Chinese government’s controversial decision to incarcerate a large number of Uighur- Kazakh Muslim communities in re-integration and re-education centers in north- western China has invited heavy criticism from western countries and a number of human rights organizations. Hitherto much has been written on it and human rights watchdogs and international media have discussed the issue at various different policy forums. The need is to examine the subject matter issue amid neutrality and impartiality keeping in view of the political and social nature of Chinese society. It is pertinent to have a background check of the problem before analyzing it in detail. The Uighur Autonomous Region lies in north-western China and comprising of one-fifth of total area of China. It is in fact the largest province or governorate of Peoples Republic of China.

Chinese involvement in Afghan War (1979-89) was minimal but the war and the wave of Islamist radicalization had cast its spell even on Chinese Muslims, more than twenty million in China. The Afghan Taliban takeover of Afghanistan also paved the way for hundreds if not thousands of Uighur Islamists to move to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan (1996-2001). Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) was formed before the rise of Afghan Taliban and found refuge in Afghanistan during late 1990s. The ETIM is an Islamist militant organization that remained involved in scores of terrorist attacks in southern China. Under Afghan Taliban rule the ETIM also developed connections with Al-Qaeda and at Al-Qaeda-run training camps many of its recruits received training. After the fall of Taliban regime the ETIM then dispersed to tribal areas and later fought against Pakistani security forces for a number of years before its militants moved to other parts of the world and Afghanistan.

The Chinese concerns about resurfacing of ETIM and its offshoots were not unfounded. The Islamist militants made a comeback in China with a number of terrorist attacks during 2008-2016 and even conducted suicide attacks in Tianman Square in Beijing and at Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Chinese Islamist radicals also targeted mainland Chinese cities and perpetrated acts of terrorism in Yunan, and other provinces of China. Moreover after the surfacing of Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) and its capture of Mosul, Raqqa and other cities in Iraq and Syria Uighur militants once again found safe havens. Currently thousands of Uighur Islamists are fighting alongside Islamist terrorist organization Hayyat ut Tahrir wal Sham (HTS) under the banner of Turkestan Islamic Movement (TIP) and based in Idlib region of war-torn Syria.

As discussed earlier the criticism policy measures of establishing re-integration and re- education centers for Uighur Muslims is somehow too harsh but Chinese explains the matter with a different tinge. China’s version of counter terrorism strategy is explained in White Paper on Counter Terrorism titled as “The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang.” The policy document explains the China’s efforts and policy measures to combat terrorism and extremism. It describes the policy measure of detaining people as per law (China Counter Terrorism Law article 29 and 30). The paper said that these centers are established in accordance with law of the land and promoting the goal of educating and rehabilitating people guilty of minor crimes or those falling victim to extremist tendencies. These measures would help de-radicalize those ripe for accepting extremist narratives or prone to become radicalized. As such programs are being carried out by other countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and others for a number of years, hence, Chinese version may not sound foreign to bystanders. The focus of these programs is to impart vocational and technical trainings to Uighur and Kazakh community members who are ill-equipped to fine jobs and meet their ends. The centers also train the participants in Chinese language as according to Chinese version that these individuals are not well verse in understanding and speaking Mandarin.

On the other hand the policy sounds too radical in its sense as hundreds of thousands are reportedly detained in the re-integration centers but we need to understand the Chinese society where punitive measures are harsh such as dealing with cases of corruption.

China is a hard country where the government does not compromise over the writ of state and goes on to limits to defend it. Chinese society is in a way religiously Weberian because of its strict and uncompromising attitude on monopoly over means of violence.

It is pertinent to analyze and study Chinese measures of re-integrating and re-education from Chinese viewpoint of assessing and countering extremism. It is also important to note that no terrorist incident has occurred during last three years in China’s troubled regions. Detaining Uighur-Muslim community in such large numbers may be a controversial measure but it’s high time to re-evaluate the raison d’etre of Chinese policy of countering extremism and imparting vocational and technical education as part of dealing with religious extremism in China from an impartial perspective.