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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Monday, December 22, 2003

The War on Terrorism: A US Policy dilemma

The People's Republic of China on December 15 released a series of statements concerning the Uygur ethnic minority of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region of China.(People's Daily News Agency)

They identified what they say are Uygur terrorist groups and leaders.

Whilst all commentators acknowledge that there have been incidents of violence carried out in the name of Uygur independence there has been no solid evidence supplied by China or the US that there does exist organised "Uygur terrorist groups"

I mention the US because in September 2002 they supported China's request to have a little known Uygur Independence organisation (ETIM) proscribed as a recognised terrorist group. This was done, no doubt, to assuage the Chinese over US involvement in countries on the their doorstep.

Under the guise of being a global supporter of the "War on Terrorism" and with the tacit "support" of the US, the Chinese have continued a systematic attack on lawful dissent, religion, rights of association and freedom of speech among the Uygur peoples.

This has involved detention, imprisonment and reportedly even execution.

Yes, the "War on terrorism" so bravely lead by the people of the free world and the US in particular does have it's downsides, not only for the Uygur but also other Turkic/Muslim peoples in Central Asia.

We can not lose site of the "smaller picture" and turn our heads away from the gross misuse of a valid policy by a small group of Central Asian nations and China. We must fight terrorism yes but, we can not sacrifice the human rights of thousands (maybe millions) of people to get one man. What is that old saying? "It is better that a thousand criminals go free than one innocent man condemned". The analogy must work in the "War on terrorism" as well.

The double standard is that the US and other countries were once very serious critics of Beijing's treatment of the Uygur ethnic minority. Cases of human rights violations elicited quick and vocal criticism from the US and rightly so. However, with the advent of "9/11" the US and her allies have gone soft on China with regards to Human rights. That is not to say that they and the US in particular has been silent but they have lost the sense of urgency and have watered down their diplomatic responses to such incidents.

China obviously recognises this and is exploiting it. Therefore, any actions they take against the Uygur they claim it is against terrorist elements and mask it by calling it the "War on Terrorism" and as such the world looks the other way.

The US is obviously grateful for China's support in the "War" especially as to how quietly and magnanimously China has accepted US troops only a stone 's throw away, but, this gratitude does present them with a major policy dilema. "How much trade off do we allow?"

And this is a moral/philosophical question as well as a political one. On one hand the Turkic Republics of Central Asia (the ex Soviet Republics) and China are supporting the war on terrorism, the former allowing bases and US military personnel in their countries, and the second providing at least moral support. On the other hand the US and others, are turning a blind eye to the excesses and violations of Human rights being acted out in these countries in the name of the "War on Terorism".

Let us achieve the objectives of the "War on Terrorism" but in doing so not ignore and by doing so condone lesser evils for the sake of it.

Let us not chuck the baby out with the bathwater!