China cracks down on internet extremism

Police to intensify search for content promoting violence, hold webmasters accountable

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 3:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 6:33pm

China announced a crackdown Friday on internet content promoting terrorism and violence that has been blamed for inspiring a recent string of deadly attacks by Islamic extremists seeking independence for the northeastern region of Xinjiang.

The launch of the campaign comes just over two weeks before the fifth anniversary of riots between members of the Xinjiang’s native Turkic Muslim Uygur ethnic group and migrants from elsewhere in China that left nearly 200 dead. It follows a wider crackdown on extremist crime in response to increasingly bold and well-planned attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere that have killed at least 63 people this year.

Xinhua reported that police would scour the web for material promoting jihad or teaching bomb-making techniques and other methods of violence. It said filtering will be strengthened and webmasters ordered to police their sites or face being punished.

Xinhua said virtually all those taking part in recent attacks had been exposed to extremist content. It said Xinjiang separatists had recently flooded the Web with such material, raising the challenge to authorities and the risk of further attacks.

“Terror video and audio products have become a major instigator of the high incidence of terrorist activities at present,” Xinhua said, quoting a statement from the government’s State Internet Information Office.

It said the office has offered rewards of up to 100,000 yuan ($16,055) for information on the dissemination of such material.

The report didn’t say who was responsible for the extremist content, although Uygur radicals believed to be hiding in Pakistan’s lawless northwest have occasionally issued videos over the Internet praising or claiming responsible for attacks within China.

The authorities have blamed the recent violence on Xinjiang’s Muslim Uygur extremists. Tensions between Han Chinese and Uygurs in the region have been simmering for years. Human rights organisations and Uygur exiles say curbs on their language, culture and religion have created anger and resentment, a claim that Beijing rejects.