Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chinese Nuclear Tests Allegedly Caused 750,000 Deaths

Chinese Nuclear Tests Allegedly Caused 750,000 Deaths
Epoch Times Staff Mar 31, 2009

Professor Takada Jun condemns large-scale surface nuclear tests in China as Devil's conduct. Without considering the hazardous impact on the surrounding area, China is the only country in the world that is carrying out these kinds of nuclear tests. (Zhang Benzhen/The Epoch Times)

On March 18, Japanese professor Takada Jun revealed at a nuclear forum that the Chinese regime carried out 46 surface nuclear tests from 1964 to 1996, causing 750,000 civilian deaths in surrounding areas.

At the "Chinese Nuclear Test Disasters on the Silk Road and the Japanese Role" symposium, sponsored by the Japanese Uyghur Association, Dr. Takada Jun, a professor at the Sapporo Medical University and a representative of the Japanese Radiation Protection Information Center, revealed the disastrous problems of China’s nuclear tests. Dr. Takada said that the Chinese regime has never allowed any form of independent or outside environmental evaluation, analysis, or study of adverse affects on human health possibly cause by the tests.

Dr. Takada said that the 46 nuclear tests were carried out at the Lop Nur site in northwestern XinJiang Province, home of the Uyghur people. The tests had a cumulative yield of over 200 megatons. Though the area of the tests is sparsely populated, many cities on the ancient Silk Road trade route are downwind from Lop Nor and have been exposed to much nuclear fallout from the variety of tests conducted. Prior to 1981, the fallout from surface tests was a major contributor to an increase in the incidences of cancer and birth defects.

The professor also said that the largest surface detonation was a 4 megaton thermonuclear bomb, which was 10 times more powerful than the former Soviet Union's large-scale tests. The fallout from the test allegedly caused an estimated 190,000 deaths and 1,290,000 suffered from radiation poisoning within an area 136 times the size of Tokyo. According to an inside source, 750,000 people allegedly died as a result.

Chinese nuclear tests began on Oct. 16, 1964, with the above ground detonation of a 20,000-ton bomb, followed by a two-megaton surface explosions in 1967. The largest was a four-megaton explosion on Nov. 17, 1976. China changed to doing atmospheric tests in 1980 and underground tests from 1982 to 1996.

Takada said China is the only country in the world that carries out these large-scale surface tests in living areas.

The Director of the Japanese Uyghur Association criticized the tests. "The former Soviet Union would carry out nuclear tests in an enclosed barb-wired area, but the Chinese regime didn't even inform the local residents,” he said. “The victims included not only the Uyghur people, but also Han Chinese. The authorities disregarded any semblance of humanity and treated the people living there as lab rats." He urged Japan, the first victim of nuclear weapons, to share the information with the rest of the world and help the victims.

In July and August of 1998, the British Channel 4 broadcasted a special documentary, “Death On the Silk Road.” A team of doctors and filmmakers posed as tourists in order to assess the possible effects from the nuclear tests in China. From the interviews conducted in local villages, they found a large number of infants with cleft lips or mental retardation. Among the Uyghur people, many were suffering from malignant lymphoid leukemia. Incidences of cancer in Uyghur began rising in 1970 and by 1990, it was more than 30% higher than the national average. The cancer incidence in the capital city Urumqi doubled that of other areas during 1993 to 2000.

Based on data he collected in Kazakhstan near the Chinese border and his research on affects of nuclear fallout, Professor Takada also evaluated the impact in the area and published his findings in a book. He won an award for his contributions.
The experience of Professor Tamio Kaneko, a historian who visited the Xinjiang area, also supports the story. An expert in Asian history, Tamio filled his house with ancient relics from central Asia. But he didn't dare to bring back pebble samples in Lop Nur because they have hundreds or thousands of times more radiation than regular samples.

Kaneka recalled that while he was at the research site, his eyes watered profusely and bleed slightly. He also suffered from a sore throat and frequent nose bleeds. His tears won't stop in the Spring because of the pollen, a residual effect of the radiation.

Takada expressed his concern and anger over highly promoted tourism on the Great Silk Road. Tourist sites are actually in the radiation area, making travel highly risky to innocent people, especially those who visited before 1996.

Mr. Dili Anwar, a Uyghur exile living in England, said, "China conducts nuclear tests not only for itself, but also provides the testing site to Pakistan. We all know that Pakistan conducted a nuclear test one week after India’s test. In fact, Pakistan had already tested twice in China before that."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - China : Uyghurs

Title World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - China : Uyghurs

Publication Date July 2008

UNHCR Refworld, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/49749d3c4b.html [accessed 31 March 2009]
World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - China : Uyghurs

Updated July 2008

Uyghurs speak a south-eastern Turkic language and are thought to currently number around 8.6 million, though some groups assert that their numbers are much higher. They tend to be mainly concentrated in the north-western corner of China and, until recently, a substantial majority in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Most are Sunni Muslims. The Uyghurs are a majority in western XUAR and in the Turpan prefecture, while Han Chinese are the majority in most major cities and in the east and north. There are also Uyghurs found in Hunan province in south-central China.
Historical context

China's Uyghur minority are a remnant of the vast Uyghur Empire which stretched from the Caspian Sea to Manchuria in the eighth century, eventually to be overrun by other tribes in much of Central Asia.

During many centuries, various Uyghur, Mongol and Chinese regimes ruled the region. Much of what is today Xinjiang ('new frontier') was ruled by or owed allegiance to the Mongols from the thirteenth century. Various Uyghur and Mongol khanates exerted authority over different parts of the region, with the Manchu Qing Empire entering the area and controlling all of it by about the mid-eighteenth century. For a brief period after 1864, Xinjiang was to break away from the Qing Empire while China was weakened by other conflicts and unable to maintain its garrisons in the distant province. Chinese control was reasserted in 1877.

The end of the Qing Dynasty and the creation of the Republic of China in 1912 were followed by a period of weak central government control over Xinjiang. A rebellion in the 1930s (in reaction to a large degree to heavy taxes on Uyghurs to finance Han migration and settlement on some of the province's best agricultural land) resulted in the establishment of the first modern Uyghur state in 1933. The East Turkistan Republic was centred mainly in the southern region of Kashgar and Khotan. It survived only one year and returned to the control of the Han Chinese under warlord Sheng Shicai. Parts of northern Xinjiang were to form the second East Turkistan Republic between 1944 and 1949. The Uyghurs' taste of independence was brought to an end with the arrival of the People's Liberation Army in Xinjiang in 1949.

The region took its current shape as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on 1 October 1955. Tensions and resentment, despite some early idealistic moves that were receptive to the rights of nationalities, quickly increased when Chinese Communist authorities began to clearly favour Han Chinese. There were initial statements by the Communists criticizing past Han nationalism and promising that Xinjiang would remain in control of its nationalities, since they had a right of self-determination, but real power in the post-1955 XUAR appeared to be held in practice by the Han Chinese cadres.

While no segment of Chinese society escaped the effects of the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, most accounts agree that the Uyghurs in Xinjiang appeared to be particularly targeted, with between 60,000 and 100,000 Uyghurs and Kazakhs fleeing the country after 1962 to avoid repression and famine.

Resentment of and resistance to government-supported migration or support of Han Chinese to the detriment of Uyghurs, restrictions on their religious and cultural practices, and loss of land have periodically caused eruptions of violence in the region. There were student demonstrations and riots in the 1980s linked to opposition to an announced expansion of Han migration and the Baren Township riot in 1990, where at least 50 people were killed (some reports claim there were hundreds) following a government decision to close down a local mosque. This subsequently led to a series of riots in other parts of Xinjiang.

Numerous bombing incidents in Xinjiang and Beijing itself – blamed on Uyghur extremists – occurred in 1997, as well as attacks against Chinese soldiers and officials. Widespread demonstrations and street fighting followed the arrest of suspected separatists during Ramadan.

The overall effect of the Communist Party of China's policies in the last six decades, one of the main sources of the tensions and resentment in the region, is unmistakable and stunning: the proportion of the Han Chinese population in Xinjiang has jumped from about 6 per cent in 1949 to much more than 40 per cent in 2004, with a massive influx of about 8 million Han Chinese – not counting soldiers and others on 'temporary contracts'. The capital of the province itself went from being a city where the Uyghurs were the clear majority (their proportion being about 80 per cent) to one where the Uyghurs have been almost completely displaced, and where it is now the Han Chinese who constitute about 80 per cent of the total population.

As the demographic weight of the Uyghurs is thus reduced, use of their language and the practice of other cultural and religious activities closely linked to Uyghur identity are being increasingly restricted by Chinese authorities who more and more openly espouse a pro-Han chauvinism. Schools and universities are increasingly being required to teach in Mandarin rather than Uyghur.
Current issues

The strategic position of Xinjiang and the potential for ethnic unrest translates into a high degree of control of the region and of the affairs of the Uyghur minority by central authorities. Decision-making is concentrated in the centrally appointed Party structure and in Beijing, thereby excluding ethnic Uyghurs. Two additional factors contribute to this configuration: the role of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, directly under the State Council and virtually independent of the government; and the extremely limited power granted to national minorities, in particular Uyghurs, in the government and the Party – even compared to other national minority areas of China.

Until recently, the large number of Uyghurs (perhaps 8 million or so) constituted a substantial majority in Xinjiang, and legislation and regulations are supposed to guarantee them minority and language rights as well as prohibit discrimination. However, the control and role which one would expect the Uyghurs to be able to exercise over the operations of administrative units has been eroded or even eliminated in recent years, along with the language requirements for job opportunities within government offices and the language of education in schools.

Since the mid-1990s the gradual exclusion of Uyghurs from state-based employment – and the rising number of private jobs is stunning and statistically verifiable from a variety of sources. Reports in 2005 point out how Han Chinese are employed and ethnic Uyghurs kept out of new construction jobs, on road-building projects and oil and gas pipelines. While the Han Chinese have an unemployment rate of only about 1 per cent in Xinjiang, the rate among the Uyghurs is a staggering 70 per cent.

As with the Mongolian and Tibetan minorities, access to employment is increasingly a contentious issue for the Uyghur minority, and is seen as dependent on fluency in Mandarin, since state authorities in the region refuse to recognize any concrete entitlement to use of Uyghur beyond its use as a medium of education. The reduction of bilingual services provided by state authorities has resulted in the removing of bilingual employment opportunities, which would have meant the employment of more Uyghurs, whereas increased monolingual state operations have led to a much higher proportion of Han Chinese being preferred in almost all fields of employment. For example, in April 2005 the government announced that in southern Xinjiang, where the Uyghurs constitute over 95 per cent of the population, 500 out of 700 new civil service positions would be given to Han Chinese. At the same time, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps hired 9,000 Han Chinese from Gansu to work on its farms, rather than employ Uyghurs living nearby.

Even the few areas where use of Uyghur was associated with job opportunities – such as in education – have seen a rapid reduction since 2000. From the late 1980s, Chinese-language instruction became more prominent, whereas instruction in Uyghur began to be curtailed, sometimes through the process of merging Chinese and Uyghur schools with the unavoidable result that these schools would teach almost exclusively in Mandarin. Xinjiang University, initially established in 1949 as a bilingual (Uyghur/Mandarin) university has all but cast away instruction in Uyghur since 2002. Authorities have moved towards replacing Uyghur with Mandarin in almost all schools: schools in Artush, for example, began teaching all first grade elementary school classes exclusively in Mandarin Chinese in September 2006. The policy will apparently require that all primary and secondary schools teach exclusively in Mandarin by 2012. About 80 per cent of the population of Artush is Uyghur.

A continuing issue for the Uyghur minority is the role and dominating impact of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps – a body which is probably best described as an economic and semi-military quasi-state organization. Operating almost completely outside the control of the XUAR authorities since 1981, it has de facto administrative authority over a number of cities, settlements and farms all across Xinjiang. It has coordinated the settlement and employment of millions of Han Chinese in the area and continues to fulfil administrative functions such as health care, printed and electronic media and education for areas under its jurisdiction. This includes primary, secondary and tertiary education (with two universities, Shihezi University and Tarim University). It has control over 16 million mu (over 2.5 million acres) of farmland, representing about a third of the Xinjiang's arable land. Its operations are essentially exclusively in Mandarin, thus acting as an important agent in the sinicization of the XUAR, and of the growing exclusion and disempowerment of the Uyghur minority. This is part of an overt government policy of supporting massive Han migration into the region in order to weaken the demographic and political weight of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang – which is a dangerous source of frustration and resentment. Another issue that has emerged is the right of members of a minority to their name in their own language, which is protected under international law under the right to private and family life. A policy adopted in 2002 seems to require that Uyghur names be changed into Chinese pinyin.

A perhaps even more contentious issue involves the freedom of religion of Uyghurs and the crackdown by authorities in the name of security and the fight against terrorism and separatism. The religious activities of Muslims in Xinjiang are subjected to extensive controls and restrictions which are not applied to any other part of China: a special regulation of the XUAR effectively bans minors from participating in religious activities, resulting in authorities prohibiting teaching of Islam to school-age children. Though in theory applying to all religions in Xinjiang, reports in 2005 and 2006 seem to confirm that this regulation is applied more harshly to Uyghur Muslims. The ban has also been interpreted in some areas as prohibiting children from entering mosques, and has led to the confiscation and destruction of unapproved religious texts, and the censoring of imams' sermons. Any type of unsanctioned religious activity in Xinjiang risks much more serious consequences than in other parts of China, with the result that Uyghurs are likely to be arrested and detained for extremely long periods in the name of fighting extremism, even for innocuous activities. In 2001 a Uyghur, Abduhelil Zunun, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for translating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into Uyghur.

In May 2008, one Uyghur leader in exile claimed that more than 10,000 Uyghurs had been rounded up in the previous four to five months. Another exiled Uyghur claimed that the Olympic torch relay through Xinjiang province ahead of the August 2008 Beijing Olympic Games had prompted a heavier crackdown against Uyghurs in the area.


Friday, March 27, 2009

A Letter to Barack Obama from a Guantanamo Uighur

Andy Worthington

Journalist and author of "The Guantanamo Files"
Posted March 26, 2009 | 08:38 PM (EST)

A Letter to Barack Obama from a Guantanamo Uighur
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Read More: Abu Bakker Qassim, Albania, Barack Obama, Breaking Politics News, Guantanamo, Guantanamo Detainees, Guantanamo Uighurs, Judge Ricardo Urbina, Politics, President Obama, Terrorism, Uighurs, World News

There were once 22 Uighur prisoners in Guantánamo. Muslims from China's oppressed Xinjiang province, they had all been swept up as human debris during "Operation Enduring Freedom," the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that began in October 2001. The majority of these men were seized after fleeing to Pakistan from a run-down settlement in Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains, which had been hit in a U.S. bombing raid. Initially welcomed by Pakistani villagers, they were then betrayed and sold to U.S. forces, who were offering $5000 a head for "al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects."

None of the men had been in Afghanistan to support al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and none had raised arms against U.S. forces. They all maintained that they had only one enemy -- the Chinese government -- and explained that they had ended up at the settlement either in the hope of finding a way of rising up against their oppressors, which was unlikely, as the settlement was dirt-poor and had only one gun, or because they had hoped to travel to other countries in search of work -- primarily Turkey, which has historic connections to the people of East Turkestan (as the Uighurs call their homeland) -- but had been thwarted in their aims.

In May 2006, five of the 22 were freed from Guantánamo, after being cleared in a military review, and sent to live in a refugee camp in Albania, the only country that could be persuaded to accept them after the U.S. authorities acknowledged that they would not return them to China, where they faced the risk of torture. For the other 17, justice was to prove more elusive, and it was until June 2008, in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling confirming that the Guantánamo prisoners had habeas corpus rights (the right to challenge the basis of their detention in court), that an appeals court in Washington ruled that the government had failed to establish a case that one of the men -- Huzaifa Parhat -- was an "enemy combatant."

In the wake of the ruling, the government gave up attempting to prove that the other 16 Uighurs were "enemy combatants," and when their case came up before District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina last October, he ruled that their continued detention was unconstitutional, and that, because no other country had been found that would accept them, they were to be admitted to the United States, to the care of communities in Washington and Tallahassee, Florida, who had prepared detailed plans for their resettlement.

This proved intolerable to the Bush administration, which appealed the decision. The Justice Department spouted unprincipled claims that the men were a threat (even though they had been cleared of being "enemy combatants"), and refused to acknowledge that a judge had the right to order the men's release into the United States, thereby robbing the Supreme Court of a key element of the powers it intended to grant to the lower courts when it confirmed, in June, that the prisoners had habeas corpus rights.

Despite its manifest weaknesses, the government's appeal -- in a court that had a history of backing up cases relating to the "War on Terror" that were later overruled by the Supreme Court -- was successful. This is the situation that prevails to this day, although on Monday the Uighurs' lawyers announced that they planned "to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on their clients' behalf," and, perhaps even more significantly, last week it was reported that the Obama administration was "set to reverse a key Bush administration policy by allowing some of the 240 remaining Guantánamo Bay inmates to be resettled on American soil." As the Guardian described it, "Washington has told European officials that once a review of the Guantánamo cases is completed, the U.S. will almost certainly allow some inmates to resettle on the mainland."

If confirmed, it is possible that these men will include some, or all of the Uighurs, but in the meantime Abu Bakker Qassim, one of the five Uighurs freed in Albania in 2006, who left his pregnant wife and young son in a thwarted attempt to find work in Turkey, has just written a letter to President Obama, telling his story and appealing to the President to act on behalf of the remaining Uighurs in Guantánamo.

The letter was made available by Sabin Willett, one of the Uighurs' attorneys, and is reproduced below:

Abu Bakker Qassim's letter to Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

I express my gratitude and my best respect for the contribution of the United States of America to our Uighur community. At the same time, I express my gratitude for your right and prompt decision to close the jail of Guantánamo Bay. I hope you will forgive my English, which I have tried to learn.

I hope my letter will find you in a good health. Please allow me to express my wish and prayer to read my letter.

My name is Abu Bakker and I'm writing on behalf of Ahmet, Aktar, Ejup, with whom I have lived since May 2006 in Albania, the only country that offered us political asylum from Guantánamo when US courts concluded that we were not enemy combatants.

I would like to write something about myself. The Uighur people have a proverb: "Who thinks about the end will never be a hero." Obviously it is human to think about the end, as it is human for me to remember things long ago.

30.12.2000. My last night in my little home. No one was sleeping ... not even my eight-month twins in my wife's womb. No one was speaking ... even my two-year old son ... I had decided that I would confess that night to my wife the end I had thought of in my heart, but I hesitated because of a question my son had asked me, that I could not answer. It was at the beginning of winter. We were standing near the oven, and I was cuddling his hands. He took with his little hands my forefinger.

Dad! Is a fingernail a bone?

No, I said. The fingernail is not a bone.

It is flesh?

No. Neither is it flesh.

So, the fingernail: what is it, Dad?

I didn't know.

I don't know, I said.

So small was my boy, and I couldn't answer his questions. And when he grows up and the questions are not about the fingernail? How shall I answer then?

31.12.2000. Without telling the end, without turning back my head, without fear I started my long and already known way. "Ah, if only ...! Ah, if only I reach Istanbul, am hired in the factory, to work day and night, to save my self and money. God is great! Ah, if only I could bring my wife there, my son and -- the most important -- to see my twins for the first time in Istanbul. To hold them on my breast, to pick up as I could ... to show my son and to tell to them: We are from the place where the sun rises. I would embrace them, I would answer all of their questions, I would teach to them everything my mother taught me, as her mother taught her, to my grandmother her grandmother ... as though in a movie with a happy ending: me film director, me scenarist, me at the lead role. The hero of my dearest people ... Me."

After three years and a half, questions after questions, the military tribunal in Guantánamo asked me:

If you will die here, what will you think at your last minutes?

I'm a husband and a father that is dying in the heroism's ways, I answered and I asked the permission to put a question of my own.

If Guantánamo Bay were closed today, would you be a hero for your children?

I was proclaimed innocent. The lawyer proposed -- meantime we were waiting for a state which will accept us -- to live in a hotel in the Military Base of Guantánamo Bay. No way! We were put in a camp near to the jail, which was called "Iguana Camp." We were nine. Sometimes, one of my friends asked the soldiers about the time. Even today, I hadn't understood why he needed to know the time. I asked the time ... I had reasons ...

In Camp Iguana, there were iguanas. We fed them with bread, so they began to enter in our dormitory. All of us needed their company. Sometimes, when they were late, everyone missed them ...

One morning, I had an unforgettable surprise from my friends. They gave to me cake from their meal, since that day was my twins' birthday. The same day, in our dormitory entered two iguanas and I give to them the cake ... thinking about my kids ... thinking about my end ... My dream finished from Istanbul to Guantánamo, from my kids to iguanas ...

Finally in 2006 I arrived in Albania, my second homeland. The ring of the telephone! What anxiety! Are they alive? For the first time, I spoke with my wife and my kids. They were alive!

Every morning, I go out of my home before the sun rises and wait for him with the hands up and empty. Since I'm still from the country where the sun rises. I think about the family which perhaps I will never see again and I resolve not to forget my vow, seven years ago, to be their hero.

Yet, Mr. President, seventeen of my brothers remain in that prison today. It is three years since I left the prison, and still they are there. Please end their suffering soon. Your January 22 words were so welcome to us, and I congratulate you for that and for your historic election. But many months have passed.

For the four of us who remain in Albania (one of us is in Sweden today, trying for asylum), life is very hard, and our future still seems far away. I hope that one day soon your government and countrymen will meet our seventeen brothers. Maybe when that day comes there would be hope that we might come to America too.

Mr. President.

In life not everyone will reach his desired end. Perhaps you don't know, but we are similar ... Except as to the end. Since you, like me, without thinking abut the end of your long way, managed to be a hero ... I'm at Your side ... I'm proud of you ...

Mr. President.

Please allow me to share with You a thought. Gift a pair of shoes to every child, to every woman, or every barefoot man since the barefoot people doesn't think too much before walking on the dirty mud. Begin with everything from above.

Very truly yours,

Abu Bakker Qassim

Tirana, Albania
March 24, 2009

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

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Uyghur Economist Silenced

Uyghur Economist Silenced

An outspoken economist from a Chinese minority group faces "unbelievable threats and pressure" to keep quiet.


Ilham Tohti in France, February 2009.

HONG KONG—Chinese authorities have warned a prominent economist from China’s mainly Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority against speaking or writing publicly after he criticized China's handling of his native Xinjiang region, friends and colleagues who have seen him in recent days said.

Ilham Tohti, an economics professor at the Central Nationalities University in Beijing, “is working as usual, but he’s being questioned by state security police after class every day,” one friend who spoke on condition of anonymity said in an interview.

Other friends, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tohti had been warned against speaking or writing in the media.

“His Web site has been shut down. We don’t know how long this situation will continue,” one friend said.

In a blog post dated March 12, Tohti himself wrote: "I apologize to my readers, but I’m told I must be silent for some time. I am facing unbelievable threats and pressure now, but whatever happens, I call on my friends to stay firmly on course."

Officials contacted by telephone on Wednesday at the Central Nationalities University’s economics, security, and propaganda departments declined to comment on Tohti or where he could be reached.

Outspoken interview

In an interview earlier this month, Tohti sharply criticized Chinese policies in the northwestern Xinjiang region where he was born, saying that joblessness remains the single biggest problem and residents have suffered under the current governor.

“Unemployment has existed in Xinjiang since the 1950s,” Tohti told RFA’s Uyghur service after returning home to Beijing from a weeklong academic exchange in France. “No matter what … I will still talk about the issue of unemployment.”

He also sharply criticized the governor of Xinjiang, Nur Bekri, as incompetent.

“I think he’s unqualified … I don’t know how he became governor of Xinjiang, and I don’t recognize him as a qualified governor,” Tohti said.

“He doesn’t care about Uyghurs. He’s always stressed the stability and security of Xinjiang and threatened Uyghurs. Xinjiang has developed, but the people are living in poverty, especially Uyghurs. Laws that should have been applied in the Uyghur Autonomous Region haven’t been implemented.”

Tohti, who said he feared for his own safety, was speaking as the National People’s Congress, China’s annual session of parliament, met in Beijing, with Bekri warning of a “more fierce struggle” against separatist unrest in the region.

Repeated calls to Tohti’s telephone numbers since his March 12 interview have rung unanswered.

Ethnic discrimination

In an interview with Radio France International, Tohti urged the United States not to repatriate to China the 17 Uyghur men held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility but cleared of terrorism charges.

China has demanded the return of the 17 men, but human rights groups say they would likely face persecution in China, and the United States continues to seek a third country in which they can be resettled.

Tohti, who studied French immigration policy while he was in the country Feb. 22-March 1, also spoke out against racial discrimination in China against ethnic Uyghurs.

"Compared with France, racial discrimination is widespread in China, especially in job opportunities. Race discrimination is prohibited in both countries by law, but the differences between the two countries in implementing those laws is unbelievable," he said.

China has accused Uyghur separatists of fomenting unrest in Xinjiang, particularly in the run-up to and during the Beijing Olympics in August last year when a wave of violence hit the vast desert region.

The violence prompted a crackdown in which the government says 1,295 people were detained for state security crimes.

Web closures

In mid-2008, Chinese authorities closed a Web site launched by Tohti in 2006 and aimed at promoting understanding between Han Chinese and ethnic Uyghurs.

Tohti said it was fellow Uyghurs who told authorities his Chinese-language Web site, Uyghur Online, had links to Uyghur “extremists” abroad.

At the time, Tohti said his site—which employed 67 people of 12 nationalities, all unpaid—sometimes scored 1 million page views daily, with content published in Chinese and written by Uyghur, Han, Korean, Tibetan, and other contributors.

The site was later reopened but has now been closed again for the sixth time.

According to his official biography, Tohti was born in Atush, Xinjiang, on Oct. 25, 1969. He graduated from the Northeast Normal University and the Economics School at the Central Nationalities University in Beijing.

Original reporting by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Release of Uyghur detainees in US will prompt only temporary Chinese protest

Release of Uyghur detainees in US will prompt only temporary Chinese protest

Tuesday, March 24, 2009
2:06 PM ET

Alim Seytoff [General Secretary, Uyghur American Association]:

"If the United States chooses to accept the Uyghur detainees and resettle them in the US, the only thing China can do is to loudly protest such a decision by the Obama Administration. China will use its state-controlled media to attack the US, claiming that "the U.S. is maintaining a double-standard in the global war against terror" - a claim which is really nonsense. The Chinese Foreign Minister may also call in the US Ambassador to China and express China's strong disappointment over this decision and ask for an official explanation (the US Ambassador should not be too concerned with such a protest). That is pretty much all China can do. The Chinese outcry may last for a few weeks, then it will gradually fade away.

When the United States transferred five Uyghur detainees to Albania in May 2006, China loudly protested the decision and later sent a delegation to Tirana to pressure the Albanian government. The Chinese delegation may have threatened the Albanian government with retaliation, but in the end, China was able to do nothing. The five Uyghurs continued to live in Albania even after Chinese threats. One of them later went to Sweden and sought asylum. Others are still living there in peace.

The key reason why the Chinese government is aggressively lobbying and threatening mostly Western governments from taking these Uyghur detainees is it fears that, in addition to the US government, freedom-loving people in Western democracies will find out that these Uyghur detainees are not terrorists as the Chinese government has always been claiming, but ordinary peaceful people who were severely persecuted by the Chinese government. As a result, people in the West will become more aware of the detainees tragic situation, as well as the plight of the Uyghur people under China's authoritarian rule. Knowledge of both of these situations will bring about the realization that the Uyghur situation is almost exactly the same as the situation in Tibet. Then, the Chinese government's argument that it is fighting against terrorism from so-called East Turkestan forces will simply collapse.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States, the Chinese government has been presenting itself to the world as a victim of Uyghur terrorism. However, the release of Uyghur detainees into the Western world will prove that the real victims of 9/11 in China are the Uyghurs, and the Chinese government is actually the brutal evildoer. This may most likely shift Western public opinion in favor of Uyghurs' peaceful struggle for their human rights, just as in the Tibetan struggle. This is the last thing the Chinese government wants to see happen. That is why it is vehemently opposing any Western government, especially the US government, that considers accepting these Uyghur detainees. In short, the Chinese government's ugly face of six decades of systematic, severe and widespread human rights violations against the Uyghur people will be exposed to the whole Western world, despite Chinese leaders' best efforts to project an image of benevolence and good governance."

Opinions expressed in JURIST's Hotline are the sole responsibility of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, or the University of Pittsburgh.

Uygurs upset at Kashgar revamp

Uygurs upset at Kashgar revamp

South China Morning Post
Kristine Kwok
Mar 26, 2009|

Beijing's plan to revamp the historic city of Kashgar in western Xinjiang has sparked concerns that it could jeopardise Uygur culture.

As the best-known and biggest example of a traditional Uygur community in China, Kashgar's old city has been a major tourism attraction.

But Xinjiang's regional government is planning to give the 2,000-year-old quarter a 3 billion yuan (HK$3.4 billion) facelift, which will involve the demolition of some dilapidated buildings and the renovation of others, according to state media reports.

The revamp was necessary, the reports said, because the area's signature mud-thatched houses were badly weathered, poorly designed to cope with modern development, and would be vulnerable in the event of an earthquake.

The government said on its official website that the revamp would improve the area's road systems, drainage and water supply, electricity, heating and other infrastructure. It added that the central area of the old city should not be used for commercial development.

The old city's 220,000 residents had started moving into new concrete buildings in nearby areas, local residents said yesterday.

The first ones to move in were families living on government subsistence allowances, Kashgar resident Abdu Kuyyum said.

"The new buildings are just ordinary concrete buildings, they don't have any traditional Uygur characteristics at all," he said.

Mr Kuyyum, one of those affected, said the new buildings were so far away from the old city that people had to change their way of life.

"They complained that their new homes were too small. In the old neighbourhood they could shake hands with everyone and go to the mosque every day. But now they live very far away from the mosque," he said.

Mr Kuyyum said the government had started a propaganda campaign late last year, broadcasting documentaries showing how dangerous it was to live in the old city,

With public details about the redevelopment plan still sketchy, some experts and advocacy groups have expressed concern that it could cost the community its unique culture.

The Uygur American Association said yesterday the demolition of the traditional buildings in the old city would "eradicate an ancient, irreplaceable centre of Uygur culture".

"The demolition of Kashgar old city is an affront to Uygur identity and is an attempt to assimilate Uygurs," exiled Uygur leader Rebiya Kadeer said.

Silk Road city 'under threat'

Silk Road city 'under threat'
Kadeer says the demolition plan is a threat to the Uighur identity and culture [GALLO/GETTY]

A plan by the Chinese government to demolish parts of the city of Kashgar has drawn criticism from an exiled leader of the Uighur community, who has accused Beijing of destroying the Muslim minority's culture.

The Silk Road city of Kashgar is a market town in China's western Xinjiang region that borders Central Asia and was a meeting point for Chinese and Central Asian traders.

"The demolition of Kashgar Old City is an affront to Uighur identity and is an attempt to assimilate Uighurs," Rebiya Kadeer, a Washington-based exile, said in a statement on Wednesday.

"I lament the loss of such a unique site of world heritage, and call on people across the globe to let the Chinese government know that this demolition robs the world of an irreplaceable community."

Kadeer heads the Uighur American Association, and was a prominent businesswoman in Xinjiang but was jailed in 1999 for allegedly "leaking state secrets".

She was released and sent into exile in 2005.

Despite an influx of Han Chinese immigrants into the area in recent decades, Kashgar is mainly populated by Turkic-speaking Uighurs and other Central Asian ethnic groups such as Kazakhs and Tajiks.

Demolition plan

According to a report on the Xinjiang government's news website, the buildings in the city are dangerous and need to be demolished and rebuilt.

"The ancient city is dangerous and has become susceptible to a serious earthquake disaster," the report said.

"With a history of over 1,000 years it is under constant erosion from the elements."

In February, the government launched a $440m plan to move nearly 50,000 families out of Kashgar's ancient city centre.

Uyghur American Association condemns demolition of Kashgar Old City

Uyghur American Association condemns demolition of Kashgar Old City
Press Releases

For immediate release
March 24, 2009, 5:10 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) condemns the demolition of traditional Uyghur buildings in Kashgar Old City, an initiative that will eradicate an ancient, irreplaceable center of Uyghur culture. Recent reports from official Chinese media indicate that authorities are implementing a “residents resettlement project”, which aims to relocate 65,000 Uyghur households (220,000 people) currently in Kashgar Old City. The target of the “residents resettlement project” is to relocate 45,000 Uyghur households and to demolish five square kilometers of Kashgar Old City in the first five years of the project. In 2008, the State Council of the National People’s Congress designated nearly three billion Yuan to the project.

A number of traditional Uyghur communities in East Turkestan have been destroyed since the beginning of Chinese Communist Party administration in 1949. Most of this destruction has come in the form of mass-campaigns, such as the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which targeted historical aspects of Uyghur culture. In particular, the Chinese government destroyed all Uyghur cultural centers in northern East Turkestan one after another, first by removing the Uyghur population, then demolishing their traditional homes, and finally by scattering them into apartment buildings surrounded by Han Chinese neighbors, and isolating them as one unified people.

As Kashgar Old City is one of the few remaining centers of traditional Uyghur culture and religion, many Uyghurs consider protection of Kashgar Old City as vital to maintaining a separate Uyghur identity. Kashgar Old City contains over eight square kilometers of traditional Uyghur homes, bazaars and centers of worship, such as the six hundred year old Id Kah Mosque.

In official Chinese media, government authorities have stated that the demolition was initiated by the need to protect Old City residents from homes prone to earthquake damage and poor drainage. However, UAA fears that the demolition stems from a long-standing campaign to dilute Uyghur culture and identity. In recent years, the government of the People’s Republic of China has overseen policies which are phasing out Uyghur as a language of instruction in schools, forcibly transferring young Uyghur women to work in factories in eastern China, and encouraging the mass in-migration of Han Chinese to East Turkestan.

Uyghur democracy leader, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, said “the demolition of Kashgar Old City is an affront to Uyghur identity and is an attempt to assimilate Uyghurs. Chinese authorities have unilaterally decided that Uyghurs should be moved from their traditional homes and livelihoods without any consultation. Not one Chinese official has stated what will become of the land left behind after the bulldozers have done their job. I lament the loss of such a unique site of world heritage, and call on people across the globe to let the Chinese government know that this demolition robs the world of an irreplaceable community. The demolition of Kashgar Old City is equal to the destruction of thousands of years of Uyghur culture built upon the famous Silk Road.”

Quoted in a March 24, 2009 Washington Post report, Professor Wu Dianting, of Beijing Normal University's School of Geography, said “The old town also reflects the Muslim culture of the Uighurs very well -- it has the original taste and flavor without any changes…Here, Uighur culture is attached to those raw earth buildings. If they are torn down, the affiliated culture will be destroyed.”

In addition, the Washington Post report detailed the resettlement of 100 Kashgar Old City families into new apartment-block style housing. According to UHRP sources, the new housing is located approximately eight to nine kilometers from Kashgar city center. UAA is concerned that the resettlement of Uyghurs into government-organized living arrangements far from traditional Uyghur centers is a measure to control and monitor Uyghur activity, as well as to create a dependence on the Chinese government.

Chinese official, Wang Zhengrong, stated that not all of the Old City is earmarked for demolition and that sections will be “protected, managed, and developed” with the aim of “creating international heritage scenery”, which will increase income from tourism. Wang added that under the plans tourists will still be able to view “minority lifestyle and architectural characteristics.” UAA is concerned that the remaining sections of the Old City will take on the characteristics of an open-air museum of Uyghur culture, where once a vibrant community lived. The value of tourism to the Kashgar economy is approximately 620,000,000 Yuan. So far, no indication has been given as to who will be the beneficiaries of a Chinese-managed Kashgar Old City.

The Chinese state has attempted to redefine what it means to be Uyghur. The period leading up to and during the Beijing Olympics highlighted Uyghur identity, its deterioration under the Chinese state and the acceleration of that process due to the Games. When the Olympic torch relay passed through East Turkestan’s cities in June 2008, Uyghur dancers were brought out to display what is thought of as a non-threatening aspect of Uyghur culture, and exemplify the virtues of living in a “harmonious society”. However, most Uyghur residents of the cities along the torch relay were told to stay inside their homes during the event, while Han residents were lined up alongside the torch’s route to welcome its passage. A heavy security presence accompanied the passage of the Olympic torch in East Turkestan, including police checks of vehicles, numerous snipers and warnings to residents to stay inside their buildings with their windows shuttered.

Indicative of the way in which Uyghurs are portrayed as a minority people, the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics included 56 smiling children paraded into the Olympic stadium who were said to belong to the PRC’s 56 “ethnic minority” groups, including the Uyghurs. However, all 56 children were Han Chinese.

UAA calls on the international community, in particular UNESCO, to ask the Chinese government to halt the demolition of Kashgar Old City, as well as to ask the Chinese government to comply with its domestic laws concerning the protection of minority identity.

Related other sources:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Ancient Culture, Bulldozed Away

An Ancient Culture, Bulldozed Away
China's Attempts to Modernize Ethnic Uighurs' Housing Creates Discord
The government, citing danger and overcrowding, began moving Uighur families out of Kashgar's labyrinthine old city.
The government, citing danger and overcrowding, began moving Uighur families out of Kashgar's labyrinthine old city.
(By Maureen Fan -- The Washington Post)

Buy Photo

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 24, 2009; Page A08

KASHGAR, China -- For hundreds of years, Uighur shopkeepers have been selling bread and firewood along the edges of Kashgar's old town to families whose ancestors bought their traditional mud-brick homes with gold coin and handed them down through the generations.

Now, this labyrinth of ancient courtyard homes and narrow, winding streets is endangered by the latest government plan to modernize a way of life that officials consider dangerous and backward.

Left behind are piles of brick and rubble, houses without roofs and hurt feelings. It is the most recent fault line to develop between Chinese rulers and Xinjiang province's majority ethnic Uighur population, a Turkic-speaking people who have long chafed under Beijing's rule and who worry that their culture is slowly disappearing.

Like Tibetans, Uighurs resent the influx of Han Chinese immigrants who dominate government and economic positions and have pushed for more autonomy and economic opportunity. Some Uighurs have waged an occasionally violent campaign calling for independence. Beijing has cracked down hard during periods of unrest and its tough line against suspected separatists has made many Uighurs reluctant to speak on the record about their objections to government policy.

Here in China's westernmost city, a $448 million plan to move about 50,000 residents out of the old city and into modern apartment buildings kicked off last month with the first 100 families transitioning into government housing. Officials say some houses are too far away from fire hydrants and that the old city is dangerously overcrowded. While the earthen homes have stood for centuries, the deadly earthquake that hit Sichuan province last May only added urgency to the project.

"Because many houses were built privately without any approval, the life of residents is not convenient and the capability against earthquakes and fire is weak," a local state-run news report said recently. "Our target is every family has a house, every family has employed members and the economy will be developed."

About 220,000 people, or 42 percent of the city's residents, live in the old town.

On the streets, where some houses have already been demolished and others have been marked for removal, feelings of resentment were evident. A bilingual education program begun in local schools several years ago, for example, had been welcomed by Uighurs who agreed that learning Mandarin Chinese would be good for business. But recently, some schools have started teaching just Mandarin, angering parents who want their children to also use their own language.

"They want us to live like Chinese people but we will never agree," said a 48-year-old woman in a red jacket and brown head scarf, who declined to give her name. "If we move into the government apartments, there are no courtyards and no sun. Women will need to cover up to go outside and we will have to spend money to finish decorating our rooms. This is our land. We have not bought it from the government."

A 60-year-old man with a neat beard and a wool hat expressed his disapproval as he walked to evening prayers along a narrow road that would soon be widened to 20 feet under the government's plan. "If the government gives me money, I will go. Everybody is unhappy about this, but government is government, we can do nothing," he said.

For now, community service officers are visiting families one by one, urging them to come to their offices and discuss compensation plans for moving out. "Let's see when they bring the bulldozers," the woman in the red jacket said. "We will talk then."

Chinese officials in Kashgar could not be reached for comment. Chinese authorities are often criticized for not being sensitive to groups outside their own majority ethnic Han culture. During the Olympic Games, for example, officials could not understand objections to their use of Han Chinese models and actors to stand in for members of China's minority tribes.

Large-scale, raw-earth building complexes are rare, according to Wu Dianting, a professor of regional planning at Beijing Normal University's School of Geography, who did field research in Kashgar last year.

"The buildings are very scientific. They are warm in winter and cold in summer. The technology used saves material and is environmentally protective," Wu said.

The old town is also one of the few authentic representations of Uighur culture left, he said. "The old town also reflects the Muslim culture of the Uighurs very well -- it has the original taste and flavor without any changes," he said. "Here, Uighur culture is attached to those raw earth buildings. If they are torn down, the affiliated culture will be destroyed."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Uighur Guantanamo detainees seek contempt charge for US defense secretary

Uighur Guantanamo detainees seek contempt charge for US defense secretary

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Uighur Guantanamo detainees seek contempt charge for US defense secretary
Lucas Tanglen at 11:45 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Lawyers for five Uighur [JURIST news archive] detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] on Friday moved [motion, PDF; similar motion in related case] to have Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile; JURIST news archive] held in contempt after failing to have them freed or transferred. The motions refer to a June 2008 order [JURIST report] from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] requiring that the Uighurs be transferred, released, or given a new Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT). The motions state that Gates has conceded that the government will not convene a new CSRT and claims that the difficulty of finding a proper country for transfer is a problem of the government's making. Since there is no dispute that Gates is able to comply with the order, the motions argue, he should be held in contempt. The motions assert that deferring to Gates' status as an officer in the executive branch would render the judicial power "hollow."

US Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters Wednesday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] would consider accepting [JURIST report] in the US the 17 Uighur detainees who have been cleared for release. The DOJ has declined to repatriate the Uighurs despite Chinese demands [JURIST report] because they could face torture upon their return. On Monday, Holder and other top officials from the Obama administration met with leaders [JURIST report] from the European Union (EU) [official website] to discuss plans to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay. In February, Sweden's Migration Court granted asylum [judgment, PDF, in Swedish; JURIST report] to a former Uighur Guantanamo detainee. Munich, Germany, home to a sizeable Uighur community, has expressed willingness to welcome the 17 Uighurs [Local report]. In 2006, Albania granted asylum [JURIST report] to five Uighurs after their release from Guantanamo.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Uyghur American Association welcomes Attorney General Holder’s remarks on the possibility of releasing Guantanamo Uyghurs into the United States

Uyghur American Association welcomes Attorney General Holder’s remarks on the possibility of releasing Guantanamo Uyghurs into the United States

For immediate release
March 19, 2009, 5:00 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) welcomes Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks regarding the possibility of freeing the 17 Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo into the United States. UAA urges the Obama administration to prioritize the resettlement of the 17 men, and stands ready to provide assistance to the men to help them integrate into American society.

Attorney General Holder’s comments to reporters on March 18 were the first public statements on the part of an Obama administration official regarding the possibility of releasing the 17 Uyghurs onto American soil. Recent statements on the part of German and Portuguese government officials have also indicated interest in resettling the Uyghurs in their respective countries. UAA hopes that any among the 17 men who are not brought to the United States will be released to another Western democracy.

“I thank the Obama administration for this very encouraging statement,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. “The administration’s refusal to send the Guantanamo Uyghurs to China shows its faith in the Uyghur-American community and its recognition of the dire consequences these men would face at the hands of the Chinese government.”

None of the 22 Uyghurs originally detained in Guantanamo were picked up on a battlefield, and most were captured by Pakistani bounty hunters and sold to American forces for $5,000 each. Since their detention, the U.S. government has determined that all of the Uyghurs are non-enemy combatants. Five Uyghurs were released into Albania in 2006, but no third country has expressed willingness to accept the 17 men remaining in Guantanamo, reportedly due at least in part to Chinese pressure. As early as 2003, most of the Uyghurs in Guantanamo were cleared for release. U.S. congressional representatives from both sides of the aisle have called for the release of the remaining 17 Uyghurs to the United States.

Chinese government officials have engaged in intensive lobbying to seek the return of the Uyghurs to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). UAA believes the 17 men would face a high risk of torture and execution if they were returned to the PRC. The execution of Uyghur political prisoners is common, and Uyghurs in Chinese government custody often suffer from physical abuse and other maltreatment.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Holder says some Uighur detainees could go to US

Holder says some Uighur detainees could go to US

By DEVLIN BARRETT – 3 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder says some Chinese Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay are being considered for release in the United States.

During an interview Wednesday, Holder was asked whether members of a group of Uighurs (WEE'-gurz) at the U.S. military detention facility in Cuba could be released on American soil. He said it was a possibility.

The United States has cleared 17 of the Uighurs for release from Guantanamo, but insists it will not hand them over to China because the Uighurs fear they will be tortured.

Holder said the Justice Department is trying to come up with destinations for the Uighurs. The department is leading the government effort to close the Guantanamo Bay detention site for terrorist suspects.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Munich wants Chinese Gitmo detainees

Munich wants Chinese Gitmo detainees

Published: 17 Mar 09 08:02 CET

The German city of Munich, best known for Bayern Munich, lederhosen and the Oktoberfest beer festival, is also home to the world's largest community of Uighurs, an ethnic minority from China's extreme west.

And the southern city, Germany's third largest, is also the first city in the world to say it is prepared to take in 17 Uighurs held in US terrorist prison Guantanamo Bay for seven years, although they were cleared of any wrongdoing.

The city council passed a resolution in February in favour of accepting the 17 because human rights groups believe they face torture if they return to China, where authorities regard them as "Chinese terrorists."

The Uighurs - members of a Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority from Xinjiang in the far West of China -- were captured in Afghanistan but have since been cleared by Washington. The detainees have become something of a diplomatic headache as the US refuses to hand them over to China.

By agreeing to accept the group, Munich intends to send an "early signal" to the German government, in case US President Barack Obama asks Germany to take them in, according to the city's Social Democrat mayor, Christian Ude.

Asgar Can, vice-president of the World Uighur Congress, told AFP the Uighurs have a good chance of being accepted in Munich when the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison closes, which Obama has pledged to do by early 2010.

"Our community is very well integrated. That's our trump card when it comes to taking in the Guanatanamo Uighurs," he said.

Speaking in his office near Munich train station, close to the "Taklamakan" fast food restaurant specialising in Uighur noodles, Asgar Can explained: "the Uighur community here is the biggest in the world."

"There are a lot of Uighurs in the US but not concentrated in one town," he said, adding that 500 of Germany's 600 Uighurs call Munich home.

Human rights groups, as well as certain politicians, have also called for the Uighurs to be accepted in Germany.
"It's a humanitarian duty to allow these people to live freely," said Christoph Straesser, human rights spokesman for Germany's Social-Democrat party.

"Guantanamo is an American problem but its closure should not fail because we do not know what to do with the detainees," said conservative Günter Nooke, in charge of human rights issues for the federal government in Berlin.

Despite this support, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has been more reticent about promising to take in Guantanamo prisoners. Some rights groups say that countries are unwilling to accept the Uighurs for fear of touching sensitive nerves in Beijing.

"The European Union and Germany should not let themselves be influenced by China when it comes to human rights issues," said Asgar Can. "These people are innocent after all." In China, the Uighur minority suffers the same fate as their Tibetan cousins, he added.

"But we do not have the Dalai Lama. Nor do we have Hollywood stars to defend our cause in all four corners of the world," he said.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

EU talks Guantánamo with US

EU talks Guantánamo with US
Published: Tuesday 17 March 2009 10:43 UTC
Last updated: Tuesday 17 March 2009 11:03 UTC
The European Union is holding talks with the United States to explore the possibility of taking in prisoners from Guantánamo Bay. EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot and Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer have travelled to Washington for the talks.

President Barack Obama has promised to close down the military prison camp, but the fate of the remaining 245 inmates has yet to be decided. The EU regards Guantánamo Bay as Washington's problem and wants to know why the inmates cannot be held in the United States. A number of individual member states, including Spain, Italy and France, have said they are prepared to take in small numbers of inmates under strict conditions.

The German city of Munich has announced its willingness to take in a group of 17 Uighurs arrested in Afghanistan in 2001. The group was allowed to leave Guantánamo two years ago, but there was nowhere for them to go. The Uighurs are an Islamic minority in the far west of China. Munich is home to the largest Uighur community in Western Europe.


Monday, March 16, 2009

EU officials hold US talks on Guantanamo inmates

EU officials hold US talks on Guantanamo inmates

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Two top EU officials opened talks here Monday on eventually taking in scores of inmates from the Guantanamo Bay military jail which the US administration aims to close in the coming months.

EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot and Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, were meeting with top officials including Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder heads a task force charged by President Barack Obama with closing the remote jail in southern Cuba which still holds some 245 prisoners rounded up in the controversial "war on terror" launched by the previous administration.

Some 60 prisoners have already been cleared for release, and the talks here were set to focus on how the 27-nation EU bloc could welcome some of them.

A minority of EU countries -- France, Italy, Portugal and Spain -- have said they might be ready to host Guantanamo prisoners under strict conditions.

Few if any of the detainees cleared for release are EU citizens, and Brussels wants to know exactly why they cannot be hosted by the United States.

"There is a very deep wariness on the part of EU interior ministers, who are concerned about the difficulties of hosting one or another inmate. To do that, we need to know a lot about the candidates," Barrot told AFP last week.

The case of 17 Chinese Uighurs has become emblematic of the problem of rehousing the prisoners, many of whom cannot be returned to their home countries as they face repression there.

The Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority who were arrested in Afghanistan in October 2001, have been held at Guantanamo for six years, even though they were cleared in 2003 of any charges.

Washington is refusing to return them to China fearing they would be persecuted by the Chinese authorities, but no other country wants to take them in for fear of angering Beijing.

The Justice Department did not want to comment ahead of the discussions early Monday, but Barrot was due to give a press conference later in the day.

The two EU officials were also to meet with Senator Joe Lieberman, the independent who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

And on Tuesday, they will meet with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other Obama advisors at the White House.

"We have questions and we are going to test the level of cooperation from the US authorities. We will verify all the information obtained, particularly about the exact nature of the US request" for the EU to host detainees, Barrot told AFP last week.

EU nations regularly called for the closure of the notorious jail, where "war on terror" prisoners have been held often without charge or trial, and have welcomed Obama's decision to finally shut it down.

But national laws differ widely among the EU countries and they are struggling to define a common position on how best to help. In the past, US authorities have routinely proved reluctant to hand over intelligence data.

Barrot and Langer were also to raise the issue of visa policy, as citizens from five European countries -- Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Cyprus -- are still required to obtain a visa before traveling to the United States.

Also at issue was a potential agreement with Washington on protecting personal data, which Barrot considered a "condition to any cooperation in the fight against terror and organized crime."

Obama Should Be Gutsier on Guantanamo

Obama Should Be Gutsier on Guantanamo

By Eva Rodriguez

The time has come for President Obama to be truly gutsy. A high-level delegation from the European Union met today with members of the Obama administration to discuss the future shuttering of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The White House should now prove that its rhetorical support for closing the camp is more than mere propaganda by declaring its intention to accept at least a few detainees into the United States.

Some European allies are said to be getting antsy about helping the administration on Guantanamo. It is unclear, for example, what level of oversight American authorities will ask host countries to provide for any detainees they accept. And how can these countries be asked -- or even pushed -- to take in former detainees when the United States has thus far failed to make the same commitment? If the United States is too wary of former detainees to allow them in why should friendly countries take on the risk? This is where the gutsy part comes in.

Even before Obama took office, the Bush administration concluded that 17 Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, detained at Guantanamo should not continue to be held as enemy combatants. China has an ugly tradition of abusing the Uighur community, which has long fought for independence. So the Bush administration could not send the men back for fear that they'd be persecuted.

The International Uighur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation, a reputable organization based in the Washington area, has said it would help those allowed into the U.S. Obama should take advantage of this ready support system and order that one or two of the 17 detainees be given asylum. Such a move would not only help this country right some of the wrongs inflicted on these men, but it could help legitimately squeamish allies once again enthusiastically rally around the cause of closing Guantanamo.

So far, the administration has made grand verbal pronouncements that have amounted to little practical change. Just days after his inauguration, Obama declared that he would close Guantanamo. But contrary to the impression he left during the campaign, the dismantling of the camp would not come swiftly. The Justice Department just last week dropped what could have been mistaken for a legal bombshell when it announced in court documents that it would no longer label those held at Guantanamo as "enemy combatants" and that the administration had changed some of the terms for holding detainees. Obama now requires that only those who "substantially supported" al Qaeda or the Taliban or who "directly supported" armed hostilities against the United States be held -- just a slight toughening of the standards in place during the Bush administration. Obama has also stuck to Bush-era policies concerning state secrets doctrine and opposing federal court review of the cases of those held at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.

While some have criticized the administration's refusal to toss all Bush-era terrorism policies out the window, Obama's caution has come as a relief to me. Policies should be discarded only after careful and thoughtful review. And there's little doubt that President Obama has access to a heck of a lot more national security information -- and thus a more realistic view of actual threats -- than did candidate Obama. The president is right to move slowly. But there is no such justification for dragging out the Uighur case, where even the Bush administration conceded the time has long past to give these men back their freedom.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gitmo Special Envoy Highlights Obama’s Prisoner Problem

Gitmo Special Envoy Highlights Obama’s Prisoner Problem
By Daphne Eviatar 3/12/09 10:47 AM

Reports that the Obama administration will appoint the assistant secretary of state for European affairs under the Bush administration, Daniel Fried, as a special envoy on the Guantanamo Bay prison suggest the Obama administration is at least trying to deal with the question of what to do with many of the detainees who are not dangerous but can’t go home. But while the news is being portrayed in the mainstream media as a sign of President Obama’s serious approach to the problem, lawyers for some of the detainees say the administration’s handling of their client’s habeas corpus cases actually suggests a disturbing reluctance to break from past policies.

The kind of prisoners Fried (who DailyKos notes defended the Bush rendition policy to European allies) will probably be trying to resettle are those like the 17 Uighurs — the Chinese Muslims who’ve been cleared for release but can’t return home to China, where they’d likely be persecuted. But they aren’t being allowed into the United States, either. This is despite a federal judge’s recent order that the Uighurs be released into the United States, because the U.S. government had offered no evidence to justify their continued detentions.

But a federal appeals court reversed that ruling, finding that the federal courts don’t have the authority to release a prisoner into the United States — only the president and the Department of Homeland Security can do that. (The reasoning is that now they’re illegal aliens without immigration clearance.) So, why isn’t Obama letting them go?

The fact that congressional Republicans from Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida have introduced legislation to prevent detainees from even being transferred to prisons in their states offers some clue.

Back when President Bush was in charge, the Uighurs had become a global embarrassment and a cause celebre — even prominent conservatives were pleading with the Bush administration to release them into the United States, where Uighur families in the Washington, D.C. area were willing to take them in.

Now that the Obama administration has pledged to close down Gitmo and move the prisoners to appropriate places, he’s still not letting the Uighurs — or anyone else for that matter — into the United States. The Obama Justice Department is now even trying to stop their habeas corpus petitions from moving forward.

In the administration’s most recent move earlier this week, it asked the federal district court handling Guantanamo prisoner cases to halt all the habeas corpus cases of prisoners cleared for release, telling the judge it’s really up to the president, not the court, to decide what to do with them. After all, that recent appeals court decision said the judge doesn’t have the power to order them released anyway.

Guantanamo detainee defense lawyer David Remes is dismayed by this latest move in his clients’ cases.

“We come full circle,” said Remes, executive director of Appeal for Justice, a nonprofit legal organization focusing on the detainee cases, in an email yesterday. “First, the government argued that the courts have no jurisdiction to entertain the prisoners’ habeas cases,” he said, referring to the Bush administration’s early arguments about Guantanamo prisoners. “The Supreme Court shot that argument down in Rasul,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court case, Rasul v. Bush.

“Then, the government argued that even if the courts have jurisdiction, the prisoners have no rights. The Court shot that argument down in Boumediene,” another landmark Supreme Court case. “Now, the Obama DOJ, like the Bush DOJ before it, is arguing that even if the court has jurisdiction, and the prisoner has rights, there’s nothing a court can do to enforce those rights, because the president alone controls whether a prisoner shall be released. Of course, a right without a remedy is not a right.”

For some 60 Gitmo prisoners who’ve been cleared for release, all this just means they have to wait longer before they’ll be let go — and it’s still not clear to where.

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder also named two longtime government lawyers to direct task forces to analyze detention issues: J. Douglas Wilson, a senior federal prosecutor in California, and Brad Wiegmann, a senior Justice Department national security lawyer. The fact that Wiegmann was a national security lawyer in the Bush administration might not bode well for those looking for big policy changes.

Here’s more background on Wilson and Wiegmann from Daily Kos.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Clinton 'very encouraged' by EU stance on Guantanamo inmates

Clinton 'very encouraged' by EU stance on Guantanamo inmates

Wed Mar 4, 6:08 pm ET

Clinton 'very encouraged' by EU stance on Guantanamo inmates AFP – Belgium Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht (L) welcomes US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before a 'transatlantic' …

BRUSSELS (AFP) – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that she was very encouraged by the position of European nations on hosting inmates from Guantanamo prison, which Washington has moved to close.

"I am very encouraged by what I have heard," she told reporters travelling with her to Brussels on a two-day visit for talks with EU and NATO officials.

"It is something that we may well come back to them about, once we finish our own internal work on this issue," she said.

EU nations have welcomed President Barack Obama's decision to close the detention centre at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and are keen to help Washington do so.

However, due to widely differing laws among the 27 EU countries, they are struggling to define a common position on how best to help, as they await an official request to accept former inmates.

A high-level EU delegation will travel to Washington on March 16-17 to find out exactly how US authorities decided that around 60 of the more than 240 prisoners could be released and why they cannot be hosted by the United States.

"We have been quite encouraged at the positive, receptive responses we have been getting, but we are not ready to go yet and actually make specific requests," Clinton said.

The former prisoners might have to be transferred elsewhere because they could face the death penalty at home, while others could be tried in US courts. Some may prove impossible to try, transfer or release.

A minority of EU countries -- France, Italy, Portugal and Spain -- have said they might be ready to accept former prisoners under strict conditions.

The bloc is also examining other options, like providing funds to other nations which might be prepared to host them.

Almost none of the remaining detainees are European citizens, and member countries could demand to conduct an independent assessment of the security risk they might pose, using US intelligence.

Should they be accepted, the former prisoners could be granted restricted residency status, possibly limiting their movement within the Schengen no borders area or imposing surveillance measures.

Those could also be granted refugee or protection status for one to three years, and steps could be taken to help them integrate.

The EU also wants reassurance that other inmates would not be transferred to another, possibly similar and equally contentious facility, like the Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Alienated in Xinjiang

Alienated in Xinjiang

Joshua Kurlantzick, National Post Published: Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Related Topics

Uighur Muslim worshipers attend an early afternoon prayer session at the Kashgar Idgah mosque in Xinjiang province.

Nir Elias, ReutersUighur Muslim worshipers attend an early afternoon prayer session

at the Kashgar Idgah mosque in Xinjiang province.

In October, in a landmark decision, a U. S. federal judge ordered the White House to release 17 men, Muslim Uighurs from China, from Guantanamo Bay into the U. S. For six years, after they were swept up while studying in Afghanistan, the U. S. had held them at Guantanamo, though they'd long ago been cleared of being "enemy combatants." If released to China, they could be treated as dissidents and tortured or killed, and Washington had thus far failed to find another nation to take them.

The decision quickly met both cheers and fears. Among human rights advocates, the release proved a great victory, since the men clearly were not terrorists yet were suffering in prison camp. For its part, the Bush administration quickly warned the decision could allow actual hardcore militants at Guantanamo to also demand to be freed to the U. S. The White House obtained an emergency stay of the Uighurs' release and appealed the decision, though it remains unclear what President Obama, who has vowed to close Guantanamo Bay, plans to do with them.

But inside Xinjiang itself, the vast western region of China home to most Uighurs, a Muslim people ethnically close to the Turkic nations of Central Asia, virtually no one would have heard this news anyway. For while eastern China develops into a land of factories, fast cars and five-dollar lattes, far-western Xinjiang, a land more reminiscent of the Middle East than the Middle Kingdom, remains stuck in the totalitarian China of the past. While China becomes freer, in Xinjiang the heavy hand of the Chinese state still dominates people's lives, even controlling their personal religious beliefs -- and actually sparking local anger and, potentially, terrorism China long has feared.

In many ways, Xinjiang towns like Kashgar, a historic trading post near the border with Central Asia, barely resemble China. For centuries, Xinjiang, a landmass larger than much of Western Europe, was more closely tied to Central Asia. The Uighurs even had an independent state in the early 20th century. Today, in the historic central square of Kashgar, Uighur men still look West, rather than East to Beijing, for their cues; as the call of the mosque rings out, they congregate in back alleys, chewing over Iranian-style nan flat breads and haggling over hand-woven rugs.

Most Uighurs also have little interaction with their Chinese peers -- Kashgar itself is essentially divided into Uighur and Chinese areas. "I didn't really know any Chinese [students] in high school," one Uighur girl told me in Kashgar, though her classes were nearly half Chinese. "The only time the boys would meet them was when they fought."

These fights are hardly unique. For years, Uighurs have simmered against rule by Beijing. In the early-1990s, this anger exploded into large-scale street protests in several Uighur cities. Worried, China launched new policies in an attempt to better integrate Xinjiang into the rest of the country.

But Beijing's policies designed to pacify Xinjiang have backfired. In the past decade, as part of a multi-billion-dollar campaign called "Develop the West," China has encouraged vast domestic and foreign investment in Xinjiang and other western provinces, while building a modern rail and road network through the province.

Today, the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi looks like a bizarre combination of modern-day Denver and a medieval town. Against the backdrop of vast plains, new hotels and neon-lit skyscrapers now dominate Urumqi's downtown. In another part of the city, next to a new supermarket selling imported cheese and coffee, Uighurs trade handmade pots and sheep's head soup off the back of donkey carts.

Develop the West, unfortunately, has not benefited many Uighurs. As part of the program, the government has used a range of incentives to encourage westward migration by Han Chinese, who staff the new construction projects sprawling across the arid moonscape of Xinjiang's vast deserts. While Uighurs once made up over 90% of the province's population, today they comprise less than half, according to several estimates.

Now, Chinese traders and migrant workers dominate much of the economy of cities like Urumqi, even dressing up like Uighurs to appeal to Chinese tourists, who come for a glimpse of their "Old West" like Americans visiting the frontier in the 19th century. On the dusty ring roads surrounding the city, Uighur beggars sleep in alleys or stop motorists for tiny bills. According to one study by the Asian Development Bank, Xinjiang has the worst income inequality of any province in China -- a significant feat, given that supposedly "communist" China now boasts income inequality rivaling some of the most stratified Latin American nations.

Westward migration and construction also has damaged Xinjiang's fragile, arid environment, making life even tougher for local farmers trying to grow grapes and the sweet local Hami melons famed across China. Indeed, a study of Xinjiang's environmental woes by the NGO Human Rights in China found drying-up lakes, destroyed water reservoirs and other catastrophes. A recent petroleum boom in Xinjiang -- local gas production has more than doubled since 2000 -- will probably make these pollution problems far worse.

The local government also practices a subtle form of discrimination. Though Beijing reserves some government-linked jobs for Uighurs, people throughout Xinjiang told me that, at higher levels, all major positions are given only to ethnic Chinese. One study, by the Washington-based Congressional-Executive Commission on China, found that one of the organs of the local government in Xinjiang reserved 800 out of 840 positions for ethnic Chinese.

Unlike in other parts of China, where rules on personal freedom became relaxed over the past decade, in Xinjiang Beijing has retained draconian Mao-era controls. Fearing that Uighur anger will turn into radical Islam, despite no history of radicalism in the region -- many Uighurs I met downed cheap local alcohol, mixing it with soda or ice -- Beijing tightly monitors and restricts prayer. At mosques in the province, Uighurs told me, Beijing closely watches and often handpicks imams. Unlike in other parts of China, government workers in Xinjiang are not allowed to practise their religion.

According to one comprehensive report on Xinjiang by Human Rights Watch, Chinese security forces often arrest Uighur activists -- even though they have no extremist religious links -- torture them and even kill them, sometimes in public executions more reminiscent of the Taliban than modern Chinese cities like Beijing. In recent months, Beijing even has enacted new laws limiting Uighurs' ability to teach Islam to children.

China's strategy has only made the Uighurs more alienated. With the influx of Chinese migrants, Uighur small businesses in Xinjiang cities are failing, and the petroleum boom has resulted in few local hires and little revenue sent back to the province. New construction in towns like Kashgar has decimated old Uighur homes, mud-brick buildings with maze-like interior courtyards. On one visit to Kashgar, I wandered through the older, Uighur section of town, only to find many of the adobe-like homes marked for destruction. The next time I returned, most of the old courtyard homes were gone.

In some ways, the White House under George W. Bush, while publicly expressing support for the Uighurs' rights, actually helped Beijing repress them. To enlist China's support in the global war on terror, in 2002 the White House agreed to list an obscure Uighur organization, ETIM, on the State Department's roll of global terrorist networks, alongside such real threats as al-Qaeda. Beijing began using the U. S. action as pretext to enact even tighter controls in Xinjiang.

And when the Uighurs first arrived at Guantanamo, the Bush administration allowed Chinese intelligence officials to question them, according to transcripts of the Uighurs' military tribunals that I obtained--even though the State Department has repeatedly criticized Chinese intelligence for its harsh treatment of detainees. By locking them in Guantanamo, the administration essentially branded the men as terrorists, whether or not they were actually guilty --a decision that only made it harder to find any country to take them as refugees.

Ironically, after years of falsely seeing terrorism in every Uighur protest, today China may actually face a real terror threat. During the first week of the Beijing Olympics, militants launched a series of attacks in Xinjiang. In the most stunning demonstration, one group of militants allegedly rammed a bus into a police post in Kashgar and set off explosives before jumping out and stabbing the police, killing 16 people. Then, militants bombed areas of Kuqa, another town in Xinjiang.

Unfortunately, after failing to pacify Xinjiang when the region faced no terror threat, Beijing now has no idea how to combat real terror. Cracking skulls has not allowed Chinese forces to gain access to terror cells -- one reason why even Chinese officials admit they know little about Uighur militant organizations that may be forming. Indeed, Beijing's repression actually may be creating what it long has feared -- real, well-organized Uighur militant groups, which clearly did not exist in the past.

jkurlantzick@ceip.org - Joshua Kurlantzick is a fellow at the Pacific Council on International Policy and author of Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World.