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

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12/5/2009 12:08:06 AM
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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

About These Icons
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.
Copyright 2009,



Huffington Post
Henryk Szadziewski
Manager, Uyghur Human Rights Project
Posted: October 1, 2009 10:48 AM

October 1, 2009 marks sixty years since Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) from the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing. China's capital has been readied for a parade of 200,000 people to honor the achievements of six decades of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) administration. It is a time for Party officials the length and breadth of the country to reflect on sixty years of rule which has brought China to the brink of superpower status.

October 1 also marks the 54th anniversary of the founding of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, an area also known as East Turkestan. The capital of the region, Urumchi, experienced a wave of unrest this summer and has been tense in the build up to October 1. In preparation, an estimated 130,000 additional troops have been deployed to the region to ensure that new unrest does not break out at this sensitive time. Despite the long-standing problems besetting the region, Party officials are unlikely to reflect on why six decades of CCP rule has driven such a profound wedge between the region's Uyghurs and Han Chinese.

An ethnically charged incident in Shaoguan, Guangdong on June 26, 2009 has been widely portrayed as the trigger for the recent unrest in Urumchi, which began on July 5, 2009. During the incident Han Chinese attacked Uyghur workers at a toy factory after the spread of unsubstantiated rumors concerning a rape by six Uyghur men of two Han Chinese women. The seriousness of the Shaoguan incident has been down played by Chinese criminal and judicial authorities. This has been illustrated by the Chinese official media's line that only two Uyghurs were killed in Shaoguan and by the indictments related to the case; but, as the Guardian newspaper has reported, eyewitnesses tell a different story. A Han Chinese man involved in the Shaoguan killings stated in the Guardian report that he personally "helped to kill seven or eight Uighurs, battering them until they stopped screaming."

Given the lack of clarity over the Shaoguan incident and the Chinese authorities' feet dragging on legal procedures, it should not have been surprising that Uyghurs in Urumchi took it upon themselves to organize a peaceful demonstration to spur Chinese officials into action. On July 5, 2009, the day of the Uyghur demonstration, and on the days that followed, a number of innocent Uyghurs and Han Chinese were killed as unrest in Urumchi spiraled out of control. The unrest not only revealed the profound schism between Uyghur and Han Chinese communities, but also exposed the disenfranchisement Uyghurs feel after sixty years of CCP administration.

From the purges of East Turkestan nationalists in the Anti-Rightist Campaign of the late fifties, to the starvation, exile and cultural destruction of the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Uyghurs, along with millions of other victims in the PRC, were persecuted by the CCP. In addition, in the first three decades of CCP rule Uyghurs were the target of campaigns specifically aimed to dilute their distinct identity as a people. In the early sixties, the CCP administration instigated a forced resettlement policy with the aims of dispersing concentrations of Uyghurs and of isolating Uyghurs from their communities.

The current situation facing Uyghurs can hardly be said to be an improvement, and intensifying Uyghur repression has correlated with the growth of China's economic and political power on the world stage. China's interest in the region stems from the valuable natural resources, namely oil, on which it sits and from the strategic importance attached to the region's proximity to Russia, South Asia and Central Asia. The Chinese government's thirst for energy to fuel economic growth in eastern China and its increasing dominance in global affairs has put the long neglected region onto the CCP's radar and turned the Uyghur presence in the region into a question of assimilation into the Chinese fold.

The Chinese government has employed long-term and short-term measures to achieve the assimilation of the land and the people. These measures have impacted every area of Uyghur society, including its politics, economics, and culture. The long term measures include the forced transfer of young Uyghur women to eastern China while encouraging mass Han Chinese migration into the region, the demolition of Uyghur cultural heritage in Kashgar, a monolingual language-planning policy, discriminatory hiring practices, and curbs on freedom of religion. The short-term measures, such as torture and execution on political charges, ensure that a climate of fear pervades among Uyghurs so that the gradual erosion of the Uyghur identity can carry on unabated. All these measures spell out a clear, but stark outcome for Uyghurs: eventual disappearance as a distinct people.

Since 1949, repressive Chinese government policies in the region have only served to divide Uyghurs from Han Chinese and have pushed the prospect of a genuine solution to Uyghur grievances further away. As CCP officials in Beijing and Urumchi celebrate on October 1 by witnessing a parade of China's military and economic success, they would be wise to consider those citizens who have been the losers in the sixty years of CCP administration. A future with peace, security and prosperity for the Uyghur people, and indeed all people in the region, lies in a bold move from the Chinese government. Just as Deng Xiaoping made a bold move to take China into an era of economic reform; Hu Jintao will have to make a bold move, by talking with dissenters, such as World Uyghur Congress President, Rebiya Kadeer, to take China into an era of meaningful political reform.

Monday, September 21, 2009

60 years after revolution, ethnic tension still plagues China

60 years after revolution, ethnic tension still plagues China

By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers
URUMQI, China — China's leadership says it has calmed this city after almost 200 people were stabbed, bludgeoned or beaten to death in July riots and more violent protests this month forced the removal of top officials.

Despite the assurances from Beijing, however, Urumqi remains on edge less than two weeks before the 60th anniversary celebration of China's communist regime. The region's main ethnic groups, Han Chinese and Uighurs — Turkic-speaking Muslims — are locked in a cycle of violence in this enclave of more than 2.3 million people near China's western border.

Hundreds of soldiers with automatic rifles and riot shields are stationed on street corners. Pickups zoom through the streets blaring propaganda from loudspeakers, exalting the government and demanding cooperation.

Urumqi (pronounced urum-CHEE) is supposed to be a testament to China's unstoppable progress, the ability to take an ancient trading post of more than a dozen ethnic communities and erect over them a modern city of glittering towers dedicated to commerce and tourism.

Beneath the large red banners that blanket the city with slogans such as "Ethnic unity is a blessing and ethnic separatism is a curse," though, relations between Uighurs and Hans are in tatters.

"It's a mess here," said Su Xiaomei, a Han woman who owns a small restaurant in central Urumqi. "Many Uighurs used to come to my restaurant, and I felt fine about that, but now I feel angry when I see them. . . . We try to stay as far away from them as possible."

Uighurs complain that a police crackdown is targeting them with detention sweeps and intimidation.

"The police and military have arrested many Uighurs, especially young men with beards," said a Uighur man named Qassim, a community elder who like all Uighurs interviewed for this story asked that only his first name be used because he fears police retaliation. "The local officials have told us not to talk with outsiders; they say if we do, we will be arrested."

A Uighur protest in July, sparked by reports of Hans killing Uighurs in a southern province, grew into a standoff with police and then a rampage that left the bodies of innocent Han civilians slumped and pouring blood in the streets.

Mobs of Hans responded with clubs and knives, hunting down any Uighurs they could find. Earlier this month, rumors spread that Uighurs were stabbing Hans with hypodermic needles; more protests broke out and the city's Communist Party chief and the region's police director were fired.

On a hillside overlooking the high-rises and hotels of Urumqi, a Uighur man named Talip sat recently in a neighborhood of crumbling houses and wept as he talked about Han police brutality. He said the police dragged him from his home to a local station, where a Han officer assaulted him and demanded that he confess to taking part in the riots.

After several rounds of being punched and kicked as he denied participating in the bloodshed, Talip said, he signed and put his thumbprint on a statement for police files.

"I could hear other Uighurs screaming in the next room; they were getting beaten, too," said Talip, a beefy man in his late 20s whose lips trembled so hard during parts of the interview that he could barely speak. "They treated us like garbage. Of course we are angry. . . . Of course it's affected our relationship with Han Chinese people."

Another Uighur man who was in custody the same evening confirmed Talip's account. The man also said that he was roughed up for hours before he was forced to sign a piece of paper.

Local police and political officials didn't respond to multiple requests for interviews.

A McClatchy reporter reached Talip and others in the Uighur community through a series of intermediaries. Police took one of them in for questioning the next day, and ordered him to describe his interactions with the reporter. Another of the men who helped McClatchy said that he'd had an experience afterward, presumably with police, that he wouldn't describe but that had terrified him.

Chinese officials have announced the arrests of dozens of men and women — the names released so far suggest that they're mostly Uighurs — for alleged needle stabbings, assaults, conspiracies and, last week, a reported bombing plot. Courts have sentenced at least seven men and women, all Uighurs, to between seven and 15 years in prison. None of the evidence against them has been made public.

A Uighur man named Umar, who said his Han boss had fired him after the riots, said that the Chinese government wouldn't have to worry about Uighur unrest much longer: "Many young Uighur men have been arrested, and many others were killed during the riots, so there aren't many Uighur men around to start a fight."

Like other Uighurs, Umar bristles at what he considers Han encroachment on his city, which Uighurs say has included Hans taking over most jobs and the government.

In the past several decades, the central government has sent more than 800,000 specialists to the area, mainly to Urumqi, to "rapidly change the situation of economic backwardness and lack of talents," according to an official pamphlet made available to journalists.

As a result of those and many other newcomers, while Uighurs still outnumber Hans in the region, Urumqi now has fewer than 300,000 Uighurs and more than 1.6 million Hans. The Hans accuse the Uighurs of being unappreciative of the progress and assistance Beijing's efforts have produced.

"The Chinese government subsidizes and supports these poor Uighurs and their children to try to win their support for government policy," said Liu Jie, who runs a convenience store. "Any rational person should appreciate this."

Chinese officials are trying to manage the situation with a combination of strict control and a propaganda push that blames ethnic rivalry on interference by Uighurs who live in the West.

Residents who have Internet access can pull up Web pages about local tourism and the harmonious Urumqi's promising financial outlook, but access to outside sites that could bring nongovernment-approved material has been shut down. Cell phone users are unable to send text messages, and all international communications are blocked.

Locals can call other parts of China, but the calls are monitored, and any suspicious conversations may result in a visit by the police.

A Chinese police official, his uniform neatly pressed, walked out of a conference room with ornate chandeliers and flashing cameras and paused a moment last week to answer a question about ethnic tensions in his city.

"Relationships between different ethnicities here have always been good," Huang Yabo, the director of the regional criminal investigation unit, said as he waited for the elevator. "There's no problem between different ethnicities."

After a few more words on how any local unrest was an overseas plot, Huang glided off through the Hoi Tak hotel, a five-star establishment where bellhops in matching hats and jackets carry luggage with white gloves, and young women in tight clothes and high heels sing pop songs in the lounge.

Everything, Huang said, will be OK — the Chinese government has it handled.

(Tom Lasseter, McClatchy's Moscow bureau chief, is on temporary assignment to Beijing.)


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Standoff Over Death in Custody

Standoff Over Death in Custody

In China’s tense Xinjiang region, could a suspicious death spark more ethnic violence?

Chinese paramilitary police trucks drive through downtown Urumqi, July 9, 2009.
HONG KONG—Relatives of a man who died in police custody in China’s remote Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are in a tense standoff with authorities over their demand for an inquiry into how he died, villagers and the local police chief said.
One villager, contacted by telephone, said eight trucks of soldiers and two other armed vehicles had surrounded the man’s family home in Lengger [in Chinese, Langan] village in Qorghas [in Chinese, Huocheng]county, Ili prefecture.
Surrounding streets were blockaded, and another witness said police told him to remain inside when he tried to walk several blocks to Tursun’s family home.
“The police are asking us to bury the body early in the morning, otherwise they said they will bury him themselves,” Haji Memet, a relative of Shohret Tursun, 31, said. “We want to find out how he was killed.”
“We are asking the authorities to investigate—we want photos taken of his bruised body, we want justice, we want whoever killed our son to be punished,” he said.
Police returned Tursun’s body to his family at 2 p.m. Saturday, relatives said.
Deadly violence
Tursun, a member of the Uyghur ethnic minority, was among some 40 men from Qorghas detained around the time of deadly protests July 5 in the regional capital, Urumqi.
The protests by Uyghurs, a largely Muslim Turkic people, followed alleged official mishandling of earlier ethnic clashes in far-away Guangdong province.
The July 5 protest sparked days of deadly rioting in Urumqi, pitting Uyghurs against majority Han Chinese, and ending with a death toll of almost 200, by the government’s tally.
Badly disfigured

A map of China's northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Credit: RFA
The Langer police chief, who identified himself as Enver, said police were trying to convince the family to bury Tursun early Sunday.
The village imam, Alim Kari, described Tursun’s body as badly disfigured but said he was required to urge the family to bury Tursun.
“I saw the dead body—it was bruised and dark all over,” Kari said. “All the family was crying…his mother was slapping herself. The whole neighborhood is in chaos.”
“I don’t know how the body was injured, how it has so many bruises. The authorities are asking the imam, the elders, relatives, and neighbors to persuade the family to bury him. I am a peasant and I don’t know much about the law.”
“I have to do what the government asks me to do…and I have to believe them. We are working hard to persuade the family to bury Shohret Tursun early Sunday morning,” Kari said.
“After the family’s strong opposition, the authorities agreed to bury him Sunday morning. This has been confirmed and the funeral attendants have been selected and invited,” he said.
Earlier death alleged
About 10 days ago, relatives said, Tursun—along with Pazilat Akbar, Rabigul, Eli Hesenjan, and more than 35 others—were transferred from Urumqi to the Qorghas county jail.
Another villager, also contacted by telephone, said another man, 22-year-old Dilshat Ismayil, was beaten to death by police July 29 after he ran away from police trying to detain him.
That account couldn’t immediately be confirmed.
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.
Xinjiang is a strategically crucial vast desert territory that borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
The region has abundant oil reserves and is China's largest natural gas-producing region.
Original reporting by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service, translation by Alim Kerim. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Written and produced for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.
Copyright © 1998-2009 Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved.

How China Wins and Loses Xinjiang

How China Wins and Loses Xinjiang
By Christina Larson, New America Foundation
Foreign Policy | July 9, 2009
China routinely looks more vulnerable from the inside than the outside, and its volatile minority affairs are just another example.

The Bernard L. Schwartz Fellows Program
China, Foreign Policy, Minorities

On Sunday, more than 1,000 Uighurs clashed with police in the western Chinese city of Urumqi -- marking one of the country's bloodiest ethnic conflicts in recent years.
The government's crackdown on the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority group that has long chafed under Beijing's rule, was nasty, brutish, and short. Overnight curfews were imposed. Thousands of police officers dispersed. President Hu Jintao left the G-8 summit in Europe to focus on putting out fires at home. But not all aspects of China's policies toward Uighurs and other minorities are characterized by such precision.
If you visit Xinjiang, the restive province that's home to China's roughly 8 million Uighurs, you'll realize there's a gap -- often a chasm -- between official intention on minority issues and what happens in practice. Sometimes the government's missteps appear to be the product of malevolence, sometimes of ignorance. The results are both tragic and absurd.
On bad days, the tragedy is obvious: More than 150 people, Uighur and Han Chinese, have died in recent riots. But there is also a thread of dark comedy, a continual drama of miscommunication and miscalculation, as Han authorities try to hamstring the practice of Islam and local politicians try to at once appease and suppress the Uighurs.
On paper, Islam is one of China's five officially recognized and legal religions. And the central government, in order to foster a "harmonious society," aims to help all minority peoples prosper alongside their Han neighbors. But in practice, ethnic policies as implemented alienate and inflame the largely Muslim population of Xinjiang. Tensions run high, liable to erupt at even distant provocations. (The spark that lit last Sunday's riots was the mistreatment and murder of Uighur factory workers in faraway Guangdong province.)
Recently, Robert D. Kaplan argued in The Atlantic that, on purely pragmatic grounds, in the case of Sri Lanka, repression worked. Other writers have recently made similar assertions in the case of Xinjiang. One line of argumentation indeed holds that China's uncompromising stance toward its ethnic populations may be unsavory to Westerners, but is in fact the surest way to keep the peace.
If only Beijing's iron fist were so dexterous. China's government is indeed effective at disbanding protests, building skyscrapers, and staging high-profile spectacles like the Olympics. It's also proved relatively adept, to its credit, at managing the financial crisis and keeping factories churning.
But you don't have to look far for signs of breakdown or miscoordination. Take the embarrassing wavering over Green Dam, the much-maligned Internet nanny program; or last year's scandals over tainted milk, an economic and international public relations disaster for Beijing. China routinely looks more vulnerable from the inside than the outside, and its volatile minority affairs are just another example.
Ultimately, China is more adept at creating fearsome impressions in the moment -- grand like the Olympic Opening Ceremony, or cruel like the crackdown on protestors -- than at maintenance. When you look close, it's apparent how much muddle there is beneath the surface, especially when authorities attempt to formulate policy around something they don't truly understand.
The Uighurs, as well as Islam itself, mystify China's secular leadership. In Xinjiang, a vast western province -- three times the size of France and bordering eight countries -- China's long-term policy toward minorities is puzzled in principle, capricious in execution, and the result is much suffering on the part of both Uighur and Han. Far from containing tension, the heavy-handed approach fans the flames. It is a brutal kind of confusion.
Xinjiang has been called the "Texas of China," and it certainly exhibits a rough-and-tumble frontier feel. Oil and mineral wealth have in recent years attracted Beijing's attention, and an influx of Han businessmen, swashbucklers, and entrepreneurs migrating from east China. When the western desert territory was incorporated into the People's Republic, the Chinese leaders selected as their provincial capital Urumqi, a city undistinguished by landmarks or history. In a region with a long and storied past, and a landscape dotted by historic mosques and the sites of famous battles and tombs of Uighur kings, the new capital was a relative blank slate. It seemed a place that new settlers could, in effect, start over.
But, on the face of it, official policy in Xinjiang is not to erase Uighur history or identity. Indeed, special efforts are made to highlight certain aspects of the past. Airport gift shops sell books printed by Han publishing houses about the charming customs of Xinjiang's minority groups. A stream of tourists, international and Han Chinese, comes to visit the historic old towns in cities like Kashgar, located in southwest Xinjiang. The local government is flirting with, or at least trying to make a few yuan off of, what the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in London described to the BBC's Radio 4 as the region's "multiculturalism."
Outside Urumqi, the troubled provincial capital where Sunday's riots took place, new highway signs are posted in both Mandarin characters and the Uighur language, written in an Arabic script. But there's a danger of getting lost if one tries to follow those signs. If you ask the local Uighurs, they say that what passes for signage in their language is often nonsensical transliterations, a version of "Chinglish" in Uighur. There's ornamental appeal, sans utility -- evidently Uighurs weren't consulted in planning or proof-reading.
Special funds are allocated by the central government for religious affairs and poverty reduction bursaries in Xinjiang, as in other western provinces. But how are they spent? Take the "Xinjiang Minority Street" project in downtown Urumqi. It's a five-story market complex with an exotic-looking exterior, dominated by pale yellow turrets and fanciful archways, with numerous stalls and winding staircases inside. A placard by the entrance proudly announces that it was built in 2002 for the benefit of Xinjiang's minority people, as a place to sell their ethnic handicrafts, for the hefty sum of 160 million yuan (around $23.4 million).
But inside, most of the stalls, if they were ever occupied, are now empty. A few are home to Han jewelers selling jade trinkets. The paint is beginning to peel. A Chinese hostess stands outside a deserted restaurant with décor resembling how Walt Disney might imagine Arabia. In short, this is what a boondoggle looks like. Or rather, it's how local officials and contractors conceive of what Uighurs want (or at least how they can capture funds Beijing sets aside for minority affairs), without much consultation with Uighurs themselves. Sadly, the building sits adjacent to what is in fact the heart of the city's Uighur district, where families live in one-story shanties of brick and mud that could badly use money for repairs.
The building, a work of pure architectural and promotional fantasy, epitomizes the vast disconnect between how Han officialdom envisions China's minorities and how Uighurs see themselves, and Islam.
Last year I was in Kashgar during October's Golden Week -- an extended national holiday commemorating the founding of the People's Republic of China. My hotel sat on the grounds of the former Russian consulate -- a reminder of when Western powers fought over influence in Central Asia. That afternoon Chinese state television was showing continuous coverage of the Golden Week celebrations, including parades of China's officially-recognized minority peoples in bright costumes, singing and dancing, and saluting the legacy of New China.
But outside, residents of Kashgar were gathering to mark a rather different festival: the end of Ramadan, the month-long fasting period for Muslims. The final day of Ramadan, when the fast is broken and people celebrate, is called Rozi Festival. Annually, 10,000 men and their families from across southwestern Xinjiang travel to Kashgar to commemorate the holiday outside the ancient Id Kah mosque.
The sight of thousands of devout Muslims kneeling on unfurled prayer mats in a ceremony unsupervised by the state of course makes local authorities deeply nervous. The government hasn't razed the mosque or explicitly prohibited worship, but it has recently erected a giant TV screen in the public square facing the mosque. Kazakh soap operas are now screened at regular intervals throughout the day, timed to coincide with daily services. Unsurprisingly, this hasn't had much impact on mosque attendance.
One night I asked a Uighur man headed into Id Kah mosque about the TV. "If they put it somewhere else, people would be happy," he said. "But not here -- here it makes us angry."
Miscalculations about Uighurs and their religion have graver implications, too.
Beijing claims that new industry and oil exploration in Xinjiang is bringing wealth into the region, benefiting both Han and Uighurs. Yet according to the Asian Development Bank, income inequality in Xinjiang remains the highest in all of China. Hiring discrimination is a substantial barrier, often fueled by the Chinese Communist Party's perplexed attitude toward religion. "You have a party that is primarily Han and officially atheist," explains Gardner Bovingdon, professor of East Asian and Eurasian studies at Indiana University. "The party doctrine is founded on notion that religion is a mystification. It requires its members to be atheist; any party member or teacher in Xinjiang must renounce Islam."
The vast majority of the new jobs in Xinjiang are state-affiliated: Construction crews, bank clerks, police officers, nurses and school-teachers all work for the government (there isn't much private business on the frontier). Many of those positions are off-limits to publicly observant Muslims. The state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, the largest development company in the province, for instance, not long ago filled, by mandate, 800 of 840 new job openings with Han Chinese.
Such policies exacerbate inequality and rile ethnic tensions. But do they also help the government squash would-be separatist movements?
Most analysts do not believe that religion itself, or radical Islam, animates pro-independence factions in Xinjiang. To target actual separatists, more precise strategies could be envisioned. "The way to respond to a small minority in a society is not to prevent the religiosity of an entire population," Bovingdon explains. "That's counterproductive, and makes plenty of people resentful."
And yet, that appears to be precisely the strategy the local government has adopted. Since 2002, when the U.S.-led "war on terror" gave China cover for greater surveillance of its own Muslim populations, the Xinjiang public security bureau has increased crackdowns on what it deems, with alarmingly broad brushstrokes, the "three evils" of "separatism, religious extremism and terrorism."
In practice, this means that loudspeakers in mosques are banned in Urumqi; families hosting dinner parties during religious festivals must register with the government; the interiors of even small rural mosques are plastered with tawdry government propaganda, and routinely visited by Han inspectors (who don't bother to doff their shoes when they enter and check log books). Although Islam is not officially outlawed, Uighurs are subject to a litany of intrusions on daily religious life, which leads them to see the government as an antagonistic force. As one man in Kashgar told me, "Because I am born a Uighur, I am a terrorist -- that is what the government thinks?"
The authorities' overreach is also clear in the way security policies target children. During certain religious holidays, anyone under 18 is barred from entering a mosque. In Kashgar, communal meals are imposed at school during the fast period of Ramadan, and attendance is required at special assemblies timed to coincide with Friday prayers. There's no reason to treat every Uighur child like an aspiring terrorist or separatist, unless the aim is truly to stamp out religion from next generation. But this tactic would seem a high-stakes gamble for the CCP.
Andrew Nathan, chair of the political science department at Columbia University, explains, "This is the Chinese style toward religion -- the government is very suspicious of religion. In Xinjiang, separatism is the thing they want to avoid. They conceive of the separatists as people who are religious fundamentalists. They're making a logical leap of faith. It produces resistance. It produces deep resentment."
And there are some indicators that China's attempts to curb Islam in the name of assimilating the Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang are woefully backfiring. Even as the local government has tightened its "counterterrorism" policies in recent years, the U.S. Congressional Commission on China has determined, the level of unrest in the province has actually increased. Last year saw a string of bus bombings and attacks on police in southwest Xinjiang; Sunday's bloody riots in Urumqi were the worst in many years.
"China's attempts to suppress Islam," a recent Human Rights Watch report concludes, "is a policy that is likely to alienate Uighurs, drive religious expression further underground, and encourage the development of more radicalized and oppositional forms of religious identity."
Commenting from a different angle, Richard Weitz, director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, finds broader regional security implications. "A lot of Chinese problems do appear to be a bit of their own making," he said. "They justify a lot of what they're doing in the name of counterterrorism, but we fear it might also exacerbate a terrorist threat. Of course, the same could be said for some U.S. policies -- look at Iraq and Afghanistan."
Misunderstanding the Uighur culture and religion, the Chinese authorities fear the worst. And their current policies seem more likely to foster resistance and resentment than peace and passivity. Perhaps the backlash is already beginning.
Copyright 2009, Foreign Policy

2 more Uighur detainees at Gitmo heading to Palau

2 more Uighur detainees at Gitmo heading to Palau

By JONATHAN KAMINSKY (AP) – 26 minutes ago

KOROR, Palau — Two more Chinese Muslim detainees held at Guantanamo Bay have agreed to be relocated to the tiny Pacific nation of Palau, their lawyer said Saturday, bringing to six the total who will resettle.

Palau has offered 13 ethnic Uighurs held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba a chance to move there — an arrangement that would ease President Barack Obama's plans to close the contentious facility.

The men have been held by the U.S. since their capture in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001. The Pentagon determined last year they were not "enemy combatants" but they have been in legal limbo ever since. China regards the Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs) as terrorist suspects and wants them returned.

But Uighur activists claim the detainees face persecution or death if they are returned there, and U.S. officials have struggled to find a country to take them in.

"Two more of our clients have agreed to go to Palau as the U.S. continues to look for a permanent home for them," Eric Tirschwell, the U.S.-based lawyer for four of the detainees, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Their acceptance means six of the detained Chinese Muslims have now decided to move to the mid-Pacific state, which offered in early June to take in the Turkic Muslims from far western China.

That same month, four Uighur detainees were resettled in Bermuda.

Five of the detainees have declined even to meet with Palau officials.

The relocation agreements need U.S. Congressional approval, a process that is expected to take about two weeks.

"We are hopeful that this long overdue move to freedom will happen as quickly as possible and are doing whatever we can to make that happen," Tirschwell said in an e-mail.

There was no immediate response to requests for comment from Palauan officials or from the U.S. State Department.

Palau is a developing country of 20,000 that is dependent on U.S. development funds.

No Uighurs currently live on Palau, which has a Muslim population of about 400, mostly migrant workers from Bangladesh.

Made up of eight main islands plus more than 250 islets, Palau is best known for diving and tourism and is located some 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Guantanamo Envoy: U.S. Should Have Taken Cleared Prisoners; Some Should Never Have Been Held

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Andy Worthington
Andy Worthington

Journalist and author of "The Guantanamo Files"
Posted: September 17, 2009 09:34 AM

Guantanamo Envoy: U.S. Should Have Taken Cleared Prisoners; Some Should Never Have Been Held

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Daniel Fried came across as an eminently reasonable man placed in a disturbingly unreasonable position by his bosses. A senior diplomat, who was the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs for four years, Fried was plucked from his job in March 2009 to become the Obama administration's Special Envoy to Guantánamo, serving as a member of the interagency Task Force charged with reviewing the cases of the remaining Guantánamo prisoners, and responsible, primarily, for finding countries to accept dozens of prisoners who have been cleared for release, either by the Task Force, often based on decisions already taken by Bush-era military review boards, or by the courts, after successful habeas corpus petitions.

These are men who cannot be returned to their home countries because of fears that they will face torture, or further arbitrary imprisonment, on their return, although Fried is also responsible for trying to broker a deal with Yemen, whose nationals make up around 40 percent of the remaining 225 prisoners. Fried spoke mainly to the BBC about negotiations with Europe, but it is apparent that attempts to overcome the long-standing failure to secure a deal with the Yemeni government remains one of the most difficult tasks that he faces.

In an interview for Radio 4's Today program, which was partly filmed and televised on BBC News, Fried gave Jon Manel a largely spin-free account of the problems he faces, some of which have been exacerbated by the U.S. government's unwillingness -- or inability -- to resettle some cleared prisoners on the U.S. mainland.

To my mind, President Obama missed a golden opportunity to bring 17 prisoners to the U.S.. in his early days in office. These men, the Uighurs (Muslims who had fled oppression in China's Xinjiang province, and who were sold to U.S. forces after being betrayed by Pakistani villagers, following their flight from Afghanistan) had been cleared of any involvement with al-Qaeda, the Taliban or any form of international terrorism by the Bush administration and by the U.S. courts, but the President wavered, allowing Guantánamo's supporters in Congress (scaremongers inspired by the hateful and false rhetoric of former Vice President Dick Cheney) to gain the upper hand, eventually persuading Congress to pass legislation blocking the transfer of any cleared prisoners to the U.S. mainland.

Fried began by explaining that his job was "miserable," because he was "cleaning up a problem" inherited from the Bush administration, which had nothing to do with advancing any positive aspects of U.S. policy. "It's not like we're advancing liberty or making peace," he said. He added that working out what to do with the remaining prisoners is "a huge problem and a complicated one," but according to Manel, although he said that he would "not criticize Congress," he stated, unambiguously, "It is fair to say, as just an objective statement, that the U.S. could resettle more detainees [worldwide], had we been willing to take in some."

The interview was also notable for the following frank exchange about the perception of the remaining prisoners as "the worst of the worst," which included, I believe, the first public admission, by a senior Obama administration official, that some of the prisoners were nothing more than low-level Taliban recruits, in an inter-Muslim civil war (with the Northern Alliance) that preceded the 9/11 attacks and had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism, and that they should not have been in Guantánamo for the last seven years:

Daniel Fried: The detainees in Guantánamo run a spectrum. Some really are awful. Some qualify as "the worst of the worst," and we're going to put those on trial. Some, frankly, should not have been in Guantánamo for the past seven years.

Jon Manel: So they were innocent?

Daniel Fried: Innocent, guilt ... I look at their files and some of them seem relatively benign, and I have in mind the Uighurs, in particular, but others ...

Jon Manel: They're the minority from China ...

Daniel Fried: That's right, the Uighur minority from China, but if I had to describe -- if there's such a thing as an average Guantánamo detainee, it's someone who was a volunteer, a low-level trainee or a very low-level fighter in a very bad cause, but not a hardened terrorist, not an organizer. Now it is those people whom we're asking Europeans to take a look at, and each government has to evaluate the background of each individual and make a decision.

Despite his criticism of the implications of the failure to accept any cleared prisoners into the United States, Fried did make the point that "parliamentarians in Europe" -- as well as the U.S. - "have raised questions about security, and we have to respect those opinions," although he was also concerned to publicize the successful resettlement of four of the Uighurs in Bermuda (in June), even though it had apparently brought him into conflict with the British government, because, as the BBC described it, "Bermuda is a British overseas territory and Britain was not informed until the last minute."

"The British government, it is fair to say, cannot be considered part of the deal. This was worked out between the Americans and the Bermudans," Fried told Manel, adding, "I will say that I've been admonished by the British government in very clear terms." He insisted, however, that the deal had been successful. "We are very grateful to the Bermudan government and the behavior of the four Uighurs has been exemplary, which really bolsters our contention that they were not any kind of threat," he said, adding, "These are four people who are enjoying freedom who would otherwise be in Guantánamo."

This was an important point to make, although I maintain that the Uighurs' "exemplary" behavior, which "bolsters" the government's "contention that they were not any kind of threat," would have had a far more powerful impact if it had happened in Washington D.C., where American citizens would have been able to appreciate, first-hand, that the Uighurs are not, and have never been terrorists.

In conclusion, Fried told Manel that he was "confident" that the President's January deadline for closing Guantánamo would be met, although he could not guarantee it. "President Obama's timetable is what we've got," he said, "we don't have Plan Bs, we're looking at that timetable. We've got a lot of work to do, we need help getting this done, and we're going to be working hard at it. But you're not going to have Guantánamo II. Whatever solution we come up with, it will be one based firmly on the rule of law and transparency."

Fried's interview coincided with an announcement that Hungary is preparing to take a cleared prisoner from Guantánamo, to add to those already accepted by the UK (Binyam Mohamed, a British resident, in February), France (Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian, in May), and Portugal (Mohammed al-Tumani and Moammar Dokhan, both Syrians, last month). Other countries who have agreed to take cleared prisoners are Belgium, Ireland, Italy (although with some disturbing conditions), and Spain, and discussions are apparently ongoing with both Lithuania and Switzerland.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press), and maintains a blog here.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

How amateur-hour diplomacy took away dad


How amateur-hour diplomacy took away dad
How amateur-hour diplomacy took away dad


Kamila Telendibaeva lifts her son Mohammad, 9, out of a wheelchair and into their minivan outside a community centre in Burlington. Telendibaeva has been left to take care of four sons alone as husband Huseyin Celil sits in solitary confinement in a jail in China, where he was extradited during a family trip to Uzbekistan.

Celil's case was not ignored. But it was handled very, very badly
Aug 23, 2009 04:30 AM
Iain Marlow
Staff Reporter

"Where is your dad?" Kamila Telendibaeva asks as she sits in the kitchen staring at her son Abdul's portrait of their family. The answers drift from behind her, where her four children have besieged the living room. "My dad is on holiday," says 3-year-old Zubeyir, whose face is smeared with chocolate popsicle. "Toronto?" asks Badrudin, 4, as he looks up from ploughing his head into his mom's thigh. Abdul, 5, replies quietly: "He's in China."

Abdul drew the picture around Valentine's Day last year, and the cut-out cardboard heart has remained on Telendibaeva's fridge, in her home in a Burlington housing co-op. The picture is optimistic in one respect: Abdul's eldest brother, Mohammad, a 9-year-old who is severely disabled and in a wheelchair, is pictured standing up.

But the artwork is disconcerting for a daycare project. "I bawled my eyes out," says Patti MacPherson, an early childhood educator who posted it on the wall with the others. "The way he identified it, but was okay with it. It was just, `This is my family.' "

The hunched stick-dad is covered by thick black lines descending vertically over a figure shorter than his own children; although smiling, he is a prisoner, present in Abdul's imagination but removed from the physical reality of this house, its joys and its burdens.

"Why is he there?" Kamila, 31, continues. Abdul, who is alone among his brothers in beginning to to understand the implications of his father's absence, replies: "He's in jail."

Abdul's father – Telendibaeva's husband – is Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen and Imam who once lived with them and delivered pizzas around Hamilton. He is now imprisoned in China's desolate northwest, serving a life sentence in solitary confinement. His relatives, who have met with him in prison, say he eats oatmeal gruel, is denied books and is forced to memorize tomes of Chinese laws.

While he, his wife and his sons were visiting family in Uzbekistan in the summer of 2006, he was detained and extradited to China, where he was convicted of terrorism-related offences and "splitism" – charges often applied to vocal members of China's Uighur Muslim minority, some of whom advocate independence for their autonomous region. Celil, 40, a human rights advocate, had previously fled China on similar charges.

His case was not ignored, like Suaad Hagi Mohamud's, just handled badly. Bellicose political posturing, from as high up as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and what experts call a "lack of China competence" at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, have failed to win Celil's release and may even have ensured his incarceration. Celil's plight is emblematic, especially for Muslim or Arab Canadians, such as Abousfian Abdelrazik, who was tortured in Sudan; Bashir Makhtal, who was just convicted of terrorism in an Ethiopian kangaroo court; or even Omar Khadr, the child soldier stuck in Guantanamo. But it is still only one half of the agony; the rest of the burden falls on those left behind, like Kamila Telendibaeva, a diminutive woman now struggling to raise a large family in the shadows of personal tragedy and sluggish international bureaucracy.

The air above the pavement bends in the heat as Kamila drives her rusting Plymouth Voyageur through Burlington's gridlock. The hot wind is little comfort. Kamila's day is already long and her face is as it usually is, unsmiling but friendly, a mask broken only occasionally by the antics of her children.

She is on her way from a daycare to a special day camp. Abdul is asleep in the back and Badrudin seems listless, though it is Abdul who is sick. She is worried. A cold in a heat wave? It's those freezies, she thinks, as she parks at a community centre.

Wearing a light brown headscarf secured with turquoise pins, Kamila walks through the front doors trailing two sons. Mohammad, who is developmentally delayed, is waiting. She wheels him through the front doors but gets the thick wheels stuck on the door frame. She pushes twice more, but can't move him. Someone holds the door and she wheels Mohammad up to the minivan's sliding side door.

He begins to flail. She hoists him in and breathes deep before she leans over with the seat belt, receiving blows from boy in silence.

"Sometimes, when I lift him, I have back pain. I'm really scared, you know, if I have some problems," she continues. "They need a dad..... It was so much easier, because he's a man. He's strong. He can lift him." She starts the car and steers it back into traffic, now to a north Hamilton clinic. She is told Abdul is fine.

At home, she gets Mohammad's stroller stuck first on three tricycles and then a recycling box. In the winter it's worse: she has to shovel the ramp and driveway before Mohammad's pick-up at 8:15 a.m. But now it is sweltering. She opens the door and her children rush in, kicking soccer balls around the living room. Badrudin is somersaulting on the couch. Mohammad is crawling across the floor. Tiny Zubeyir demands inflatable pool time. Abdul kicks a ball off his mom's back as she drags in yellow grocery bags. "This is my day," she says.

Their ordeal began in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where Telendibaeva's parents fled to from China's neighbouring Xinjiang province after Mao Zedong's Communist victory in 1949. Her parents were Uighurs, nervous as revolution washed into their homeland, parts of which just enjoyed a brief bout of Soviet-backed independence.

The family had flown back in the summer of 2006 to visit Telendibaeva's family. It was her father who, in 1998, first raised the idea of an arranged marriage for Kamila with Celil, working in Kyrgyzstan as a cloth merchant and an Imam.

They had decided to get circumcisions for their young children in Tashkent, because the procedure is costly for non-infants in Canada. After the operation the children fell ill; not wanting to fly, the concerned parents applied for visa extensions.

They left their passports with Uzbekistan's security services, which Telendibaeva still calls the KGB. Celil and Telendibaeva's brother and father went to pick them up. "My husband," she says softly, "he went....." She trails off.

No one returned. Kamila, who was three-months pregnant, was frantic, but calls to their cellphones – which had by then been switched off – were not returned. At dusk, only two men came back. Celil had been arrested. "I searched everywhere," she says. "Even just to see him, to meet him."

Eventually, the family found his location and began bribing Uzbek prison guards to pass fresh clothes and food to Celil. "On June 22, they said they could not give him the food," she whispers.

He was gone.

Huseyin Celil, a husband and a father and a citizen of Canada, had been extradited to face trial in China, where Uighur activism is often conflated with separatist terrorism.

Before Uzbek authorities shipped Celil to China, the Canadian embassy in Moscow dispatched special representatives there. Uzbekistan did not listen; indeed, they had no reason to: in 2001, autocratic Uzbekistan joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a multilateral body composed of Russia, China and four post-Soviet `Stans, whose stated goal is to obliterate "terrorism, separatism and extremism" in member states.

Tashkent, where Celil was arrested, houses the organization's Regional Anti-Terrorist headquarters. It was unlikely Canada was ever going to negotiate the release of a suspected Uighur separatist in Uzbekistan, a close ally of China, which was where they would have to pursue the case.

But from the beginning, experts in Canada-China relations say, the case was bungled by Canada's Beijing embassy and taken up by ideological federal politicians in Canada, whose public statements may have crippled diplomats' efforts.

"We could have managed it better. It's possible that if we had, Mr. Celil would be in Burlington today," says Charles Burton, an academic who twice served as in-house counselor to Canada's embassy in Beijing.

He believes that Canada's foreign service remains intellectually ill-equipped to engage in the types of diplomacy that might have freed Celil, though Foreign Affairs says this is not true.

"The people that we have working in China don't have, first of all, the linguistic competence to be able to engage in diplomacy with the Chinese elements that are holding Mr. Celil," Burton says.

"Secondly, they don't have the cross-cultural communication skills to know how to approach the agencies that are responsible for his incarceration, to try and come up with some means to negotiate a satisfactory resolution."

Burton says this is because Canada's foreign service prefers to hire generalists, rather than people with expertise in a specific region or language, unlike foreign services in the United States or Britain. And Canadian diplomats posted to China, he adds, have rarely worked in the country before. He described Australia's current prime minister Kevin Rudd, a veteran diplomat and fluent Mandarin speaker with expertise in China, as "the kind of person our foreign service probably wouldn't be admitting."

Errol Mendes, a University of Ottawa law professor who co-edited a book on Chinese and Canadian approaches to human rights, said Harper's statements damaged any chance diplomats had of securing Celil's release. Harper's comment before the APEC forum in 2007 that he would not sell out human rights to the "almighty dollar," were too blunt, Mendes says.

"What I've learned, after going to China almost every year for the past 15 years is that the Chinese do not take kindly to people lecturing them. And the thing they need, more than anything else, is (help) trying to figure out a way of resolving disputes without losing face."

But a quiet, face-saving avenue for Beijing – something akin to former U.S. president Bill Clinton's private rescue of two U.S. journalists in North Korea, such as being sent abroad for medical treatment – may no longer be an option for Celil. Since riots in July left almost 200 dead in Urumchi, Xinjiang's capital, the Chinese government has ramped up repression within the province, and accused overseas Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer of fomenting the violence.

Any release now might look like a concession or even a victory to some Uighur exiles who crave an independent East Turkestan.

Since the riots, Telendibaeva has not been able to contact Celil's relatives, who used to visit him in prison every three months. They used to give her updates, which were not pleasant. He was not doing well. He was sick, his vision failing. She calls them every day.

No one picks up.

Hunks of Halal beef and lamb thaw in the sink. For her boys, Kamil likes to cook the traditional Uighur food she used to make for her husband – heavy, traditional fare like laghman noodles, which she rolls and stretches herself, or rice pilaf and mutton.

"They don't like our food, really," Kamila concedes. "They like hot dogs, sandwiches. But I don't give them. I try and make them fresh food every day."

Her boys' use of English is also an issue for her. The Uighurs' Turkic language is integral to their identity, and especially those who view the state school system's prioritization of Chinese in Xinjiang as forced assimilation. In China, they would have been taught Chinese and denied Islam; in North America, Kamila fears their cultural identity might simply wither."I speak to them in Uighur, but they talk to each other in English," she complains.

Her husband was a pillar of Uighur pride, a community volunteer and beacon for his young boys.

But his absence is pervasive. At one point, her federal child tax benefits were withdrawn because her application didn't have Celil's signature. It wasn't so bad when Kamila's mother was here. She came from Uzbekistan after Celil's arrest. After two years, diabetes and high blood pressure forced her home last August. It's been a year since she left and nearly three years since Abdul's tragic portrait has been the reality for Kamila and her sons.

She looks at it on the fridge.

"Look, he's behind a gate," she says, touching the picture.

"We need a key to get him out," Badrudin says triumphantly.

"Yes," his mother says, "We need a key."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

China's oppression of Uyghurs remains largely ignored by the global community

Monday, July 20, 2009

China's oppression of Uyghurs remains largely ignored by the global community
11:31 PM ET

Mehmet Tohti [Former Vice President, World Uyghur Congress]: "Horrible video footage posted on the internet regarding the July 5th Urumqi massacre has brought some international attention and at the same time revealed the bitter reality that can be summarized as miserable Uyghurs, cruel Chinese and a generally uninterested world when it comes to the reaction to this tragedy that resulted in more than 1000 dead and the subsequent arrests of as many as 10,000, according to a RFA Uyghur service caller from Urumqi where riots have taken place.

All Uyghurs are unanimous in calling the July 5th Urumqi massacre a tragic event, as both Chinese armed forces and civilian Chinese mobsters were given a free hand in attacking and killing Uyghurs in Urumqi without proper restrictions. It was reported that on the late evening of July 5th, electricity was cut in a mainstream Uyghur neighborhood upon the order of Wang Lequan, Communist Party chief in Uyghur Autonomous Region, and that Chinese military forces the began a "Uyghur Hunt" that lasted the whole night, resulting in the killing and arrest of an unspecified number of Uyghurs. According to the eye witness statements to RFA Uyghur service of Kazak nationals who came to Urumqi for a business trip, 150-200 Uyghurs were murdered right in front of their hotel and the Chinese military cleaned up the body and blood from the streets just prior to dawn on July 6th. According to Edward Wong from the New York Times, "Hospital officials in Urumqi have generally declined to allow foreign reporters to interview injured Uyghurs, but have allowed them to interview injured Han." So far the Chinese government has failed to show any injured or dead Uyghurs out of fear that most of them were apparently killed by bullets shot by the armed forces.

Uyghurs in East Turkistan are in the state of shock and anger for lack of condemnation from the outside world - especially from the United States of America -particularly considering the greater global reaction to the much smaller scale riots that occurred in Tibet last year. The lack of concern from the Western world gave a much needed free hand to the Chinese regime to expand its brutal crackdown throughout the region with the threat of execution to be used for those who have been part of the public unrest.

The July 5th outbreak is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to long existing ethnic tensions and evem hatred between the Uyghurs, who are the rightful owners of "Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region" and the Chinese, who are a migrant boss from mainland China that arrived to colonize the region due to its abundant natural resources and strategic location.

Despite the incorporation of East Turkistan into mainland China in 1949, Uyghurs have not accepted Chinese rule and want to restore their independent statehood while China remains determined to colonize this territory with a massive Chinese settlement program under the shadow of guns. As a result of this program the ethnic Han Chinese population has jumped from 5-6% in 1950s to almost 60% to today, even though many media outlets are using the old census numbers that put the Chinese population in the region around 40%, which is exclusive of the nearly 3.5 million Bingtuan, 1.5 million unregistered migrant workers and nearly 300,000 military personal and their family members. This colonization has brought cultural marginalization, ethnic isolation, social injustice and political deprivation to Uyghurs in East Turkistan as the central government in Beijing has consistently put the interest of the Han Chinese on the top of its priority list.

As early as 1980 China started a "Go West” campaign with tremendous incentives to encourage more and more Chinese settlers to resettle in East Turkistan. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and emergence of neighboring Turkic republics alongside the border of East Turkistan as independent states, a campaign was launched targeting Uyghurs to prevent a possible break up of East Turkistan from China and thus tighten Chinese control over the region. After 1997, right after publishing an official White Paper under former President Jiang Zemin, the central government identified East Turkistan as a high risk area for Chinese national security and adopted harsh measures to prevent the East Turkistan problem from being internationalized. They established the Shanghai Corporation Organization with the persuasion of the neighboring countries of East Turkistan (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) in the name of border security, which put Uyghurs as prime target. Short after the establishment of SCO almost all Uyghur organizations in central Asia that were kept open since the Soviet era were dismantled or sanctioned, a number of influential Uyghur organizational leaders have been assassinated and Uyghur refugees were deported back to China for prosecution.

The September 11 terrorist attacks provided a perfect opportunity for China to step up pressure on Uyghurs and the Uyghur national identity. Further diluting Uyghur identity is a short cut answer for the Chinese government to complete the long-term elimination of a Uyghur voice. Chinese efforts in this regard include branding every incidence of civil unrest or discontent with the terrorism label; increased religious persecution; harsh political suppression; sharp ethnic discrimination in employment, education and social participation; banning the more than 2000 year old Uyghur language from schools and forcefully imposing Chinese education starting from the kindergarten level; implementing the same Chinese law differently for Uyghurs; forcing Uyghur families to send their children to mainland China for employment arrangements while bringing millions of Han Chinese to the Uyghur region to fill employment vacancies; and generally coercing Uyghurs to become like the Chinese by sacrificing their unique identity.

There are further recent examples of Chinese oppression of Uyghurs.

In May 2009 a 33 year-old Chinese teacher surnamed Zhao, who was recruited by government to teach Uyghur pupils in the historical Uyghur city of Yarkend, was discovered to have sexually assaulted more than 20 pre-teen Uyghur girls. For this unforgivable crime, he was protected by the school principal Liu Yu Mei, along with other local Chinese police. One parent of the assaulted pupil traveled to Urumqi to have his voice heard but officials ignored him.

Then video footage surfaced of brutal beatings and killings of Uyghur workers in a Shaoguan toy factory on June 26, 2009, which resulted in more than 56 dead. Both the regional government in Urumqi and authorities in Shaoguan have downplayed this brutal killing of Uyghurs issuing a report of 2 dead and have done nothing to punish the perpetrators.

Ilham Tohti, Economic Professor in Beijing Nationality University and owner of an online Uyghur website intended to promote ethnic dialogue between Hans and Uyghurs has been arrested after the July 5th massacre for his sharp criticism of the government's wrong policy stating that "unemployment among Uyghurs are the highest on earth."

As many independent analysts have pointed out, it was the Chinese government's discriminatory policy that instigated the July 5th uprisings and and so the government needs to review its hard line policies in the region and move towards the prospect of reconciliation.

One anonymous Uyghur posted his outcry as follows:

I am very shocked to find out that the world is much [more] disabled than I imagined. The images show the Chinese in Urumqi are carrying out ethnic cleansing with the protection of the Chinese Army and the Police. The world is not seeing it and could not see it. But they saw it when it happened in Darfur, Even George Clooney saw it. Fareed Zakaria saw it when it happened to Tibetans. Bill Clinton saw it when it happened to Kosovar people. And the world spoke out on behalf of all of them.

But now? They are all deaf and blind."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back

China tries to suppress its minority problem.

by Ross Terrill

07/27/2009, Volume 014, Issue 42

While the Chinese state often appears masterful in its dealings with the non-Chinese areas of the People's Republic of China (PRC) like Xinjiang and Tibet, it also seems alarmed at the volatility of its vast semi-empire.

Two weeks ago a false rumor about the rape of two Chinese (Han) women by Muslim Uighurs in a toy factory in the southern city of Shaoguan hit the Internet. In the resulting fights several Uighurs, who had been lured like many thousands to the non-Muslim south by work at high wages, were killed. Soon Xinjiang, the homeland of the Uighurs, which borders eight nations and is 2,000 miles from Shaoguan, was in turmoil. Hundreds were dead, and thousands of lives were derailed. President Hu Jintao rushed back from the G-8 summit in Rome to assert his authority.

In Urumqi, the capital of Xin-jiang, Han bystanders said they were attacked without provocation by Uighurs. Han groups retaliated. Both sides received scraps of information from the toy factory by cell phone and email (until Beijing cut off all such communications). Events spun out of control when People's Armed Police fired on protesters, and rioters torched cars and shops. Predictably, troublemakers jumped in, police were attacked, and age-old resentments flared.

One cannot fault the Chinese police's actions in Xinjiang. Mostly they tried to keep order between Han and Uighur in a parlous situation. Given the passions on both sides, it may have been impossible for security forces to avoid deaths. We can, however, fault the underlying approach of Beijing to Xinjiang, its largest autonomous region.

None of the western half of the PRC--Inner Mongolia in the north, Tibet in the south, and Xinjiang between them--was historically Chinese. The Chinese dynasties always had trouble dealing with Muslim areas, more even than with Tibet. The emperors were unfamiliar with Islam. An emperor could not enter a mosque since he wasn't a Muslim. Islam implies a realm hidden from the state's gaze, a worry for the emperors as it today is for Hu Jintao.

Xinjiang is larger than the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Italy put together. As recently as 1944 it was the separate state of East Turkistan. This desert land of mosques and oil is as different from east China as Japan is from Bangladesh. Thanks to Stalin, in 1949 it became part of Mao's new Chinese empire: secular Han ruling Uighurs and other Muslims.

Cecil Rhodes once remarked that to avoid civil war, you must have empire. This is China's approach in Xinjiang (and Tibet). Han wear the uniforms and give the orders, minority languages have been phased out of schools, and mosques are treated as hostile zones.
Zhao Ziyang, the number two figure in the Chinese Communist government in the 1980s--he fell from power during the Tiananmen crisis of 1989--once asked Deng Xiaoping's son: "How come when we're so nice to those intellectuals, they turn round and oppose us?" Beijing today can't understand why affirmative action and the many concessions given to Uighurs bring only further defiance. But Muslims in western China want something hard for Beijing to give: space to be themselves, to disappear into a mosque for the hour of Friday prayers, to write a nihilistic poem or an essay that says Marxism is mistaken.

While the development of the west has never matched the speed and success of that in the coastal areas, Xinjiang has advanced economically. The government says GDP in Xinjiang leaped from $28 billion in 2004 to $60 billion in 2008, and that life expectancy has doubled over the 60 years of the PRC. The trouble is that Xinjiang society is Chinese-style apartheid. The pain of Han-Uighur tension outweighs the pleasure of rising incomes. Economic success recasts but does not remove empire.

We can begin to understand Beijing's imperial cast of mind by considering that Chinese school children are told Xinjiang has been part of China for two millennia since the Han Dynasty (false: only the Qing Dynasty, 1644-1911, incorporated Xinjiang into China). In one spectacle at the Beijing Olympics, "minority children" were dressed in the costumes of Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet, and so on, but every child was Han.

On two trips to Xinjiang in recent years, I found a tense and strident atmosphere. Radio and newspapers spoke of Mao Zedong Thought, class struggle, and the danger of enemies undermining the unity of the PRC. One day in the oasis city of Turfan I heard a radio message in Mandarin Chinese: "Every friend of ours in religious circles [i.e. restive Muslims] should recognize that only the Chinese Communist party represents the interests of the people of all ethnic groups."

Deng once said in a moment of insight: "The loudest thunder comes from dead silence. We are not afraid of the masses speaking up; what we do fear is ten thousand horses standing mute." The sullen silence of repressed Uighurs can mislead. Deng knew it, Hu knows it.
When I went to cross the western border of Xinjiang into Kazakhstan, every inch of my luggage, papers, clothes, and toilet gear was inspected by Chinese immigration officials. In triumph one declared, "You have taken our local newspapers!" He pulled out from the rubble of my luggage newspapers from Xian and Shanghai. "You should know with your experience that it is illegal to take local [non-Beijing] papers out of China." He folded the two newspapers under his arm, my passport inside them, and disappeared for an hour. The train had to wait. A rule from the Mao era, long disregarded in eastern China, was being used against me. Mother China watches especially closely in Xinjiang.

The present crisis began, not with demonstrations against the government, but with Uighur and Han trashing each other. Social group came up against social group. "They don't speak Chinese!" Han cried of Uighur "rapists" in the south. "They steal!"

The Chinese government quickly publicized the Urumqi riots, contrary to its longstanding practice, believing that pictures of the confrontation and carnage would arouse Han feeling on the government side. True enough, racial emotions surfaced. Uighur "are all terrorists," some Han shouted. "They're spoiled like pandas," said a woman irritated with the preferential treatment that Uighurs have received from Beijing.

The Han and Uighur truly dislike each other. Emotions run deeper than between Han and Tibetan or between Han and Mongol and argue against any hope that economic development will work its magic.

But there's larger trouble for Beijing. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and other Muslim countries have been displaying sympathy for their brothers in Xinjiang and being rebuked by Beijing as a result. Last week Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan said, "The incidents in China are, simply put, a genocide. There's no point in interpreting this otherwise."
On top of this, there may be different views in the politburo about how to handle ethnic unrest. President Hu's career was shaped in non-Han areas, and his sensitivity to minority issues helps explain his unprecedented departure from an international summit to handle a domestic crisis. Under Hu, national security white papers from the military openly mention independence for Xinjiang and Tibet as threats to China. But his recipe for "stability"--guns plus propaganda--is not necessarily shared by every senior colleague. Some of the Communist rising stars below the politburo wonder if a non-Han empire is a liability to China's modern image and smiling international stance.

Still, without a major international dispute or a party split, Hu may well pull off the Communist melting pot strategy in Xinjiang (and Tibet). Muslims may be softened by growing prosperity and Xinjiang integrated internationally by the new rail, road, and pipeline links. Modernization may overcome apartheid.

Yet even so, at some point the new China must throw up a political system that allows minorities more latitude. The PRC is more populous than Europe and South and North America put together. In the United States, Mormon, Puerto Rican, Wall Street titan, Southern Baptist, Hawaiian hippie, Harvard professor, Amish grandma, Californian anarchist--thousands of such varied types coexist decade after decade. All are peas in a pod at election time or before a judge; each person is merely, and proudly, a citizen in the United States of America. The diversity is not lethal; in fact each election with the result accepted by all parties cements a unity deeper than the diversity. America's cacophony and fundamental stability are both missing in Xinjiang. Federalism is what China needs to gain true unity and stability. But it cannot come until the rule of law arrives first.

Ross Terrill is the author of The New Chinese Empire (Basic Books) and the biographies Mao and Madame Mao (both Stanford).