The situation in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Province of China, continues to be tense with sporadic acts of violence of a minor nature as compared to what happened on the night of July 5,2009, and the next day. The violent incidents reported on July 8 were mainly in the form of small groups of angry Han Chinese trying to attack individual Uighurs.
2. In all instances, the police promptly intervened and persuaded the Han Chinese to disperse and not to take the law into their own hands. The police have mobilised the support of some members of the Han Chinese community, who are in a preponderant majority in Urumqi, to go round the Han Chinese areas and appeal to them not to take the law into their own hands. They have also been promising the Han Chinese that all Uighurs who were involved in the attacks on the Han Chinese will be prosecuted and promptly executed if found guilty of violent crimes.
3. More Army reinforcements have been moved into Urumqi and other areas of the province from Sichuan. They have undertaken a vigorous patrolling of the areas in order to help the police maintain law and order. Helicopter patrols have also been pressed into service. While violence is down, tension and nervousness continue. Many shops remained closed on July 8 and there was a rush at the local airport due to the anxiety of many Han Chinese to leave Xinjiang. All flights going out of Urumqi are packed and Han Chinese, not able to get a seat in the flights, have been staying in hotels near the airport, hoping to get a place in subsequent flights.
4. Meng Jianzhu, State Councillor, who is the Minister for Public Security and in that capacity is the chief of China’s internal intelligence and homeland security set-up, has flown into Urumqi from Beijing and has been going round the city along with officials of the local Government and party appealing for calm and assuring the Han Chinese that the laws will be applied firmly against those who indulged in violence. In an unusual move, the People’s Daily of China, owned by the Chinese Communist Party, asked its readers in advance to look out for an editorial on July 9 in which it would call for the strict application of the laws against those found guilty and for strict measures to restore social order.
5. Even after the surprise return of President Hu Jintao from Italy on the morning of July 8 after cancelling his participation in the G-8 summit, the Chinese have continued with their policy of transparency in order to let the world know about the kind of brutalities allegedly committed by the Uighurs on July 5 and 6,2009. This would probably show that the policy of transparency, which was reportedly ordered by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in the absence of Hu in Italy, had the support of Hu.
6.The way the Chinese have handled the aftermath has been refreshingly different from the way they reacted after the Lhasa uprising of March 2008. After the Lhasa uprising, they ordered all foreign journalists and tourists in Tibet to leave and stopped permitting foreign journalists to visit Tibet for nearly three months. Now, the Chinese Foreign and Information offices in Beijing have been taking the initiative in contacting foreign journalists and requesting them to go to Urumqi to report on the situation. It has been reported that many journalists are already in Urumqi.
7. The only common factor in the way the Chinese handled the aftermath of the Lhasa uprising and are now handling the Urumqi uprising is the virulent demonisation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Youth Congress last year and a similar demonisation of the World Uighur Congress (WUC) and its leaders.
8. The immediate priority for the Chinese, as seen by them, is to address the Han Chinese anger over the alleged failure of the Police to protect them on July 5 and 6,2009. The next priority is to arrest and prosecute all those involved in acts of violence.
9. The ground situation in Xinjiang is qualitatively different from that in Tibet. In Tibet, the Tibetans are in a decisive majority still despite the settlement of a large number of Han Chinese. In Xinjiang, the Uighurs are not in a decisive majority. Muslims constitute about 60 per cent of the Xinjiang population, but not all of them are Uighurs. The Uighutrs constitute only 45 per cent of the Xinjiang population and the Han Chinese 40 per cent. The remaining 15 per cent are Muslims of non-Uighur origin. These non-Uighur Muslims have kept away from the protests.
10. Moreover, during the uprising in Lhasa, the Tibetans did not indulge in the kind of physical brutalities against the Han Chinese similar to the brutalities allegedly inflicted by some Uighurs on the Han Chinese. From the latest reports received from Urumqi, it would appear that the protest movement was initially started by a group of secular Uighurs, owing loyalty to the Munich-based WUC, but subsequently some of the jihadi fundamentalist elements owing loyalty to the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan, allied to Al Qaeda, infiltrated into their ranks and indulged in an orgy of violence against the Han Chinese. However, the Chinese authorities continue to project the Urumqi uprising as the handiwork of ethnic separatist terrorists. They are not talking of jihadi terrorists.
11. There is more than meets the eye in the Urumqi uprising. It took place a little more than a year after the Holland-based Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, jointly with the WUC and the USA’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED), had organised a training course—the second one— for a group of Uighurs from the diaspora. The reported theme of the training course was “the right of self-determination”. Annexed is a press statement issued on this subject at that time by the UNPO. The uprising took place less than two months after the WUC held its third world assembly in Washington DC in May, 2009.
12. It is not clear why Hu had to cancel his participation in the G-8 summit and fly back almost in panic to Beijing. Was it because of the Han Chinese anger or was it because of differences in the party leadership over how to handle it? (9-7-09)
( The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Training of Uighurs by NED and UNPO (Press Statement by UNPO)
21 April 2008
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) together with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) organized their second leadership training seminar in two years, which opened today the 21st of April 2008. Over 50 members of the Uyghur Diaspora from around the world together with prominent academics, government representatives and members of the civil society gathered in Berlin Germany to discuss this year’s topic “Self-Determination under International Law”.
Mr. Dolkun Isa, Secretary General of the World Uyghur Congress, opened the occasion, welcoming participants to the training seminar, manyof whom traveled some distance to attend the event, including from Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Norway and the United States.
President of the WUC and internationally renowned advocate of the Uyghur cause, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, warmly greeted the audience with great energy, enthusiasm and determination. Ms. Kadeer spoke on the lack of freedom afflicting Uyghurs since the communist clamp of power in 1949, including a constant constriction of human rights by Chinese authorities. People in East Turkestan cannot imagine the amount of freedom people in the western world enjoy, explained Ms. Kadeer, and individuals in the west cannot imagine the extent of suppression people in East Turkestan are experiencing.
The international community is very familiar with the situation of Tibet, however knowledge of the situation of East Turkestan is quite limited in comparison. Nonetheless, the last two years have seen many efforts to educate the world on the poor human rights situation in East Turkestan. It is therefore essential, reminded Ms. Kadeer, to continue to educate and inform all about the Uyghur situation.
Mr. Marino Busdachin, UNPO General Secretary, further noted that survival of the Uyghur culture and identity are vital issues Uyghurs arefaced with today. Introducing the topic of self-determination, Mr. Busdachin recognized the difficulty and controversy surrounding the subject. It is important to recognize that Chinese authorities are not willing to grant full autonomy or full federal solutions to East Turkestan, he explained, however we should stay positive in the situation and focus on means of raising awareness for the Uyghur cause and on the survival of their culture. Members of the Diaspora should be weary of tendencies towards radicalization and need to stay in constant dialogue with the people in East Turkestan so as not to become estranged by their position.
UNPO and WUC were thrilled to welcome multiple guests of honour on the opening day, including Mr. Günther Nooke, Federal Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dirk Pleiter of Amnesty International, Ms. Frances Eqerer, representative of Mr. Margarete Bause from the Green Party of the Bavarian Parliament, and Mr. Feruk Unsal, Member of Parliament in Turkey.
Mr. Nooke spoke of the importance of pursuing a nonviolent path and avoiding any further escalation within minority groups in China. He called for an analysis into the roots of recent uprisings in China and reminded China that it is in their interest to review their policies towards minority groups. These actions would then necessitate a dialogue between the government and minorities – the exact path which could nonviolently reach a solution.
Furthermore, Mr. Nooke touched upon the situation of the Uyghurs currently incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, individuals who have been found not guilty of any charges and are ready to be released immediately. The Uyhgurs cannot however return to China, as they will undoubtedly suffer severe persecution. Ironically, Mr. Nooke points out, they are largely safer in prison than they would be in China. He therefore called for civil courage in Europe and the United States to grant these individuals immigration visas. Ms. Seema Saifee, pro bono attorney for several Uyghurs at Guantanamo, confirmed this argument, underlining that they could be released tomorrow as long as a country will admit them.
Following a lively and well-attended press conference, to which members of various media sources including Deutsche Welle TV, WDR and the Associated Press attended, participants dove right into their training material.
With the aid of moderators Mr. Ulrich Delius of the Society for Threatened Peoples and Senator Marco Perduca, newly elected Member of the Italian Parliament, participants were guided through an introductory series of lectures on the concepts of international law, avenues of self-determination and case studies of such.
Ms. Anna Batalla, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Hans-Joachim Heintze, Institute of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict, Mr. Michael Gibb, Oxford University, Mr. Pedro Pinto Leite, International Platform for Jurists for East Timor, and Mr. Mohamoud Daar, Somaliland Ambassador to the European Union provided participants with a series of insightful and informative lectures which sparked dynamic discussion from all present.