Posts Tagged ‘Uighurs’

Former Uyghur Inmates Tell of Torture and Rape in China’s ‘Re-Education’ Camps

October 16, 2018

Uyghurs in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are being tortured, raped, and killed in secretive “political re-education” camps, former detainees have told The Epoch Times.

“Upwards of one million” of the predominantly Uyghur prisoners continue to be detained in what were, until Oct. 9, extrajudicial internment camps in western China, according to figures quoted by the the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and the United Nations.

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Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials say the mass detentions among the Uyghur population, the majority of whom practice Islam, are part of measures to crack down on terrorism, religious extremism, and separatism in the country. The CCP has used the excuse of potential “extremist threats” to justify its strict surveillance and crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region.

First-hand accounts described to The Epoch Times reveal attempts by authorities to strip Uyghur detainees of their culture and language, forcing them to denounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the CCP and its leader.

BY ISABEL VAN BRUGEN
Epoch Times
October 15, 2018 Updated: October 16, 2018
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If detainees fail to follow orders, they may be subject to up to five forms of torture as punishment, a Uyghur and former inmate explained in an interview from Istanbul, Turkey.

Xinjiang-born Omir Bekli, 42, a Kazakhstan national since 2006, was detained for six months in March last year after he was forcibly taken from his parents’ home in Shanshan—180 miles east of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang—his head covered in a black sack before being whisked away.

He was visiting Urumqi at the time to attend an international meeting about tourism.

Bekli was detained for seven months in a police cell and then sent to a reeducation camp in Karamay for 20 days where he was tortured, with one of the reasons being his refusal to sing songs which praise the CCP and its leader Xi Jinping.

“The torturing methods were very inhumane and extremely unbearable,” Bekli told The Epoch Times.

Former detainee Uyghur Omir Bekli
Uyghur Omir Bekli, 42, a former detainee in Xinjiang, China. (Courtesy of Omir Bekli)

Uyghurs are “chained up like animals,” deprived of food and sleep, and beaten until their bodies are “swollen and pouring blood.”

“They make you fear and make you weak, physically and mentally, so that they can make you obey them,” Bekli explained.

Another Uyghur detainee—a Kazakhstan national aged 54 who was released in September from a camp in Urumqi after being detained for 15 months—told The Epoch Times that young Uyghur women are being raped daily by CCP officials in the camps and could be killed if they resist. The 54-year-old spoke on condition of anonymity from Istanbul due to fears for her safety.

“Young girls are taken out and raped all night long. If you keep resisting, they will inject you with something and kill you,” she said.

She has personally witnessed two Uyghur females being killed by injection, she told The Epoch Times.

“There are usually 40 to 50 people in one small room, but five to 10 are regularly taken out and they just disappear—they never come back. People are being killed in tens all the time.”

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https://www.theepochtimes.com/former-uyghur-inmates-tell-of-torture-and-rape-in-chinas-re-education-camps_2689053.html

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Internment camps make Uighurs’ life more colourful, says Xinjiang governor — “Not Muslims prison camps”

October 16, 2018

China on the defensive over camps where former prisoners have told of arbitrary detention, abuse and indoctrination

A senior official in Xinjiang has described mass internment camps for Muslim minorities as “training” and “boarding schools” where residents receive vocational, legal, and language training as well as “de-extremisation education”.

Beijing has faced growing international criticism for its crackdown in Xinjiang, a far north-western territory of China where it holds as many as a million Muslims prisoner in camps. Former detainees have said that they were subjected to political indoctrination and abuse.

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In a rare, detailed interview published by the state-run news agency Xinhua, the Xinjiang governor, Shohrat Zakir, said: “Xinjiang conducts vocational skills education and training according to law. The purpose is to fundamentally eliminate the environment and soil that breeds terrorism and religious extremism, and eliminate the terrorism activities before they take place.”

Over the last few months, as scrutiny over the situation in Xinjiang has grown, Chinese officials have shifted from denying the existence of such camps to justifying and reframing how they are described. Zakir’s interview represents one of the most detailed accounts of China’s defence of the centres and what goes on inside them.

Zakir said residents at the centres in Xinjiang learn Mandarin “to accept modern science and enhance their understanding of Chinese history and culture”. Students received vocational training, including courses on making clothing and footwear, assembling electronics, hairdressing and e-commerce, he added.

Students undergo legal training on the Chinese constitution, China’s legal code, and local regulations, according to the governor. Tacitly acknowledging that the camps represent a form of extrajudicial detention, he said people “influenced by terrorism and extremism” and suspected of “minor criminal offences” are provided with “free vocational training through vocational education institutions” to improve their ability in commanding the country’s common language, acquiring legal knowledge and vocational skills, among others.

The interview follows a revision of local rules last week to allow the regional government to officially permit the use of “education and training centres” to incarcerate “people influenced by extremism”. The interview, detailing daily life at the camps and the various kinds of vocational training, appears to be an attempt to normalise the system.

“The Communist party is clearly on the defensive, seeking to deflect international criticism of its radical new policies in Xinjiang and justify them retrospectively,” said James Leopald, a scholar focusing on Chinese ethnic policies at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Former detainees of camps in Xinjiang told the Guardian they did not receive vocational training but spent most of their time being forced to study Mandarin, pledge allegiance to the Chinese communist party and memorise patriotic songs. Ex-detainees have detailed being tortured, isolated and cut off from their families. Most of those detained are ethnic Uighurs, as well as Kazakhs, Hui and other Muslim minorities.

The governor of Xinjiang described a life in the centres that is in stark contrast to the accounts given by witnesses of poor nutrition and constant surveillance. One former detainee told the Guardian he had attempted to kill himself.

Zakir said the training institutions “care about the mental health of students” and provide counselling services. He said the cafeterias in the camps prepare “nutritious diets” and that all dormitories were equipped with radios, televisions, and air conditioning. Facilities for basketball, volleyball, table tennis and stages for performances have been built, he added. Activities such as writing, singing and dance contests are also organised for students, he said.

“Many trainees have said they were previously affected by extremist thought and had never participated in such kinds of arts and sports activities. Now they realise how colourful life can be,” Zakir said.

The governor did not say how many “trainees” were at the centres or how long their courses were but indicated the programmes were temporary. Zakir said some trainees were “expected to complete their courses successfully by the end of this year.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/16/internment-camps-make-uighurs-life-more-colourful-says-xinjiang-governor

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China rolls out PR push on Muslim internment camps (Really just “vocational education”)

October 16, 2018

China on Tuesday issued an ardent defence of its alleged mass internment of minorities in far west Xinjiang region amid a global outcry, with a regional official insisting that authorities are preventing terrorism through “vocational education” centres.

Beijing has sought to counter criticism with a series of op-eds and interviews and a rollout of new regulations that retroactively codify the use of the system of extra-judicial “re-education” camps in Xinjiang.

Up to 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic minorities are believed to be held in such centres, according to estimates cited by a United Nations panel.

China on Tuesday issued an ardent defence of its alleged mass internment of minorities in far west Xinjiang region amid a global outcry, with a regional official insisting that authorities are preventing terrorism through "vocational education" centres. — AFP/File

Former inmates have said they found themselves incarcerated for transgressions such as wearing long beards and face veils or sharing Islamic holiday greetings on social media, a process that echoes the decades of brutal thought reform under Mao Zedong.

The programme has come under increasingly heavy fire from the international community, with particularly heavy censure from the United States and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Chinese authorities initially denied the existence of the facilities.

But they have changed their tune as satellite imagery and documents issued by their own government have made it increasingly difficult to maintain that position.

In recent weeks the story has shifted from outright dismissal to acknowledgement that the camps exist, with the caveat that they are being used primarily for “vocational education” in a bid to halt separatist sentiments and religious extremism.

In a rare interview with China’s official Xinhua news service published on Tuesday, the chairman of Xinjiang’s government, Shohrat Zakir, defended the use of the centres, saying that the region was now “safe and stable”.

The official did not say how many people were being held in the centres.

Zakir said the facilities were intended to improve job skills and Mandarin abilities among minorities with “a limited command of the country’s common language and a limited sense and knowledge of the law”.

“They often have difficulties in finding employment due to limited vocational skills. This has led to a low material-basis for residents to live and work there, making them vulnerable to the instigation and coercion of terrorism and extremism,” he said.

He said that the programmes were limited in duration, “trainees” signed a contract with the centres that laid out a clear plan of study and included a stipend.

Asked about the future of the programmes, Zakir said he expected that “some trainees” were “expected to complete their courses successfully by the end of this year”.

The comments follow weeks of efforts by Chinese officials and state media to defend China’s actions in Xinjiang, where riots and terrorist attacks led to hundreds of deaths in recent years.

Op-eds by Chinese diplomats have appeared in newspapers around the world, arguing that the programme is an effective means of eliminating the threat posed to the region by religious extremism.

An editorial in the nationalist tabloid the Global Times warned foreign governments on Tuesday not to meddle in Xinjiang’s affairs.

“Obviously vocational education is a periodic and temporary plan aimed at eradicating extremism,” it said, adding that criticism was “just messing up the whole thing and creating a narrative against China”.

Critics have warned that mass incarcerations and forced cultural assimilation of China’s western Muslim minorities risk further inflaming and perpetuating separatist anger.

AFP

As the Internet Splinters, the World Suffers — Nations unable to agree

October 16, 2018

A breakup of the web grants privacy, security and freedom to some, and not so much to others.

By The Editorial Board

The New York Times

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The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Credit Rose Wong

In September, Eric Schmidt, the former Google chief executive and Alphabet chairman, said that in the next 10 to 15 years, the internet would most likely be split in two — one internet led by China and one internet led by the United States.

Mr. Schmidt, speaking at a private event hosted by a venture capital firm, did not seem to seriously entertain the possibility that the internet would remain global. He’s correct to rule out that possibility — if anything, the flaw in Mr. Schmidt’s thinking is that he too quickly dismisses the European internet that is coalescing around the European Union’s ever-heightening regulation of technology platforms. All signs point to a future with three internets.

The received wisdom was once that a unified, unbounded web promoted democracy through the free flow of information. Things don’t seem quite so simple anymore. China’s tight control of the internet within its borders continues to tamp down talk of democracy, and an increasingly sophisticated system of digital surveillance plays a major role in human rights abuses, such as the persecution of the Uighurs. We’ve also seen the dark side to connecting people to one another — as illustrated by how misinformation on social media played a significant role in the violence in Myanmar.

There’s a world of difference between the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, known commonly as G.D.P.R., and China’s technologically enforced censorship regime, often dubbed “the Great Firewall.” But all three spheres — Europe, America and China — are generating sets of rules, regulations and norms that are beginning to rub up against one another. What’s more, the actual physical location of data has increasingly become separated by region, with data confined to data centers inside the borders of countries with data localization laws.

The information superhighway cracks apart more easily when so much of it depends on privately owned infrastructure. An error at Amazon Web Services created losses of service across the web in 2017; a storm disrupting a data center in Northern Virginia created similar failures in 2012. These were unintentional blackouts; the corporate custodians of the internet have it within their power to do far more. Of course, nobody wants to turn off the internet completely — that wouldn’t make anyone money. But when a single company with huge market share chooses to comply with a law — or more worryingly, a mere suggestion from the authorities — a large chunk of the internet ends up falling in line.

The power of a handful of platforms and services combined with the dismal state of international cooperation across the world pushes us closer and closer to a splintered internet. Meanwhile, American companies that once implicitly pushed democratic values abroad are more reticent to take a stand.

In 2010, Google shut down its operations in China after it was revealed that the Chinese government had been hacking the Gmail accounts of dissidents and surveilling them through the search engine. “At some point you have to stand back and challenge this and say, this goes beyond the line of what we’re comfortable with, and adopt that for moral reasons,” said Sergey Brin, a Google co-founder, in an interview with Der Spiegel at the time.

But eight years later, Google is working on a search engine for China known as Dragonfly. Its launch will be conditional on the approval of Chinese officials and will therefore comply with stringent censorship requirements. An internal memo written by one of the engineers on the project described surveillance capabilities built into the engine — namely by requiring users to log in and then tracking their browsing histories. This data will be accessible by an unnamed Chinese partner, presumably the government.

Google says all features are speculative and no decision has been made on whether to launch Dragonfly, but a leaked transcript of a meeting inside Google later acquired by The Intercept, a news site, contradicts that line. In the transcript, Google’s head of search, Ben Gomes, is quoted as saying that it hoped to launch within six to nine months, although the unstable American-China relationship makes it difficult to predict when or even whether the Chinese government will give the go-ahead. “There is a huge binary difference between being launched and not launched,” said Mr. Gomes. “And so we want to be careful that we don’t miss that window if it ever comes.”

Malaysia’s Mahathir says Uighurs released because they did nothing wrong

October 15, 2018

Malaysia freed 11 ethnic Uighur Muslims who fled to the Southeast Asian nation after a Thai jailbreak last year because they did nothing wrong there, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday.

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Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad

Reuters, citing the men’s lawyer, reported last week that Malaysia had released the 11 from detention and sent them to Turkey, disregarding China’s request to hand them to Beijing.

“They have done nothing wrong in this country, so they are released,” Mahathir said in brief comments to reporters in parliament, the first from the Malaysian government since their release.

Malaysia’s move was likely to strain ties with China, which have already been tested since Mahathir won a stunning election victory in May and canceled more than $20 billion worth of projects awarded to Chinese companies.

China, which had asked for their extradition, said on Friday that it “resolutely” opposed Malaysia’s decision to release the 11 Uighurs and send them to Turkey.

Prosecutors in Muslim-majority Malaysia dropped charges against the Uighurs on humanitarian grounds, their lawyer said.

The men were detained and charged with illegally entering Malaysia after November’s daring prison break, during which they punched holes in a prison wall and used blankets as ladders.

Reuters reported in February that Malaysia was under great pressure from China to send the men there. Some Western missions sought to dissuade Kuala Lumpur from sending them to China, which has been accused of persecuting Uighurs.

Beijing accuses separatist extremists among the Uighur minority of plotting attacks on China’s Han majority in the restive far western region of Xinjiang and elsewhere.

China has been accused of rights abuses in Xinjiang, torture of Uighur detainees and tight controls on their religion and culture. It denies wrongdoing.

Over the years, hundreds, possibly thousands, of Uighurs have escaped the unrest by traveling clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey.

Reuters

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by A. Ananthalakshmi and Paul Tait

China and the Case of the Interpol Chief

October 11, 2018
China emphasizes the need for “absolute loyalty” and for “resolute support” for Xi Jinping.

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Beijing apparently has detained Meng Hongwei, the president of Interpol and a former top Chinese security official. What are the charges?

By The Editorial Board

The New York Times

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Image
Credit Rose Wong

China has yet to give any details of the corruption charges against Meng Hongwei, the president of Interpol, who disappeared on a visit home and was later said to have been arrested. Whatever the charges are, they are almost certainly not the real reason for his fate. In China, the law is what the Communist Party says it is — more precisely, what President Xi Jinping says it is. And when an official of Mr. Meng’s global stature is nabbed, it’s a political decision — even if, coincidentally, he was corrupt, as is often the case in China.

Mr. Meng understood the rules of that game. He had been a vice minister of public security in a police state and had played a role in many operations, including Operation Fox Hunt, which tried to bring Chinese officials and businesspeople suspected of corruption back from abroad. His former boss, Zhou Yongkang, was imprisoned for life on corruption charges in 2015. Mr. Meng’s last WhatsApp message to his wife was an emoji of a knife, which she understood to mean he was in danger.

Interpol has asked Beijing for an explanation for Mr. Meng’s detention but has taken no further action. The agency issued a statement on Sunday that it had accepted his resignation as president “with immediate effect” and named a replacement.

Whatever else he was, Mr. Meng was the president of Interpol, a venerable international organization based in France that facilitates cooperation among police forces from its 192 member countries. The position of president is largely ceremonial — a secretary general, currently Jürgen Stock of Germany, runs day-to-day operations. But the selection of a Chinese official for the post was a major feather in China’s cap, proudly hailed by Mr. Xi a year ago as evidence that China “abided by international rules.

The crude arrest of Mr. Meng proclaims the opposite. China’s behavior puts it more closely in a league with Russia, another nation whose authoritarian leader is convinced that his country is due global respect and deference by virtue of its wealth and might, and not its actions. It’s a perception seemingly shared by President Trump in his fondness for strong, unaccountable leaders and his America First approach to foreign policy.

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Dolkun Isa

Tellingly, both China and Russia have brazenly tried to use Interpol to pursue political foes. China put out a “red notice,” in effect a wanted alert, for Dolkun Isa, a self-exiled activist for the rights of China’s beleaguered Uighur minority. Russia tried to use Interpol to catch Bill Browder, a hedge-fund manager turned anti-Vladimir Putin campaigner, among other political gadflies. In these cases, Interpol has properly refused to cooperate.

Uighur looks at military police in Xinjiang

It is possible that Mr. Meng’s failure to pursue the Isa warrant fed Mr. Xi’s anger. According to The Economist, a Ministry of Public Security statement condemning Mr. Meng’s alleged wrongdoings also stressed the need for “absolute loyalty” and for “resolute support” for the country’s leader.

What Mr. Meng did to join the lengthening list of officials purged by Mr. Xi may never be fully known outside the Communist hierarchy. What is known, and deeply troubling, is how brazenly China is prepared to wage its internal power struggles without any regard for procedures, appearances or international norms.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTOpinion).

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: China And the Case Of the Interpol Chief.
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China gives legal basis for ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang — “Psychological treatment and behaviour correction.” — “Systematic repression.”

October 10, 2018

Chinese officials had earlier denied existence of arbitrary detention centres and enforced political re-education

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2018, 5:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 12:04am

China’s far-western Xinjiang region has revised its legislation to allow local governments to “educate and transform” people influenced by extremism at “vocational training centres” – a term used by the government to describe a network of internment facilities known as “re-education camps”.

The change to the law, which took effect on Tuesday, comes amid an international outcry about the secretive camps in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

But observers said writing the facilities into law did not address global criticism of China’s systematic detention and enforced political education of up to 1 million ethnic Uygurs and other Muslims in the area.

Chinese officials had earlier denied the existence of such arbitrary detention and enforced political re-education bases, but said some citizens had been sent to vocational centres for minor criminal misdemeanours.

The revision, issued by the regional legislature, recognises the use of such centres as part of the government’s efforts to eliminate “religious extremism”, which in recent years have also included a massive security crackdown in Xinjinag and sweeping restrictions on Islamic practices.

“Governments at the county level and above can set up education and transformation organisations and supervising departments such as vocational training centres, to educate and transform people who have been influenced by extremism,” says a new clause in the “Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Regulation on Anti-Extremism”.

Apart from teaching vocational skills, the centres are required to provide education on spoken and written Chinese, and aspects of the law and other regulations.

They must also organise “ideological education to eliminate extremism”, carry out psychological treatment and behaviour correction, to “help trainees to transform their thoughts and return to society and their families”.

A November 2017 photo of the entrance to a jail that locals say is used to hold those undergoing political indoctrination programs in Korla in western China’s Xinjiang region. Photo: AP

Dolkun Isa, executive chairman of the Munich-based World Uygur Congress, said Chinese authorities had been implementing the measures detailed in the revision without any legal justification for over a year.

Rolling out the law “is only a formality trying to legalise the crackdown against Muslims in Xinjiang,” he said.

The old version of the law was passed in March 2017. It bans a wide range of acts deemed manifestations of extremism, including wearing veils or having “abnormal” beards, refusing to watch television or listen to radio, and preventing children from receiving national education.

The inclusion of the camps in local legislation comes as Beijing is under growing pressure from the United States and the European Union for its ruthless crackdown in Xinjiang, after a United Nations panel confronted Chinese officials in August over reports of extralegal mass detentions of Muslim minorities.

James Leibold, an expert in China’s ethnic policies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, said the global criticism of the use of the detention centres had led to the Communist Party “scrambling to justify them legally and politically”.

“[The] original 2017 deradicalisation regulation was vague and imprecise on its provision for ‘education and transformation’,” he said. “Thus this represents a retrospective fix and attempt to justify ‘legally’ the mass detention of Uygurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and elsewhere, for the purpose of political and cultural remoulding with due process.”

This is just another case of [Beijing] attempting to mask the violation of human rights behind the veneer of the rule of law
MICHAEL CASTER, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE

That view is echoed by Li Lifan, a central Asian expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

“I think it … targets foreign criticism of how Xinjiang re-educates extremists and their family members,” he said, adding that the regulation provided legal support for the authorities’ efforts to “maintain social stability and national security”.

However, rights advocates said writing the internment camps into law did not give it legitimacy.

“International human rights law is clear, no matter how much China tries to ‘legalise’ the impermissible,” said Michael Caster, a human rights advocate with Safeguard Defenders who studies China’s legal system.

“This is just another case of [Beijing] attempting to mask the violation of human rights behind the veneer of the rule of law. What is taking place in Xinjiang is at least a gross violation of human rights if not a crime against humanity.”

Beijing blames Islamic extremists and separatists for the unrest between Uygurs and the ethnic Han majority that has led to the deaths of hundreds of people over the past decade. Human rights groups say the conflict is caused by the government’s repression of religious freedoms and unfair ethnic policies.

Kristin Shi-Kupfer, director of research on public policy and society at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, said that China had reasons to take legal and rational measures to combat extremist attacks but that the current measures “clearly blur the boundary between the realm of religion, culture and crime”.

“The ongoing, systematic repression of mostly Uygurs in Xinjiang is likely to create more discrimination and alienation between ethnic groups in Xinjiang, especially Han and Uygurs, and potentially radicalise those who are not already silenced out of fear and desperation,” she said.

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  (Mainland China is a “source of conflict” — Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says.)

 

Chinese police officer strikes a pose (Getty Images/AFP)

With her symmetric face, her dark uniform and her mirrored sunglasses, this young policewoman looks like an agent from the sci-fi franchise “The Matrix.”  She can see things that others cannot. Her glasses are equipped with a face scanner that can search and identify faces in the crowds at a train station in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou. The glasses are linked to a giant database which enables people to be identified within seconds.

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

Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance spotlights rising repression — Plus China’s snatching on Interpol boss Meng Hongwei

October 10, 2018

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By Roula Khalaf

I spent much of last Saturday evening scrolling through my Twitter feed, my anxiety mounting as two events unfolded.

The first was the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice and the corrosion of another American institution; the second was the gruesome speculation over the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi commentator who had visited his country’s consulate in Istanbul earlier in the week, and then vanished.

There was, of course, no relation between these two events, except perhaps that they were both symbols of political regression in the Trumpian age. The fraying of US democracy has been contagious. It has emboldened some of America’s undemocratic allies to act against their own critics with even greater impunity.

Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance was particularly painful because only a few days earlier, I had received an email suggesting we meet for lunch, as we sometimes did during his visits to London.

I was otherwise engaged but promised to see him the next time he visits the UK. If only I had known it may have been the last opportunity.

All we know for certain is that Mr Khashoggi went missing after entering the consulate last Tuesday to obtain personal documents.

Over the weekend, Turkish officials said he had been killed inside but provided no evidence; reports of torture, mutilation and a death squad trickled out, again without offering evidence. The Saudi authorities have denied the allegation. Their supporters are developing a narrative on social media that claims, unconvincingly, that Turkey and Qatar kidnapped him.

Perhaps Mr Khashoggi will re-emerge alive.

Possibly he is dead.

What is clear is that his vanishing debunks the overhyped myth of a new Saudi Arabia that deserves plaudits from its western allies.

The Saudi regime is adopting the same outdated playbook of old Middle Eastern autocrats, locking up activists, rounding up (and in some cases roughing up) businessmen and forcing them to give up their assets. Since 2015, three members of the royal family have reportedly been abducted and returned to the kingdom.

The “disappeared” are a lurid chapter in modern Middle Eastern history.

Every civil war produced families searching for relatives decades after they vanished. Meanwhile, in pursuing dissidents, the region’s dictators, most notoriously Libya’s late Muammer Gaddafi, were rarely deterred by borders as they snatched exiled opponents.

Mr Khashoggi was not a politician. He was an astute observer of Middle Eastern politics and a contributor to the Washington Post, with an unrivalled understanding of Saudi Arabia and the dynamics within the royal family. I first came across his writing some two decades ago, when he reported for the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper, and had a keen interest in Islamist groups in Algeria. While once I might have seen him as sympathetic to Islamists, he has been firmly in the camp of Saudi liberals who have argued for wider social freedoms.

I have watched Mr Khashoggi manage a complex relationship with the Saudi regime. He was co-opted at times and punished at others, allowed to start a progressive newspaper and then fired, invited to advise royals and then banished.His break with Saudi Arabia came in the new era of Mohammed bin Salman.

Other countries have fawned over long-overdue economic and social changes introduced by the young crown prince and de facto ruler.

Mr Khashoggi acknowledged them but also worried about widening repression. When the regime insisted that commentators join in attacks against Qatar after Saudi Arabia and its allies blockaded the emirate in 2017, Mr Khashoggi chose to live in the US rather than comply. His writing depicted the reality of Saudi Arabia, where a long-existing small margin of freedom of expression has been eliminated. “Replacing old tactics of intolerance with new ways of repression is not the answer,” he wrote.

As the Trump administration and Silicon Valley chief executives applauded Prince Mohammed and public relations companies promoted the new Saudi Arabia, Mr Khashoggi stood out as a rare voice of dissent.

If he has been silenced, it is because his voice was more powerful than even he had realised.

roula.khalaf@ft.com

https://www.ft.com/content/12591e10-cbe2-11e8-b276-b9069bde0956

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Repression and disappearances are also a problem in China.

  (Mainland China is a “source of conflict” — Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says.)

China launches anti-halal campaign in Xinjiang

October 10, 2018

The capital of China’s Xinjiang region, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority, has launched a campaign against halal products to stop Islam penetrating secular life and fuelling “extremism”.

Urumqi, the de facto capital of Xinjiang, may seem like a dystopian city due to the frequent presence of police. However, the hospitality of its people quickly debunks the myth. Acting as a transit point on the Silk Road, the best way to explore Urumqi is by visiting the Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar. Image credit: Dan Lundberg

In a meeting on Monday, the Communist Party leaders of Urumqi led cadres to swear an oath to “fight a decisive battle against ‘pan-halalization’,” according to a notice posed on the city’s official WeChat account.

Everyday halal products, like food and toothpaste, must be produced according to Islamic law.

China has been subject to heavy criticism from rights groups and foreign governments amid reports of a punitive crackdown that has seen the detention of as many as 1 million mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Beijing has denied it is systematically violating the rights of Xinjiang’s Muslims, saying it is only cracking down on extremism and “splittism” in the region.

The official Global Times said on Wednesday that the “demand that things be halal which cannot really be halal” was fuelling hostility toward religion and allowing Islam to penetrate secular life.

As part of the anti-halal campaign, Ilshat Osman, Urumqi’s ethnically Uighur head prosecutor, penned an essay entitled: “Friend, you do not need to find a halal restaurant specially for me”.

According to the WeChat post government employees should not have any diet problems and work canteens would be changed so that officials could try all kinds of cuisine.

The Urumqi Communist Party leaders also said they would require government officials and party members to firmly believe in Marxism-Leninism, and not religion, and to speak standard Mandarin Chinese in public.

Chinese citizens are theoretically free to practice any religion, but they have been subject to increasing levels of surveillance as the government tries to bring religious worship under stricter state control.

The Communist Party in August issued a revised set of regulations governing its members behavior, threatening punishments or expulsion for anyone who clung to religious beliefs.

Reuters

Reporting by David Stanway and Christian Shepherd; Editing by Michael Perry

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Pence accuses China of ‘malign’ campaign to undermine U.S., Trump administration

October 5, 2018

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence intensified Washington’s pressure campaign against Beijing on Thursday by accusing China of “malign” efforts to undermine President Donald Trump ahead of next month’s congressional elections and reckless military actions in the South China Sea.

In what was billed as a major policy address, Pence sought to build on Trump’s speech at the United Nations last week in which he accused China of trying to interfere in the vote that will determine whether his Republican Party will keep control of Congress.

Neither Trump nor Pence provided hard evidence of meddling by China, which last week rejected the president’s allegation.

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Hudson Institute, October 4, 2018.

Pence’s speech at Washington’s Hudson Institute marked a sharpened U.S. approach toward China going beyond the bitter trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. It highlighted disputes such as cyber attacks, Taiwan, freedom of the seas and human rights.

Pence said China was waging a sophisticated effort to sway the elections against the Republicans in retaliation for Trump’s trade policies. He vowed to continue to expose Beijing’s “malign influence and interference.”

Pence said Beijing, with an eye not only to the congressional elections but also to Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, had “mobilized covert actors, front groups, and propaganda outlets to shift Americans’ perception of Chinese policies” and was targeting its tariffs to hurt states where Trump has strong support.

“China wants a different American president,” Pence said.

He said that in June, Beijing laid out its strategy in a sensitive “Propaganda and Censorship Notice” which stated that China must “strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups” in the United States.

The allegations, however, have raised questions as to whether Trump and his aides are trying to deflect attention from an investigation of his campaign’s possible ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and also set up China for blame if Republicans do poorly in November’s vote.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement that Pence in his speech had made “unwarranted accusations … and slandered China by claiming that China meddles in U.S. internal affairs and elections.”

China is committed to working with the United States for “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” she said.

CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS

Washington has long cited China as a major culprit in the hacking of U.S. government and corporate databases. But U.S. officials and independent analysts say they have not detected the kind of systematic manipulation of social media and email hacking Russia was accused of in 2016.

Even so, Pence said: “As a senior career member of our intelligence community recently told me, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the Washington Post this week there was no indication of any foreign effort to disrupt election infrastructure, but added that “we know they (China) have the capability and the will.”

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Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

China expert Chris Johnson, a former CIA analyst now at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Pence’s speech appeared aimed in part at building a narrative that a vote for the Democrats would be vote for China.

“Another part of it is trying to distract attention from the real threat, which is Russia,” he said. “There’s nothing in that speech that rises to the level of 2016 Russian active measures.”

Trump has justified his trade policy by accusing China of stealing intellectual property and limiting access to its market. The two countries have imposed increasingly severe tariffs on each other.

Pence said Chinese security agencies had masterminded the “wholesale theft of American technology,” including military blueprints, and warned Washington would continue to take action.

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He urged Google (GOOGL.O) to end development of its “Dragonfly” app that would make it easier to track Internet searches and strengthen Chinese censorship.

Google declined comment, except to reiterate that its China search engine project was “exploratory” and not close to launch.

Bloomberg Businessweek cited 17 unidentified intelligence and company sources as saying that Chinese spies had placed computer chips in equipment used by about 30 firms, as well as multiple U.S. government agencies, which would give Beijing secret access to internal networks. Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O) denied the report.

Pence also said China had deployed anti-ship and anti-air missiles on artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, despite promises not to militarize them.

He accused Beijing of “reckless harassment” in an incident on Sunday in which a Chinese naval vessel nearly collided with a U.S. destroyer near the Spratly islands.

“We will not be intimidated,” Pence said of the operation, the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.

China said a Chinese warship had been sent to warn the U.S. vessel to leave an area of irrefutable Chinese sovereignty.

Pence accused China of using its economic power to bully smaller countries and said it had threatened the stability of the Taiwan Strait by pressuring three Latin American countries to sever ties with Taipei and recognize Beijing.

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Fighter jet from Taiwan keeps watch on a Chinese bomber

Pence also denounced Beijing’s crackdown on minority Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

Last month, a U.N. rights panel said it had received credible reports that up to one million ethnic Uighurs may be held in extra-legal detention in Xinjiang, which China says faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists.

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Chinese soldiers and Uighur woman in Xinjiang (FILE photo)

U.S. officials have said they are considering targeted sanctions for human rights abuses.

Daniel Russel, Washington’s top diplomat for East Asia until last year, said there was a lot to dislike about China’s behavior. But he said the claim that China was working to defeat Trump at the ballot box “rings hollow” and the approach could be counterproductive.

“Even if you accept all of Pence’s complaints at face value, it’s hard to make the case that the administration’s Cold War-style vilification of China will be effective or beneficial to U.S. interests, since it’s clearly pushing Beijing to intransigence, not compromise.”

Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Christopher Bing, Paresh Dave and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott and Grant McCool

Reuters

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