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19-08-08, 09:20
Real terrorists are those in Beijing

By Paul Lin 林保華

Monday, Aug 18, 2008, Page 8 On the eve of the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing, two ethnic Uighurs attacked Chinese armed police in Kashgar in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Then, after the opening ceremony, a police station in Kucha was attacked by Uighurs. Some media in Taiwan have echoed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in calling them East Turkestan terrorists. Why are they dancing to the CCP’s tune?

Xinjiang has not been Chinese territory since ancient times. It was only incorporated into China as a province in 1884. That is why it was named “Xinjiang,” meaning “new frontier.” An independence movement during the Republic of China period established an Eastern Turkestan Republic.

Following their military occupation of Xinjiang in 1949, the Chinese Communists set about sinicizing the region while ruling it with an iron fist. This hard-line policy was introduced by General Wang Zhen (王震), the first Communist “Czar” of Xinjiang, who set up a production and construction corps and established military farming settlements. The national population survey of 1953 said Uighurs made up three-quarters of Xinjiang’s population, but the 2000 survey put them at only 45 percent. The region’s economic lifelines are in the hands of Han Chinese, and the government has gradually sinicized the education system and tried to replace local beliefs with those of the Han.

Xinjiang’s “autonomy” is hollow, with Han Chinese in the highest leadership positions. This situation has provoked incessant acts of resistance. Xinjiang was at its most peaceful during the 1970s, when the Han were busy killing each other in the Cultural Revolution and had no energy left for repressing the people of Xinjiang.

Afraid of losing control of Xinjiang, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) appointed an ethnic Uighur, Saypidin Azizi, more commonly known as Sayfudin, to head the region in 1972. Thanks to Saifudin’s moderate policies, there were no violent clashes during his tenure. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) transferred Saifudin to a figurehead position in Beijing. Violent resistance in Xinjiang resumed during the 1980s and has continued to escalate.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, China has labeled any Uighur unrest as “terrorism.” In June, when the Olympic torch relay passed through Urumqi, Kashgar and other parts of Xinjiang, tens of thousands of residents were removed to make way for it. In Kashgar, where Uighurs are the majority, three Uighurs were executed shortly before the relay as a warning to others.

On July 8, police shot dead five Uighurs in Urumqi. At first they called them robbers, then “holy war trainees,” claiming they were armed with knives. However, only one police officer was slightly injured. Uighur men traditionally carry knives on their belts — does that make them terrorists? On July 9, the Kashgar Intermediate Court reportedly sentenced five Uighurs to death and a further 10 to life imprisonment. Two of those sentenced to death were said to have been executed immediately. The sentences caused apprehension among the local Uighurs.

On July 10, the Xinhua news agency reported that police in Xinjiang had busted five terrorist groups, in the first six months of this year who were planning to disrupt the Olympics. A report in the Hong Kong daily Ta Kung Pao on July 15 said that an official in Kashgar told the paper that 12 international terrorist groups had been smashed in the city so far this year. How could there have been more terrorist groups in Kashgar alone than in the whole of Xinjiang?

The recent attacks may have been acts of revenge by Uighurs against bloody state repression. The Aug. 4 attack was carried out by a taxi driver and a vegetable seller armed with homemade explosives and a homemade gun — hardly a sign of international connections. The facts of the Kucha incident are still unclear.

As to the overseas East Turkestan organizations, even the Chinese government does not believe they were responsible for explosions in Kunming and Shanghai.

The unrest and clashes we are seeing in China today are not all connected with independence movements. Most violent clashes have involved Han Chinese protesting against police and government officials, rather than terrorist incidents. China’s rulers are the ones who are causing a state of terror by arresting and shooting people at will and provoking extreme reactions. The real terrorist group is the Chinese government itself.



Paul Lin is a political commentator based in Taiwan.

TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG
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