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Relative Normalcy in Urumqi: Uighurs’ Psywar Boomerangs

In a report carried on July 10, 2009, the “China Daily” has projected the situation in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang province of China, as a “relative state of normalcy” after two days of violent rioting by the Uighurs followed by two days of communal tension due to retaliatory attacks by sections of the Han Chinese.

2. No major incident of violence or protest was reported on July 9, 2009. Most shops have re-opened, the Government servants have reported back to work and the public transport system which was very badly damaged during the initial rioting by the Uighurs is functioning again.

3. However, there have been complaints from Uighurs that shops owned by Han Chinese are not selling them provisions and that Han drivers of buses and taxis are not prepared to take them. The public transport system in Urumqi is dominated by the Han Chinese. Practically all taxi-drivers are Han Chinese. While there are no more reports of protests by the Han Chinese, reports indicate a kind of undeclared social boycott of the Uighurs being observed by many Han Chinese residents of the city. While administrative normalcy might have been restored, it might take a long time to restore social normalcy.

4. “Restoration of stability”—–that has been the key theme of a statement issued after a meeting of the nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party held on the evening of July 8 under the chairmanship of President Hu Jintao. That has also been the theme of discourses by other Chinese leaders and editorials and comments in the Government-controlled media.

5. The policy of transparency continues. Chinese journalists say that the Chinese authorities have allowed about 400 journalists to go to Urumqi. However, they do not specify how many of them are foreign journalists.

6. The Chinese have kept up the focus of their psywar on the World Uighur Congress (WUC), allegedly funded by the National Endowment For Democracy of the US and helped by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) of Holland. The Munich-based WUC and its US-based President Ms.Rebiya Kadeer have played into the hands of the Chinese authorities by making exaggerated statements about the fatalities and by unwittingly disseminating or using documents and alleged pictures of the Chinese security forces using force against the Uighurs. In at least two instances, the Chinese authorities have been able to prove them to be fake.

7. For example, during an interview with Al Jazeera on July 7 , Rebiya Kadeer showed a picture of what she claimed was Chinese security forces massed against peaceful protesters in Urumqi. The Chinese have claimed that the picture which she said was taken in Urumqi was actually carried by the “Nanfang Weekly” in its online edition on June 26. According to the Chinese authorities, the picture had been taken by the weekly during a public demonstration at Shishou in the Hubei province.

8. According to the Chinese, the Uighur American Association had also disseminated a photograph purporting to be of a scene of the riots in Urumqi. According to them, it was actually a photograph taken when sections of the public in Hangzhou in the Zhejiang province had protested on May 15,2009, after a traffic accident.

9. The WUC had initially alleged that 600 Uighurs were killed during the use of force by the security forces on July 5 and 6. They subsequently changed the figure of Uighur fatalities to over 800. These figures have not been corroborated so far. Similarly, the WUC’s claims of violent incidents in Kashgar have not been corroborated.

10. Till now all Uighur reactions have come from the WUC, its leaders and spokesmen. There have been no reactions from the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (IMET) headed by Sheikh Abdul Haq, which operates from the Waziristan area of Pakistan and is allied to Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda in the International Islamic Front (IIF).

11.The CBS News of the US had reported on April 15,2009, that the media wing of the IMET called Sawt al Islam had recently disseminated a 43-minute video entitled “Persistence and preparation for Jihad”. To quote the CBS:” It includes a statement by the group’s current leader Sheikh Abul Haq, as well as its late leader Hassan Makhdum, whose alias is Abu Mohammed al Turkistani. Abul Haq said “jihad” was a duty that falls on all Muslims just like any other religious duty. He also pledged more attacks against Chinese forces.”

11. While the Chinese are not yet openly talking of any role of the IMET in the Urumqi riots, they are reported to have reiterated once again to the Pakistani authorities the need to act against its terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. Neither Al Qaeda nor the Afghan or Pakistani Taliban nor any of the Pakistani jihadi oranisations have so far commented on the Urumqi uprising.

12. However,the only comment in Pakistan has come from the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI),which has many members from the Uighur diaspora in Pakistan. It had in the past protested against the refusal of the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad to issue Haj and Umra visas to Uighurs living in Pakistan. The Saudis were insisting that they should apply for the visas to the Saudi Embassy in Beijing.

13. “The News” carried the following report on July 9: ” LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Syed Munawwar Hasan has expressed deep concern over the bloody riots in China’s largest Muslim population province Xinjiang, and urged the Chinese government to show magnanimity towards its Muslim minority. He cited reports saying around 3,000 Chinese Muslims were tortured in the Urumqi city when they were demanding a probe into the clashes between the Muslim Uighurs and the Han Chinese that left hundreds killed. He said though it was China’s internal affair yet it was painful to hear about so many Muslim deaths. He said he would like to assert that violence and inflexible attitude could make things worse. He suggested the Chinese authorities to consider the genuine demands of the Muslims with an open mind and be large-hearted in respect of their religious rights. He said there were reports of the US involvement in the incident. In that case, he said the Chinese authorities should create an atmosphere in which the US did not get an opportunity to interfere.”

14. The web site of the NED of the US gives details of the following grants given by it to Uighur organisations during 2008:

International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation $134,805. To advance the human rights of ethnic Uyghur women and children. The Foundation will maintain an English- and Uyghur-language website, publish a report on the human rights situation of Uyghur women and children and conduct a civic-education workshop for Uyghur women.

International Uyghur PEN Club $20,300. To promote freedom of expression for writers creating work in the Uyghur language. The International Uyghur PEN Club will maintain a website publishing banned writings and the works of persecuted poets, historians, journalists, and others, and will conduct international advocacy campaigns on behalf of imprisoned writers.

Uyghur American Association (UAA) $269,000. To raise awareness of Uyghur human rights issues and advance Uyghurs’ religious freedom and human rights. The UAA’s Uyghur Human Rights Project will research, document and bring to international attention, independent and accurate information about human rights violations affecting the Turkic populations of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

World Uyghur Congress $146,000 . To strengthen advocacy on behalf of Uyghur human rights and democracy. The World Uyghur Congress will solicit its members to prepare strategy papers and will organize a major conference bringing together pro-democracy Uyghur leaders to discuss priorities for the Uyghur movement in the areas of advocacy, outreach, and democracy education.

15. After Hu’s return from Italy, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party has tried to project a picture of unity in order to dispel speculation about possible differences over the handling of the situation. This does not mean that differences do not exist. These might come out in the open subsequenly. A report disseminated by the Xinhua news agency on the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Politburo held after Hu’s return from Italy is annexed. (10-7-09)

( 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: )


Xinhua report on the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party chaired by Hu Jintao ——————————

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday night convened a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to discuss issues relating to the Xinjiang riot.

The meeting was told that stability in Xinjiang is the “most important and pressing task,” according to a statement issued Thursday. The meeting also vowed “severe punishment” on culprits in accordance with the law.

The government will “firmly crack down on serious crimes including assaults, vandalism, looting and arson” to maintain social stability and safeguard people’s fundamental interests in Xinjiang, according to the statement.

The Standing Committee told relevant authorities to “isolate and crack down on the tiny few” and “unify and educate the majority of masses”.

“Instigators, organizers, culprits and violent criminals in the unrest shall be severely punished in accordance with the law,” it said. “Those taking part in the riot due to provocation and deceit from by separatists, should be given education.”

The deadly July 5 unrest in Urumqi, capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, has “profound” political background, the statement said.

It was a serious violent crime which was masterminded and organized by the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism at home and abroad, it said. The unrest has resulted in great losses to people and done great harm to local order and stability, it said.

The Standing Committee asked local government to visit bereaved families, innocent people injured, and those with property losses, to offer necessary support and aid.

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