Up to 5,000 ethnic Uighurs from China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang are fighting in various militant groups in Syria, the Syrian ambassador to China said on Monday, adding that Beijing should be extremely concerned about it. China is worried that Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people who speak a Turkic language, have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for militants there, having travelled illegally via Southeast Asia and Turkey.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing of a Chinese hostage in 2015, highlighting China’s concern about Uighurs it says are fighting in the Middle East. Hundreds of people have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years, most in unrest between Uighurs and ethnic majority Han Chinese. The government blames the unrest on militants who want a separate state called East Turkestan.