- By Isaac Stone FishIsaac Stone Fish is FP's Asia editor. A Mandarin speaker, he lived in China for seven years before moving to Washington, D.C. His articles have also appeared in the New York Times, the Economist, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and he has appeared as a commentator on MSNBC, the BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera, and PRI, among others., J. Dana StusterJ. Dana Stuster is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy. He has studied at the American University of Beirut and graduated in 2010 with degrees in English and International Relations from the University of California, Davis. Before coming to FP, his work appeared in the Atlantic and the National Interest, among other publications.
In the YouTube video below, entitled "A message of victory to the people of China from the Mujahidin Brigade Front," a Chinese man talks about his conversion to Islam. He introduces himself as Yusuf (the subtitles say Bo Wang) and says that he studied in Libya and helped the Libyans fight their "revolutionary" war. "Now I’m in Syria," he says, as a song that imagines global Islamic dominion plays in the background.
"The people here don’t have freedom, they don’t have democracy, they don’t have safety," he says, while leaning on rocks and holding a Kalashnikov with a mounted bayonet. A black flag emblazoned with the shahada, a common banner of jihadist groups, hangs from a tree at the left of the screen.
The purpose of the video — posted by a YouTube user who reposts jihadist videos — seems to be to allow Bo (if that’s his real name) to threaten China about the cost of its support for Bashar al-Assad’s government. "As a Chinese Muslim, I’d like to deeply apologize" to the Syrian people "in utter misery from the flames of war," he says. "Also," he continues, "I am representing all of the Muslims in warning the Chinese government to immediately stop all forms of aid to Bashar, including selling arms to them, including economic aid." Otherwise, after the victory of the Syrian revolution, "all Islamic countries will join together to implement economic sanctions on China," he adds. It seems like an odd threat, not to mention an impossible one. One wonders why he didn’t threaten a good old-fashioned terrorist attack.
Eliot Higgins, who tracks weapons flows and rebel groups in Syria on his Brown Moses blog and Twitter feed, posted the video last night, commenting that it was the first he’d seen of a Chinese national claiming to be fighting in the civil war.
We haven’t been able to confirm whether or not the video is authentic, and couldn’t find any discussion of the footage on the Chinese-language Internet. One of the only related links was a May 2011 post on Baidu Knowledge, a popular question-and-answer site, where one netizen, who went by the name "I also fish," posted the question: "Excuse me, I’d like to join Al-Qaeda, does it take Chinese people?" He continues, "I graduated with a bachelor’s degree, I’m tall and strong, and my English is fluent English." A netizen who goes by the name a93524 responded, "Apologies, we in Al-Qaeda require at least a master’s."
The video, in Mandarin with Arabic subtitles, is below:
h/t Bill Bishop, Eliot Higgins