Uighurs strike back

Chi­nese an­a­lysts say the most po­tent threat to China is that of Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ism that de­fies all borders and is al­ready em­a­nat­ing in the heart of China spear­headed by the ETIM. What they do not men­tion is that this threat it­self or at least di­rec­tio

SP's MAI - - MILITARY -

The re­cent knife at­tack at Kun­ming Train Sta­tion in China that left 29 people dead and se­ri­ously in­jured 143 in­di­cates the mount­ing un­rest within China, par­tic­u­larly in the Xin­jiang re­gion. Po­lice shot dead four of the as­sailants but were search­ing for at least five more of the black-clad at­tack­ers in­clud­ing two women.

The at­tack was the dead­li­est vi­o­lence at­trib­uted to Uighur-Han con­flicts since ri­ots in the Xin­jiang cap­i­tal of Urumqi in 2009, in which Uighurs stormed the streets of the city, tar­get­ing Han people in seem­ingly ran­dom vi­o­lence that in­cluded the killing of women and chil­dren. A few days later, Han vig­i­lante mobs armed with sticks and bats at­tacked Uighurs in the same city. Nearly 200 people had died. Xin­jiang is home to a sim­mer­ing re­bel­lion against Chi­nese rule by some mem­bers of the Mus­lim Uighur pop­u­la­tion and the govern­ment has re­sponded there with heavy­handed se­cu­rity.

Uighurs, pre­dom­i­nant group of some 20 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion of 13 eth­nic groups of Xin­jiang, con­sider Chi­nese pres­ence im­pe­ri­al­ist and seek in­de­pen- dence. Uighurs have strong links with their coun­ter­parts in Cen­tral Asia. Xin­jiang had de­clared in­de­pen­dence in 1933 cre­at­ing the Is­lamic Repub­lic of East Turkestan and kept com­ing un­der China and declar­ing in­de­pen­dence, till in 1949 China con­quered the re­gion. Uighurs ab­hor Chi­nese pres­ence in Xin­jiang es­pe­cially be­cause of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party (CCP) strat­egy of overwhelming them de­mo­graph­i­cally by set­tling Han Chi­nese in this re­gion in large num­bers aimed at throt­tling the Uighur cul­ture, cus­toms and tra­di­tions of the lo­cals and re­course to strong-arm mea­sures wher­ever they see re­sis­tance. Yet, many re­sis­tance groups con­tinue to put up a fight for Xin­jiang’s in­de­pen­dence, most prom­i­nent one be­ing the East Turkestan Is­lamic Move­ment (ETIM). In­ter­est­ingly, a 600-strong spe­cial unit of ETIM is hid­ing in Pak­istan.

The re­sent­ment in Uighurs apart from the much wealth­ier Han mi­gra­tory in­vaders in­cludes dis­par­i­ties in hir­ing wages, re­duced em­ploy­ment av­enues, re­duced ac­cess to nat­u­ral re­sources like wa­ter, agri­cul­tural land and ir­ri­ga­tion. De­lib­er­ate ef­fort by the Chi­nese Govern­ment to ig­nore eco­nomic dis­par­i­ties

has nat­u­rally led to eth­nic ten­sions be­tween the Han Chi­nese and the Uighurs. But the CCP that bull­dozes her own cit­i­zen’s homes in the heart of the Chi­nese main­land with­out re­course to al­ter­na­tives and even ig­nores their sui­cides, doesn’t care. Re­cently, a dozen Chi­nese cit­i­zens con­sumed pes­ti­cide in Bei­jing to protest against the de­mo­li­tion of their homes, hav­ing trav­elled 1,070 km from Wuhan in Hubei prov­ince af­ter lo­cal au­thor­i­ties showed in­dif­fer­ence to an ear­lier threat of mass sui­cide. Iron­i­cally, they had been protest­ing since 2010 when lo­cal au­thor­i­ties razed their homes and gave lit­tle or no com­pen­sa­tion in re­turn. The in­ci­dent high­lighted the grow­ing re­sent­ment across China over de­mo­li­tion of homes and forcible seizure of property be­long­ing to or­di­nary people. Such bar­baric ac­tions by the CCP are com­mon­place in China and so why would they spare Uighurs whom they want to sub­ju­gate to­tally. Ex­iled Uighur leader Re­biyah Kadeer has been rais­ing voices against Chi­nese at­tempts to re­fash­ion cul­tural iden­tity and fierce re­pres­sion of re­li­gious ex­pres­sion by the Uighurs.

Uighurs have been re­belling against Chi­nese oc­cu­pa­tion since the 1990s and ev­ery time the Chi­nese Govern­ment has re­acted with a heavy hand. Thou­sands have been ar­rested over the years, many van­ish­ing al­to­gether. Dur­ing 2009, 156 people were killed and some 800 in­jured in bloody clashes be­tween Han Chi­nese and Uighurs in Xin­jiang’s cap­i­tal Urumqi as a re­ac­tion to killing of some Uighurs in Guang­dong prov­ince of China. The Uighur re­bel­lion has been gath­er­ing pace since the 1990s. China al­leges that the ETIM has links with Al Qaeda but then China her­self has had links with Tal­iban since over a decade and China has armed the United Wa State Army (USWA) of Myan­mar as her dead­li­est proxy.

The heart of the Xin­jiang up­ris­ing is not lo­calised as is ev­i­dent from the at­tack in Kun­ming. Restive­ness is all over the coun­try, and the lead­ers know it. Their in­tense con­ster­na­tion is not with­out rea­sons. Chi­nese have im­ple­mented a se­ries of tough poli­cies in­clud­ing the forced trans­fer of teenage Uighur women to China’s East­ern cities like Tian­jin, Jiangsu, Qing­dao, Shan­dong, Zhe­jiang and oth­ers in the guise of pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. In 2006 alone there had been 2,40,000 cases of Uighur girls be­ing forced to shift from the Kash­gar re­gion. The plight of these girls is re­port­edly mis­er­able and they are also not al­lowed to re­turn freely to their home­towns. This pol­icy, ag­gres­sively pur­sued to bridge the eco­nomic gap by the au­thor­i­ties has raised pent-up anx­i­eties among the Uighurs as these girls are of­ten used as slave labour and sex work­ers in Chi­nese cities. Cul­tural as­sim­i­la­tion is an­other mo­tive apart from the sin­is­ter de­sign to oblit­er­ate the size of the Uighur pop­u­la­tion.

Since Xin­jiang shares borders with Ti­bet and Mon­go­lia aside from In­dia, Afghanistan, Rus­sia, Kaza­khstan, Kyr­gyzs­tan and Ta­jik­istan, most dan­ger­ous for China would be co­or­di­nated re­sponse from Xin­jiang, Ti­bet and Mon­go­lia against Chi­nese ag­gres­sion and re­pres­sion al­beit that pos­si­bil­ity ap­pears re­mote presently. It may look far-fetched to­day but cer­tainly can­not be com­pletely ruled out since dis­sent in these in­di­vid­ual re­gions has come up pri­mar­ily due to Chi­nese poli­cies that are get­ting more and more bel­liger­ent by the day.

Uighur ac­tivist Re­biya Kadeer wrote in April 2008, “The world has watched in hor­ror re­cently as Ti­betan monks, nuns and layper­sons en­gaged in peace­ful demon­stra­tions have been met with bru­tal­ity by the Chi­nese People’s Armed Po­lice. Ti­bet’s de­scent into chaos and vi­o­lence is heart­break­ing. As has been made clear by His Ho­li­ness the Dalai Lama, who has ded­i­cated his life to peace­fully pro­mot­ing the Ti­betan people’s le­git­i­mate as­pi­ra­tions for cul­tural au­ton­omy and sur­vival, last­ing peace and mean­ing­ful change must be achieved through non-vi­o­lent means. In watch­ing re­cent cov­er­age of the demon­stra­tions in Ti­bet and their bloody aftermath…. I had no choice but to speak out against the Chi­nese Govern­ment’s pol­icy of cul­tural de­struc­tion and its hu­man rights abuses.”

Since the 2009 bloody clashes in Xin­jiang were pre­ceded few months ear­lier by the wide­spread ri­ot­ing in Ti­bet, the sum to­tal ap­pears less be­cause of re­li­gion but more an eth­nic war by na­tive in­hab­i­tants against the Han Chi­nese. The New York Times of July 7, 2009, had re­ported that a group of sev­eral hun­dred Uighur women told vis­it­ing jour­nal­ists that Chi­nese don’t re­spect life­style of Uighurs, are lim­it­ing re­li­gious prac­tice, phas­ing out Uighur lan­guage in­struc­tion in schools and re­in­forc­ing bet­ter eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for the Han, from busi­ness­peo­ple to mi­grant work­ers. Through CCP of­fi­cials, it is the Han Chi­nese who are hold­ing to­tal power in Xin­jiang and Ti­bet. Ti­betans may be six mil­lion but Uighurs are over 10 mil­lion and China may yet have to pay the price of re­pres­sion in fu­ture.

Chi­nese Po­lice in Xin­jiang re­gion shot dead eight Uighurs on De­cem­ber 30, 2013, when a knife and ex­plo­sives wield­ing group at­tacked a po­lice sta­tion though Dilxat Rexit, a Swe­den-based spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, said he be­lieved Uighurs had come to the po­lice sta­tion to protest against poor treat­ment, and de­nied that they were armed. This in­ci­dent came just two weeks af­ter 16 Uighurs were killed in a clash be­tween Chi­nese po­lice and eth­nic Uighurs near the city of Kash­gar, in the same vicin­ity. It may be re­called that in Oc­to­ber last year a Uighur fam­ily drove a car into Tianan­men Square and set them­selves on fire and in mid-Novem­ber 2013, 11 Uighurs were killed in Bachu county, also near Kash­gar. And so the blood­bath continues.

Then are the pos­si­bil­i­ties of covert for­eign as­sis­tance to in­di­vid­ual move­ments akin to the Soviet Union back­ing the Uighur move­ment dur­ing the 1940s. Rus­sia and China have fought wars in the past and the dy­nam­ics of geopol­i­tics can hardly rule out con­flict in fu­ture with some an­a­lysts al­ready pre­dict­ing Rus­sia and China headed in that di­rec­tion, Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion notwith­stand­ing.

Chi­nese an­a­lysts say the most po­tent threat to China is that of Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ism that de­fies all borders and is al­ready em­a­nat­ing in the heart of China spear­headed by the ETIM. What they do not men­tion is that this threat it­self or at least direc­tional guid­ance and sup­port most likely comes from within Pak­istan’s rad­i­cal core. It is for such rea­sons that China wants to es­tab­lish PLA bases in­side Pak­istan and has es­tab­lished in Gil­git-Baltistan. Then of course are the ag­gres­sive and hege­monic de­signs of China in scant re­gard to neigh­bours, less her two nu­clear pro­tégés – Pak­istan and North Korea. So, the world may just as well think about cut­ting to size Chi­nese ex­pan­sion­ist de­signs by help­ing her im­plode, proxy forces be­ing the or­der of the day. For starters, if the knife at­tack­ers in Kun­ming had as­sault ri­fles in­stead, body count in the mas­sacre would have been man­i­fold.

Ürümqi is a ma­jor in­dus­trial cen­tre within Xin­jiang

LT GEN­ERAL (RETD) P.C. KA­TOCH

Uighurs at a mar­ket, Khotan

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