China’s support Sikh separatism becomes more evident

Beijing’s role in fuelling Sikh separatism is becoming darker as new pieces of evidence are coming through. In a new revelation, China was found to be hosting clusters of fake Facebook and Instagram accounts that propagated pro-Khalistan sentiments. It was exposed by  

by Meta in its new report.

The Meta report titled ‘Adversarial Threat Report’ said the fake Chinese social media accounts posed as Sikhs and targeted the Sikh community through disinformation that was aimed at provoking Sikhs living across the globe, including in Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, the UK, and Nigeria.[2]

Meta removed these China-based accounts that used artificial intelligence-generated content to spread disinformation. “They appeared to have created a fictitious activist movement called Operation K which called for pro-Sikh protests. They posted primarily in English and Hindi about news and current events, including images likely manipulated by photo editing tools or generated by artificial intelligence,” reads the report.

The China-based disinformation activities pose serious threats since Beijing has been found to be actively linked with hackers and malicious cyber operations in the recent past. “Right now we’re not seeing gen AI being used in terribly sophisticated ways,” David Agranovich, Meta’s policy director of threat disruption. Utsav Sanduja, Washington-based policy advisor and geopolitics analyst, called the linkage between Sikh separatist groups and Chinese cyber companies “critical”.    

Chinese company Qihoo 360 has been pushing Sikh separatist propaganda as Beijing’s interest in the Khalistan issues is growing, said London-based international security expert Chris Blackburn. “Qihoo 360 is sanctioned by the US Department of Defense for its ties to the Chinese government and its intelligence apparatus. So, there is credible evidence and a growing fact pattern linking Khalistanis to China,” he said.

Beijing has been cordial to Khalistani leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who threatened to kill Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Pannun requested Xi Jinping to back separate Khalistan and extended support to Chinese attempts to annex India’s Arunachal Pradesh to China. Pannun chose to “empathise with people of China” notwithstanding several Sikhs losing their lives fighting Chinese forces on the Sino-Indian border. China has been supportive of Pannun.       

China’s support of Khalistan and other separatist movements is one of its ways to destabilise India, said Blackburn. “The Government of India has long believed that Khalistani separatists are working in tandem with foreign powers, mainly Pakistan and China. Analysis of statements from the Khalistani movement’s leadership shows a clear affinity and open support for the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” he said.[13]  

India was blamed for the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar and the attempted assassination of Pannun, which New Delhi rejected in strong words. No concrete proof could be furnished to show India’s involvement. On the other hand, China-born human rights activist Jennifer Zeng, claimed that agents sent by the China Communist Party (CCP) were behind the killing of Nijjar, which Beijing carried out to taint India’s image.

“Today, shocking revelations about the assassination of the Sikh leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada, have emerged from within the CCP. It is alleged that the assassination was carried out by CCP agents. The purpose was to frame India, creating discord between India and the West. And it is part of the CCP’s sinister “Ignition Plan” to disrupt the world in line with Xi Jinping’s military strategy regarding Taiwan,” Zeng wrote.

Zeng said she received information from a Chinese writer named Lao Deng. The plan was finalised in Seattle, which was crafted to falsely incriminate India. “After the crime, the agents fled, they burned their weapons and disguises to destroy all traces. The next day, they left Canada in airplanes. They purposely spoke in Indian accent English… In fact, these actions were part of the scheme by CCP secret agent to frame India,” she said.