Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Uyghurs Land in Switzerland

Uyghurs Land in Switzerland

After 8-1/2 years in custoday at Guantanamo Bay, two men are freed.

Swiss Federal Councillor and Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (R) at a news conference in Bern, Feb. 3, 2010.
WASHINGTON—Two ethnic Uyghur detainees, both Chinese nationals, have arrived in Switzerland after 8-1/2 years in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, a knowledgeable source said Tuesday.
Switzerland agreed to resettle Bahtiyar Mahnut and Arkin Mahmud despite pressure from the Chinese government amidst ongoing negotiations over a free trade agreement.
The two brothers were captured in Afghanistan in October 2001 by U.S. troops. They reached their new flat in Jura, Switzerland, on Tuesday, according to the source, who asked not to be named.

The Swiss lower house National Security Commission voted Jan. 12—with 15 votes to 10—against taking in the two men, natives of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwestern China.
According to a statement by the Swiss government, the two Uyghurs were considered for resettlement because they were granted that right by the U.S. government in 2005 after no evidence could be found connecting them to terrorist groups.
The statement added that the Federal Council had agreed on Dec. 16 to allow an Uzbek national from the camp to resettle in the Swiss Canton of Geneva.
The Canton of Jura then voted on Jan. 27 to admit the two Uyghurs, pending approval by the Federal Council. Jura is one of 26 Swiss cantons, with a population of about 70,000.

China opposed any countries accepting the two men, claiming they are members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which China, the United Nations, and the United States regard as a terrorist organization.
The U.S. government has refused to return Uyghurs held at Guantanamo to China, saying they would face persecution there. But Washington has also been reluctant to resettle the Uyghurs in the United States.
The Uyghur men were among a larger group of 22 Uyghurs captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan and sold for bounty to U.S. forces following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Six were transferred to Palau in October, four to Bermuda in June, and five to Albania in 2006. One man in the last group has since resettled in Sweden.
Palau initially invited 12 of 13 remaining Uyghurs at Guantanamo to resettle on the tiny Pacific island, but it did not offer to take in Arkin Mahmud, 45, because he has developed mental health problems.
His brother Bahtiyar Mahnut opted to stay at Guantanamo to take care of his older brother, The Washington Post reported at the time.
Three others turned down Palau's offer for other reasons.
All say they were living as refugees in Afghanistan, having faced religious persecution in China.
Terror allegations
The United States maintained that the men had attended terror-training camps, and they were flown to Guantanamo Bay in June 2002. They were eventually cleared of terrorist links but remained in custody while Washington tried to find a country willing to take them in.
Millions of Uyghurs—a distinct, Turkic minority who are predominantly Muslim—populate Central Asia and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of northwestern China.
Ethnic tensions between Uyghurs and majority Han Chinese settlers have simmered for years, and erupted in rioting in July that left some 200 people dead, according to the Chinese government’s tally.
Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness despite China's ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.
Chinese authorities blame Uyghur separatists for a series of deadly attacks in recent years and accuse one group in particular of maintaining links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Harper says trade won't stifle human rights talk

Harper says trade won't stifle human rights talk
Last Updated: Friday, December 4, 2009 | 10:38 PM ET
CBC News

Stephen Harper makes a speech to business leaders in Shanghai on Friday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday his government would not let the pursuit of expanded economic ties with China lead to silence on human rights issues.

In his first and only major speech during his four-day visit to China, Harper told a crowd of business leaders gathered in Shanghai that building a stronger trade relationship is not incompatible with an open discussion of human rights.

He also outlined the benefits of increasing trade and Chinese investment in Canada, highlighting Canada's falling tax rates, low government debt and abundant energy resources.

"But just as trade is a two-way street, so too is dialogue," he said.

"Our government believes and has always believed that a mutually beneficial economic relationship is not incompatible with a good and frank dialogue on fundamental values like freedom, human rights and the rule of law," he told the crowd of 500 business leaders.

"And so, in relations between China and Canada, we will continue to raise issues of freedom and human rights, be a vocal advocate and an effective partner for human rights reform, just as we pursue the mutually beneficial economic relationship desired by both our countries."

This section of the speech was greeted with silence from the crowd of businessmen, who had applauded previously statements focusing on trade and the removal of protectionist policies.

Harper's comments came a day after Canada and China issued a joint statement saying China would bestow the label of "preferred tourist destination" on Canada, a move that will make it easier for Chinese tourists to visit Canada.

Thursday's statement only briefly mentioned the issue of human rights, saying the two sides agreed they had "distinct points of view."

Harper chided for waiting too long to visit

It is Harper's first visit to China since forming his first government in 2006, a fact Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made note of several times during public statements on Thursday. A Canadian prime minister had not visited since Paul Martin did so in January 2005.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, visited the Forbidden City in Beijing on Friday before meeting with business leaders in Shanghai. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)"Five years is too long a time for China-Canada relations and that's why there are comments in the media that your visit is one that should have taken place earlier," Wen said Thursday.

Canada-China relations have been frosty since Harper became prime minister in 2006, particularly because of his past comments on China's human rights record and his public support of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who has been living in exile since China annexed the region in 1958.

Chinese President Hu Jintao also had threatened to call off a meeting between the two leaders in Vietnam in 2006 after Harper criticized China over a case involving Huseyin Celil, a Canadian activist jailed in China for alleged terrorist links. Beijing continues to refuse to allow Canadian consular visits to Celil.

The Conservative government has backed off in the last year from publicly chiding China, opting instead for more quiet diplomacy, a recognition of China's growing importance as an economic power.

The government-run China Daily has characterized Harper's visit as a sign that relations between the two countries may "thaw," while another article described Harper's visit as "late" but "still welcome."

Earlier in the day, the prime minister visited the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing and met with Wu Bangguo, chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress and one of the government's top figures.

Harper is scheduled to visit Hong Kong on Saturday and then concludes his Asian trip with a visit to South Korea, where he will address the National Assembly on Monday.

With files from The Canadian Press

Scoring in China – without prostituting ourselves

John Ibbitson
Scoring in China – without prostituting ourselves

Despite his public mauling by the Chinese Premier, Stephen Harper's trip is a substantive success

Harper vows to promote human rights
Globe editorial: The tardy guest and the human touch

John Ibbitson
Published on Friday, Dec. 04, 2009 6:57PM EST
Last updated on Friday, Dec. 04, 2009 7:19PM EST
Stephen Harper has an unfailing ability to take a weak speech and make it even flatter through delivery, and his address to Chinese and Canadian business leaders Friday evening was no exception. But that's not the point.

The point is that, despite his mauling by Premier Wen Jiabao over the Conservative government's tardy and reluctant recognition of the importance of the China-Canada relationship, the Prime Minister's trip is substantively a success.

The Chinese granted Canada permission to market group tours of Chinese citizens to Canada – a privilege that other nations have long enjoyed, but that our country has been unsuccessfully seeking for a decade. Final agreement came late and was uncertain until the end, according to sources. Clearly, the Chinese knew that the Canadians needed deliverables, and were prepared to grant this one, though not without a good spanking first.

There were a few other accords as well, none of them earth-moving. In sum they appear to reflect a Chinese government willing to re-engage with Canada despite our years of self-imposed exile.

And the past few days demonstrate emphatically that Mr. Harper fully recognizes the vital importance to Canada's economic and geopolitical future of fully engaging with China, at every level, all the time.

“As economic power and human prosperity spreads from West to East, Canada's trade orientation is shifting also,” Mr. Harper said in his speech. “It is clear that in the 21st century, trans-Pacific trade will increasingly fuel our economic growth.”

So it will. But it is easier and more morally satisfying to trade with like-minded democracies such as the United States and Europe. China is not a democracy. It imprisons people for what they say; its judiciary is not to be trusted; it is corrupt.

The challenge for Canadians is to engage with China while not prostituting ourselves. Mr. Harper thought he could chastise the Chinese on human rights while simultaneously fostering trade. But the Chinese government had no intention of playing that game, which is why the diplomatic equivalent of corporal punishment was the price of readmission to the regime's good graces.

How to balance trade and human rights on the China file has baffled every Canadian government. Most just caved, shoving the issue aside. Mr. Harper believes he can promote both.

“Our government believes, and has always believed, that a mutually beneficial economic relationship is not incompatible with a good and frank dialogue on fundamental values like freedom, human rights and the rule of law,” Mr. Harper said in his speech.

“…We will continue to raise issues of freedom and human rights, be a vocal advocate and an effective partner for human-rights reform, just as we pursue the mutually beneficial economic relationship desired by both our countries.”

Properly handled, this is the approach that all the Western democracies should be taking. The equilibrium of this century depends on helping China manage its growth, as laissez faire capitalism pits staggering urban wealth against grinding rural poverty; as the Middle Kingdom takes its place at the forefront of nations without, as yet, the mechanisms to ensure peace and justice within its borders and without.

Thus far, Mr. Harper has stumbled repeatedly as he seeks his own equilibrium in dealing with the China Question. But he is an intelligent and pragmatic man. He is able to learn.

How well he learns could help determine our prosperity and, in Canada's own quiet way, contribute to peace in the coming time.

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Related Information

Harper vows to promote human rights Friday, Dec. 04, 2009 09:17AM EST
Globe editorial: The tardy guest and the human touch Thursday, Dec. 03, 2009 11:39PM EST
Norman Spector: Harper’s not for kowtowing Friday, Dec. 04, 2009 08:53AM EST
Analysis: Public scolding likely long-planned Friday, Dec. 04, 2009 12:02AM EST
Latest Comments


12/5/2009 12:10:34 AM
Harper cares about human right ? Since when ?

'Harper Knew About Torture In Afghanistan' - NATO Official
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12/5/2009 12:08:06 AM
Harper Personally Directed Torture Cover-Up
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12/5/2009 12:05:32 AM
Harper would do well to mention specific human-rights issues rather than simply saying, "We will raise human-rights issues." For example, he could encourage the Chinese to allow greater freedom of speech, one of the basic freedoms that is in only the earliest stages of development in China. No doubt the Chinese government with its pseudo-newspapers/government-mouthpieces sees this as a fundamental weakness of Western democracies, seeing how they take their cues (e.g. critisism of Harper for "alienating Canada from China") from the CBC, Globe etc. in their own comments and criticisms of Harper. Which is an interesting contrast: Harper can only communicate to Chinese officials, whereas their communication is as much to Canadians and the Canadian media as to Harper, since these have the power in our democracy!

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

China's rigged trials against Uyghurs merits more attention from world community

China's rigged trials against Uyghurs merits more attention from world community
6:19 PM ET

Memet Tohti [Former Vice President, World Uyghur Congress]: "A recent report released by Human Rights Watch over the inadequacy and unfairness of the trials of Urumqi protestors has brought our memory back to the July 5 massacre committed by the Chinese military and government backed Han Chinese mobsters. Mass arrests and manhunts started as early as the evening of July 5 after the suppression order issued by Wang Lequan, Communist party chief in the Uyghur Autonomous region, employed the rarely used word of "zhenya" which translated roughly to “kill to clean” or “complete suppression” in comparison to “ping xi” (to silence)that was used for the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and the Tibetan uprising of March 2008. When the Chinese military receives an order with “zhenya” usually there will be no limits to their actions. That’s what “zhenya” means and that is why it has rarely been used. This is a key word that could reflect the scale of suppression directed against Uyghurs that resulted in an unknown number of killings, arrests and disappearances that still question our minds.

The Chinese government's complete blockage of communications in East Turkistan since July 5 has caused grave concerns and raised serious questions for many experts as to whether China is hiding something from the outside world. This blockage has been harshly enforced by the government and includes the shutdown of landline telephone services, wireless telephone, and Internet and text messaging. The initial government excuse of "shutting down communication to prevent further spread of riots across the region" is no longer a valid one. And what could be the excuse for government keeping the entire Uyghur region in a state of complete communication blackout until today? Is it something to do with hiding the truth from outside and fearing exposure by the victims' families?

In addition to the communication shutdown, authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region passed a law during the first week of October that bans people from saying anything that "damages national Unity, incites separatism, or harms social stability." This vaguely worded bill has been implemented throughout East Turkistan to silence the outspoken parents, widows and family members of Uyghurs who have gone missing since July 5, 2009. In Kashgar, Hoten and other areas, local authorities even banned talk of the July 5 events themselves and have arrested violators.

Today Uyghur family members are constantly threatened, harassed and even prosecuted for inquiring about the location of loved ones, as we seen in the recent example of two Uyghurs who were arrested on charges of "State Secrete leakage" for reporting the death of one Uyghur man under police custody after his detention under an alleged July 5 connection. His father revealed that his son was killed by police torture and armed military personnel surrounded his house and actually forced the burial of his son without any traditional ceremony for fear of possible public exposure of this news.

Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, is absolutely right when he said that "the cases documented are likely just the tip of the iceberg." In my previous Hotline comment, I mentioned the more than 1000 deaths and subsequent arrest of as many as 10,000 Uyghurs on the basis of eyewitness testimonies. Recently one of my friends in mainland China told me that the small city of Artush alone received more than 179 dead bodies of Uyghurs from Urumqi in mid-July. Further, Canadian student Sakine Zulang has described her horrible experiences in the streets of Urumqi.

The Chinese government and official media also have given conflicting accounts of the total number of arrests made after the Urumqi massacre without mentioning the total Uyghur death toll. An official Xinhua News report on July 7, 2009, put the number of arrests as many as 1434 while the other day same Xinhua News Agency was quoted by Communist Party officials giving a much smaller number of more than 700 arrests. Meanwhile, at the outset the government denied the military employed violence against Uyghur protestors, but later on the puppet governor of the Uyghur Autonomous region disclosed twelve deaths by gunfire.

Ekrem (his full name remains undisclosed out of fear of retaliation), recently arrived in Toronto from Urumqi and told me that starting at 10pm on July 5, electricity in the Uyghur area of Urumqi city was suddenly switched off and nonstop gunfire continued until dawn. In the early morning firefighter trucks washed out all the neighborhood streets. The Uyghur area of Urumqi city used to be very active with thousands of Uyghur vendors, sellers, shoe shiners and small business owners from morning to evening. It is now deserted and in a state of absolute silence. Another area called Horse Race Square, (Sai ma chang in Chinese), the place where Uyghur women took to the streets on July 7 to demand the release of their arrested husbands, has now also became empty as the government forced all women to return their hometowns.

Then on July 7, the Chinese secret service organized nearly 10,000 ethnic Han mobsters armed with axes, iron bars and other tools to "show their teeth" to Uyghurs in Urumqi. Exact numbers of the death toll has never been reported.

It seems to me that the Chinese government wants to be certain it has cut off and silenced all voices from the victim families before they attempt to reopen communications in East Turkistan. Thus the international community has a responsibility to put pressure on the Chinese government to open the communication service for Uyghurs and launch serious inquiries about the tragic outcome of the July 5 massacre because it is no less significant than the Gaza incursion or other such human rights tragedies."

Friday, October 02, 2009

China's Minority Problem--And Ours

China's Minority Problem--And Ours
By Christina Larson, New America Foundation
Foreign Policy | September 30, 2009

The key principle underlying China's minority policy -- the idea that the Communist Party and the country's political elite are capable of judging for minorities what is in their best interests -- hasn't changed since Mao. Examining that assumption could lead to deeper systemic questioning, which Beijing dearly wants to avoid.
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Christina Larson

The Bernard L. Schwartz Fellows Program

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On October 1, the People's Republic of China will mark its 60th anniversary with the largest military parade in its history. The ruling Communist Party is not commemorating 60 years of ideological stability and continuity, however, but a period of speedy change and dramatic reversals.
Most of the major ideas that animate Beijing today are the opposite of those found in Chairman Mao's Little Red Book: Communism as guiding economic doctrine is out. Getting rich is glorious. Western decadence is not threatening, but useful as an engine of China's export economy. And instead of railing against the established powers of the developed world, China now wants to join them.
Still, there is one way in which China's governance philosophy and architecture remain largely unchanged from what Mao Zedong envisioned in the 1950s: minority affairs. And recent bloody riots in Xinjiang and Tibet are a wake-up call that the system is fraying badly. Today Beijing should be encouraging a dialogue about the sources of growing discontent, not placing further bans on local media and minority religious observance, as it is doing now. Rising unrest in China's western borderlands is an ominous sign, not just for Beijing but for all of Asia.
Mao foresaw the challenge of managing minority concerns in western China, but the solution he cooked up was no great leap forward. During China's civil war in the 1940s, he lured China's ethnic minorities -- Tibetans, Uighurs, and Hui Muslims, among others -- into fighting for the Red Army with promises of independence if he prevailed. But once the war ended, Mao retreated from talk of "independence" to talk of "autonomy," borrowing an experimental concept from his northern neighbor, Joseph Stalin.
Today, China's main minority regions, including Xinjiang and Tibet, are technically known as "autonomous regions." These regions, where historically the population has been ethnically and culturally distinct from China's Han majority, have been given the semblance of local stewardship. But decisions are still made centrally, with the assumption that Beijing knows best -- similar to the Soviet system of local satraps who took their orders from Moscow. As Drew Thompson, director of China studies at the Nixon Center in Washington, says, "The phrase 'autonomous regions' rings a little hollow."
With the USSR, of course, the system worked until it didn't: When Mikhail Gorbachev finally took the lid off, it revealed the extent to which Soviet policies had deepened regional and ethnic divisions -- failing at the goal of forging a shared national identity. There's no sign that China will see a happier outcome. "In the long term, this is not a very stable arrangement for China," says the Hudson Institute's Richard Weitz.
It's also not a stable arrangement for any country with a security interest in Central Asia -- which is to say, much of the world. As Weitz explains: "China's two most sensitive ethnic areas are also its two most significant regions for geopolitical reasons: Xinjiang is a Muslim region, and it's very important as China's gateway to Central Asia. And Tibet is a buffer zone for China's tense relationship with India."
Territorial disintegration is the last thing Beijing wants. The leadership is forever wary of the cyclical nature of Chinese history: a millennia-long drama in which political dynasties have risen and amassed territory, until emperors lose the "mandate from heaven" and tumble precipitously -- while the map of China fractures into shards like a shattered vase.
Yet, despite this looming risk, the key principle underlying China's minority policy -- the idea that the Communist Party and the country's political elite are capable of judging for minorities what is in their best interests -- hasn't changed since Mao. Examining that assumption could lead to deeper systemic questioning, which Beijing dearly wants to avoid.
"A fundamental tenet of China's governing philosophy is that the Communist Party leaders are supposed to represent the interests of the country as a whole, without distinction," says Gardner Bovingdon, professor of East Asian and Eurasian studies at Indiana University. "The idea that there could be legitimate sectarian interests, which may have different or even conflicting objectives, is one that the Communist Party does not want to touch."
Unfortunately, Beijing may not have the option of plugging its ears to minority dissatisfaction for much longer.
In particular, the influx of Han settlers into China's ethnically diverse western regions is creating a volatile dynamic not present in China's eastern megacities, where the population is more homogenous. Western urbanization has thrust new groups together, but not made new neighbors into friends. Mutual distrust is the norm, and there are racially charged insult matches in Internet chat rooms and in the streets. Han Chinese claim the minorities are living better than before, with access to new roads, hospitals, and other infrastructure -- which is true. Minorities meanwhile claim that recent Han arrivals are living much better than they are, while inequality is growing fast -- also true. (According to the Asian Development Bank, Xinjinag exhibits the greatest level of inequality of any region in China.)
In Urumqi and Lhasa, where the two most bloody riots in China's recent history have occurred in the past 18 months, one of the most striking features is the absolute separateness with which the minority populations and the recent Han arrivals coexist -- and the obvious economic disparity. A common reference point for the situation is the American South prior to the Civil Rights movement. "In some of these large western cities, the situation looks a lot like the American segregated South -- people living alongside each other in radically different conditions, not really communicating," says Charles Freeman, a China scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Tensions are easy to kindle."
Moreover, the political system is not set up to protect minorities from abuse. By law, the governor of these autonomous regions must be a member of the relevant minority group. But the person who fills that position is selected by the political establishment -- and so owes his career and primary allegiance to the powers that be. As Bovington observes, "Most minority officials rise by association with powerful Han counterparts; they are clearly selected for their early appreciation of the Communist Party." It's little surprise that minority cadres produced by this system have not become champions for minority interests, but risk-averse politicians.
(Beijing has even taken it upon itself to appoint a loyal Tibetan to be the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama, which of course fails entirely to satisfy the religious preconditions of the position. As one Tibetan monk at a monastery in Yunnan told me, "Of course he's a fake. How can the government know what is in his heart? You can't 'hire' a lama.")
With no effective watchdog for minority interests, policies that might, in theory, advance minority interests instead get mangled in the execution -- bungled affirmative action hiring schemes, boondoggle "minority-themed" construction projects, street signs in Uighur script that are illegible to Uighurs.
Overzealous Han security forces frequently take advantage of the lax oversight to bully ethnic minorities. As one Uighur told me after our visit to a village mosque in southwest Xinjiang was interrupted by an unannounced inspection by two Han police officers (my Uighur friend, intimidated, insisted we leave in a hurry), "I don't like police. They are always rude and rough."
Another Uighur, a schoolteacher in Kashgar, told me: "Our schools need to improve, and we need government support. But bribery skims off the top of any money devoted to minorities. Let's say Hu Jintao says that 10 million renminbi should be given to us. Then, at every layer, the leader takes some, and then the next leader takes some. So in the end we get only 1 million. No one watches the money or makes sure we get our due."
With economic disparity and discrimination on the rise in the autonomous regions, ethnic relations are becoming increasingly combustible. The inability of Beijing's policies to address these issues, as Thompson puts it, "is a governance problem. What kinds of bottom-up mechanisms exist for minorities to express themselves or exercise checks and balance? The answer is very few. ... Right now, violence is one of the few options." Beijing should be hoping that its ethnic minorities find other means of expressing their concerns. A peaceful movement for equality could be monumentally beneficial, both for minorities and for all of China. "To have a harmonious society, in my view, China should have a civil rights movement," said Cheng Li, a senior fellow at the Brooking Institution's John L. Thornton China Center.
But a movement needs leaders, and at the moment Beijing is doing its best to handicap or discredit any leaders who might be chosen by minorities to represent their own interests, such as the Dalai Lama or Rebiya Kadeer. "I do not see signs of a civil right movement emerging," says Li, "of leaders emerging who will think this way." The problem lies with the system, which is aimed at training a small class of minority elites to be loyal to the party, not cultivating voices who express a new point of view.
It's not a happy predicament -- either for minorities or the stability-obsessed government in Beijing. Hu Jintao may not relish the prospect of allowing the emergence of China's Martin Luther King Jr. But, given that ethnic tensions are only likely to grow worse under the current system, he might soon be facing something more explosive -- a reckoning with China's Malcolm X.
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