State Department Revokes Terror Designation for Pro-Uighur Group

The State Department eliminated the terror designation for a pro-Uighur group within China, according to the Federal Register.

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo removed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement from federal terror lists. The group, largely composed of Uighur Muslims, once advocated for a separate country in China’s Xinjiang province for the ethnic population.

Washington listed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement as a terrorist group soon after the 9/11 terror attacks. Within China, the Chinese Communist Party has used the presence of the allegedly terroristic organization to justify the use of forced labor camps and persecution of Uighur Muslims.

Experts said the group’s delisting was long overdue given the organization’s tenuous connection to global terrorism.

“The group has not really existed since the early 2000s,” James Millward, a professor of Chinese and Central Asian history at Georgetown University, told the Wall Street Journal. “Listing [East Turkestan Islamic Movement] in the first place was the mistake.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin rebuked the United States over its decision in a Friday press conference. Washington has “an ugly two-faced approach toward terrorist organizations,” Wang said. “Terrorist organizations are terrorist organizations, period. … The U.S. should correct its mistake, not whitewash its position.”

Chinese president Xi Jinping has cited terror concerns as a justification for the labor camps, which now house about 1.8 million Uighur Muslims, according to a congressional report.

The Trump administration has positioned Chinese human rights at the top of its priorities in standing up to Beijing. In recent months alone, Washington has moved toward declaring China’s abuse of Uighurs as genocide and continues to impose heavy sanctions on industries and individuals involved in Uighur forced labor. 

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