China appealed for foreign help Monday to catch 11 people accused of separatist violence in its Muslim northwest and to shut down four “terrorist organizations” abroad.
The appeal appeared to be part of Chinese efforts to convince skeptical foreign governments that groups calling for an end to Beijing’s rule in the Xinjiang region are linked to international terrorism.
The wanted list, issued by China’s police ministry, was the first case of Beijing naming the individuals it claims are leading a campaign of bombings and assassinations in Xinjiang.
Citing China’s support for the global anti-terror fight since the Sept. 11 attacks, the ministry said there should be no “double standard” in thwarting terrorism.
The four groups are the East Turkestan Islamic Movement; the Istanbul-based Eastern Turkistan Liberation Organization; the World Uyghur Youth Congress; and the East Turkistan Information Center in Germany.
“I strongly call on all countries ... to ban the four terrorist organizations,” said Zhao Yongchen, deputy director of the ministry’s anti-terrorism bureau.
Beijing wants foreign governments to prohibit support for the groups and freeze their assets, Zhao said at a news conference.
Among the 11 suspects China wants are Abdujelil Karikax, the leader of the East Turkistan Information Center, and Hasan Mahsum, head of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement who is believed to be in South Asia.
Diplomats and foreign experts are skeptical of Beijing’s claims of an organized Islamic campaign in Xinjiang. They say most violence that Beijing blames on separatists isn’t politically motivated and appears to stem from personal disputes.
Chinese officials have offered little evidence of an organized campaign or of foreign links. Authorities in Xinjiang have told foreign reporters the territory has little separatist violence.
“A lot of people sort of feel that they are using the threat of terrorism to strengthen their control of the region,” said Dru Gladney, a specialist on Xinjiang at the University of Hawaii.
Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the Information Center, denied the group was involved in violence.
“China’s anti-terrorism activities cannot be believed,” Raxit said from Stockholm, Sweden. “We hope that Western countries don’t fall into the trap set by the Chinese government.”