The latest in China’s quest to lose hearts and minds, reported by RFA and the WUC:
Authorities in northwestern China have detained five ethnic Uyghur Muslims for “inciting separatism” after the men refused to honor the national flag at a ceremony held inside their mosque, according to residents and exile Uyghur groups.
Local officials say the decision to raise the flag on the grounds of the mosque in mid-August was part of a larger campaign to promote patriotism in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where a series of attacks in July left dozens dead and wounded.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, said the five men were arrested after confronting Chinese officials during the flag raising ceremony in Aksu prefecture’s Kucha county.
“The people were angry and refused to allow the raising of the Red Flag by standing hand-in-hand in front of the mosque. Finally, the officials decided to temporarily halt the flag raising campaign and reported the incident to the prefectural authorities,” the teacher said.
“No violence occurred on either side and, unexpectedly, the police also did not have a harsh response—they just got into an argument,” he said.
“But last week, a month after the event, two religious figures and three young men who had been active against the flag raising were taken away by the Kucha county secret police.”
The high school teacher said that the campaign had angered Uyghurs throughout the prefecture and that he believed the policy was a reaction to an incident in July which left some 20 people dead after a group of Uyghurs launched an attack on a police station in the western city of Hotan.
“Hmm, how to deflate tensions in the region… maybe by pestering worshipers at a mosque with the national flag, and then disappearing some of them? That should do.”