comments_image Comments

U.S. Lawmakers Seek Review of Uighur 'Terror' Label

U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday sought a review of the U.S. listing of a Uighur Muslim group in northwestern China as "terrorist," accusing U.S. authorities of relying on intelligence from Beijing.

"An Ethnic Muslim Uighur plays a flute for alms outside the Nuijie Mosque in Beijing after prayers to celebrate Eid al-Fitr festivities marking the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in 2008. US lawmakers on Tuesday sought a review of the US listing of a Uighur Muslim group in northwestern China as "terrorist," accusing US authorities of relying on intelligence from Beijing."

The call came after the United States, defying China, freed four Uighurs held for years at the controversial "war on terror" camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the Atlantic island of Bermuda took them in.

Thirteen more Uighurs -- all cleared of wrongdoing by U.S. authorities -- are awaiting release from Guantanamo Bay. China demands them, saying they belong to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Congressman Bill Delahunt called a hearing to examine why the United States classified ETIM as a terrorist group. He said the U.S. official blacklisting blamed ETIM for 162 deaths in 200 incidents -- the same figures given by China.

"It appears to me that we took substantial intelligence information from the communist Chinese regime and then used that questionable evidence as our own," said Delahunt, a member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party.

Uighurs are a largely Muslim ethnic group in China's vast northwestern region of Xinjiang. The U.S. State Department said in its latest rights report that China has intensified religious and political repression of the minority.

The United States announced it was listing ETIM as a terrorist group during a high-profile 2002 visit to China by Richard Armitage, then the deputy secretary of state.

"Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) speaks at a reception on Capitol Hill in May 2009 in Washington, DC. Congressman Bill Delahunt called a hearing to examine why the United States classified Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement as a terrorist group."

"They did this in a pathetic attempt to appease the Chinese government," said Representative Dana Rohrabacher, an outspoken critic of China's human rights record.

Rohrabacher accused the administration of fellow Republican George W. Bush of attempting to win China's favor ahead of the Iraq invasion and to ensure Beijing keeps buying bonds to finance the giant U.S. debt.

Randy Schriver, a top State Department official on China under Bush and a close associate of Armitage, strongly rejected the accusations.

Schriver testified that China had pressed the United States unsuccessfully to blacklist other groups and that Bush rebuffed a personal request by President Hu Jintao to give him the men in Guantanamo.

"It doesn't look like a policy to me to ingratiate ourselves with China. If anything, they were upset with our policy toward Xinjiang," he said.