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Justin V. Hastings

While Uyghurs’ (often violent) dissent and protest against the Chinese government have occurred with varying frequency for decades, recent years have seen qualitative changes in Uyghur-related separatist violence. First, protests and attacks have shifted to harming Han Chinese civilians as well as government personnel, both inside and outside Xinjiang. Second, violent attacks have used creative methods that minimize the necessity of logistics or planning, blunting the effectiveness of the Chinese government’s repressive apparatus. Third, Uyghurs increasingly have left China and joined transnational Islamist terrorist groups, representing a shift from separatist sentiment to internationalist goals. These developments have resulted from a push factor of Chinese government repression, making standard attacks and protests difficult within Xinjiang itself, and a pull factor of a transnational Islamist terrorist movement that is actively seeking recruits from places like Xinjiang.