Sunday, October 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 02, 2009

China's Minority Problem--And Ours

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

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

The Bernard L. Schwartz Fellows Program

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