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.

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