“China’s Uighur petitioners face abuse in Beijing”

To be sure, the system is rigged against all petitioners in Beijing, and that includes Han petitioners as well. Still, as the LA Times writes, it’s pretty tough for Uighur seeking redress in the capital:

Under a bridge in the shadows of central Beijing, Aygul Tohti lays out the evening meal on a bare mattress that has served as bed and dining room table since police confiscated most of her possessions.

There are thin slices of watermelon, a traditional flatbread called nan and what Tohti calls beef noodle soup, although there’s no evidence of meat. Only cauliflower and broccoli simmer in an iron pot over an open wood fire.

For more than two years, a small group of Uighurs upset in one way or another by Chinese officials has lived under bridges that span the narrow, murky Hucheng River paralleling the Second Ring Road, one of Beijing’s busiest highways. Under the bridges, people are eager to have an audience and provide a glimpse of the hardships faced by Uighurs.

They come from villages thousands of miles away to petition the central government for compensation or other resolution of grievances suffered at home. Many complaints stem from the rapid development of the Xinjiang region, as part of the country’s economic expansion, and from the accompanying Uighur resentment of the influx of Han Chinese, who they say receive preferential treatment when searching for jobs and opportunities.

There are Uighur teachers who have lost their jobs because the language of instruction in schools has been switched to Chinese and they cannot pass difficult Chinese proficiency exams. A young mother said police wouldn’t help when her 9-year-old son was nabbed by a gang that trains Uighur children as pickpockets and beggars. A farmer from Aksu complained that he lost his livelihood when Communist Party cadres restricted private sales of wheat and corn, a traditional Uighur occupation.

“I can’t go home because there are no jobs for Uighurs now in Aksu,” said the man, 56-year-old Emet Khasim. “If there is construction work, they’ll pay a Chinese guy 200 yuan [about $30] per day and a Uighur only 50 [yuan] and you won’t get your money until the end of the month, if they pay you at all.”

Under Chinese law, petitioning is a legal mechanism for addressing complaints. The State Council’s Bureau of Letters and Calls set up to hear complaints is a few blocks from the embankment where petitioners are camping out. But the Chinese government doesn’t make it easy for petitioners to resolve issues, and the Uighurs say they are singled out for abuse.

Uighurs in Beijing are unable to stay in hotels or lease apartments in Beijing because of local regulations, unpublished but widely known, that prohibit renting to people with Xinjiang identity cards.

“Nobody will rent to Uighurs,” said Khasim.

It’s always amazing to see how the petitioning system, designed to prevent abuses of power, has become a tool for protecting these same abuses of power.


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Filed under ethnic conflict, intimidation, Xinjiang

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