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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, January 26, 2004



The Uygur people of Xinjiang China are in really a very unenviable position.

They do not wear saffron robes and are not Buddhists (or at least not any more) so they do not attract the attention of the Richrd Gere's of the world as the Tibetans do. Somehow after "9/11" being Muslim does not elicit a lot of world sympathy.

They live under a regime whose censorship laws are so harsh that you could be imprisoned ( and possibly worse) for handing out leaflets that are anyway negative of the state. So, they can not effectively get the message of their plight to the outside world.

They live in a country that is on the verge of an economic boom that has all the capitalists "free" nations around the world almost salivating to get a part of the bone and willing to bury any scruples or ignore any "minor issues" of human right abuse in doing so.

But the Uygur are a Turkic people and until fairly recently that meant something important to them. They had a worldwide brotherhood of "kinsmen" stretching from the Central Asian plateaus through to the Caucuses and to Turkey. Among these "brothers" they sought solace, moral support and inspiration. In many instances their lives where saved by being able to step across the borders. Generations of Uygur intelligensia have looked to Turkey for inspiration as leaders and supporters.

As the article cited above attests this is no longer the case. Where once they sought a shoulder now the Uygur may face a fist. Where once they may have sought sancturary more than likely now they will be mached back to the borders and forcibly repatriated no matter what their possible fate. Where once in Turkey they had parks named after their nationalist leaders now the Uygur organisations in diaspora are refused the right to hold peaceful international meetings.

This then is the reality of Central Asian and Turkish politics today where "brothers" can be ignored.

Is it because the Uygurs are international terrorists, a threat to regional peace and safety? No it is no more than a desire by these nations to curry favour with the Chinese. The Central Asian states, predominantly run by near despots who came up from the ranks of the old Soviet regime, see the wealth of opportunity of being seen to be supportive of Beijing. Trade deals, billions in potential investment and 1 plus billion potential consumers can do a lot to turn a fellows head. Being less than vocal in supporting the Uygur is a small investment indeed.

The "Great Game" of the 19th and early 20th centuries that was played out between Russia and Britain over Central Asia and northwestern China is back on and being joined by the likes of the United States, China, India and some European countries including Turkey. Each is trying for an economic and/or military presence. The Central Asians are falling over themselves in accomodation, hedging bets all for the almighty dollar, yuan or ruble.

The article cited reports how a Kazakhstan newspaper essentially branded the 200,000 plus Uygurs living in Kazakhstan as terrorists and trouble makers. This is not a new story though it has not been as publicly stated before. In Uzbekistan there has been rumblings against the Uygur residents there for some time. The publication of the article mentioned does however mark an important turning point for the Uygur.

Whilst the Kazakhstan Interior Minister distances his government from the opinions expressed one can not help thinking back to the early rumblings against another ethnic group. Not that one expects a "final solution" to the Uygur question but the outcome could be less than pleasent for the Uygur of Xinjiang and Cental Asia generally if they remain friendless in the world.

The Uygur truely are in an unenviable position. Alone in the world, championed by no one and now sold out by their brothers for 12 pieces of silver. It is hoped that they are happy with the money and do not want to take a part in the execution.