Category Archives: Xinjiang

“Suicide Attack on National Day”

In Xinjiang, where Chinese National Day can seem like something of a cruel joke, RFA is reporting on a suicide attack on a Chinese border post:

The motorcycle crash caused an explosion at the People’s Armed Police facility in a rural area of Kargilik (in Chinese, Yecheng) county in Kashgar prefecture on Oct. 1, sources said, though the exact number of casualties was unknown

“When we were informed about this it was around noon and we were on our way to the flag-raising ceremony for National Day.”

“We were told that some people died and some were injured. But because it happened on the base, we were not given the details,” he told RFA’s Uyghur service.

One resident in Chasamechit village speaking on condition of anonymity said a total of 20 people had died or been injured in the incident, but police have not confirmed the figure.

Police have arrest warrants and are searching for two Uyghur men around age 21 or 22, Abdurahman Abdusattar said.

“From what we can see from their pictures they are modern-looking Uyghur boys with unshaved heads and without beards,” he said.

A local official in a nearby village, speaking on condition of anonymity, said news of the incident had been kept out of the media in order to quell fears among the Han Chinese living in Kargilik, where 20 people were killed in a stabbing incident in February.

Last week’s attack could have been a reaction to the shooting in December of a group of Uyghurs in Guma county last December, the official said.

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“The Souls of Chinese Cities”

FP has put out a bunch of great China-related content in the last few days. The first one I’ll post is from Christina Larson, who explores three very different Chinese cities. From her description of Urumqi:

China’s far western region of Xinjiang follows its own time. Officially, all of China recognizes a single time zone, but Urumqi’s clocks are set two hours behind — referred to unofficially as “Xinjiang time.” It’s just one more example of the ways in which history here has tended to move in fits and starts, out of sync, both accidentally and by design.

Each evening at sunset, the adhan, or Islamic call to prayer, briefly fills the streets of Xinjiang’s capital, before being overtaken by the modern static of traffic noise and blaring horns.

But with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, history, having been frozen in time, suddenly lurched forward. The long border went from being Xinjiang’s biggest liability to its greatest asset. Within two years, borders had opened with 16 countries, and Yimirhan, who had by then been promoted to a driver, was soon driving across them. He recalls his first time navigating the “beautiful and frightening” hairpins turns of the famous Karakorum highway. (His 30-year-old daughter, translating for him, smiled at her father’s youthful excitement.)

Sensing a power vacuum in Central Asia, Beijing soon turned its attention to strengthening economic and political ties with its western neighbors, as well as investing to extract Xinjiang’s rich reserves of coal, gas, copper, and other minerals. If China’s modern construction boom came 15 years late to Urumqi, building is now on overdrive here, for economic and political reasons: a 21st century form of manifest destiny.

Today the paved road from Urumqi to Yili takes 10 hours, not 24. New rail lines have opened between Urumqi and Altay, and between Kashgar and Hotan, and there’s even talk of extending the Urumqi-Kashgar rail line all the way to Istanbul. There’s also a plan floated to build a rail link between Urumqi and the port of Gwadar in Pakistan.

Alas, Urumqi’s new wealth has not been evenly distributed. The man appointed in 1994 to be Xinjiang Party Secretary was Wang Lequan; until his ouster following the 2009 ethnic riots in Urumqi, which left roughly 200 people dead, he was a chief architect of Xinjiang’s modernization: well-connected, savvy and adept at wrangling funding from Beijing. He was also a hardliner whose policies toward ethnic minorities — including restricting religious fasting, praying, and other observances in schools and government offices — earned him no love from the city’s Uighur Muslims. One professor told me that the most harmful result of his policies was to systematically deny Uighurs opportunities and promotions in government agencies.

Urumqi today is a divided city. Government investment is flowing into the northern part of the city, but the southern part, the Uighur corridor, has seen little development since the 2009 riots. One Saturday evening, I went to a Uighur wedding, held in a third-floor hotel ballroom, with fraying rugs and chipping paint. The guests, dressed in everything from gowns to jeans, danced to a mix of pulsing techno music and traditional Uighur songs; groomsmen sprayed the happy couple with silly string from a can. The bride and groom had met at Xinjiang University, and although they and their guests were also mostly well educated, they lived in a world apart; there were no Han Chinese guests. (As a Han friend put it: “Even in the same city, Han and Uighur barely talk to each other; segregation is not an ongoing process, it is a fact.”)

Another afternoon I visited the famous Border Hotel complex, where Central Asian traders come to do business. Typically, I was mistaken for Russian. With me was a young Uighur guide, whose own language is close enough that he can understand most Central Asian languages. But as we entered one hotel lobby, the doorman, a pale, sweaty Han Chinese man with a receding hairline and a nervous manner, stopped him: “What are you doing? Where are you going?” Behind us, an assortment of unshaven Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and Tajiks passed by unmolested. “To be Uighur is to be under constant suspicion,” my guide hissed through his teeth. I could easily see that a negative feedback loop was at work. He waited for me outside, puffing nervously on his cigarette; when I came back, he complained: “It’s getting worse.”

I asked if he’d ever been to any of the bordering countries, but he shook his head. “I can’t get a passport.” Fearful that Uighurs will radicalize if they travel abroad, the government has limited their ability to cross borders — a policy that raises the uncomfortable question of just who is supposed to benefit from the “New Silk Road” strategy.

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“China jails Uighurs on separatism charges: reports”

And just to the north of the ongoing crisis in Tibet, China is working to keep Xinjiang unstable as well:

Courts in a restive region of west China with a large Muslim population have jailed 20 people for up to 15 years for using the Internet to incite separatism and “holy war”, state media said Thursday.

The sentences were immediately condemned by a group representing China’s mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, which said they were aimed at silencing critics of Beijing’s policies in the Xinjiang region.

“These criminals used mobile phones, and other media to watch, copy and publicise ‘holy war’ and terrorism through pictures and audio visual materials,” a report on the trials in on Xinjiang’s government-run Tianshan news site said.

“China is meting out heavy sentences to Uighurs who use the Internet to access information that is not controlled by the authorities and who are expressing opposing political views,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, told AFP in a statement.

“These people were seeking freedom and were fighting against institutional persecution.”

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“Han Only”

Autonomous Region has an example of the kind of day-to-day discrimination that mostly flies under the radar, sadly:

The government of Urumqi recently posted a recruitment notice to hire 27 civil service positions this year; 10 of them at the rank of Division Head, 17 at the rank of Deputy Division Head. Like many other things in China’s “minority regions” all positions are ethnicity-specific: all the 10 Division Head rank positions may only be filled by Han; of the 17 Deputy Division Head positions, two may be Uyghur, one by Kazakh, and one by Hui. That means, of the 27 positions at the two Division Head levels, only two may be Uyghur. And this is the capital of a Uyghur region that they call “autonomous.”

This doesn’t only happen with government positions, as private positions in both Xinjiang and the Tibetan regions are frequently given ethnic qualifications. I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure open job discrimination does a lot more to drive ethnic conflict than any of the things the Chinese government ever blames- Rebiya, Dalai, CNN, etc.

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“The Chinese Remaking of Kashgar”

The Huffington Post has a good article from Amy Reger, a researcher at UHRP:

Uyghurs view Kashgar as the spiritual and cultural heart of their culture, and the cradle of Uyghur civilization. However, reminiscent of the demolition of traditional Tibetan buildings in the city of Lhasa that were carried out around a decade ago, Kashgar’s Old City has been demolished piece-by-piece since early 2009. As the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) wrote in a recent report, Living on the Margins: The Chinese State’s Demolition of Uyghur Communities, the majority of the Old City has now been demolished, together with traditional Uyghur communities throughout East Turkestan (also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China).

After the creation of the special economic trading area in Kashgar, real estate prices in the city skyrocketed, as investors from places such as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Jiangxi scrambled to secure their own piece of a state-led economic boom. At the European View Gardens apartment complex, one of a spate of new residential complexes that has sprung up alongside demolitions and investment in Kashgar, a New York Times reporter asked a Chinese salesman why there were no Uyghur-language promotional materials. The salesman responded by saying, “What’s the point? They can’t afford this place.”

In an online marketing video for European View Gardens, which is located on land formerly owned by Uyghurs, a Chinese-speaking narrator promotes digitalized images of the property’s beautiful landscaping and cascading fountains, which are populated by families and security guards who appear to be Han Chinese.

The new housing developments featured in the videos are indistinguishable from cities in eastern China, thereby enticing Chinese residents who otherwise may have been uncomfortable moving to an environment outside of the Han cultural domain. These videos, and their lack of representation of Uyghurs and other non-Han peoples, raise doubts about who is benefiting from government policies to drive investment to Kashgar and other cities in East Turkestan. In Kashgar, officials have suggested that Uyghurs would be able to return to their rebuilt Old City residences in the wake of construction, but financial constraints make this seem unlikely.

A quick look at recent online job advertisements in Kashgar reveals a number of instances in which candidates are openly limited to members of the Han Chinese population. Several ads placed on a website for “Dongcheng Huayuan” (东城花园), one of the many new residential complexes springing up in the city, specify that applicants must be Han Chinese. One ad seeks two Chinese individuals with mechanical repair skills; another seeks an office manager and an office clerk, each of whom must be Han Chinese; and a third seeks an accountant and a cashier, each of whom must be Han Chinese. Examples of recent online job ads for companies throughout Kashgar that specify applicants must be Han Chinese also include this ad for two truck drivers; an ad for ten cashiers; and an ad for 12 advertising salespersons, 12 telephone marketing representatives and two website editors.

As Kashgar and other cities in East Turkestan become increasingly “Chinese,” Uyghurs are being pushed further to the margins, both in terms of their living spaces and their role in society. The widening ethnic gap in who benefits from regional transformation raises concerns about ethnic relations and the prospects for sustainable progress in East Turkestan.

It’s scary how accurate this story remains if you switch out Uyghur for Tibetan or Mongolian and Lhasa or the Inner Mongolian grasslands.

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“Slain Uyghurs Not Linked to Bomb”

Another incredibly unsurprising report about the Xinjiang shootings, where it turns out the Uyghurs killed weren’t actually terrorist bomb-makers:

Four Uyghur men shot dead by police in China’s troubled Xinjiang region last week were not linked to bomb-making activities as suspected but may have had “terror plans,” security officials said Tuesday, as residents disputed any terrorism intentions.

Korla police said that there was evidence that the men, who defended themselves with knives during the raid, had plans for terrorist activity, though they did not elaborate.

Local residents who knew the Uyghurs involved disputed the police theory that those killed were suspected terrorists, claiming that the Chinese authorities had fabricated evidence in the past to justify the killings of Uyghurs.

“Yes, it was wrong to make the conjecture [that they were linked], but the shooting was not wrong, because the four disobeyed police during the raid operation,” said Seypidin, a senior security official in Korla.

Moreover, the four killed had shown evidence of extremism, he said, defending the police action.

“Even though they don’t have an organizational link with the bomb-maker, their ideology and political views are 100 percent the same. And in addition, we found enough evidence of a terror plan, like axes and boxing gloves,” he said.

Boxing gloves: evidence of a terror plan, when in the possession of a minority in China.

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“Uyghurs ‘Prepared To Fight And Die’”

RFA has the latest on a story that’s slowly been breaking over the last two days. More violence in Xinjiang:

Four Uyghur men shot dead by Chinese authorities last week for suspected bomb-making in the restive northwestern Xinjiang region were prepared for their death and even had made their own funeral arrangements, according to police.

The men were gunned down in a pre-dawn raid at a farmhouse near Korla city in central Xinjiang on Thursday as part of the Chinese government’s “strike hard” anti-crime campaign in the region.

The four men, armed only with knives, knew they had no chance against the gun-toting police.

They gave farewell hugs to their wives and children and made their own funeral arrangements before confronting the pursuers, officers who supervised the operation said.

Six policemen were initially involved in the raid at the farmhouse near Korla city in the Bayin’gholin prefecture but they had to seek reinforcements after a police officer’s arms were chopped at by an assailant, they said.

Seypidin said some top officials had criticized the police operation because none of the suspects were captured alive.

Police identified the ringleader of the suspected bomb-making activity as Nesrulla, who they said moved to the farmhouse from Korla city after a warrant for his arrest was issued on March 5.

Nesrulla also moved his wife and their son to Hejing county two days before the shooting.

Police who monitored the wife’s house in Hejing had detained 12 people who visited her.

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“WUC Firmly Rejects Beijing´s Accusations regarding Kargilik Incident”

“Firmly rejects”? Sounds like someone is using Beijing-style speech patterns against them. The World Uyghur Congress takes on the way Beijing is portraying the Kargilik incident:

In light of the recent violent incident in Kargilik (Chinese: Yecheng), Kashgar Prefecture, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) strongly refutes Beijing´s accusations that the WUC has masterminded and incited the incident. The WUC hereby reiterates once again its strong commitment to the principle of nonviolence, and to peaceful and democratic means for the solution of the conflict in East Turkestan. The WUC urges the international community to not get drawn into China´s official propaganda regarding the issues related to the Uyghur people.

In typical fashion, the Chinese authorities are labelling the Kargilik incident as a “terrorist attack,” recalling the so-called “three evils” (terrorism, separatism, extremism). While social tensions and protests are springing up throughout the country, only events related to the Uyghur Muslim population are considered “terrorism.” The incident has taken place amidst a heavy crackdown on Uyghurs’ human rights, especially in areas of religious freedom, increased and tightened security presence in East Turkestan, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances amongst the Uyghur population.

Immediately following the incident, the Chinese security forces mobilized a large number of armed personnel to enforce the imposition of martial law in the city. The authorities prohibited inhabitants to leave the city as traffic to and from Kargilik was blocked. In addition, information on the incident is being reportedly censored in Chinese media and internet.

The incident comes only a few weeks after seven Uyghurs were extra-judicially killed in Guma (Chinese: Pishan) County in an alleged attempt to flee the country in December 2011. A six-year-old boy is still missing since the incidents. One month later, in January 2012, the Chinese authorities announced that 8,000 police officers were recruited to “beef up security in the vast countryside” and “crack down on illegal religious activities.” One month after the Hotan and Kashgar incidents in July 2011, the Chinese government implemented a two-month “Strike Hard” campaign in East Turkestan “in order to strengthen anti-terrorism efforts.”

I’ve seen people trying to equivocate about the difference between Xinhua and WUC press releases, but while they both have an agenda, can anyone really say the WUC has the same disregard for the truth as Xinhua? A proud one-party state propaganda outlet should be presumed guilty until proven innocent, especially when they have a decades-long record of lying about ethnic problems.

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More on Kargilik

More and more details are getting out now, as news organizations and Uyghur groups start contacting their sources in the area. First, RFA with more on exactly what happened:

Local officials, meanwhile, were striving to keep a lid on rumors swirling after the worst violence in seven months in the volatile region and have given strict orders to government employees not to speak to the media.

But a senior official told RFA that he had witnessed the violence which left nearly 20 dead on a busy street in Kargilik (in Chinese, Yecheng) county in Kashgar prefecture on Tuesday night.

“We saw the people were crying and fleeing and later all the streets in the town were blocked by police,” said Abdukeyim, chief of the county’s land management department, just 100 meters (330 feet) from a market where the violence occurred.

“This morning I attended a conference held by the county which all chiefs of county level departments were present at. Attendees were given a brief report on the incident,” Abdukeyim said.

“According to the report, nine [Uyghurs] took part in the attack and eight of them were shot [dead] by police. Ten Han [Chinese] were killed and five were injured.”

Several residents of Kargilik county interviewed by RFA Wednesday said the violence stemmed from a massive influx of Han Chinese, resulting in fewer economic opportunities for the Uyghur community.

One Uyghur resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said that Uyghurs were fed up with being treated like second class citizens in their traditional homeland.

“Growing up in a village, I had never even seen a Han Chinese before I was 18 year old. Now you can see Han Chinese in all corners of Kargilik county,” he said.

“Their population is exploding and they have now occupied almost all of the towns in the county.”

“The flood of immigrants was a key reason behind the attack.”

A Han Chinese doctor from Bo-Ai Hospital in Kaghilik county expressed sympathy for the region’s Uyghurs, saying that Tuesday’s attack could have been an act of frustration with the government’s measures against the minority ethnic group.

“I think the sense of dissatisfaction and resistance is a direct result of the government enforcing a high-pressure policy on Uyghur people,” said the doctor, who says he had good relations with Uyghur doctors at the hospital.

“I have a very good relationship with my Uyghur colleagues at the hospital. I don’t want to see this kind thing happen, but I also don’t want to see excessive controls on the local Uygur people,” he said.

A senior teacher in Kargilik county compared Han immigrants in the area to an invading army.

“Yes, it’s true that civilians were targeted in the attack, but in the view of the Uyghurs—myself included—there is no difference between Han civilians and the army,” he said, citing the July 5, 2009 riots in which he claimed Han Chinese civilians attacked Uyghur civilians “with support of the armed police.”

The teacher also complained that nearly all Han citizens in Xinjiang sided with the government on all ethnic issues.

“They never ask the government to end religious pressure on the local people, to stop arrests and executions, or call for equal job opportunities,” the teacher said.

He said Han citizens were likely targeted because the Uyghurs were not well armed enough to take on the security forces.

“The difference in power of arms between the two sides is incomparable. You can’t do anything to the armed police with a knife,” he said.

“I think this is the main reason they attacked Han civilians.”

Attacks on civilians in Xinjiang and self-immolations in Tibet. Wouldn’t it be nice if Beijing hadn’t cut off every other way for minorities to express their discontentment?

A new blog called Xinjiang Source has a post about why Beijing is trying to conflate separatism and terrorism. Obviously this isn’t a new tactic, and the Three Evils campaigns have paved the way for it, but the conscious effort to muddle the two has been in full swing recently:

However, there is a stand-out feature of the reports that have emerged; the immediate labeling of the Uyghur individuals involved as ‘terrorists.’ This is a common response by the Chinese authorities when dealing with high-profile incidents involving Uyghurs, be they violent or non-violent, and be they instigated by Uyghurs or not. The words ‘terrorists’ and ‘separatists’ are used interchangeably to mean the same thing, and are seemingly used to decry any Uyghur individual who engages in activism of any kind.

By labeling Uyghur individuals as ‘terrorists’, the Chinese authorities seek and are granted legitimation to enact the liberty-limiting policies which they so clearly pursue in Xinjiang, in order to preserve the ‘security’ which is threatened.

By the standards Beijing is using, a man blowing up a public bus and a man distributing fliers calling for new ethnic policies are the same thing- terrorists. What’s sad is seeing that the policy occasionally works, as we saw recently with American senator Mark Kirk, who spoke about the need to be wary against “terrorism” in Xinjiang.

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Battle in Kargilik, Xinjiang

A few more reports have come out about the fighting yesterday in Xinjiang. First, from UHRP:

The reported deaths of residents of Kargilik (Chinese: Yecheng) in Kashgar Prefecture on February 28 have taken place against a backdrop of a heavy Chinese security presence in the region, mass detentions and heightened restrictions on Uyghurs’ religious practices. The Uyghur American Association (UAA) calls upon the international community to view official Chinese statements about the reported deaths with extreme caution until independent observers are allowed to investigate the incident.

“China’s demonstrated lack of transparency when it comes to unrest in East Turkestan necessitates deep speculation of official Chinese claims,” said UAA president Alim Seytoff. “In the absence of compelling evidence, international observers should be extremely careful when hearing Chinese claims about “rioters” and “terrorists”.

Heightened repression and accompanying unrest in East Turkestan reflect the heavy-handed, violent tactics of Xinjiang Party Secretary Zhang Chunxian. Despite his official image as a comparatively liberal leader, Zhang has reverted to the oppressive measures used by his predecessor Wang Lequan, and has failed to design policies examining the root of unrest in East Turkestan.

From NYT, quoting Bequelin:

“Zhang Chunxian brought a new style, but the policies haven’t changed,” Nicholas Bequelin, a senior Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in an e-mail. “They were laid out at the Xinjiang work conference in 2010. These policies promised a rapid boost to the local economy — which has happened — but absent from this blueprint were the issues that top the list of the Uighur discontent: discrimination, Han in-migration and the ever-more invasive curbs on language, culture, religious expression.”

Mr. Bequelin added that the one notable change since Mr. Zhang took office is that there is a greater recognition that socio-economic discrimination against Uighurs needs to be addressed. “But not much has been done in this respect, and the polarization between Uighurs and Chinese continues to grow,” he said.

Finally, WaPo on competing claims:

China says those events were organized terror attacks, but overseas Uighur groups say they were anti-government riots carried out by angry citizens. Uighur (pronounced WEE’-gur) activists and security analysts blame the violence on economic marginalization and restrictions on Uighur culture and the Muslim religion that are breeding frustration and anger among young Uighurs.

Chinese authorities have offered little evidence to back up their claims of outside involvement and rarely provide details on arrests or punishment of the suspects. Tight information controls and the remoteness of the area, more than 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) west of Beijing, ensure that the circumstances surrounding such incidents often remain murky.

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“Dozen Killed in Xinjiang Violence”

New reports of deaths in Xinjiang via RFA:

About a dozen people were killed Tuesday in violence involving ethnic Uyghurs and Han Chinese in China’s volatile northwestern Xinjiang region, according to state media and a Uyghur source.

The Xinhua News Agency said “a few rioters” armed with knives attacked “victims” in Kargilik (in Chinese, Yecheng) county in Kashgar prefecture, killing 10 people.

Police then shot dead “two assailants” and “are chasing the rest,” Xinhua said, without mentioning the number of suspects in the latest violence to rock Xinjiang.

However, an email sent to RFA by a Uyghur, who did not identify himself, said that the violence was triggered by an insult thrown at a Uyghur youth by three Han Chinese men at the county’s market.

A group of youths aged around 18 years attacked the three Han Chinese, resulting in their death, according to the email.

“Armed police then came in and killed 12 Uyghur youths,” the email said.

Both the Xinhua account and details contained in the Uyghur email could not be independently confirmed.

I can’t blame RFA from not wanting to base their entire story on an anonymous Uyghur email… but given Xinhua having a 0% accuracy rate when it comes to violence in minority areas, it kinda makes sense. More if other details emerge.

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“Uyghurs Detained in Hotan”

As if they’re afraid of being outdone by Communist Party offices to their south in Tibet, the CCP is stepping it up in Xinjiang:

Chinese authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang have closed down at least 200 places of worship and detained 129 Muslim Uyghurs in a security crackdown ahead of national parliamentary meetings in March, according to exile sources and official media.

The regional government recently launched a campaign against “illegal” religious activities, a campaign which overseas Uyghurs say targets their ethnic group.

“The Chinese authorities have launched an unprecedented clampdown on religious affairs in the region,” said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress.

Raxit said that youths as young as 14 were punished in the latest campaign against unauthorized religious gatherings in Hotan.

“Nearly 3,000 people were given fines, among them a 14-year-old and a 76-year-old,” he said. “A lot of them were parents whose children were studying the Quran.”

“Apart from that figure of 1,400 people involved in the case, there were many more relatives who were fined and subjected to forced political re-education,” Raxit said.

The practice of Islam is tightly regulated by the ruling Communist Party, which bans Uyghur children from mosques and controls everything about their worship, from the wording of sermons to “approved” interpretations of the Quran.

According to the authorities, study of the Quran in an unauthorized location constitutes an “illegal religious activity.”

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Protests in Xinjiang?

There’s some word of one or more protests happening in Xinjiang, although I haven’t found good English sources to confirm that yet. In the meantime, two posts have come up in the last few days about general Uyghur issues. First, Uyghurnomics on employment for Uyghurs in Xinjiang:

A February 2 article states that the regional government is aiming to create a staggering 400,000 jobs ‘this year’. That is not only a remarkable amount, but also a significant intervention in the regional economy. The report does not specify whether the jobs will be in the state or SOE sectors, but does remark that industry and services in the region ‘lagged far behind those of other Chinese regions’. The report is also not clear whether those jobs will be ‘aggressively’ targeted toward the disproportionately underemployed and unemployed Uyghur residents of the region. This article does reveal that the economy was at the root of unrest in Urumchi in 2009 despite the standard airing of blaming ‘overseas separatists’. It also reveals the propensity of viewing Uyghurs marginalized from the mainstream economy as good candidates for ‘turning to crime’.

As part of the job creation push, authorities are aiming for 85% of college graduates being gainfully employed within the year. Another Xinhua article reveals that 10,000 ‘Xinjiang graduates’ will be sent to eastern China to receive job training. Again, ethnicity is not mentioned, but it is heavily hinted that the 10,000 will come from the Uyghur population. Why these Uyghurs need to be sent outside of the region to receive the training is not stated. The article also links unemployment and unrest throughout, but never points the finger inward.

Next, a writer at a British site called “The Platform” has an article about the ‘erasure’ of Uyghur identity:

My first article for The Platform pilot project in 2010, on the Uyghur people of North-West China’s Xinjiang Province, detailed how the Chinese government was attempting to dilute Uyghur identity in Xinjiang and homogenise the region in line with the Han Chinese ideal of the ‘motherland’. Two years later, this article which I am writing does not, I regret to say, contain anything more positive. The campaign of the People’s Republic of China to homogenise the Uyghur population and to destroy their cultural, religious and ethnic identity is, with each passing year, proving more successful. If we measure progress in terms of the advancement of oppression, then the case of the Uyghurs in China is a fine example of progress in the new year. In fact, the only thing that seems to have remained the same is the lack of interest from the outside world.

Since then, the population of East Turkistan has lived in a constant atmosphere of fear, oppression and isolation. Internet and telephone lines are cut for months on end at the slightest hint of unrest, mosques are summarily closed and the Uyghur language is banned in universities. Uyghurs are constantly subjected to imprisonment, torture and executions without fair trial, and Uyghur homes and historic buildings are being destroyed on a daily basis. Even books on Uyghur history and culture are attacked by the Chinese state as attempts at separatism. According to a report by the Uyghur American association, ‘In May 1991… “The Hun”, “Ancient Uighur Literature”, and, “The Uighur People”…although printed by a government publishing house…were banned’. The author of The Uighur People, Turghun Almas, was even put under house arrest.

Other attempts at homogenisation and isolation have been particularly successful. Whereas the population of ethic Han Chinese in Xinjiang was only six per cent in 1949, as a result of government policies that number has now risen to just over 40 per cent. Despite the majority of East Turkistan’s population being ethnically Turkic, very few Turks can be found in any higher and mid-level government jobs. Even the written script of the Uyghurs is a product of China’s isolationist tactics, with China having; ‘phased out the traditional Arabic script in 1962 in favour of Latin letters, to wean the Uygurs off their old, Islamic identity. But when Latin-script books started flowing in from Turkey, China moved the language to a unique modified Arabic script in 1980’. Not only did this serve to isolate them off from the rest of the world and other Turkic states, but it also meant that two generations in a row were cut off from their parent’s written culture.

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“China boosts police presence in restless Xinjiang”

So… Beijing is worried that Uyghur activists will glance south, see what’s happening in Tibet and want to get in on the action themselves? AP reports:

Officials plan to recruit 8,000 officers to ensure every village in Xinjiang has at least one on patrol, the Xinhua News Agency said.

Their primary tasks will be “security patrols, management of the migrant population and cracking down on illegal religious activities,” it said. The officers will be joined in their tasks by security guards and local militia, who are typically unarmed, Xinhua said.

Xinjiang regional spokeswoman Hou Hanmin confirmed to The Associated Press that the 8,000 officers were being recruited under a “one village, one officer” campaign. She said their main job would be to improve public services.

The deployment also appears aimed at avoiding a Xinjiang crisis during a year that will see the start of a generational leadership transition in Beijing.

Given what a resounding success that strategy has been in Tibet, I can see why Beijing would try the same thing on Xinjiang.

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“2011: The Uyghur Human Rights Year in Review”

Uyghur Human Rights Project manager Henryk Szadziewski has a piece up on HuffingtonPost summarizing how last year passed in Xinjiang. It wasn’t good:

Calls for independent and international investigations into Chinese claims of Uyghur terrorism receive very short shrift from Beijing. It therefore follows that whenever a serious incident occurs in East Turkestan (Xinjiang), which Chinese officials blame on a coordinated Uyghur terror threat, skeptics are never far away. That China uses the Uyghurs’ Islamic faith to engineer accusations of terrorism in order to justify unremitting crackdowns only compounds the doubt.

The incident became another example of the lack of clarity in Chinese government accounts of Uyghur terrorism, as well as an illustration of the binary nature in interpreting such disturbing events. What seems to be agreed upon is that another violent and bloody chapter in the region’s history has been played out and that we are nowhere nearer to resolving Uyghur issues. This conclusion could also be applied to two violent attacks that happened in the dusty summer streets of Khotan and Kashgar.

A growing number of countries surrounding China found it acceptable to forcibly repatriate Uyghur refugees in 2011. Prior to 2011, Uyghurs were refouled from a variety of states in China’s vicinity, such as Cambodia, Laos, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Burma and Nepal. In 2011, it was the turn of four other countries. On May 30, Ershidin Israel was forcibly repatriated from Kazakhstan despite an offer of settlement from Sweden. Israel had fled from China on foot in September 2009 after informing Radio Free Asia reporters about the beating to death of Uyghur Shohret Tursun. Tursun was beaten to death in September 2009 while in detention for his alleged involvement in the July 2009 unrest in Urumchi. Chinese authorities accused Israel of involvement in terrorism and demanded his return.

In all these cases nothing has been heard of the refugees since their return to China. In a September 2 Human Rights Watch press release, Refugee Program director Bill Frelick said, “Uighurs disappear into a black hole after being deported to China.” He added that “China appears to be conducting a concerted campaign to identify and press for the return of Uighurs from countries throughout Asia…China should stop pressuring other governments to violate the international prohibition against forced return.”

With such a long reach across the Asian continent and dominance over society in the Uyghur region, 2012 brings little to dismiss the fear that Uyghurs will find any respite from Chinese government attention, even across international borders. The pressure that China has exerted on surrounding governments to forcibly repatriate fleeing Uyghurs seems ever more irresistible given current political and economic realities. The possible evolution of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization into an economic grouping should keep Central Asian states firmly focused on the assistance China requires to keep activist Uyghurs silent.

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More Violence Against Uyghurs in Xinjiang

The Chinese government has been claiming that their police were forced into a shootout by Islamic terrorists in Xinjiang three days ago:

Police officers killed seven people they accused of being kidnappers in a remote mountainous area of Xinjiang on China’s turbulent western frontier, according to state-run news organizations on Friday.

A spokesman for the Xinjiang government told the Xinhua state news agency that a group of “violent terrorists” abducted two people in Pishan County. The area is in the restive Hotan Prefecture, which is dominated by Uighurs, a Turkic people who practice a relatively moderate form of Islam. The Han make up less than 2 percent of the population in Pishan.

Xinhua did not specify the ethnicity of the people who were killed by the police, but Radio Free Asia, which has a Uighur-language service, quoted local residents as saying on Thursday that all of the victims were Uighurs.

Doubts have been raised in recent years over the official versions of events in Xinjiang. In 2008, officials said two Uighur men were responsible for killing 16 paramilitary officers in the city of Kashgar by hitting them with a truck, setting off homemade explosives and attacking them with machetes. But foreign tourists who witnessed the event and took photographs of it said that there were no explosions and that the men wielding the machetes appeared to be wearing uniforms.

As is always the case, locals and exile groups are contesting this story, and it doesn’t sound good for the official narrative being pushed by the Beijing propaganda department:

Radio Free Asia has now reported that the “Terror Gang” was in fact a group of people, men, women and children, from Mukula village in Pishan county. The group, it is reported, had been attempting to flee to a foreign country where they could practice their Muslim religion unhindered. One of the dead had been previously imprisoned for three months for “illegal” religious activities.

RFA claims that two of the dead were women and that “Five of the captives are children aged seven to 17 years of age. One child is an elementary school student in second grade. They are being interrogated by the county.”

According to the RFA report the village chief said authorities had been keeping details of the incident under wraps in order to “maintain stability” in the community. He said the village was under a security clampdown.

It would seem obvious then that a group of Uyghurs, more than likely containing a family group, had attempted to leave China illegally. Their reason for leaving would overwhelmingly appear to be as a result of religious persecution.

Having been stopped by police they have reacted contrary to directions, or the police acted inappropriately towards the women of the group, as alluded to in the RFA report, resulting in what can only be described as a massacre. The fact that the dead policeman died as a result of knife injury would attest to the fact that the Uyghurs were not carrying weapons such as guns.

The initial story that they had “kidnapped” two shepherds is possibly correct to the extent that they required guides to get them to the border. Whether the shepherds helped voluntarily will not be known, but it is more than likely, and their status as “kidnapped” has been used by the Chinese authorities to justify the intervention and consequent, and what would appear, excessive use of lethal force against a group armed with little more than traditional Uyghur daggers.

We’ll see as more details come in- but I’ll just say that I would be extremely surprised if Beijing manages to provide any supporting evidence whatsoever for its claims.

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“Imprisoned Journalists”

Autonomous Region has an update about a new list of imprisoned journalists in China, focusing on the Uyghur journalists:

179 journalists are jailed worldwide, of them 27 are in China, which ranks number 3 as the world’s worst jailer, after only Iran (42) and Eritrea (28). More than half (17) of the jailed journalists in China are either Tibetans or Uyghur. This, however, may be an underestimate. As the report notes, “[o]thers may languish in China’s prison without coming to the notice of news organizations or advocacy groups. ‘We know so few of the names of people who have been detained or imprisoned for political crimes,’ said John Kamm, chairman of the Dui Hua Foundation, a group that advocates for Chinese political prisoners.”

They go on to detail the Uyghur inmates.

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“Four Uyghurs Arrested for Attending Koran Study Group in Urumqi”

Looks like Beijing is still mad about the attacks and protests last summer:

Four Uyghur men were arrested last Saturday in their apartment in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, for “engaging in illegal religious activity.” The local police confirmed the arrests to Radio Free Asia but refused to give any details. An overseas Uyghur organization said that a “Hundred Day Crackdown” was launched in Aksu last week and so far 11 people have been arrested, including women, and that more than 20 people were fined for engaging in religious activities.

The authorities regard any study of the Koran done outside government-approved venues to be “illegal activity.” On Wednesday, Dilshat, the spokesperson of the German-based World Uyghur Congress, told Radio Free Asia that at least four young Uyghurs were arrested recently in Urumqi for engaging in religious activities. He said, “On the 26th, Urumqi police burst into Room 602, Unit 7, Building 2, on South Road in Dalan Town and arrested four people, accusing them of illegal scripture exposition and being engaged in religious activities. Police beat and insulted them, confiscated some religious publications, and are holding them at the police station on Minghua Street.” When our journalist called the police station, the police confirmed the arrests but refused to say how the case was being handled.

As a warning, the authorities are fining people who study the Koran, Dilshat said, and so far 23 people have been given fines of 2,000 yuan to 5,000 yuan. He said, “The Department of Public Health in the Yutian district of Hetian county issued a notice to investigate Uyghurs who wear veils. They even set up a special task group to detain and investigate serious offenders.” He also said that 27 retired Uyghurs officials in Hetian county were required to sign a statement pledging that they, as well as their spouses, children, relatives and friends, would no longer participate in religious activities. The Land Resources Bureau of Moyu county issued a notice forbidding officials and employees, as well as their families and relatives, to wear veils and other clothing with strong religious connotations, or to engage in any illegal religious activities.

The authorities’ main goal in the “Hundred Day” crackdown is to deter people from “engaging in illegal religious activities.” A Xinjiang resident surnamed Li said, “Aksu and Kashgar are in south Xinjiang and have high concentrations of Uyghur population – controls have always been tight. The definition set by the Aksu administrative offices of what constitutes religious freedom stems from the Communist Party; it’s not based on what the Constitution says about religious freedom.” Dilshat thinks that the government’s intention is very clear. He said, “The crackdown is clearly [meant to be] a provocation to the religious faith of the Uyghur people. The government wants to achieve its goal of controlling the area by suppressing religious activities and systematically persecuting the Uyghur people. I believe various forms of resistance will occur.” Winter has already set in in Xinjiang, but the authorities are not letting their guard down at all, according to Mr. Li. He said “It’s getting cold here. Right now we are mostly seeing a lot of vehicles patrolling the neighborhoods. There are a lot of police cars, SWAT unit vehicles and large trucks on the streets, while the number of beat cops has decreased somewhat.”

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“Uyghurs challenged by life in Beijing”

The Asia Times has a good article about one more aspect of minority life in China- living far from your homeland, in an enormous Han city where people know very little, and respect even less, about your people or culture:

Lack of official registration makes it difficult to obtain reliable figures, but a few thousand Uyghurs – mostly students, artists and entrepreneurs seeking their fortune – are estimated to live in Beijing today. For most of them, integration and life in the capital is far from easy.

At the bar where he plays guitar every evening, located in the touristic area of Houhai, foreigners often approach him to ask where he’s from. When he says, “China”, they often stare at him in disbelief. When he adds, “Xinjiang”, some don’t even know Xinjiang is a part of China, or have trouble reconciling his looks with their stereotype of a Chinese.

He is used to it, he says. “Sometimes, even Chinese find it hard to believe that I am from Xinjiang. They say I don’t look Uyghur.” The majority of Uyghurs claim there is little knowledge and understanding about their culture and complain of a marginalization at national and international level.

There is in fact little international news coverage of Xinjiang and the representation of Uyghur ethnicity has been largely controlled by the Chinese authorities. The national media usually offers an idealized portrayal of ethnic minorities, emphasizing their exoticism and folklore and stressing the fact that they live in harmony and unity with the Han majority.

This is regarded by most Uyghurs as a distortion and simplification of their culture and social reality, and as a strategy to undermine the threat that their difference or “otherness” represents.

Ailkam soon found a job as an English teacher in a school, but received a call, a few days after the job interview, with the news that the school principal had changed his mind and would not give him the job anymore. Only because he was a Uyghur. He got his second job, also as an English teacher, under one condition: the need to conceal his ethnic origins. Given the current political climate, his employer said apologetically, parents would never accept a Uyghur as a teacher for their children. Ailkam was jolted.
“They told me I should tell the students I was a foreigner”, he explained. With his Caucasian looks, he would have easily got away with it, but he turned down the offer. Nurtay (a pseudonym), a Law student in Beijing, travelled – also in 2009 – to the United Kingdom to visit his sister.

Upon his return, when he and his family reached passport control, they were asked not to stand either behind the foreign passport line or behind the line reserved for Chinese nationals. Uyghurs, they were told, had “a special line of their own”. In recent years, the treatment of Uyghurs in Beijing has steadily worsened with fear and resentment rising over riots in Xinjiang.

Today, the police still pay a visit to Uyghurs and Tibetans who check into a hotel in Beijing, and many have reported the difficulty of renting an apartment, as they are often subject to suspicion. Large numbers of Uyghurs started to migrate to Beijing in the late 1980s, several years after the introduction of a free market economy. Most of them came to Beijing in search of better opportunities, and concentrated in the areas of Ganjiakou and Weigongcun, located in west Beijing, and also known as the “Xinjiang Villages”.

The majority of Uyghurs living in Beijing has experienced some form of overt or covert discrimination and as a result feel a sharp antagonism towards Beijing’s rule, and by extension, towards Han Chinese. The overall sense of resentment is so pervasive that even trivial cultural differences have become the target of criticism, standing in the way of unbiased communication and contributing to further segregation.

“Han Chinese have the habit of using their own chopsticks to put food in their guests’ plates. This is just cultural, but we Uyghurs regard it as dirty”, explains Nurtay, who acknowledges the existence of a cultural bias. In fact, many Uyghurs admit having few or no Han Chinese friends. It is not uncommon to see Uyghurs drinking and eating together, and chatting in their language. Like other migrants, they have formed exclusive communities in Beijing, in which frequent gathering creates a sense of belonging which they otherwise find hardly available in the capital.

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“China blames incidents in Tibet and Xinjiang on separatists”

And now to balance out what might have been good news in the previous post, enjoy this brain-dead mush from Wang Ping, deputy director at the State Ethnic Affairs Commission. Look at that position and think about how much power he has… and then read what he has to say:

A senior Chinese official blamed Tibetan separatists for encouraging young people to commit suicide, noting that monks and nuns who set themselves on fire were not acting voluntarily in the autonomous region.

The official also accused separatists in another autonomous region, Xinjiang, of sabotaging political stability by attacking civilians.

Wang Ping told a group of Turkish reporters that acts of self-immolation were in fact sponsored by separatist groups operating outside of the Chinese borders. “These are involuntary actions committed at the encouragement of separatists,” he said while blaming the Western media for portraying a different picture from the reality.

“This recalls negative reporting about China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Western media is not credible. They are biased in their reporting, and this upsets us,” Ping underlined.

Wang also described the violent acts perpetrated by some Uighurs, a Turkic and traditionally Muslim ethnic group, in China’s western Xinjiang autonomous region as separatist terrorist acts. “They are attacking civilians and disrupt the stability in the region,” he said. A raid on a police station, arson and a stabbing attack took place in July in Xinjiang.

Wang told Turkish reporters visiting Beijing on Friday that China is committed to protecting the equal rights of minority groups in the country, adding that ethnic minorities are exempted from the one-child birth planning policy. He also noted there is a set proportion of seats for ethnic minority representatives in legislatures as well as more investment schemes developed for minority regions.

Nice to know the minorities are in good hands!

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