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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, August 09, 2004

Separatism, Extremism, Terrorism: Read "Uygur Intimidation"

Chinese and Pakistani troops conduct terror exercises in the Pamirs. Pic courtsy Peoples Daily
With the striking and beautiful Pamir Mountains in the background pictures in China’s People’s Daily show "crack" Chinese and Pakistani troops doing what "crack" troops" do best: "killing" people.

In this case however the "killing" was pretend and those killed were mock terrorists or, as China refers to them, adherents of "separatism, extremism and terrorism".

The Pamir Mountains, 4,000 metres above sea level, were not chosen for the rigours of the terrain, or for high altitude training of these "elite" troops. The location was selected because the Pamirs are in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region close to the borders of Afghanistan, Tajikstan and Pakistan, and Xinjiang is where China has identified their exists the

"major threat to regional stability and security" the so called "East Turkistan
terror groups".

"East Turkistan" is the former name for Xinjiang and China uses the "three threats/evils" of separatism, extremism and terrorism" in an attempt to intimidate the Uygur people of Xinjiang into total submission.

The Uygur, a proud Turkic people who follow the Muslim religion, are descended from nomadic tribes that roamed Central Asia and in the 7th and 8th centuries C.E. they ruled a mighty empire that included most of what is today China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

In 1949 they constituted the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the area China calls Xinjiang but due to Chinese government policy of massive Han migration to The "New Territories" they are now, at an estimated 9 million people, more than likely outnumbered by Han Chinese.

Like most peoples subjugated by a "foreign nation" the Uygur bridle under Chinese control and the clash of cultures and Chinese policy has led to several incidents, particularly since 1990, where isolated riots have occurred generally over local issues.

There also has been open calls from a small minority of Uygurs for "separation" from China and the setting up of an independent Uygur republic. These calls, whilst appealing to the hearts of most Uygurs, have never been able to unify them as a people in any concerted attempt to caste off the yoke of Chinese rule.

Instead, individuals and small disparate groups have attempted, but overwhelmingly have failed, to rally general support by initiating a very limited number of violent acts against low level Chinese government targets. In only one instance, agreed by most foreign observers, were civilians purposely put at risk of death or injury by the actions of this minority.

That particular incident, a bombing of a bus in Urumqi the capital of Xinjiang in 1997 that resulted in deaths, was in retaliation for a brutal suppression of an earlier Uygur demonstration in Gulja (Yining), that resulted in mass Uygur detentions, many executions and renewed crackdowns on religious and other freedoms of the Uygur. Whilst one can not condone such violence one can perhaps understand it in its context.

The Chinese claim that these "East Turkistan" forces pose a serious threat to the security and integrity not only of China but the general region of Central Asia and neighbouring Pakistan. They have even gone as far to claim one occasion that these forces pose a threat to world security, so great is their apparent obsession.

All this is in spite of the fact that no act of terrorism has ever been confirmed as being conducted by these "forces" outside of China and no incidents of any violence within China since the Urumqi incident in 1997.
The consequent massive crackdown on the so called "three evils" that sees jailing and executions on a regular basis as well as a general limitation of the Uygurs rights to freedom of association and religion has effectively destroyed any vestige of open dissent among the Uygur of Xinjiang.

Notwithstanding Beijing continues a massive "terror" programme against the Uygur people that seems far and away out of proportion to any real or perceived threat that the Uygur can pose. A concerted programme designed to totally intimidate the Uygur people and instill in them a real fear bordering on terror that if they step out of line then the results will be swift and unmerciful.

The Pamir Mountains "terrorist" exercise is but one example.

Militarily it can have no meaningful purpose. 200 hundred soldiers careering on ponies, like the very nomadic Turk tribes that instilled such fear in the Chinese’ forefathers some 2000 years ago, is hardly the level of sophistication required to confront real terrorism. But its worth from the Chinese viewpoint is in its propaganda value.

The mention of the "Three Evils" as a reason for the exercise sends a strong and plain message to the Uygur people: This is meant for you!

The "Three evils" in simple terms has become a synonym for the Uygur people and they know it.
But military exercises are but one tool in China’s intimidation campaign. China uses its economic clout against the Uygur as well.

The setting up of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with China as the prime mover has been shamelessly used by the Chinese as a tool of Uygur oppression. In May and June China’s President Hu Jintao released joint statements with SCO member states presidents of Khazakhstan and Uzbekistan respectively re-affirming their joint interests in combating the "Three evils" and singling out the Uygurs for particular mention:

In the statement China and Uzbekistan (The Khazakhstan/China joint statement is almost verbatim)
".will continue to adopt powerful measures (italics mine) to fight all forms of
terrorism, including terrorism waged by the so called ‘East Turkistan’ terror

Similar statements have been garnered from Tajikstan, Krygystan and Pakistan and most of these countries as well as Nepal have forcibly repatriated Uygurs to China, many to their ultimate executions.

What is in it for these nations? An honoured place at the China trade and economic aid table.

The Uygur as a result know that they are now friendless in Central Asia and surrounded and isolated by nations toeing the Beijing line. Their feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability must be palpable.

But it does not stop only with military exercises and diplomatic machinations. It is regularly re-inforced by the jailing of Uygurs such as Rebiya Kadeer the prominent Uygur businesswoman in 2000, Tohti Tunyaz the historian in 1998 and many nameless others charged with various offences relating to "separatism" and "passing state secrets".

Add to this the ultimate deterrent, the seemingly regular execution of Uygurs accused of separatist/terrorist activities, the most recent of which was the execution sometime shortly after his June 30 sentencing this year of one Kuerban Tudaji.

What threat can these people pose China that has Beijing so obsessed with the need for the Uygurs total intimidation and subjugation?

Is it chauvinism? Is it racism?

Whatever ISM motivates them it is certainly not real fears of terrorism or religious extremism or separatism emanating from the Uygur!

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