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October 1: Day Of Mourning In Xinjiang & Tibet

According to reliable source reports from Tibet and Xinjiang, October 1, 2009, which marked the 60the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, was observed as a day of mourning by the Uighurs and the Tibetans in Xinjiang and Tibet.

2. Despite the strong security measures taken by the Public Security Bureau of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, pamphlets purported to have been issued by the Munich-based World Uighur Congress (WUC) calling upon the Uighurs not to celebrate the day managed to circulate in the Uighur-majority areas of the city. The pamphlet said: “On October 1st, 1949 Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China and incorporated East Turkestan into its territory. Since the land had been conquered by the non-Chinese Manchu emperors of China in the later part of the 19th century and renamed ‘Xinjiang’ or ‘New Dominion’, the people of East Turkestan had tried more than three times to throw off the yoke of the foreign invaders. Replacing the rule of the Manchu emperor with Nationalist Chinese or Communist Chinese did little to help the people of East Turkestan.On this 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the World Uyghur Congress does not celebrate the yoke of oppression or the ‘dictatorship of the people.’ This date conjures feelings of anguish and misery for the people who have endured the takeover and transformation of their homeland into another Chinese province.”

3. The local authorities had made it a criminal offence to disseminate anything, which could weaken national unity and ethnic harmony. They were taken by surprise that despite the stepped-up vigilance some local sympathisers of the WUC managed to circulate these pamphlets. Some arrests have been made in this connection. SMS messages on mobile phone networks were ordered to be suspended during the whole of the week, apparently due to an apprehension that these messages could be used to organise a public demonstration on October 1 against Beijing’s rule.

4. While the Chinese authorities denied any ban on the visits of foreign tourists to Urumqi and Lhasa, they had reportedly advised the travel agencies, which organise tours to these areas, to ensure that no foreign tourists would be present in Urumqi and Lhasa for a week from September 28.

5. As part of the security measures, kite-flying and sale of items which could be used by terrorists such as knives, syringe needles, fertilisers, certain women’s cosmetics items etc were banned. A ban was also imposed on women carrying their cosmetic bags in public transport.

6. Worried over the non-participation of Uighurs and Tibetans in the celebration of the 60 th anniversary, the Public Security Bureau issued warnings that any Tibetan and Uighur public servant , who did not attend the celebrations, would be liable for disciplinary action.

7. A week before October 1, the Xinjiang’s People’s Congress Standing Committee passed a so-called “Information Promotion Bill” banning people in the region from using the Internet in any way that undermines national unity, incites ethnic separatism or harms social stability.

( 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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