The first Chinese national murdered by ISIS may have died due to French and Russian airstrikes on the terrorist group.
In September, this picture of Fan Jinghui was posted in ISIS online magazine Dabiq:
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) November 19, 2015
It’s still unclear how or where he was captured by ISIS forces, but on Thursday, Dabiq published another picture of what appeared to be the bodies of Fan and a hostage from Norway, Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Fan’s death, saying he had been “cruelly murdered”. He was the first Chinese hostage to be executed by ISIS.
But a former war correspondent working for a Chinese think tank, Qiu Yongzheng, is claiming ISIS and Beijing were negotiating a ransom request to have Fan freed.
“We even knew that the hostage was located approximately in the Anbar province of Iraq, and the rescue effort had made certain progress,” Qiu told the social-media account of People’s Daily.
“But recently, countries such as Russia and France started heavy air strikes against IS, which upset the group’s overall arrangement and original plans.
“This had led to the interruption of channels to rescue the hostage. Since IS did not receive the money, they killed him.”
The official Chinese government line is it won’t pay ransoms, but Qiu is claiming that China resorts to “negotiation as its first choice to rescue Chinese nationals abducted by terrorist groups, and avoided the use of force”.
He said there was a political agenda behind the murders, given the two men were killed “just around the time of the Group of 20 summit and Apec [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] summit”.
No one seems to know why Fan was in the Middle East, but he once told Chinese state television he had a sense of adventure – and danger.
ISIS identified him as a “freelance consultant”. Fan had once registered his own advertising company in 2002 in western Beijing, but it shut down within a year.
AdvertisingAge described him as “a self-described free spirit”.
“I sedulously seek out a feeling of ‘un-safety’, because it gives me a kind of pleasant sensation once the danger is past,” Fan said.
He said his dream was to win a prize for China at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
The Foreign Ministry has not responded to Qiu’s claim, saying only it had made “all-out efforts” to rescue Fan and vowed to avenge his death.
“The Chinese government strongly condemns this savage act devoid of humanity and will certainly bring the criminals to justice,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.
“The Chinese government will resolutely oppose all forms of terrorism and resolutely strike at any violent terrorist criminal activities that defy the bottom lines of human culture.”
It also noted Beijing would “strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation” with the international community.
While that statement stopped short of confirming China would join the coalition of countries fighting ISIS, the suggestion alone was considered unusual, ignoring a decades-old foreign policy of non-intervention.
Chinese officials claim the country has its own separatist threat to deal with in its western Xinjiang region, where violence has left hundreds dead over the past three years.
The government says some Muslim Uighurs have gone to fight with radical groups in the Middle East. Western nations are unwilling to cooperate in that struggle, as it would link them to possible human rights abuses, which China has denied.
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