinese people” by accusing Beijing of “ruthless repression” in Xinjiang province. She also called out the Chinese government for using the Paris terror attacks and the global war against terrorism, as justifications for repressing the Uighurs. Her treatment has been viewed as a harbinger of repression to come against foreign journalists under China’s new anti-terrorism laws.
The Irish Times reports the Chinese Communist Party even ran a poll on Ms. Gauthier and claims to have found 95 percent support for “expelling the French journalist who supports terrorism.”
On the other hand, some international observers say the notion of Uighurs studying terror tactics under the tutelage of ISIS is quite plausible. Time magazine wrote on Monday of anti-terrorism raids in Indonesia that seized bomb materials, a working car bomb, and a model of a government building that could have been targeted in an attack, along with a 35-year-old Uighur suspect, described by police as a “suicide bomber in training.” Two other Uighurs allegedly involved in the plot remain at large.
Ten other arrests over the Christmas holiday, using information provided by the American FBI and Australian Federal Police, are believed to have foiled attacks against “senior police officers, high-ranking government officials, Christian churches and Shi‘ite mosques,” according to Time. Most of the suspects were connected with an ISIS-affiliated terrorist ring.
Indonesian authorities are concerned about the possibility of threatening individuals mixed into the thousands of Uighurs who have fled Chinese oppression in Xinjiang. While most of these refugees ultimately seek to resettle in Turkey, where the Uighurs have old roots, they are often deported back to China, where they are treated badly—a source of growing tension between Uighurs and various Asian governments.