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China Protests Establishment of Uighur Government-in-Exile in Washington - 2004-09-21

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China has protested to the United States after members of China's Uighur minority group announced the creation of a government in exile in Washington.

Chinese officials blasted the United States following reports that the group headed by Uighur emigrants had announced their government in exile at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said China considers a number of Uighur separatists, who refer to their homeland as East Turkistan, as terrorists. The mostly Muslim Uighurs are the dominant ethnic group in China's western region of Xinjiang.

Mr. Kong says Beijing is firmly opposed to the Uighur separatists' announcement in Washington. He says Chinese officials have made representations to the United States and he says China hopes U.S. authorities will treat Beijing's concerns seriously.

There was no immediate reaction from U.S. officials regarding China's protests.

The head of the government in exile is Anwar Yusuf Turani, who heads a Uighur separatist group known as the East Turkistan National Freedom Center.

The United States has placed one Uighur group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, on its list of terrorist organizations. Beijing considers some other Uighur groups to be terrorist organizations.

The East Turkistan National Freedom Center, however, is not on either country's list. The group says its main purpose is to divulge information about conditions in Xinjiang, which also is home to ethnic Kazakh and Kyrgyz populations, as well as many ethnic Han Chinese.

Uighur groups have been the most vocal in pushing for independence for the region, and the demands have been stepped up since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Many Uighur activists accuse Beijing authorities of using an anti-terrorist campaign as an excuse to crack down on dissidents.

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