Posts Tagged ‘World Uyghur Congress’

Pakistan religious affairs minister discusses treatment of Xinjiang Muslims with Chinese envoy

September 19, 2018

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri met Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Xing on Wednesday to discuss bilateral relations and matters of mutual interest, chief among them the treatment of the Xinjiang Muslim community.

“Pakistan’s friendship with China is above and beyond any political agenda, the roots of which lie deep within the people,” said Qadri.

The federal minister remarked that the CPEC was a matter of national priority and expressed full confidence in it.

Moving onto more urgent matters, Qadri spoke about the Muslims facing numerous restrictions in China’s Xinjiang province and demanded that they be given relaxations.

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Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri met Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Xing on Wednesday

“The placement of restrictions increases the chances of an extremist viewpoint growing in reaction,” the minister told the Chinese ambassador, asserting that concrete steps need to be taken to weed out such a mindset and promulgate interfaith harmony.

The two also discussed talks between religious scholars belonging to Xinjiang and Pakistan.

“The Chinese government is the bearer of Sufi and moderate thought and resolves to sort the differences between various religious groups,” said the Chinese ambassador.

He invited Qadri for a visit to China which the federal minister accepted.

The Chinese ambassador also provided assurances to facilitate the visit of a Pakistani religious delegation to the Xinjiang province.

“Exchange of viewpoints between religious scholars of both countries is vital for better interfaith relations,” Xing remarked.

He said that there were 20 million Muslims living in China who enjoyed complete freedom to practice their faith.

“Pakistan is an important representative of the Muslim world and we want to further strengthen Pak-China relations on an Islamic level,” Xing said adding that they will take the Muslim community living in China into confidence for achieving the same.

He expressed China’s interest in working with Pakistan to develop an educational curriculum for the Muslim community.

“With Pakistan’s cooperation, China desires to work for the social development of the former Fata region and Afghan migrants,” he added.


After Balkanizing Syria; Will Xinjiang be Destabilized?

September 14, 2018

The US policy of permanently balkanizing Syria appears to be a foregone conclusion, even as the Syrian Arab Army and Russian forces proceed with their last major counter-terrorism operation in Idlib.

According to Wolfgang Mühlberger, senior fellow for EU-Mideast relations at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, “Idlib is the very Arab Kandahar with potentially more than 100,000 experienced, battle-hardened Sunni jihadi fighters hiding between the civilians.”

The number is due to the amalgamation of all the militants from de-confliction zones or reconquered battle zones (e.g., Aleppo, Ghouta, Deraa, etc.) throughout Syria that have been shipped to Idlib over the past couple of years, as well as remnants of the Free Syrian Army.

However, despite Washington acknowledging that the governorate is an Al Qaeda safe haven for militants from over 100 countries, the tripartite powers of the UK, US and France are now asking Germany to join planned airstrikes against Syria – as soon as President Bashar al-Assad gives them the green light by using chemical weapons.

Asia Times

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Turkish military vehicles in Syria. AFP photo

It is not entirely clear why the US believes the Syrian president would deliberately provoke western airstrikes on Syrian forces when they are on a winning streak in their war with the terrorists, but it does seem apparent that Washington intends to prevent Syria from regaining sovereignty over Idlib.

As discussed in a previous Asia Times article, RAND Corporation drew up a Syria partition plan wherein the US would occupy the northeast, Turkey the northwest, Russia and Iran the coastal area and large parts of the Syrian desert, and Israel and Jordan the southwest.

The US zone would contain oil fields where 90% of Syria’s pre-war oil production took place, while Israel would control the newly discovered oil reserves in the Golan Heights. Turkey’s control of Idlib as a safe haven for militants would put continued pressure on the Syrian government, and a balkanized Syria would be weak and less likely to provide a viable base for Iran and Hezbollah to attack Israel.

However, the partition of Idlib as a jihadi sanctuary has important implications for another actor – China. Back in August, there were reports that Beijing would participate in the Battle for Idlib due to the presence of Chinese Uyghur jihadi colonies. If Turkey controls Idlib, China fears Ankara and the West would exploit Uyghur militants as proxies to destabilize Xinjiang.

Idlib proxies to destabilize Xinjiang?

There are historical reasons for this concern, given that the CIA tried to destabilize Xinjiang and supported separatists in Tibet during the Cold War. As Israeli sinologist Yizhak Shichor pointed out, in the 1950s Washington tried to exploit Muslim grievances against China and the Soviet Union, by attempting to form a Middle Eastern Islamic pact to organize fifth columns in these countries.

Brian Fishman, a counter-terrorism expert at the New America Foundation, also noted that in the 1990s Osama Bin Laden accused the US and CIA of inciting conflict between Chinese and Muslims. After a series of 1997 bombings in Xinjiang that Beijing ascribes to Uyghur separatists, bin Laden blamed the CIA in an interview, saying, “The United States wants to incite conflict between China and the Muslims. The Muslims of Xinjiang are blamed for the bomb blasts in Beijing. But I think these explosions were sponsored by the American CIA.”

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Free Uyghur group. Getty Images

Interestingly at the time, Al Qaeda had its eyes on the West and largely ignored Uyghur separatism as a Chinese domestic issue. But as Fishman assessed, over time the transnational problem of al Qaeda and its allies, and the increasing prominence of Uyghurs in jihadi propaganda, meant that China could no longer avoid them.

Currently, China seems to be steering clear of direct military involvement and instead relies on Syria and Russia, but it would be concerned should Western powers block Damascus and Moscow’s campaign to reclaim Idlib and continue to partition a safe zone for Uyghur militants

Indeed, given that the 2016 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan was a joint operation between Al Nusra and its Uyghur affiliate Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP); the continual supply of advanced weaponry and tacit Western support for TIP due to its intermingling with the “rebel” opposition; professional military training by the private security company Malhama Tactical to improve TIP’s warfighting capabilities; and TIPs ultimate goal to attack China, James Dorsey at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore argued that Beijing mulling military intervention in Idlib underscores the gravity of this threat to China’s core interests.

Currently, China seems to be steering clear of direct military involvement and instead relies on Syria and Russia, but it would be concerned should Western powers block Damascus and Moscow’s campaign to reclaim Idlib and continue to partition a safe zone for Uyghur militants.

Moreover, as Jacob Zenn from the Jamestown Foundation pointed out, China is also concerned by “the prospect of re-shaping the borders in the Middle East that could lead to new conceptions of sovereignty and statehood – not only in the region but elsewhere throughout the Islamic world, including Central Asia and Xinjiang.’

Xinjiang at heart of Belt and Road Initiative

Now it appears that a Western united front is emerging to confront China on human rights issues, using various tools of media coverage, economic sanctions, political activism by NGOs and think tanks to internationalize the Uyghur issue in Xinjiang.  Similar to Israel’s dilemma over the internationalization of the Palestinian issue, China is bracing itself for a destabilization campaign and possible call for secession and partition of the province from Chinese sovereignty.

This perception is due to US backing of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, which aspires to revert Xinjiang to an independent East Turkistan. The first president of the Congress was Erkin Alptekin, son of Isa Alptekin, who headed the short-lived First East Turkestan Republic in Kashgar (November 12, 1933 to February 6, 1934), and also served as an advisor to the CIA while working at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich.

The Alptekin family and Xinjiang secession enjoy strong support from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who while being mayor of Istanbul in 1995, named a section of the Blue Mosque park after Isa Alptekin and built a memorial to commemorate Eastern Turkistani martyrs who lost their lives in the “struggle for independence.”

Given resource-rich Xinjiang is at the heart of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), destabilizing the province would not only spoil the plan for Eurasian integration and development, but also weaken China’s economy by cutting off its overland energy supply from Central Asia and the Middle East, hamper its market access, and keep Beijing bogged down in an ethnoreligious conflict.

While this may augment current Washington’s trade war against the Middle Kingdom and weaken the Pentagon’s “peer competitor,” by deliberately stoking Chinese fears about Xinjiang destabilization and increasing radicalization, thereby egging Beijing to clamp down on Uyghurs, is in effect exploiting the ethnic Uyghur’s plight for narrow geopolitical agenda.

And as Yizhack Shichor perceived, “Vocal criticism of China related to its Uyghur persecution comes primarily, in fact almost entirely from outside the Middle East, from Western non-Muslim countries…[which] may have little do to with loving the Uyghurs, and much more to do with opposing China.”

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See also:
Xinjiang is the Weak Link in China’s Belt and Road

As China detains Muslim Uyghurs, its economic clout mutes world criticism — A “Nazi-Like View Of ‘Impure’ Minorities”

August 27, 2018

Has China simply become too powerful for the world to protest its human rights abuses? A vast surveillance and detention campaign against a Muslim minority is putting that to the test.

Thomas Peter/Reuters
Armed police keep watch in a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017. Government figures gathered by China Human Rights Defenders, a US-based non-profit, show that 21 percent of all arrests in China last year were made in Xinjiang, though only 1.5 percent of the country’s population lives there.

Eighteen months after the first reports of a major security crackdown in China’s frontier province of Xinjiang, the world is beginning to wake up to evidence that Beijing is forcing an unprecedented detention and indoctrination program on the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group.

A United Nations panel in mid-August heard what one member called “credible reports” that as many as 1 million Uyghurs are being interned and subjected to political re-education. And in a flurry of statements late last month, several senior US officials and politicians condemned China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, citing the same figures.

“It’s an attempt to brainwash an entire people because of their religious and political beliefs,” says Nicolas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International. “The policy aims to marginalize and stamp out an entire ethnic group.”

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But awareness is not translating into action – not yet, at any rate.

“The world is starting to pay a little more attention to the fate of the Uyghurs,” adds Mr. Bequelin, but few governments have spoken out and none have taken any firm steps to oppose the campaign. And that may be simply because, as China’s clout spreads worldwide, countries eager for a share of its trade and investment do not dare alienate Beijing. Even governments that have previously spoken up for vulnerable Muslim populations around the world have remained silent, underscoring China’s increasingly pivotal role beyond its neighborhood.

“Governments are not willing to speak up because they would be risking too much economically,” says Peter Irwin, advocacy director for the World Uyghur Congress (WUC.)

Big Brother gets bigger

At the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva earlier this month, Vice Chair Gay McDougall said China had made Xinjiang “something resembling a massive internment camp, shrouded in secrecy, a kind of no-rights zone.” Critics fear the pervasive surveillance state erected in the region may be a testing ground for broader use elsewhere in the country.

Beijing insists that its harsh policies in the restive, mainly Muslim province are aimed at curbing Islamic extremism. Uyghur separatists have staged sporadic bomb and knife attacks, and an editorial in the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper argued recently that Xinjiang “has avoided the fate of becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or ‘China’s Libya’ ” because of “the high intensity of regulations.”

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In Geneva, Chinese delegate Hu Lianhe denied that as many as a million people were being held, but explained that “those deceived by religious extremism” were being sent to “vocational education and employment training centers.” He did not say how many such people had been sent to such centers.

But new evidence suggests that the crackdown has reached unprecedented proportions, with over 1,000 detention centers built or enlarged since early 2017. Former detainees have reported being obliged to spend their days reciting Chinese laws, watching pro-government propaganda films, swearing loyalty to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and renouncing tenets of their faith.

Thomas Peter/Reuters
People mingle in the old town of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 22, 2017. A UN panel in mid-July heard what one member called “credible reports” that as many as 1 million Uyghurs are being interned and subjected to political re-education.

Outside these centers, Xinjiang regulations ban “abnormal” beards and veils in public, as well as certain names, including Mohammed. Uighur areas have been flooded with police, and live under one the most sophisticated and pervasive surveillance systems in the world. CCTV cameras use facial recognition technology, and authorities are collecting and registering residents’ DNA and iris scans, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

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“It is likely that experiences learned in the re-education program will inform social re-engineering practices in the rest of the country,” predicts Adrian Zenz, a Xinjiang expert at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany. “In a more subtle and refined way they could be used against more stubborn pockets of Muslim or Christian sentiment.”

Dr. Zenz published research three months ago – based on studies of Xinjiang government procurement bids, eyewitness accounts, and interviews with officials – estimating the number of Uyghurs undergoing “transformation through education” (as Chinese officials call it) at possibly 1.1 million. That is around 10 percent of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.

The Chinese government has offered no legal justification for the detentions, nor is it clear whether there are any official criteria governing detainees’ release.

“The goal is to produce long-term change through intimidation in an entire ethnic and religious population,” Dr. Zenz says. “It is hard to compare it with anything else” in recent history.

US ‘deeply troubled’

The Chinese campaign has caught little international attention until now, partly because before Zenz’s report most evidence was anecdotal, and from politically motivated groups like the WUC. Foreign journalists have found it almost impossible to report from Xinjiang, and Uyghur exiles are afraid to speak for fear of what might happen to relatives in China.

But last month, in connection with a State Department-organized international conference on religious freedom, US officials broke their silence with a spate of comments.

Though President Trump’s administration has shown little interest in human rights abroad, and has a history of controversial comments toward Islam, “religious issues are something that the Republican Party very easily gets behind,” says James Millward, an expert in Uyghur affairs at Georgetown University in Washington. “The US has traditionally been concerned about religious freedoms abroad.”

At the conference, Vice President Mike Pence accused Beijing of “holding … possibly millions of Uighur Muslims in so-called re-education camps, where they’re forced to undergo round-the-clock political indoctrination.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leveled a similar accusation, and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, speaking at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, said that the Uyghurs’ “religious and ethnic identity is literally being extinguished by the Chinese government.”

The day before, a senior US diplomat had told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China that “the United States is deeply troubled by the Chinese government’s worsening crackdown” in Xinjiang and called on other countries to join in Washington’s denunciations.

“We have been quite disappointed at the lack of response,” says the WUC’s Mr. Irwin. “The reason things have gone as far as they have is that China saw no one was going to object so they pushed things further.”

European diplomats say they raised the Uyghurs’ plight at a human-rights dialogue with Chinese officials in Beijing last month, but that was as far as the issue went.

Majority-Muslim reactions

Most striking is the silence from Muslim countries and organizations that have in the past leaped to the defense of other Muslim peoples, such as the Palestinians or the Rohingya.

“Over the years there have been really muted reactions from the Middle East” to events in Xinjiang, says Dawn Murphy, an expert in China’s relations with the Middle East at the US Air War College in Alabama.

Many Arab countries, not eager to draw attention to their own human rights records, “appreciate China’s respect for the principle of non-interference in other countries’ affairs,” Professor Murphy suggests. “And looking broadly at their relations with China, they have likely decided that their economic and political interests are more important” than the Uyghurs’ human rights.

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has said nothing about Xinjiang since 2015, when it protested a government edict forbidding civil servants and students from observing the holy fast of Ramadan.

Closer to China, the last Malaysian government cooperated with Beijing to deport a number of Uyghur asylum-seekers. In return, says Ahmad Farouk Musa, head of the Islamic Renaissance Front think tank in Kuala Lumpur, the Chinese government appears to have paid off significant debts held by the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

“Business speaks louder than a humanitarian crisis,” Dr. Musa says. But the new Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir bin Mohamed, has promised a more independent line towards Beijing, Musa points out. “Now we are not scared to stand up to China.”

Meanwhile the Turkish government – traditionally the region’s strongest supporter of the Uyghurs, their ethnic cousins – has been tight-lipped over the “re-education” program. The increasingly autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, turning East in his search for allies, is seeking Turkish membership in the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and is thought unlikely to needle Beijing amid a bitter political and economic dispute with Washington.

Some activists say they still hope that as news from Xinjiang spreads, it will spur pressure on China, despite Beijing’s economic clout.

In the past, the WUC’s Mr. Irwin points out, “states did not really believe the figures we were talking about. Now that there is a firmer basis for them we hope there will be more of a reaction. The issue is filtering up the system in the US, at least.”

In November, China is due to undergo its five-yearly “periodic review” by the UN Human Rights Committee. Uyghur activists hope their nascent momentum will “push the international community to make strong statements” at that meeting, Irwin says.

“But getting governments to pass laws” to punish China, he adds ruefully, “is another story.”


An executive at Human Rights Watch told Peace and Freedom, “Like the Uighurs in Xinjiang, the Rohingya are in the way of China’s Belt and Road. And nobody seems to care.”


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Ethnic Uighur children in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province © Getty

  (Academic Freedom Chinese Style)

Image result for China’s ethnic Kazakhs, photos




China’s Communist Party Creates Special Bureau for Xinjiang

May 7, 2017

The Chinese Communist Party has established a new bureau for Xinjiang within its United Front Work Department to streamline policy coordination and provide strategic regional advice to the country’s leaders. The bureau’s creation comes amid President Xi Jinping’s call for the building of a “great wall of iron” to safeguard stability in the autonomous territory. From Global Times:

The Communist Party of China  Central Committee’s Work Department has set up a new bureau for Northwest China’s Uyghur Autonomous Region, the department said Thursday.

The new bureau is primarily in charge of analyzing Xinjiang’s situation and policies, and will assist in coordinating and supervising the implementation of the central government’s decisions on the region, according to statement released on the department’s WeChat account on Thursday.

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Specifically, the bureau will conduct research on significant and sensitive issues and policies in the region, as well as recommend solutions.

The bureau is also in charge of coordinating between Xinjiang and other areas in China on issues affecting social stability, ethnic unity, ideology, economic development, education and employment, the statement said.

[…] Work involving Xinjiang is of special importance to China, and the region’s development and stability is vital to the country’s reform and stability, the statement said. [Source]

South China Morning Post’s Jun Mai writes that the formation of the bureau is a sign of a broader shift in decision-making power away from government bodies to the ruling Communist Party.

The creation of a new office for Xinjiang reflects Beijing’s growing concerns about stability in the region, which borders eight countries from Russia all the way round to India. The office also elevates Xinjiang-related issues on the work agenda of the ruling party to the same rank as non-Communist political parties, ethnic and religious issues, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan affairs, and Tibet affairs.

[…] Jiang Zhaoyong, an independent Beijing-based Xinjiang specialist, is sceptical whether the new bureau ill be effective in soothing the conflicts in the region.

“Implementation of the policies is still largely dependent on the regional chief,” he said. “We should pay closer attention to their moves, as the [United Front Work] department was seldom involved in Xinjiang affairs.”

Since President Xi Jinping came to power 41/2 years ago, he has been giving the party a more prominent role in managing key political, economic and social affairs, and the creation of a new bureau in the party’s united front work office fits the broad shift of decision-making power away from government towards the party. [Source]

At the same time, Xinjiang’s ethnic Uyghur population has been subject to increasingly intrusive social controls as the state intensifies efforts to stifle displays of Islamic identity. In April, officials banned parents from naming their newborns Jihad, Imam, Medina and Mohammed, among other Muslim baby names with religious overtones. A new legislation was also passed last month prohibiting “abnormal” beards and the wearing of veils in public places. In addition, cash reward systems for information on illegal religious and separatist activities have been set up in the region to incentivize whistler blowers. These developments are part of an ongoing nationwide “war on terror” that was launched in 2014 in response to a series of violent incidents in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China. While authorities have attributed the violence to Uyghur separatists and religious extremists, critics argue that the state’s regressive policies in the region are the root cause of unrest. Alongside new surveillance measures, authorities in Xinjiang have unveiled plans to deploy drones to patrol its borders as part of its fight against terrorism.

Xin Lin at Radio Free Asia reports that Chinese authorities have now ordered tour guides in Xinjiang to monitor visitors in the region and report all suspicious activities to the police. The guides themselves are also prohibited from discussing topics that are deemed politically sensitive.

“Only CITS is permitted to manage foreign tour groups,” the manager, who declined to be named, told RFA. “There are some place that are off-limits to foreigners, and some topics of conversation must be avoided.”

“We are obliged to report back to the police, not on everything they say, but if somebody won’t take no for an answer and insists on asking questions on banned topics, then this will cause a lot of problems [for them],” the manager said.

[…] Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress group representing the Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim Uyghur group who call Xinjiang home, said the rules are even stricter for hoping to work in the sector in their own backyard.

“Uyghur tour guides are required to fill out a political appraisal form indicating that there have been no ‘separatist actions’ in their family for three generations,” Raxit told RFA on Friday. [Source]

On Trump travel ban, China says ‘reasonable concerns’ must be considered — China keeps Muslims under police-state controls — In Xinjiang, Muslims cannot hold their own passports

January 30, 2017

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Chinese troops “Occupy” the Muslim zone of China — BBC photo


Mon Jan 30, 2017 | 6:07am EST

China appeared to offer mild criticism on Monday of U.S. President Donald Trump’s banning of entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries, saying immigration policy was a sovereign right but “reasonable concerns” must be considered.

Trump signed a directive on the banning on Friday. U.S. Democrats and a growing number of Republicans assailed the move and foreign leaders condemned it amid court challenges and tumult at U.S. airports.

Trump says his directive is “not about religion” but keeping America safe. Trump has presented the policy as a way to protect the country from the threat of Islamist militants.

China’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement sent to Reuters, said it had noted the reports of the U.S. administration’s decision.

“China believes that adjusting immigration and entry and exit policy is an act within each country’s sovereignty,” the ministry said.

“At the same time, relevant moves must also consider the reasonable concerns of relevant countries,” it added in a brief statement.

It did not elaborate.

China is in the middle of a week-long Lunar New Year holiday and government departments do not return to work until Friday.

China has been trying to pay a greater diplomatic role in the Middle East, and has particularly close ties with Iran and Sudan, two of the seven countries on Trump’s list.

China is home to a Muslim population of about 20 million people, including ethnic Uighur people in the far western region of Xinjiang, where the government says it is facing its own problem with Islamist militants.

Rights groups and exiles says China’s repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, are the root cause of the unrest, which has killed hundreds in the past few years.

China denies any repression and says it guarantees freedom of religion.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)



In China, Xinjiang residents must surrender passports to police

Updated 7:30 AM ET, Fri November 25, 2016

Beijing (CNN)Millions of residents in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region have been ordered to surrender their passports to local police, in a move rights groups say is an attack on personal freedom.

The order came from the Shihezi Public Security Bureau Immigration Office in Xinjiang on October 19, which said that passports would be held by police after an “annual check.”

Residents wishing to travel abroad would have to seek permission from local authorities, the statement said. Those who refuse could be barred from leaving the country.

Local border security troops carrying out training in Xinjiang last year

Chinese border security troops carrying out training in Xinjiang.  CREDIT: REX

Xinjiang is an ethnically divided and resource rich province that is home to around 10 million predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and around eight million Han Chinese.
No reason was given for the policy, however the World Uyghur Congress, a Germany-based rights group, said it was deliberate move to restrict the movements of the Uyghur population.
“Although the regulations ostensibly target all residents, Chinese authorities in the past have taken clear steps to limit mobility rights for the Uyghur community in particular,” the Congress said in a statement.

India cancels visa to exiled Ugyur leader, draws opposition rebuke on bowing to China

April 26, 2016


Dolkun Isa, executive chairman of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, planned to attend a conference this month in India’s Dharamsala but his visa was suddenly revoked without reason

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 April, 2016, 6:39pm

India on Monday said it had withdrawn a visa to an exiled Uygur leader whom China has long branded a terrorist, provoking criticism from the opposition that it had buckled to pressure from Beijing.

China blames unrest that has killed hundreds of people in its far western province of Xinjiang on Islamist militants looking to establish an independent state for the mostly Muslim Uygur ethnic minority.

Dolkun Isa, executive chairman of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, planned to attend a conference this month in India’s northern hill town of Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Isa’s World Uygur Congress is a leading ethnic Uygur group which advocates democracy and human rights.

New Delhi granted Isa a tourist visa in a sign that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was ready to break from the past, when it had discouraged a visit by the top exiled Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, in 2009.

I regret that my trip has generated such unwarranted controversy

But on Monday, an interior ministry spokesman said Isa’s electronic visa had been withdrawn, without giving a reason for the decision.

“A visa was given to him. That has been cancelled,” the spokesman said. The foreign ministry directed queries to the interior ministry.

The announcement came after domestic media quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry as saying Isa was wanted by China and Interpol had put out a “red-corner” notice for his arrest.

Isa said he was disappointed by the decision to block his travel to a conference aimed at exchanging ideas among different ethnic and religious communities.

“I recognise and understand the difficult position that the Indian government found itself, and regret that my trip has generated such unwarranted controversy,” he said in a statement on the group’s website.

Modi’s administration has sought a more assertive posture in its relations with neighbours and erstwhile foes, Pakistan and China, as it seeks to expand commercial ties.

India reacted angrily this month to China’s decision to put a hold on its request to add the head of the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, or the Army of Mohammad, to the United Nations’ al Qaeda-Islamic State blacklist.

Some political supporters of Modi’s government saw the initial grant of the visa as a response to Beijing’s decision to side with Pakistan over the militant leader operating from the neighbouring country.

The flip-flop provoked opposition criticism. “Modi’s latest foreign policy disaster on China can be termed a Himalayan blunder,” said Sanjay Jha, a spokesman of the main opposition Congress party.


China has turned Xinjiang into a sort of occupied zone. The Muslim Uighur minority is surrounded by Chinese military with automatic weapons. Many have accused China of a “slow genocide” of the Uighur population.


Ren Zhiqiang during an appearance in September at Wuhan University in Hubei Province.CreditChinaFotoPress, via Getty Images

Books banned in China but available in Hong Kong became so widely known that China sent its agents to Thailand to pick up one man responsible — and then abducted three more men in Hong Kong who were associated with the Causeway Bay Books Shop (shown). All four ended up in China — a huge violation of many international laws. The men remain”detained” in China along with dozens of Chinese human rights lawyers who have “disappeared.”


Canadian Set Free By China in Human Rights Disagreement

February 3, 2016


Huseyin Celil and one of his youngest children in a photo taken shortly before his arrest in 2006.


BEIJING — The Globe and Mail

China has reduced the sentence for Huseyin Celil, the Canadian man imprisoned for life on terrorism-related charges, at a time when both Ottawa and Beijing are seeking to move past old frictions.

Judicial authorities commuted sentences for Mr. Celil and 10 other prisoners in China’s far western Xinjiang region, “based on the performance of those people,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday.

Mr. Celil, 46, had apologized for bringing “unmendable damages” to the country, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

“I will apologize repeatedly and with sincerity to the Party, the government and society, to the young people and their families, who were contaminated by me with ideas of violence and terrorism, and hence lost their youth and even life,” Mr. Celil said.

Seven of the Xinjiang prisoners had life sentences reduced to jail terms of 19 1/2 or 20 years. Xinhua did not make clear whether Mr. Celil was one of them, nor did court websites in Xinjiang. Calls to courts in Xinjiang went unanswered.

Mr. Celil, a refugee from China, was travelling on a Canadian passport when police in Uzbekistan arrested him in 2006 and sent him to China, which refused to recognize his Canadian citizenship. His treatment became a point of heated disagreement between Ottawa and Beijing after former prime minister Stephen Harper raised the issue with Hu Jintao, then China’s president.

His commutation comes as the Justin Trudeau government seeks a warmer relationship in cross-Pacific diplomacy and trade.

“This would not be accidental,” said Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta. “They know this is a case of huge sensitivity to Canada.”

The relationship with China was further complicated last week when officials charged Kevin Garratt, another Canadian whose detention has been disputed by Ottawa, with spying and stealing state secrets.

Reducing Mr. Celil’s life sentence “will be a one-off gesture meant to improve atmosphere, and seen in a positive fashion,” Mr. Houlden said.

But Mr. Celil’s treatment remains “very harsh,” said Joseph Shi, a Chinese dissident imprisoned for seven years before coming to Canada, where he is now a municipal councillor in Alberta. Chinese prisoners are typically re-evaluated every two years, and most criminals would see sentences reduced on their first re-evaluation, he said. It has now been a decade since Mr. Celil was arrested.

“The Canadian government may think this is a sign to smooth the relationship. Actually no: this is just very harsh treatment.”

Mr. Celil fled China in 1994 after being arrested on murder and terrorism-related charges. After his departure, a Chinese court sentenced him to death for organizing a political party to advocate for China’s Uighur people. He moved to Canada in 2001 as a political refugee and received a passport four years later.

The Uighurs are a Muslim minority who say Beijing has discriminated against them by restricting their ability to practise their religion.

The Chinese government accused Mr. Cecil of joining the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the East Turkestan Liberation Organization, groups it says have close links to terror.

He and the other 10 prisoners “jeopardized China’s national security, disrupted social stability and caused heavy losses of lives and property,” Mutalifu Wubli, president of the Xinjiang’s Higher People’s Court, told Xinhua.

China subjects some prisoners to what they call re-education and deradicalization programs. The mass commutation looks like an effort to show those programs are “bearing fruit,” said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.

But with no independent oversight or international observation, “it’s very difficult know whether they’re actually effective or whether they comply with international laws and standards,” he said. Imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners, for example, have been “subjected to extra-legal transformation centres where oftentimes beatings or studying the law all day long, and memorizing and having to recite things, was very common,” Mr. Nee said.

Chinese law stipulates that a life sentence cannot be reduced below 13 years. In general, prisoners can have sentences commuted if they “so-called admit to the crime, promise to correct wrongs, show good performance during their time in jail or make major contributions” during their incarceration, said Li Xiongbing, a Chinese human rights lawyer.

Mr. Celil has spent long periods in solitary confinement, and his arrest and sentencing created significant tension between Ottawa and Beijing. Canadian diplomats were barred from seeing Mr. Celil or attending his court proceedings.

In 2009, the Canadian government sought help from John Kamm, a former U.S. businessman who advocates on behalf of imprisoned dissidents in China, and who was in the country last week.

“This rare act of clemency has come about after years of hard work by the Canadian government, and reflects lobbying by international human rights groups and concerned citizens,” he said in a statement. “We welcome this development, and hope that other acts of clemency will follow.”

The Canadian embassy in Beijing directed questions to foreign affairs officials in Ottawa, who had no immediate comment when contacted after working hours.

Human rights groups have long lobbied for Mr. Celil’s release, saying that his health has suffered while in prison. His mother accused China of torturing him and forcing him to sign a confession. In court in 2007, he said his captors threatened to have him “buried alive or disappeared” if he did not confess.

Mr. Celil was allowed to send a plaintive letter from prison in 2008, in which he wrote: “I missed my mother and two son from the bottom of my heart. I really want to see them one more time … My days are passing with hoping of a miracle that can save me from this place and gives me chance of hugging my wife and children in Canada.”

With a report by Yu Mei

Follow on Twitter: @nvanderklippe



Xinjiang: China Claims It “De-Radicalised” 11 Muslim people convicted for harming state security — Canadian Huseyin Celil set free

February 3, 2016


Authorities in China’s unruly far-western region of Xinjiang have reduced the sentences of 11 people jailed for threatening state security after declaring success of a de-radicalisation program, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Hundreds of people have been killed in violence in Xinjiang in the past few years. The government blames the unrest on Islamist militants who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan for minority Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people from Xinjiang who speak a Turkic language.

Seven of the convicts had their life sentences reduced to jail terms ranging from 19.5 years to 20 years, including people convicted of instigating “secessionist activities” or participating in terror attacks, Xinhua said late on Tuesday.

The other four had their jail terms cut by six months from initial sentences ranging from 8 to 15 years, it added.

A spokesman for the main Uighur exile group dismissed the report as “political propaganda”.

Xinjiang’s governor, Shohrat Zakir, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that the region’s jails had been very successful in recent years at their de-radicalisation efforts, with a “majority” of convicts becoming law-abiding citizens.

Efforts need to continue in this regard with a focus on those convicted for harming state security, he added.

Xinhua said this had been accomplished by inviting religious leaders and scholars to talk to prisoners about “correct religious belief”.

One of those whose sentence was reduced was identified as Yushanjiang Jilili, the Chinese spelling for Huseyin Celil, a Uighur-Canadian jailed in 2007 for terrorism. China considers him a Chinese citizen.

“My crimes caused serious damage to my country, Xinjiang, my family and children that can never be made up for,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.

Celil, a Canadian citizen and father of four, is in solitary confinement where he is serving a life sentence for his advocacy work on behalf of the Muslim Uighurs

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he did not know any details about the sentence reductions, but that all the people involved were Chinese.

The Canadian Embassy in Beijing did not respond to requests for comment.

Reuters was also unable to reach officials in Xinjiang for comment, or any family members of the convicts to verify their stories.

Exiles and many rights groups say the real cause of the unrest is heavy-handed Chinese policies, including curbs on Uighur culture, and a dearth of economic opportunity, rather than any cohesive militant group.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the main exile group the World Uyghur Congress, said news of the commutations was a “political propaganda tool” to cover up the government’s use of the term extremist to repress the Uighur people.

“Be aware that China is using the so-called commutations to mislead the international community and continues to use anti-terrorism to step up its repression,” he said in an emailed statement.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel)

Chinese police kill 28 members of a “terrorist group” in the mainly Muslim Xinjiang

November 20, 2015



Chinese police have killed 28 members of a “terrorist group” in the mainly Muslim Xinjiang region, authorities announced Friday, in the bloodiest such operation in months and as Beijing denounces Western “double standards” in the wake of the Paris attacks.

The killings took place over the course of a 56-day manhunt following an attack on a colliery in Aksu in September that left 16 people dead, said the Xinjiang regional government’s Tianshan web portal. One “thug” surrendered, it added.

It was the first official confirmation of both the attack on the mine and its aftermath.

Xinjiang is the homeland of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, many of whom complain of discrimination and controls on their culture and religion, and is often hit by deadly unrest.

The assault on the colliery was “a violent terrorist attack under the direct command of an overseas extremist organisation”, Tianshan said.

China’s official Xinhua news agency cited a Xinjiang government statement identifying the attack leaders as Musa Tohniyaz and Mamat Aysa, both apparently Uighur names.

Friday’s reports came after Radio Free Asia (RFA), which is funded by the US government, said that more than 50 people including five police were killed in a knife attack at a colliery in Aksu in September.

The assailants targeted security guards, the mine owner’s house, and a workers’ dormitory, it said.

Earlier this week RFA cited government and local sources as saying 17 suspects, including seven women and children — among them a one-year-old and six-year-old — had been killed by authorities.

– ‘Victim of terrorism’ –

Beijing regularly accuses what it says are exiled Uighur separatist groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement of being behind attacks in Xinjiang, which has seen a wave of deadly unrest.

But overseas experts doubt the strength of the groups and their links to global terrorism, with some saying China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security measures in the resource-rich region.

Rights groups and overseas Uighur organisations say that such actions are among the drivers of the violence.

“China uses extremely repressive means to deal with Uighurs dissatisfied with government policies,” Dilxat Raxit of the World Uyghur Congress exile group told AFP in an email.

“Beijing is shirking responsibility that its own policies caused (the mine attack) by saying so-called foreign forces were in command.”

Beijing — which considers condemnations of attacks in Xinjiang by foreign governments as weak — slammed Western countries for applying “double standards” on terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks that left at least 129 people dead.

“Double standards shouldn’t be allowed,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi

“China is a victim of terrorism,” Xinhua said in a commentary late Thursday.

“Combating the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a UN-listed terror group, and other terrorist groups is an important component of the international fight against terrorism,” it added.

China tends to reserve the “terrorist” label for attacks involving Uighurs.

Last month police quickly ruled out the possibility of a “terrorist act” when a series of 18 explosions killed at least seven people in the southern region of Guangxi.

The word was similarly avoided when a bomb explosion killed one person and injured eight outside a Communist Party office in Shanxi province in 2013.

– Gun battles –

The Tianshan portal said police mobilised around 10,000 people of “various ethnic groups” to help in the search for the coal mine attackers.

Pictures showed farmers armed with wooden batons and farm tools, and a helicopter that was also deployed in the operation.

The “mobsters” were shot dead during several gun battles, the last of them on November 12, it said.

Authorities launched a “strike hard” campaign in Xinjiang after a bomb rocked the main train station in the regional capital Urumqi last year as President Xi Jinping was wrapping up a visit to the city.

The crackdown has seen mass trials and multiple executions.

In March 2014, 31 people were knifed to death at a train station in Kunming, in southwestern China, with four attackers killed, with Xinjiang separatists blamed and state media dubbing it “China’s 9/11”.

Two months later 39 people were killed in a bloody market attack in Urumqi.

Chinese paramilitary police patrol beside the central square in Hotan, in China’s western Xinjiang region (AFP Photo by Greg Baker)

China has turned Xinjiang into a sort of occupied zone. The Muslim Uighur minority is surrounded by Chinese military with automatic weapons. Man have accused China of a “slow genocide” of the Uighur population.

Chinese troops in Xinjiang watching Ethnic Uyghur Muslims

British Business Opportunities More Important Than Human Rights? George Osborne in hot water in Xinjiang, China

September 23, 2015


George Osborne described “Britain’s absolute commitment to support the growth of Urumqi together with the whole of the Xinjiang region”

BEIJING (AFP) – Campaign groups on Wednesday condemned Britain’s finance minister for touting business opportunities ahead of human rights on a visit to China’s violence-wracked Xinjiang region.George Osborne pledged Britain would “support the growth” of the area, the homeland of the mostly-Muslim Uighur minority, where clashes have killed hundreds in recent years.

China blames Islamist separatists for the violence and has imposed tough security measures, including restrictions on religious practice, mass trials, and multiple executions.

Its policies have drawn condemnation from rights advocates and Uighurs, who complain of cultural repression and discrimination.

Osborne’s visit — highly unusual for a senior Western politician — came exactly one year after a Xinjiang court imprisoned Uighur intellectual and government critic Ilham Tohti for life on charges of “inciting separatism”.

Osborne is seeking to promote closer business and economic ties between Britain and China.

In the regional capital Urumqi, where Tohti was jailed and where ethnic riots in 2009 left around 200 dead, Osborne said Xinjiang had “enormous potential”.

He also described “Britain’s absolute commitment to support the growth of Urumqi together with the whole of the Xinjiang region.”

China’s ruling Communist party denies allegations of cultural and religious repression, and says economic growth will help bring stability to the region.

A lengthy report on Osborne’s public comments released by Britain’s Treasury did not mention any human rights concerns.

Amnesty International’s UK director Kate Allen said failing to raise Tohti’s case would “send the signal that the UK is willing to compromise its human rights values”.

Osborne told the BBC he had raised the issue of human rights in the context of “economic development, how we help kids from poor areas of China”.

Uighur groups condemned his visit.

“It is very disappointing that there was no public condemnation of China’s repression of Uighurs,” said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for exile group the World Uyghur Congress.

“Britain cannot acquiesce in China’s repression of the Uighur people because of economic interests,” he added in a statement.

Britain’s governing Conservative party has sought to improve relations with China after its leader David Cameron angered Beijing by meeting the Dalai Lama.

Osborne said the Xinjiang visit was intended to highlight business opportunities created by a Chinese plan to build transport and trade infrastructure in Asia known as “One Belt One Road”.

The scheme is widely seen as an effort to export China’s excess industrial capacity in sectors such as steel and cement abroad, amid slowing domestic growth.