(From Reuters and AP)

China vowed on Thursday to bring to justice those responsible for executing one of its citizens after Islamic State said it had killed a Chinese captive, the only known Chinese hostage to have been held by the group.

 Fan Jinghui
Fan Jinghui

Islamic State said it had killed a Chinese and Norwegian captive, showing pictures of what appeared to be the dead men under a banner reading “Executed” in the latest edition of its English-language online magazine, Dabiq.

It did not give any details in the magazine, published on Wednesday, about how, when or where the men were killed.

In a brief statement, China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the man’s identify for the first time, naming him as Fan Jinghui, saying he had been “cruelly murdered”. It said in September one of its citizens appeared to be in Islamic State captivity.

Beijing had activated an emergency mechanism to try and rescue him, but he was still killed in a “cold-blooded way”, the ministry said. It gave no details on how they might have extracted him.

“The Chinese government strongly condemns this savage act devoid of humanity and will certainly bring the criminals to justice,” the statement 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 added, noting Beijing would strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation with the international community.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, visiting Manila for a regional summit, said he strongly condemned the killing.

“Terrorists are the common enemy of humankind,” Xi said. “China firmly opposes terrorists of all forms and resolutely cracks down on any crimes that challenge the foundation of human civilization.”

The militant group had previously identified Fan as a 50-year-old freelance consultant from Beijing.

The state-run Beijing News said Fan was probably a former advertising executive who had once lived in a western suburb of Beijing, but that his company shut down in 2003. It said it had found an advertising firm registered to Fan in western Beijing.

Fan described himself during an interview in 2001 by China National Radio as a wanderer, a free spirit and reader of Greek philosophy.

“I love reading about the history of science,” Fan said in the interview, which was part of a program profiling people without fixed careers. “And the ancient Greek great philosophers’ pure spiritual pursuit of freedom really gave me a jolt. That great spirit can be seen as the powerful motive for me to go after freedom.”

Fan said in the interview that he was born in 1965 and worked as a school teacher for six years after graduating from college. He said he joined an advertising firm in 1994 but left after about a year and later worked odd jobs, including as an off-the-books assistant producer at state TV broadcaster CCTV.

In 2002 he registered his own advertising company, Beijing Jingcai Yinsu Advertising Co. Ltd., according to a corporate database run by the Beijing government. However, the license was revoked from September 2003 until at least 2009, and it is unclear if was later renewed.

Security officials stood guard outside the low-rise building, where Fan used to live, on Thursday and stopped a Reuters reporter from entering.

“He was just a normal person. I didn’t really know him when he lived here but there was nothing special about him,” said one resident, who gave her family name as Zhang.

It is unclear why Fan went to the Middle East. Chinese workers in Africa and Pakistan have been held hostage before.

China has repeatedly denounced Islamist militants and urged the world to step up coordination in combating Islamic State, though it has been reluctant to get involved on the ground in Syria and Iraq where the group largely operates.

Chinese officials say the country faces a severe threat from Islamist separatists in its western Xinjiang region, where violence has left hundreds dead over the past three years.

The government says some Uighurs have gone to fight with radical groups in the Middle East.

Western nations have been reluctant to cooperate in China’s campaign in Xinjiang, nervous about being implicated in possible human rights abuses. China denies rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Since last week’s attacks in Paris, Chinese state media has lambasted Western countries for their “double standards” on terrorism. Influential state-run tabloid the Global Times said on Thursday the West deserved no sympathy from China.

“The West only recognises its own style of democracy and accepts only the terrorism it suffers,” it said in an editorial.

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