Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

Hong Kong bishop suspects Chinese Catholic ‘suppression’ to continue despite Vatican pact

October 3, 2018

Hong Kong’s leading Catholic cleric said on Wednesday that he feared continued suppression of Catholics in mainland China despite a landmark accord struck last month between the Vatican and Beijing’s Communist Party leadership.

Michael Yeung, the Bishop of Hong Kong, said it would take time to address issues beyond the appointment of bishops agreed in the accord. These included the release of detained clerics and full free expression of religious belief in China.

Michael Yeung. Photo: By Sam Tsang/SCMP

The details of the provisional agreement, which gives the Vatican its long-desired approval of the appointment of bishops in China, have not been made public by either side.

Yeung, whose Hong Kong diocese has for decades served as a free Catholic beachhead on the edge of an officially atheist China, said he had not seen the details.

“I don’t think the signing of this provisional agreement means the solution of everything. It takes time, it will take a few years to see,” he told Reuters in a rare interview.

“A provisional agreement could not stop the suppression, could not stop the churches being torn down and the young folks under 18 still not allowed to go to church. These things will take time to solve,” he said.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not respond immediately to a faxed request for comment. The country is mostly closed for the Golden Week holiday.

Yeung urged China to provide information about priests and bishops detained on the mainland, some of whom are elderly and held for decades.

A Reuters report on Sunday cited three sources familiar with the matter who said the plight of the detained clergy remains unresolved and Beijing has provided little clear information about their fate.

Yeung said many Hong Kong Catholics had been praying for one of the longest held, Bishop James Su Zhimin, who was arrested in 1997 in Hebei province and would now be 86 years old.

“Whether he is in prison, or kept secret in some other place, or whether he has already died, nobody really knows,” he said.

Su was part of the underground church, which has been loyal to the Pope for decades – a movement that some critics of the accord fear will be crushed by the state-backed official church that has at times previously chosen its own bishops.

The deal allows for the Pope to approve bishops first selected by church communities and the Chinese authorities, meaning China’s 12 million Catholics split between the two camps must now effectively integrate.

Despite his concerns, Yeung said he supported the deal, saying that after years of trouble and talks it was vital to agree on something and move forward.

The soft-spoken Shanghai-born cleric, who took office in August last year, said he and his Hong Kong flock ultimately had to put their trust in God and the Pope.

Yeung said he had advised Pope Francis to strike a deal during an audience at the Vatican in August, but had also stressed the need for caution.

“I said…Holy Father, move forward, don’t be afraid but be cautious,” Yeung said.

“It is like crossing a river which you have never crossed before. You have to test the depth of the water, you have to touch the stones.”

(Reporting By Greg Torode; Editing by Darren Schuettler)



Nigeria: Boko Haram commander was killed by his comrades after discussing surrender to the Nigerian military

October 2, 2018

A Boko Haram commander was killed by his comrades over his alleged plan to surrender and handover hundreds of hostages to the Nigerian military, two sources told AFP on Sunday.

Ali Gaga was shot and killed on Thursday by other commanders in the ISIS-affiliated faction of Boko Haram after they uncovered his plan to surrender to Nigerian troops fighting the jihadist group in the Lake Chad region.

Gaga had arranged to rescue 300 hostages being held by the Islamists and hand them over to troops before turning himself in.

His death comes after the group’s de facto leader Mamman Nur was killed by radical lieutenants who accused him of betrayal and back channel peace talks with authorities, sparking fears of a hardline takeover in Boko Haram.

Image result for Gaga, Nigeria, Boko Haram, photos

Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they captured from Boko Haram

“The new leadership of the faction got to know of his plans and executed him,” said one source about Gaga, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ali Gaga (Center)

Gaga was forced to join the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in 2015 after the group seized his herd of cattle, the source said.

After joining the group he was trained in weapons handling and valued because of his mastery of the difficult terrain as a herder.

He was in touch with some mediators and had concluded arrangements to switch sides and “take along around 300 hostages with him when the group found out”, said a second source.

“Once they found out he was declared a traitor and killed.”

The Nigerian military has in recent weeks intensified aerial bombings in the Lake Chad region where ISWAP is based, military sources told AFP.

Last week an ISWAP high profile commander called Abu-Nura was killed in one of the aerial strikes on SabonTumbu village, the second source said.

Abu-Nura was in charge of Jibillaram-Dabar Masara axis in the Lake Chad region, the source said.

According to the source, a new commander in the name of Abu-Imrana has been appointed as a replacement.

More than 27 000 people are thought to have been killed in the nine-year Boko Haram insurgency that has triggered a humanitarian crisis and left 1.8 million people still without homes.



Nigeria: Factional Boko Haram Leader Mamman Nur Killed By Own Fighters

A damaged Boko Haram vehicle after a battle between the insurgents and troops of 145 Battalion, Operation LAFIYA DOLE in Damasak, Borno State on Wednesday night, where many Boko Haram members were killed

The factional leader of the Boko Haram loyal to Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) Mamman Nur has been killed by his fighters who rebelled against him, sources with ample knowledge of the group told the Daily Trust.

Nur, the brain behind the ties between Boko Haram and the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi led Islamic State, was reportedly killed by his closest lieutenants on August 21. He had in 2014 led the rebellion against Abubakar Shekau, which saw the emergence of Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawy faction of the group.

Image result for Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram, photos


The breakaway faction which moved to shores of Lake Chad region in Northern Borno was later recognised by the Al-Baghdadi.

The new leader Al-Barnawy, whose real name is Habib, is the son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in 2009.

One of our sources said, “Mamman Nur, who was killed on August 21, is the actual leader of the Boko Haram faction after they parted ways with Shekau. He (Nur) only put Habib in the front as shadow leader because of his father (Mohammed Yusuf).

“The name Al-Barnawy is only being heard as symbolic leader; he was meant to lead so that followers would remain committed to the cause championed by his late father but he (Nur) is the major link of the faction with the Islamic State; the chief strategist around Lake Chad, including their cells in Nigeria, Niger and Chad,” he said.

Why Nur was killed

Another source told the Daily Trust that Mamman Nur was killed after long period of disagreement with his subordinates who established “relative authority and contacts” over the years.

According to him, “The commanders became disenchanted with Nur’s style of leadership; they saw him as not as rough as Shekau.

“They followed him in staging the revolt because the argument back in 2014 was that Shekau was a hardliner who killed almost everyone, both Muslims and Christians who disagreed with his brand of Islam.

“But according to some of the fighters, after establishing his base in Lake Chad, Mamman Nur too ‘deviated from the real course’ and compromised on so many occasions,” he said.

He said a major disagreement broke after the release of the some 100 girls abducted in a secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe State, in March.

“The negotiation of the release of the girls did not go down well with some close associates of Mamman Nur who released the girls unconditionally, following a directive by Al-Baghdadi,” the source said.

“Nothing was paid before the girls were released and besides, Mamman Nur’s soft approach and close contact to governments and different levels angered his foot soldiers who rebelled against him and thereafter executed him,” he said.

 Image result for chad, nigeria, niger map

It was learnt that Al-Barnawy had also lost firm control of the group which is now under the “guidance” of a certain commander.

“The man in charge of all the cells in the Lake Chad region is the former commander of the fighters who was directly under the control of late Mamman Nur,” he said.

A security expert, Major Salihu Bakari, told the Daily Trust yesterday that the upsurge in Boko Haram attacks in Northern Borno might not be unconnected with the change of leadership.

“The truth is Mamman Nur had lost control long before he was killed; the factional group was taken over by hardliners who share a lot in common with the Shekau faction who’s landmarks include kidnapping, assault, abductions for ransom and other atrocities,” he said.

He said the new group had recently attacked many army facilities in northern Borno and also captured individuals for ransom.

“They want ransom to continue financing their activities; I think their demands for high ransom is what is delaying the release of many abductees, including the female health workers that were captured in Rann in Kala-Balge Local Government Area of Borno State,” he said.

The Nigerian military has yet to confirm the killing of Mamman Nur.

However, on January 6 this year, the military said the wife of Mamman Nur was killed when troops attacked the group’s location in the Lake Chad region.

The spokesman of the Operation Lafiya Dole Theatre Command in Maiduguri, Onyema Nwachukwu, said at the time that about 250 Boko Haram fighters on the side of Mamman Nur had surrendered.

The announcement came hours after the military declared Nur as “fatally injured” during an operation.

Daily Trust recalled that in in September 2011, the Department of State Service (DSS) placed a N25 million bounty on Mamman Nur, a close ally of Mohamed Yusuf and Shekau, who was accused of masterminding the bombing of the UN building in Abuja.

Military kills many insurgents in Damasak

In a related development, the military said troops of the Operation Lafiya Dole have engaged Boko Haram militants and killed many of them.

It added troops pursued others who attacked a military location in Damasak, the headquarters of Mobbar Local Government area in Northern part of Borno State.

It was gathered that the incident occurred on Wednesday.

The insurgents reportedly besieged the military facility in full force with the intention to dislodge soldiers of the 145 Battalion from their location but were repelled.

Army spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Texas Chukwu, said in a statement yesterday that, “the terrorists were subdued following a superior fire power of troops in Damasak.

“The Nigerian Army wishes to state that, 145 Battalion deployed in Operation LAFIYA DOLE at DAMASAK, Mobar Local Government Area of Borno State on 12 September 2018, inflicted many casualties on the Boko Haram Terrorists and their weapons as well as vehicles were captured and some were destroyed during the encounter.

“Seven members of the terrorists group were neutralised during the encounter while others flee into the nearby bush. Items recovered include: two vehicles; one anti-aircraft gun; four AK 47 rifles; seven magazines; two hand grenades; one bayonet; 47 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition; 174 rounds of 7.62mm NATO ammunition,” he said.

He said efforts are on by the troops to get other fleeing members of the group, even as he announced that seven soldiers sustained injuries during the attack.

German city of Cologne braces for protests as Erdogan opens mega mosque

September 29, 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to open one of Europe’s largest mosques in Cologne on Saturday as he wraps up a controversial visit to Germany, with police deploying in force amid planned protests.

The inauguration will be the closing event of his three-day state visit, aimed at repairing frayed ties with Berlin after two years of tensions.

Cars passing the new central mosque in Cologne, Germany, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (AP)

After talks with Angela Merkel on Friday, both leaders signalled their interest in a cautious rapprochement, but the German chancellor stressed that “deep differences” remained on civil rights and other issues.

Some 10,000 Erdogan critics are expected to take to the streets in Cologne, protesting everything from Turkey’s record on human rights and press freedom to its treatment of minority Kurds.

About 300 people had gathered on the bank of the Rhine early Saturday. They held banners proclaiming “Erdogan not welcome” and shouted slogans such as “International solidarity” and “Away with fascism.”
Cansu, a 30-year-old student of Turkish origin came from Switzerland for the rally.

“I want to be the voice of people who can’t take to the streets in Turkey. Because they have been arrested, killed or otherwise suppressed. Erdogan thinks anything that differs from his opinion is terrorism. I am here to show solidarity.”

Image may contain: 2 people

Credit Getty Images

And Tomas, a German student turned up in a suit spotted with fake blood. He held a giant banner with several other people that read “Dictator. Mass murderer.”

“I can understand that he was invited to Berlin. But that he is coming to Cologne is a provocation. We are here to show: Cologne does not want you,” the 22-year-old said.

Erdogan supporters meanwhile will gather at the Cologne Central Mosque, an imposing dome-shaped building next to the shadowy, Turkish-controlled Ditib organization.

Cologne police said they were bracing for one of their biggest ever deployments, and that a maximum of 5,000 people would be allowed to attend the opening ceremony for safety reasons.

Both Cologne mayor Henriette Reker and the state’s premier Armin Laschet pulled out of attending the opening as criticism of Erdogan’s visit grew.

The snubs echo the lukewarm welcome the Turkish leader received the previous evening at a state dinner hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, which several opposition politicians boycotted. Merkel also skipped the banquet.

Erdogan’s visit on Saturday takes him to North Rhine-Westphalia state, which is home to significant numbers of ethnic Turks, many who moved to Germany as so-called “guest workers” from the 1960s.

The giant Cologne Central Mosque opened its doors in 2017 after eight years of construction and budget overruns. It can house more than a thousand worshippers.

The size of the building, designed to resemble a flower bud opening, and its two towering minarets has disgruntled some locals, triggering occasional protests.

The Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (Ditib) that commissioned the glass and cement structure is itself not without controversy.

The group runs hundreds of mosques across Germany with imams paid by the Turkish state.

Known for its close ties to Ankara, it has increasingly come under scrutiny with some of members suspected of spying on Turkish dissidents living in Germany.


See also:

Turkey-Germany: Erdogan urges Merkel to extradite Gulen ‘terrorists’


Turkey’s Erdogan hopes to ‘turn over new page’ with Germany in state visit

September 27, 2018

After years of strained ties, Erdogan has said he wants to reset relations with Berlin during a pomp and circumstance-filled visit to Germany. But German and Turkish politicians aren’t convinced it will lead to a change.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (picture-alliance/AA/M. Cetinmuhurdar)

When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes to Berlin on Thursday for the start of his three-day state visit to Germany, he will have one goal in mind above all else — de-escalating tensions with his “German friends.”

In a guest op-ed in Thursday’s edition of the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Erdogan urged for Germany and Turkey to “turn over a new page” in their ties.

“It is our responsibility to rationally move our relations forward on the basis of our shared interests, quite apart from irrational fears,” Erdogan wrote.

He also outlined what he believed the German government should do in order to improve ties, including designating the Gulen movement as a terrorist organization, which Ankara blames for a failed 2016 coup. The op-ed also warned against the rise of Islamophobia and right-wing extremism in Germany.

Relations between the two countries have been strained for years, with Berlin concerned about the increasingly autocratic tendencies of Erdogan’s government and the arrests of German citizens in Turkey. According to the German Foreign Office, five Germans are currently political prisoners in Turkey.

But with Ankara now facing off with the United States over Syria and economic sanctions, Turkey has turned to Germany and the European Union in hopes of getting support to stabilize the country.

Boycotting the banquet

During his state visit, which was prompted by an invitation by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Erdogan will be received with military honors on Friday in Berlin followed by a state banquet. Two meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel are also planned. He is also scheduled to meet with Turkish groups in Germany on Thursday.

The banquet has become a political sticking point in recent days, with a number of high-ranking German politicians announcing they will boycott the dinner — though one of Erdogan’s biggest critics, Green party lawmaker Cem Özdemir, has said he will attend so that the Turkish leader will be forced to face his opposition.

Among those not attending is Sevim Dagdelen of the Left party.

“For someone who conducts mafia politics in foreign policy, who pursues opposition politicians and invades neighboring countries, the red carpet with military honors and a state banquet is totally unacceptable,” she told DW.

The chancellor’s office confirmed on Monday that Merkel would not be at the banquet — however, she rarely attends such events.

Turkey ‘too big to fail?’

For Erdogan’s government, the economy is a top priority. Although the president insists Turkey is strong enough to solve its financial problems, rising inflation, unemployment and the weak Turkish Lira suggest otherwise.

“To a certain extent, Turkey is too big to fail in the eyes of German government — which is something that President Erdogan is banking on,” said Kristian Brakel, Turkey expert at the Green-party-associated Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Jürgen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told DW that in order to have better economic relations, Ankara will need to address problems with rule of law and human rights.

“If Turkey hopes for an economic recovery, and if it has any expectations from Germany, the discussion should be about rule of law, not just the economy,” the CDU politician said.

Turkish opposition critical of visit

Erdogan’s critics within the opposition back home see little hope that Germany is interested in focusing on human rights in Turkey. Berlin is also concerned about maintaining a 2016 refugee deal with Turkey to stem the flow of Syrian refugees into European countries.

“Erdogan is going to Germany while crushing human rights, and under these circumstances he is being officially accepted in Germany,” Garo Paylan of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) told DW.

“This normalizes everything he is doing, and Turkey is being accepted as a country that violates human rights. The only goal of this visit is to prevent a buffer country from collapsing,” he added.

Speech at Cologne mosque

Protests against Erdogan’s visit have already started in major German cities, with some 10,000 people expected to take part in a rally in Berlin on Friday. More than 3 million people of Turkish origin live in Germany and Erdogan’s policies have polarized them too, which remains a concern for the German government.

The controversial visit will end in Cologne, where Erdogan is to officially open a mosque belonging to Turkey’s state-funded religious organization DITIB. This time, however, Erdogan won’t be speaking at an arena filled with thousands of people as he did when he visited Germany in 2014.

He may be speaking in a smaller venue, but the media attention Erdogan will receive will be significant — something the Turkish leader will seek to use to his advantage.

“He will exploit this propaganda appearance domestically to show that he is a great celebrated statesman,” Dagdelen said. “The German government has made this possible for him.”

DW’s Hilal Köylü contributed reporting from Ankara.

Hong Kong cardinal accuses Pope Francis of betrayal of the Catholic faith in “sell out to China”

September 22, 2018

A Hong Kong cardinal who has spearheaded opposition to the Vatican’s rapprochement with China called on Thursday for the Pope’s secretary of state to step down, saying any deal with Beijing would amount to a betrayal of the Catholic faith.

The Vatican and China have been in advanced talks this year to forge what would be an historic breakthrough and precursor to a resumption in diplomatic relations after 70 years, with Secretary of State Pietro Parolin among the chief negotiators.

The Vatican may send a delegation to China before the end of this month. If the meeting goes well, the two could reach an agreement on the appointment of bishops, a Chinese state-run newspaper reported earlier this week.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses, child and closeup

Cardinal Joseph Zen

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most senior Catholic cleric on Chinese soil, said he believed the two sides were making a “secret deal”, although he acknowledged he had no connection with the Vatican and was “completely in the dark”.

“They’re giving the flock into the mouths of the wolves. It’s an incredible betrayal,” he said.

He described Parolin, the highest ranking diplomat in the Vatican, as someone who despised heroes of faith.

“He should resign,” Zen told Reuters at his home on a wooded hillside on Hong Kong island.

“I don’t think he has faith. He is just a good diplomat in a very secular, mundane meaning.”

Zen, who at times knocked his knuckles on the table to make a point, stopped short of calling on Pope Francis to step down, saying: “I would not come out to fight the Holy Father, that is my bottom line.”

The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zen’s remarks.

At a time when the Vatican is also under pressure for purportedly covering up a sex abuse scandal in the United States, with one archbishop even calling for the Pope to resign, Zen suggested this China deal would further add to the Church’s vulnerability.

“The consequences will be tragic and long lasting, not only for the church in China but for the whole church because it damages the credibility. Maybe that’s why they might keep the agreement secret.”

China’s roughly 12 million Catholics are split between an underground Church that swears loyalty to the Vatican, and the state-supervised Catholic Patriotic Association.

The potential deal has divided communities of Catholics across China, some of whom fear greater suppression should the Vatican cede greater control to Beijing, but others want to see rapprochement.

Zen said he believed only half the underground church in China would accept a deal and was concerned how the remainder might react.

“I’m afraid they may do something irrational, they may make rebellion,” said 86-year-old Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong and the most outspoken critic of the Pope’s China strategy.

Pope Francis has rejected criticism that the Holy See may be selling out Catholics to Beijing’s communist government.

Zen said he believed any deal with atheist China would deal a significant blow to Pope Francis’ credibility.

“It’s a complete surrender. It’s a betrayal (of our faith). I have no other words, said Zen.

(Reporting by James Pomfret and Anne Marie Roantree; Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome; Editing by Richard Balmforth)



Vatican announces historic deal with China on bishops — “Pope Francis is being crucified in the media”

September 22, 2018

The Vatican on Saturday announced an historic accord with China on the appointment of bishops in the Communist country in what could pave the way for the normalisation of ties between the Catholic Church and the world’s most populous country.

Beijing immediately said it hoped for better relations, while Taiwan said its ties with the Vatican were safe despite the deal with China.

There are an estimated 12 million Catholics in China divided between a government-run association whose clergy are chosen by the Communist Party and an unofficial church which swears allegiance to the Vatican.

Image may contain: George Kokhno, closeup

Pope Francis

The Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with Beijing since 1951, two years after the founding of the communist People’s Republic.

The preliminary agreement with China “has been agreed following a long process of careful negotiation and foresees the possibility of periodic reviews of its application,” the Vatican said in a statement issued as Pope Francis began a visit to the Baltic states.

“It concerns the nomination of Bishops, a question of great importance for the life of the Church, and creates the conditions for greater collaboration at the bilateral level,” it said.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke, speaking in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, told reporters the aim of the accord “is not political but pastoral, allowing the faithful to have bishops who are in communion with Rome but at the same time recognized by Chinese authorities.”

China said the “provisional” agreement was signed in Beijing by vice foreign minister Wang Chao and a Vatican delegation headed by the under secretary for relations with state, Antoine Camilleri and added that the two sides “will continue to maintain communication and push forward the improvement of bilateral relations.”

The Vatican is one of only 17 countries around the world that recognises Taipei instead of Beijing but Pope Francis has sought to improve ties with China since he took office in 2013.

– ‘Strategic, naive’ –

Previous attempts to restore ties have floundered over Beijing’s insistence that the Vatican must give up recognition of its rival Taiwan and promise not to interfere in religious issues in China.

But the Taiwanese foreign ministry said Taipei would not lose its only diplomatic ally in Europe despite the agreement and said it hoped the Holy See would also make sure Catholics on the mainland “receive due protection and not be subject to repression”.

Analysts warn that Beijing could use the accord to further crackdown on Catholic faithful in China.

Jonathan Sullivan, director of China Programs, Asia Research Institute at University of Nottingham, described the accord as “a strategic move on China’s part; and a naive one on the Vatican’s.”

According to the expert, China’s Communist “Party will frame the deal as the Vatican’s seal of approval to the state-run Catholic Church, at a time when Christian believers are facing a severe crackdown on their beliefs and practises.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

“Ultimately, the Party would like to subsume all forms of worship under state organs that make it easier to manage and ensure that everyone’s primary loyalty is to the state,” Sullivan told AFP.

The announcement came as Pope Francis arrived in Catholic Lithuania to honour victims, including Catholic priests and bishops, of the region’s Nazi and Soviet occupations.

The ponfiff’s four-day trip to the northeastern edge of the European Union and NATO alliance brings him geographically close to Russia, where Vatican diplomats have been trying for years to arrange a papal visit.

The pontiff will visit mainly Protestant Latvia on Monday and secular Estonia on Tuesday as all three Baltic states mark 100 years of independence this year.

But the celebrations risk being overshadowed by a fresh wave of devastating claims of sexual abuse by clergy across the globe.


“Pope Francis is being crucified in the media”


China is inventing a whole new way to oppress a people — Reminiscent of Hitler’s Nazis

September 18, 2018

The growing, horrifying oppression of Muslims in a western Chinese province marks a key moment in Beijing’s expansionist drive — and its global competition with America.

A key part of China’s manufacturing machine, Xinjiang province is a gateway to Central Asia, and therefore crucial for President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, a plan to create a formidable China-dominated realm all the way to the Indian Ocean and the Mideast.

The province’s 11 million Uighurs call it “East Turkistan.” They look different than most Chinese, have a different culture, practice moderate Islam — and have been oppressed by Beijing for decades. But now, seen as a major stumbling block to Xi’s new ambitions, China’s Communist Party has escalated its control.

By Benny Avni

Things worsened when Xi became president in 2012. But the real turning point was in 2016, when the Communist Party secretary in Tibet, Chen Quanguo, was transferred to Xinjiang, importing to the province tactics used in his successful quashing of Tibetan unrest.

In Xinjiang, Beijing is honing to perfection such tactics as facial recognition, personal-background data-mining and DNA collection. Scannable codes are posted on apartment buildings where suspected Uighur dissidents live. Such practices, reminiscent of 1940s low-tech identification of Jewish residences under German control, may expand beyond the Uighur province.

“Now they [have started] using these systems in the rest of China,” says Omer Kanat, director of the Washington, DC-based Uyghur Human Rights Project. Soon, he added, the tactics China uses in Xinjiang will be exported to friendly dictatorships outside the country as well.

Up to 1 million Uighurs were sent to re-education camps for “sins” like eating Halal food or growing beards longer than Beijing allows. According to some reports, those interned in camps are forced to eat pork, study Xi’s writing and participate in intensive forced-labor projects. Some are executed; many don’t survive for other reasons.

Artists, scholars, musicians, intellectuals and anyone who ever had contact with the outside world are specifically targeted for “cultural indoctrination,” Kanat adds. “My neighbor, Abdel Rashid Seley, died in the camp.” Other reported Uighur deaths include an intellectual known for his translation of the Koran to Chinese and one of China’s most well-known scientists.

After taking over Macao and Hong Kong, Beijing promised to leave local practices intact, calling it “one government, two systems.” But by now China’s neighbors know that once Beijing assumes control, it’ll pursue complete ideological, political and cultural domination. If you happen to be Muslim, Christian, Falon Dafa or a Western-style democrat — well, too bad.

Xi increasingly uses China’s economic prowess to squeeze resistant neighbors and reward those willing to accept Beijing’s dominance. Once successful, China will control regions rich in minerals, rare earths, oil and other resources necessary for China’s economic growth.

Beijing will also export its model of controlled capitalism, using economic incentives and punishment as well as military tactics honed in the East and South China Seas.

But to pave his new Silk Road, Xi must first control China’s gateway to Central Asia. And if America wants to arrest his march, highlighting Uighur oppression would be a good start.

To that end, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have already been speaking up. Some in Congress call to invoke the Magnitsky Act and impose sanctions on seven Chinese officials responsible for the Uighur plight, including party secretary Chen.

The administration’s wild card: President Trump, who veers between expressing his friendship with Xi and waging a vicious trade war against China. A more comprehensive strategy is needed.

Xi’s China is emerging as America’s most formidable global competitor since the end of the so-called “end of history” era. Many countries in China’s immediate neighborhood, and increasingly beyond, face a choice: our liberal democracy or China’s harsh ways.

America should highlight the horrors suffered by China’s Uighurs to help those countries choose right. Oh yeah: We also bear an obligation to stand up for universally accepted human rights, and the Uighurs are also a model pro-American Muslim community.

Some of China’s allies will rejoice as they study Beijing’s new ways to control populations. Everyone else represents our current, and perhaps future, allies.


China’s Xinjiang Muslims live in fear of disappearing into camps

In the past few years, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs have allegedly been locked up in “reeducation camps” in China’s Xinjiang province. DW met some of their relatives and former prisoners.

A Uighur woman in Xinjiang (picture-alliance/dpa/D. Azubel)

Kairat Samarkhan looks taciturn and aloof. Or maybe he is just tired after a long day at work. Once he attempted to kill himself by smashing his head against the wall. “I could not stand it anymore,” he said.

Samarkhan is talking about his “imprisonment” at a “reeducation camp” in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang. International organizations say over a million people are forced to live in these camps.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based rights watchdog, human rights violations on this scale have not taken place in China since the Cultural Revolution.

Many “reeducation camps” are spread across the region, which is populated by the Muslim minorities of Uighurs and Kazakhs.

Read more: UN panel ‘alarmed’ by reports over Xinjiang

‘Nobody believes us’

Dozens of people gather at Atajurt, a non-governmental organization in the Kazakh metropolis of Almaty. Many of these people carry photographs and identification documents of their relatives, who have been allegedly arrested by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang. A team of Amnesty International activists records their accounts.

Atajurt was founded in 2017 when the first reports of Kazakh arrests reached the Central Asian country.

“When we made the first cases public, nobody believed us,” said Kidirali Orazuly, the founder of Atajurt.

Kazakhstan has close ties to Xinjiang – about 1.6 million ethnic Kazakhs live in the region. About 200,000 Kazakhs from Xinjiang have been naturalized in Kazakhstan since the former Soviet republic gained independence in 1991. Many of these people still have family members in China, therefore when they hear about the disappearance of a relative; they report it to Kazakh authorities.

At the Atajurt office, a woman holds up two large photos of her son and daughter. She said her son was arrested while taking a selfie with a Kazakh pop star on the Chinese side of the border.

Chinese authorities accused her son of being a “double-faced” person, by which they mean someone who is not loyal to the Chinese nation and the ruling Communist Party of China but to their own ethnic group.

To punish the family more, Chinese officials demanded that the woman’s daughter return to China and study at a school there.

“I had no choice,” the woman said. “They threatened to arrest all my relatives in Xinjiang.”

The girl later disappeared into the “reeducation camp,” said the woman.

Read more:

Germany halts Uighur deportations to China

China state media justify Muslim Uighur crackdown to prevent ‘China’s Syria’

The man with ‘two faces’

Authorities also handed down a verdict of “double-face” to Kairat Samarkhan, who has lived in Kazakhstan since 2009.  When he returned to China to take care of some business matters, the police interrogated him.

They wanted to know what he had been doing in Kazakhstan and whom he had met there. Then they looked through his smartphone. On one of his social media profile pictures he had the initials “KZ,” the international abbreviation for Kazakhstan. This sealed the verdict for Samarkhan.

“When I arrived at the camp I thought, now it’s all over,” he said. “The days in the camp begin with singing the national anthem and afterward ‘lessons’ are started,” he continued, adding that he estimates at least 5,700 prisoners were being held in the camp.

The prisoners had to sing songs praising the Communist Party for hours on end with titles like, “Without the Communist Party there would be no new China” or “The East is red.”

They sat through lectures on last year’s 19th Party Congress and were required to repeat slogans.

“We learned was a great person Xi Jinping is, and why China is such an amazing place to live,” said Samarkhan.

All prisoners were divided in groups according to the reasons behind their incarceration. Those held for religious reasons were in one building, those with foreign contacts in another. There is no legal foundation for this mass incarceration, much less a basis for sentencing. The camp bosses decide with impunity who is freed and who isn’t.

“That was the worst part,” said Samarkhan. “You don’t know how long you are going to be held, if you will ever be freed or if, in the end, they will maybe just execute everyone.”

He started to think frequently think about suicide, but any articles of clothing suitable for hanging himself had been taken away. Then he began to slam his head against the wall until he was unconscious. After this, he was released.

Samarkhan’s story cannot be verified, but what he describes corresponds to what other prisoners have shared. Suicide attempts come up again and again in reports.

Read more:Arrests of Uighur women married to Pakistani men spark anger in Gilgit-Baltistan

Protests turn to terrorism?

Xinjiang has long been a conflict-plagued region in China. The Uighurs, the region’s largest ethnic group,  have repeatedly rebelled against Chinese rule – sometimes using force.

In 2009, an uprising in the regional capital Urumqi cost around 200 people their lives. In 2014, Uighur separatists carried out a knife and machete attack at a train station in the southern Chinese city of Kunming that killed 29.

China considers the violence to be in line with Islamist attacks in the West.

On the sidelines of a UN Human Rights Committee meeting in September, a Chinese official said the camp system was “necessary to fight religious extremism.”

“Maybe it’s the necessary way to deal with Islamic or religious extremism, because the West has failed in doing so,” said the official.

It was the first time that China had admitted to mass-internment, even if the representative insisted that they weren’t camps, but rather “professional training and educational centers.”

‘Brainwashing’ centers

China doesn’t seem to be distinguishing between Jihadist ideology and those striving for cultural independence.

“The root of terrorism is ethnic separatism and its ideology is religious extremism,” said Xi Jinping.

Since then, the possession of a prayer rug can raise suspicion against Muslims, just like neglecting to raise the Chinese flag, which is now mandatory for residents in many parts of Xinjiang.

“This is brainwashing. They are supposed to feel like part of the Chinese nation and set aside their own ethnic identity,” Patrick Poon, a China expert at Amnesty International, told DW.

Kairat Samarkhan is one of the few who have managed to leave China. He is also one of very few former prisoners who is willing to be quoted using his full name. Samarkhan is an orphan, and he has no fear that revenge will be taken on his relatives. Kazakh authorities have warned him about the long arm of the Chinese law and that his statements could get him into trouble.

“But if we don’t talk about what is going on there, who else is going to do it?” he said.

Read more: Chinese authorities detain relatives of Radio Free Asia’s Uighur reporters

China Syndrome: Wider crackdowns on faith, Xi dictates to religions

September 17, 2018

The services at the Zion Church were different from usual on Sunday. A lot different.

Instead of having 1,300 or so congregants pack into their usual space in northern Beijing, the members of the church walked the streets in small groups, listening to a downloaded sermon on their cellphones.

Pastor Jin Mingri was forced to disseminate his sermon this way after the Chinese authorities shut down his church a week ago, declaring it illegal.

“This is part of a comprehensive war against religion,” Jin said in an interview. “The Communist Party has begun to see religion as a competitor. It’s not just [Protestant] Christianity, but also Catholicism, Buddhism and Islam. They want all of us to pledge our loyalty to the party.”

All of the five religions officially tolerated by Chinese leaders — Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam and Protestantism — are now experiencing draconian treatment from the government of President Xi Jinping, who has stoked nationalism and promoted loyalty to the Communist Party in ways not seen in decades.

By Anna Fifield

Canada should break silence on Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs

September 14, 2018
It will come as news to nobody that the Communist regime in Beijing lies through its teeth about the state of human rights in China, but nothing comes close to the lies Beijing tells to cover up its mounting persecution of Muslims. Those lies have been getting harder to tell, ever since Xi Jinping’s police state embarked upon measures so extreme and tyrannical that it’s become harder for the regime to keep the truth from getting to the outside world.
Image may contain: 1 person, hat

An in-depth Human Rights Watch investigation published on Monday found that in the far western expanses of Xinjiang, a region nearly as big as Canada’s prairie provinces, “the government’s religious restrictions are so stringent that it has effectively outlawed Islam.” Last month, the head of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination told a UN human rights panel in Geneva that Xinjiang’s Uighur autonomous region has been turned into “a massive internment camp.”

Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs , perhaps a million people in all, have been detained for weeks and sometimes months at a time in a network of indoctrination camps. At first, the Chinese government denied that the camps even existed. But as evidence has mounted – eyewitness accounts, the Chinese government’s own documents, satellite photographs, construction blueprints – the party line has changed.

Chinese officials are now describing the camps as “vocational education facilities,” training centres and residential schools where petty criminals are housed while undergoing“rehabilitation and reintegration.” Former inmates who have managed to escape China describe the camps as hellholes of torture and forced labour. Internees are required to learn Mandarin, sing patriotic songs, memorize government propaganda and recite florid loyalty oaths.

Xinjiang’s Uighurs, Tajiks and Kazakhs have tended to see themselves as peoples apart from the Han Chinese cultural hegemony that the Communist regime has imposed in the region in recent years. Separatist sentiment has waxed and waned, and radical Islam has occasionally found a place for itself in the region. The Communist Party line is that extraordinary measures have been necessary to eradicate “ideological diseases” in the region, particularly among the 10 million Uihgurs. Devout Muslims are classified as mentally ill.

In Xinjiang’s towns and cities, population movements are closely controlled. Surveillance is ubiquitous. The Communist administration is employing biometric data, experimental voice-recognition and facial-recognition technology, house arrest, DNA data banks and digital tracking to closely monitor and control the public. Cameras are everywhere. Travel is severely restricted. Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of special police have been deployed to newly-built stations and temporary checkpoints.

As grim as all this is, the gross human rights abuses in Xinjiang are at least beginning to emerge as subjects of closer global scrutiny. On Monday, in an unusual move, Michelle Bachelet, in her first speech as the UN’s new High Commissioner for Human Rights, singled out Beijing’s mistreatment of Xinjiang’s Uighurs for special notice. The former Chilean president specifically referred to “deeply disturbing allegations of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim communities in so-called re-education camps across Xinjiang”.

Bachelet called on Beijing to reverse its closed-door policy and allow the UN Human Rights office complete access to Xinjiang and all other regions of China. That would be a good start.

In Washington, meanwhile, a bipartisan initiative in Congress has begun to push the Trump White House to “swiftly act” and trigger the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to sanction Chinese government officials and entities directly complicit in the Xinjiang abuses. On Monday, the Australian opposition Labour Party followed suit, calling on Canberra to draw up a similar list for sanctions. A petition drawn up by a group of Australian imams asking parliament to start ramping up pressure on Beijing managed to gather 10,000 signatures.

Canada, predictably, has been quiet, even though Ottawa could have been out in front inholding Beijing to account for its cruelties in Xinjiang. It’s been 12 years since the Canadian Uighur Huseyin Celil, who fled China as a refugee in 2001, was arrested while visiting family in Uzbekistan. Celil was extradited to China and chucked into prison, and in 2012 Celil was given a life sentence without a proper trial on trumped up terror charges. Celil’s sentence was later reduced after being subjected to a “re-education” program.

Canada could make some use of itself taking the lead in backing UN human rights investigators’ efforts to gain access to Xinjiang, and and Ottawa’s own Magnitsky law would serve perfectly well in a collaboration with Australia and the United States to sanction the tormentors of Xinjiang’s Uighurs.

Canada has neither reason nor excuse not to do so.


China is not mistreating Muslims in Xinjiang — Just training courses — Like your children go to vocational training schools — Only with solitary confinement

September 14, 2018

China is not mistreating Muslims in Xinjiang province but is putting some people through training courses to avoid spreading of extremism, unlike Europe which had failed to deal with the problem, a Chinese official told reporters on Thursday.

Reports of mass detentions of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s far-western region have prompted a growing international outcry, prompting the Trump administration to consider sanctions against officials and companies linked to the allegations of human rights abuses.

“It is not mistreatment,” said Li Xiaojun, director for publicity at the Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of the State Council Infor­mation Office. “What China is doing is to establish professional training centres, educational centres.

‘Religious extremists are common foes of mankind’

“If you do not say it’s the best way, maybe it’s the necessary way to deal with Islamic or religious extremism, because the West has failed in doing so, in dealing with religious extremism. Look at Belgium, look at Paris, look at some other European countries. You have failed.”

He said the Chinese education centres were not “detention centres or re-education camps”, which he dismissed as “the trademark product of eastern European countries”, an apparent reference to Soviet Gulag detention camps during the Cold War.

“To put it straight, it’s like vocational training… like your children go to vocational training schools to get better skills and better jobs after graduation.

“But these kinds of training and education centres only accept people for a short period of time; some people five days, some seven days, 10 days, one month, two months.”

Islam was a good thing in China’s view, but “Islamic extremists” were the common foes of mankind, he said. “They are very bad elements. You can see that in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Iraq, and many other countries.”

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018



China tries to brainwash Muslims in internment camps

Associated Press

Day after day, Omir Bekali and other detainees in far western China’s new indoctrination camps had to disavow their Islamic beliefs, criticise themselves and their loved ones and give thanks to the ruling Communist Party.

When Bekali, a Kazakh Muslim, refused, he was forced to stand at a wall for five hours at a time. A week later, he was sent to solitary confinement and deprived of food for 24 hours. After 20 days, he wanted to kill himself.

Omir Bekali talks about the psychological stress he endure in a Chinese internment camp during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan. — AP
Omir Bekali talks about the psychological stress he endure in a Chinese internment camp during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan. — AP

“The psychological pressure is enormous, when you have to criticise yourself, denounce your thinking your own ethnic group,” said Bekali, 42, who broke down in tears while describing the camp. “I still think about it every night, until the sun rises.”

Since last spring, Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have ensnared tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese and even foreign citizens in mass internment camps.

This detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang, a territory half the area of India, leading to what a United States (US) commission on China last month said is “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today”.

The internment programme tries to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. Chinese officials have largely avoided comment, but some have said in state media that ideological changes are needed to fight separatism and Islamic extremism. Radical Muslim Uighurs killed hundreds in China in years past.

Three other former internees and a former instructor in different centers corroborated Bekali’s depiction. Taken together, the recollections offer the most detailed account yet of life inside so-called re-education.

The programme is a hallmark of China’s emboldened state security apparatus under the deeply nationalistic, hard-line rule of President Xi Jinping. It is partly rooted in the ancient Chinese belief in transformation through education taken once before to terrifying extremes during the mass thought reform campaigns of Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader sometimes channelled by Xi.

“Cultural cleansing is Beijing’s attempt to find a final solution to the Xinjiang problem,” said James Millward, a China historian at Georgetown University.

The internment system is shrouded in secrecy, with no publicly available data. The US State Department estimates those being held are “at the very least in the tens of thousands”.

A Turkey-based TV station run by Xinjiang exiles said almost 900,000 were detained, citing leaked government documents. Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, puts the number between several hundreds of thousands and just over one million, and government bids suggest construction is ongoing.

Asked to comment on the camps, China’s foreign ministry said it “had not heard” of the situation. Chinese officials in Xinjiang did not respond to requests for comment.

However, China’s top prosecutor, Zhang Jun, urged Xinjiang’s authorities this month to extensively expand what the government calls “transformation through education” in an “all-out effort” to fight extremism.

China-born Bekali moved to Kazakhstan in 2006 and received citizenship three years later.

Omir Bekali holds up a mobile phone showing a photo of his parents whom he believes have been detained in China. — AP
Omir Bekali holds up a mobile phone showing a photo of his parents whom he believes have been detained in China. — AP

On March 25 last year, Bekali visited his parents in Xinjiang. The next day, police took him away. They strapped him into a “tiger chair” that clamped down his wrists and ankles. They hung him by his wrists against a barred wall. They interrogated him about his work inviting Chinese to apply for Kazakh tourist visas.

“I haven’t committed any crimes!” Bekali yelled.

Seven months later, Bekali was taken out of his cell and handed a release paper. But he was not free.

Bekali was driven to a fenced compound in Karamay, where three buildings held more than 1,000 internees.

They would wake up together before dawn, sing the Chinese national anthem, and raise the Chinese flag at 7.30am. They sang songs praising the party and studied Chinese language and history. They were told that the indigenous sheep-herding Central Asian people of Xinjiang were backward before they were “liberated” by the Communist Party in the 1950s.

When they ate meals of vegetable soup and buns, they first had to chant: “Thank the Party! Thank the Motherland! Thank President Xi!”

Bekali was kept in a locked room almost around the clock with eight other internees, who shared beds and a wretched toilet. Cameras were installed in toilets and outhouses. Baths were rare, as was washing of hands and feet, equated with Islamic ablution.

In four-hour sessions, instructors lectured about the dangers of Islam and drilled internees with quizzes that they had to answer correctly or be sent to stand near a wall for hours on end.

“Do you obey Chinese law or Sharia?” instructors asked. “Do you understand why religion is dangerous?”

The detainees had to criticise and be criticised by their peers. One by one, they would also stand up before 60 classmates to present self-criticisms of their religious history.

“I was taught the Holy Quran by my father and I learned it because I didn’t know better,” Bekali heard one say.

“I travelled outside China without knowing that I could be exposed to extremist thoughts abroad,” another said. “Now I know.”

After a week, Bekali went to his first stint in solitary confinement. He yelled out to a visiting official.

“Take me in the back and kill me, or send me back to prison,” he shouted. “I can’t be here anymore.”

He was again hauled off to solitary confinement. It lasted 24 hours, ending late afternoon on Nov 24, when Bekali was suddenly released.

At first, Bekali did not want the AP to publish his account for fear his sister and mother in China would be detained.

But on March 10, the police took his sister, Adila Bekali. A week later, they took his mother, Amina Sadik. And on April 24, his father, Ebrayem.

Bekali changed his mind and said he wanted to tell his story.