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Dangers of Balticisation of China’s Periphery

There has been an uneasy calm in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Province of China, after nearly 36 hours of bloody rioting by over 3000 Uighur students, supported by others. No fresh incident of violence was reported on the night of July 6, 2009.

2. A curfew is in force and reinforcements have been rushed to Urumqi from the Sichuan province. Fearing fresh unrest in Tibet, the Chinese have stepped up security measures in the Tibetan-inhabited areas.

3. The Chinese provincial authorities have admitted that 156 people—129 men and 27 women— were killed in the riots and that the security forces in Urumqi have taken 1434 persons into preventive custody.

4. While there is uneasy calm in Urumqi, there are reports of spreading demonstrations from the rural areas, including Kashgar, which has been a hotbed of the activities of Islamic fundamentalist elements supporting the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan, which is allied with Al Qaeda.

5. While the protest demonstrations in Urumqi, which led to the violent riots due to over-reaction by the Chinese security forces, were largely led by liberal human rights elements with no links to the IMET and other fundamentalist organisations, reliable reports indicate that the protest demonstrations in Kashgar and other interior areas are being led by jihadi elements close to the IMET. The protesters have been shouting “Allah Is Great” slogans. This slogan was reportedly absent during the demonstrations in Urumqi. The protest demonstrations in Kashgar started from a local mosque.

6. The Chinese intelligence agencies have once again been taken by surprise as they were by the Tibetan uprising of March, 2008. While they had been taking routine security precautions in view of the forthcoming 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, they had not anticipated the kind of violence which Urumqi saw on the night of July 6.

7. The Chinese security agencies, which generally tend to blame jihadi terrorists of the IMET for all their problems in Xinjiang, have thus far refrained from doing so in respect of the violence in Urumqi. They have been blaming it on “ethnic separatist terrorism” and not on “jihadi terrorism.”

8. They are blaming the Munich-based World Uighur Congress (WUC) for the Urumqi violence just as they blamed the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) for the violence in Lhasa last year. A campaign for the demonisation of the WUC has already been started by the provincial authorities similar to the campaign for the demonisation of the TYC witnessed last year. Just as they projected the TYC as no different from Al Qaeda in its methods, they are projecting the WYC similarly.

9. Their suspicions and fears have been aggravated by the close links allegedly maintained by the WUC with the USA’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) based in Holland. The UNPO had played an active role in promoting the separation of the Baltic States from the erstwhile USSR. It had trained people from the Baltic States for many years. It has a similar active programme for the training of Uighurs from the diaspora. This training programme is allegedly being funded by the NED. At least two training camps have already been held.

10. Leaders of the WUC, including its President Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, who lives in the US, have strongly denied Chinese allegations that the WUC had instigated the Urumqi riots, but it is intriguing that the nprecedented outbreak followed less than two months after the WUC held its Third General Assembly in Washington, DC from May 21-25, 2009 . Delegates and observers from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Sweden, Turkey and the the US attended the Assembly. Ms. Rebiya Kadeer was re-elected as the President of the WUC.

11. The WUC was established on April 16, 2004 in Munich, Germany, by merging the East Turkestan National Congress and the World Uighur Youth Congress. It describes its main objective as to promote the right of the Uighur people to use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine the political future of East Turkestan.

12.The Lhasa uprising of March,2008, and the Urumqi uprising of July 2009 have brought home a rude lesson to the Chinese —- namely, that they cannot take China’s unity and stability for granted. What happened in the Baltic States of the USSR can happen in China’s periphery inhabited by non-Han minorities if they do not pay attention to their grievances, anger and political and cultural aspirations. (7-7-09)

(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: )

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