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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, February 16, 2004

China: Small But Far From Hollow Victories

In a recent article “Uygurs: Friendless In Central Asia” I alluded to the role China plays in manipulating sentiment among the Central Asian nations and others concerning the “Uygur Question”

(Ahmadjan Osman pictured courtesy of Al-Hayat (Arabic) )

Essentially, I argued that China uses it’s economic clout to impel these nations into taking a pro-China stance over the Uygur Question in return for economic, diplomatic and other favours. As such, where once the Turkic countries showed support for the Uygur now they are more than likely to turn a blind eye at best or actively support China at worst.

But it is not only the Uygur’s Turkic “brothers” that are increasingly distancing themselves from their situation. Other nations too are being “encouraged” by China, in it’s day to day diplomatic relations, to act in a way that is detrimental to the Uygur cause.

A recent event that appears to have the hand of the PRC in it is the deportation of a respected Poet from Syria.

Ahmadjan Osman is a Poet, well known in the Arab world for his command of the classical Arabic poetic tradition, is married to a Syrian national and has resided in Syria for 15 years.

But he is also an Uygur and an occasional contributor to Radio Free Asia, an organisation, among other things, often critical of the PRC’s ethnic policies.

These two things it would seem has resulted in his deportation from Syria. This has occurred despite the foregoing and despite having the support of 270 prominent figures in the world of Arabic poetry, including the Syrian poet and Nobel Literature Prize nominee Adunis, who have signed a petition, and staged a demonstration against the deportation order.

Osman in an interview with Radio Free Asia after his deportation claims that he has never used either his poetry or his contributions to Radio Free Asia for political ends and knows no reason why the Damascus authorities have acted as they have.

Why then has Syria deported him?

One can only conjecture that the deportation came about at the behest of the Chinese Government, who are known to have a strong and growing influence in the countries of the Middle East. This is especially true with nations like Syria who are feeling isolated and a little vulnerable with the recent changes in Iraq and Libya.

China seems to delight in obtaining these small concessions, these little shows of support from their client states or those wishing to curry favour with them.

In getting Osman deported it would serve the purpose of sending a strong and unconditional message to those Uygur in diaspora and at home that the tentacles of the PRC are long and far reaching and that no “victory” for them is too small. It is telling them “do not think you can use your position or potential influence against us”.

What is in it for the Syrians? Economic considerations perhaps, promises of support in the event of America moving against it? Who knows? But somewhere along the line they will be repaid, of that there is no doubt, that, after all, is the nature of diplomacy.

They are small these PRC victories but they are far from hollow ones. Each in it’s own way is another “straw on the camels back”, each weighing that little more heavily upon the collective will of the Uygur people.

The Uygur (Uighur) of Xinjiang need the support of the world in the attainment of basic human rights. This blog of news commentary and analysis hopes to add to pressure on the People's Republic of China to bring about positive change.