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Chinese Alert in Xinjiang

The Munich-based World Uighur Congress (WUC) has notified plans for protest meetings and demonstrations in different cities of the world having an Uighur presence to mark the first anniversary of the outbreak of anti-Beijing violence in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, which falls on July 5,2010.

2. Coinciding with the WUC announcement, the authorities in Xinjiang have notified the local people through a Government-run web site of stepped-up security measures, which will be in force from June 20 to July 20. These measures include increased police deployment and patrols in Urumqi and checking of vehicles for concealed weapons and explosive material.

3. It has been reported that about 1000 additional police personnel from other provinces will be moved to Urumqi for deployment during this period. Uighur sources have also claimed that rural students from the interior areas studying in Urumqi have been asked to return to their villages for a month and that restrictions are being imposed on visits of foreign tourists to the capital during this period. Anti-riot exercises have already been held by the local police in different parts of the city.

4. The plans for the induction of about 1000 additional police personnel were made before the recent outbreak of Kyrgyz-Uzbek ethnic violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan, which necessitated the airlift of over 600 Chinese residents, the majority of them Uighurs, from that country to Urumqi. The Chinese are reportedly concerned over the likelihood of the infiltration of elements belonging to the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan (IMET) into Urumqi by taking advantage of this air-lift. In view of this, it is possible that the Chinese may induct more police reinforcements from other provinces.

5. The Chinese have been unnerved by the success of 20 Uighurs—many of them Christians— in escaping from Urumqi to Cambodia allegedly via Vietnam towards the end of last year and seeking political asylum from the local office of the UN High Commission For Refugees. The Cambodian authorities had them arrested and deported to China before the UNHCR could intervene. It was alleged that these refugees were helped to flee from Xinjiang by a Macau-based Christian organization called the Macau Interfaith Network headed by Rev.Marcus Ramsey. This organization has allegedly been helping Christians wanting to flee from North Korea and China.

6. The Network, which was reportedly founded by another organization called the Full Gospel Church, seeks to promote inter-faith dialogue in China,Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Central Asia and to help the Christians in these countries. It has been holding inter-faith discussions in Macau, Chiangmai and Vientiane.

7. The interest taken by Christian organizations in the developments in Xinjiang has added to Beijing’s concerns. It is not known how many Christians are there in Xinjiang, but many of them seem to support the WUC.

( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

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