China’s special envoy to Syria Xie Xiaoyan on Monday told a news briefing in Beijing that there is no accurate figure of the number of Chinese ethnic Uighurs fighting alongside the Muslim militias in Syria, stressing that “China has never sent troops to Syria, there is no Chinese military presence in the country,” and the civil war in Syria “must be brought to a conclusion.”
“As for how many Uyghur terrorists there are, I’ve seen all sorts of figures,” the ambassador said. “Some say 1,000 or 2,000; 2,000 or 3,000; 4,000 or 5,000, and some say even more. I hope that next time I have the opportunity to go to Idlib to have a look.”
The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group who live in East and Central Asia. Today, the Uyghurs, who are primarily Muslim, live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, where they are one of 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities.
According to Western media, the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria (TIP) is the Syrian branch of the Turkistan Islamic Party, an armed Uyghur Salafist jihadist group fighting in the Syrian Civil War. The organization’s core leadership is based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with an underground presence in its home territory of China. The Syrian branch of the Turkistan Islamic Party uses the Turkish Postal Service and Turkish banks to solicit donations online via the organization Türkistan İslam Derneği.
“We intend to participate in the reconstruction of Syria,” the Chinese envoy noted on Monday, suggesting Beijing is considering the possibility of increasing its participation in the post-civil war reconstruction work. However, as Xie Xiaoyan put it, “there is a need to ensure peace and security” in Syria first, before Chinese construction teams are sent there.
In late July, Xie visited Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel to discuss ways to resolve the Syrian conflict.