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Xinjiang: Role Model of Uniting to Prevent Violent Extremism

On December 12, 2019, Nigerian leading newspaper Daily Trust published an article written by Ambassador of China to Nigeria Dr. ZHOU Pingjian. The full text goes as follows:

“Violent extremism is a direct assault on the United Nations Charter and a grave threat to international peace and security,” wrote then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in January 2016.

In his op-ed in HuffPost, Mr. Ban continued, “This month, I presented to the United Nations General Assembly a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which takes a practical and comprehensive approach to address the drivers of this menace. It focuses on violent extremism which can be conducive to terrorism. The Plan puts forward more than 70 recommendations for concerted action at the global, regional and national levels, based on five inter-related points: Number one, we must put prevention first......”

The UN Secretary-General’s appeal for concerted action by the international community couldn’t be clearer: uniting to prevent violent extremism. As a matter of fact, he chose it as the headline of the op-ed.

As the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism points out, poverty, unemployment, lack of job opportunities, poor education and the cynical distortion and misuse of religious beliefs, ethnic differences and political ideologies by violent extremist groups, are all backgrounds and motivations of violent extremism. The document also proposes to encourage members of violent extremist groups to leave such groups by providing them with educational and economic opportunities as well as vocational training resources.

To this end, many countries have set up de-radicalization centers and education transformation centers. Some countries have developed both in-prison and community-based education transformation of terrorists and high-vulnerability groups. For example, France established de-radicalization centers in major communities nationwide. The US also has in place “community correction” measures. In the UK, the Desistance and Disengagement Programme (DDP) makes it mandatory for all terrorism-related offenders to receive training. There are also segregation units in prison to prevent the spread of radical violent terrorism.

In Nigeria, Operation Safe Corridor is reported to be a Defence Headquarters-led non-kinetic multi-national and multi-agency humanitarian operation conducted in tandem with extant international humanitarian laws to encourage willing and repentant Boko Haram terrorists in the North East to shun violent extremism. The Operation is designed to also de-radicalize, rehabilitate and re-integrate repentant Boko Haram combatants who willingly surrender to troops.

In his 2019 Eid-el-Maulud goodwill message last month, President Muhammadu Buhari said violent extremism had been hijacked by a few “misguided elements” who hide under the cloak of religion to perpetrate their criminal agenda. The president called for increased vigilance “in order to frustrate and stop the spread of violent ideologies that are causing human havocs and tragedies around the world.” “Extremism is like a cancer that needs to be attacked in its early stages before it grows malignantly out of control and harm the society,” the President said.

We could not agree with President Buhari more on his incisive observations. In China, what Xinjiang’s vocational education and training aims to achieve is exactly to treat extremism as a cancer from its early stages of growth.

For more than 20 years before the end of 2016, Xinjiang suffered severely from violent terrorist attacks. Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights, ethnicity or religion, but about fighting violence, terrorism and separatism.

On December 5 and 7, CGTN streamed two English documentaries, namely “Fighting terrorism in Xinjiang” and “The black hand – the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and terrorism in Xinjiang”. I watched those documentaries and got saddened by them.

“Fighting terrorism in Xinjiang” features original video footage of terrorist attacks including Urumqi riots on July 5, 2009, the terrorist attack in Beijing on October 28, 2013, and another attack in Kunming on March 1, 2014, capturing China's efforts and sacrifices in dealing with the threat of the “three evil forces” with numerous objective facts. For example, in the “July 5” incident in Xinjiang that shocked the world in 2009, 197 people were killed and more than 1,700 injured.

Another documentary “The black hand – the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and terrorism in Xinjiang”, with harsh, detailed facts, reveals the evil deeds of the ETIM, including spreading extremist ideology, fueling ethnic hatred, victimize women and children, launching terrorist attacks, etc. They present indisputable facts that the ETIM is part of the international terrorist system, which threatens not only security and stability of China's Xinjiang, but also the common security of regional countries.

Faced with severe circumstances, the government of Xinjiang Autonomous Region lawfully fought violent and terrorist crimes while addressing the root causes. The efforts include advancing de-radicalization, economic growth, ethnic solidarity, social harmony and stability. Those endeavors are endorsed by all 25 million people of various ethnic groups in Xinjiang. They are also China's contribution to the global counter-terrorism cause.

Borrowing international counter-terrorism experience, Xinjiang has set up vocational education and training centers in order to root out extreme thoughts, enhance the rule of law awareness through education, improve vocational skills and create employment opportunities for them, so that those affected by extreme and violent ideas can return to society as soon as possible and live a normal and happy life.

Thanks to those efforts, Xinjiang hasn’t seen a single terrorist attack over the past three years. This shows that the de-radicalization and preventive counter-terrorism measures adopted there have achieved tangible results, and also greatly improved the sense of security and happiness of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. The vocational education and training in Xinjiang is exactly a concrete step and manifestation of China's implementation of the international community's counter-terrorism and de-radicalization initiatives, including the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

Since the end of last year, many people from more than 90 countries and regions, including Ambassdor Audu Kadiri, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, Geneva, Ambassador Baba Jidda of Nigeria to China, and the UN Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, have visited Xinjiang, and they have all witnessed the remarkable positive results of Xinjiang's preventive counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures. I myself spent a whole week in Xinjiang and travelled across the region in late April this year. At the Third Committee session on the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination not long ago, the US tried to collude with its allies to slander China, but not a single Muslim nation did what the US expected. Over 60 countries, including many Muslim ones, applauded China's counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts in Xinjiang. Because those who visited Xinjiang saw with their own eyes people in Xinjiang enjoy a happy life and lawful rights of religious freedom and education and various ethnic groups live in harmony and solidarity. These are all plain facts.

Terrorism is a common challenge to all countries and there’s no place for double standards on this issue. Most unfortunately however, the US House of Representatives early this month passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019. This bill deliberately smears the human rights condition in Xinjiang, slanders China's efforts in de-radicalization and counter-terrorism and viciously attacks the Chinese government’s Xinjiang policy. It seriously violates international law and basic norms governing international relations, and grossly interferes in China's internal affairs. China is strongly indignant at and firmly opposed to it. Under the pretext of Xinjiang-related issues, the US attempts to sow discord among various ethnic groups in China, undermine prosperity and stability in Xinjiang, and contain China’s growth. Its attempt will never succeed.

China is ready to share successful experience with other countries, and continue to contribute to the international counter-terrorism cooperation through strengthening exchanges and cooperation in counter-terrorism and de-radicalization.

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