Publication: China Brief Volume: 3 Issue: 5

by Ahmad Lutfi


Beijing often downplays the size of its Xinjiang problem for fear of exposing the difficulties it faces containing the “cancer of terrorism.” Since September 11, 2001, Beijing has been forced to reverse this policy due to repeated terrorist attacks. The most recent of these took place on February 25, 2003, when two bombs ripped through two of Beijing’s most prestigious universities. The blasts shattered Beijing’s long-held claim that it has been winning its war on terror.


This double bombing is similar to the September 11 al Qaeda plane attacks. By targeting the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as symbols of America’s economic supremacy and military might, the al Qaeda attack was a loud declaration intended to identify the enemy against whom it has pledged to wage war.


The Chinese government would eventually be forced to admit that it suspects the Xinjiang militant Islamist Uighurs are behind the Beijing bomb attacks. They employed a similarly clever use of symbols: Tsinghua University (China’s own MIT), where the first bomb went off, is the alma mater of both Premier Zhu Rongji and Communist Party Chief Hu Jintao. And Beijing University (China’s version of Harvard) is where future leaders of PRC are trained, and where some of the country’s finest minds are based. This choice of targets by the Uighurs is no coincidence: it highlights, in true bin Ladenian fashion, that Beijing is the enemy against whom the militants are carrying the banner of Jihad. Although his televised statements have made no mention of the plight of Muslims in Xinjiang as a justification for war against the West [1], bin Laden did list Uighur Muslims among the many nationalities that fill al Qaeda’s ranks. Recent reports also indicate that a number of Uighur Mujahadeen are being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps. [2]