View Full Version : New York Times: China Said to Deploy Drones After Unrest in Xinjiang

19-08-14, 17:59
China Said to Deploy Drones After Unrest in Xinjiang

By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW AUGUST 19, 2014 4:51 AMAugust 19, 2014 6:42 am 1 Comment


Three days after an eruption of violence in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang this summer left nearly 100 people dead, the region’s “antiterrorist command” asked the country’s biggest space and defense contractor for help. It wanted technical experts to operate drones that the authorities in Xinjiang had ordered last year in anticipation of growing unrest. The target was “terrorists,” according to the online edition of People’s Daily, a Communist Party media outlet.

On Monday, the Uyghur American Association, a Washington-based advocacy group for Uighurs, the mostly Muslim ethnic group native to Xinjiang, said the use of drones pointed to the further militarization of the region and warned that the drones could be deployed against people as well as for the surveillance and intelligence-gathering mentioned by Chinese media.

According to a report in People’s Daily this week, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the main contractor for the Chinese space program, responded swiftly to the July 31 request by the Xinjiang authorities.

A worker preparing to pack a model of the Chinese-made Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl, drone at an expo last year in Beijing. Drones are being increasingly used in China.Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times
On Aug. 1, the company sent a technical team to Yarkand County, in Kashgar Prefecture, where state media reported that on July 28 security forces had shot and killed 59 people described as terrorists and about three dozen others described as civilians.

Xinjiang has seen growing ethnic and religious tensions in recent years between Uighurs and the Han, China’s dominant ethnic group, with hundreds, perhaps thousands, killed.

The technical team departed from Beijing, driving through the night and arriving in Yarkand at 3 a.m. on Aug. 2, People’s Daily reported.

There, the drones were deployed on multiple missions round-the-clock, operated by special forces in Yarkand but under the supervision of the space company team, state media reported, and provided “important intelligence in tracking down and arresting terrorists,” Legal Daily reported, without elaborating.

The Uyghur American Association has called for international attention to the use of drones.

“The domestic use of unmanned aerial vehicles is an extremely serious and disturbing development and U.A.A. believes the use of drones in East Turkestan will only intensify tensions in the region,” it said in a statement, using its name for the region known in Chinese as Xinjiang, or “new border.”

“The use of drones over villages in East Turkestan shows that China treats all Uyghurs as state enemies,” the group’s president, Alim Seytoff, said in the statement. “China is not singling out alleged ‘terrorists’; it is intimidating entire communities, including the very people its purported antiterror campaign is supposed to protect.”

The association said the violence broke out after local residents protested a heavy-handed crackdown during the recently concluded Ramadan fasting period and “the extrajudicial use of lethal force in recent weeks in the county,” citing local sources.

The drones were ordered last year by the Xinjiang regional government and delivered earlier this year, People’s Daily said.

Drones are being used increasingly in China, the state-run newspaper Global Times has reported, and the country manufactures and exports its own.

Drones have been used to locate earthquake victims, and once, Global Times reported, to hunt for an emu that had escaped from a national park in Linfen, Shanxi Province, where Chinese yew trees are cultivated. It wasn’t clear if the emu was found.

20-08-14, 21:12
China Using Drones in Crackdown on Civilians

Human Rights Groups Say Repression of Ethnic and Religious Minorities Continues

BY: Daniel Wiser Follow @TheWiserChoice
August 20, 2014 10:59 am


Chinese security forces are now using surveillance drones against civilians in an apparent escalation of their crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities.

The Global Times, a Chinese newspaper affiliated with the state-owned People’s Daily, reported on Monday that forces had sent operators of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the northwestern region of Xinjiang after a “fatal terrorist attack” occurred on July 28. The UAVs surveilled towns “day and night” for “suspected terrorists,” helping the police eventually arrest 215 people, according to the newspaper.

The use of drones sparked fresh concerns among human rights groups that advocate for ethnic Uyghurs, who dominate the autonomous Xinjiang region also known as East Turkestan.

Nearly 100 people were killed during the July 28 incident in Yarkand County, according to the Chinese government. Chinese officials said police had shot dead 59 people they described as terrorists, including masked assailants who attacked cars and pedestrians with axes and knives.

However, rights groups such as the Uyghur American Association (UAA) say the Chinese government has failed to address extremism, and even encouraged it, by restricting the movement of the mostly Muslim Uyghurs and admonishing women against wearing veils. Authorities tend to lump all Uyghur civilians in with those they call terrorists, they say.

“The use of drones over villages in East Turkestan shows that China treats all Uyghurs as state enemies,” said UAA president Alim Seytoff in a statement from Washington, D.C. “China is not singling out alleged ‘terrorists;’ it is intimidating entire communities, including the very people its purported anti-terror campaign is supposed to protect.”

The group expressed concerns that the drones could be used for more than surveillance, such as coordinated strikes against Uyghurs.

Details about the Yarkand crackdown remain murky because foreign reporters are barred from the area. State media initially said “dozens” were killed or injured during the police campaign against what the news outlets called jihad, but reports later revised the death toll upward.

News outlets owned by the government are used as a mouthpiece for the policies and views of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Uyghur groups say the unrest was sparked by government restrictions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the alleged unlawful killing of a Uyghur family. One Uyghur exile leader claimed that security forces killed at least 2,000 members of the minority group, citing anonymous sources on the ground in Yarkand.

“The events of July 28 in [Yarkand] as described by the Chinese state media simply cannot be trusted,” Seytoff said. “Reports have emerged putting the death toll of Uyghur civilians at alarming numbers and the state has done nothing to ensure transparency in the investigation of this incident.”

“The disinterest of government officials in following up allegations of state violence in [Yarkand] leaves an unambiguous message in the minds of many Uyghurs—their lives are worth less than others,” Seytoff added. “As a result, Uyghurs are now vulnerable to the menacing prowess of China’s security apparatus.”

Reports indicate that the crackdown on Uyghurs is likely to continue. Fifteen regional officials in Xinjiang were punished by Beijing on Tuesday, including one who “worshipped openly” amid a ban on religious practice by state workers.

“We have to hit hard, hit accurately and hit with awe-inspiring force,” said Xinjiang party secretary Zhang Chunxian after the Yarkand incident. “To fight such evils we must aim at extermination. To cut weeds we must dig out the roots.”

Authorities have also detained about 200 people after police opened fire on Tibetan demonstrators in the southwestern province of Sichuan last week. Tibetans are another minority that has suffered from decades of cultural and religious repression by Beijing, activists say.

China’s domestic security budget has exceeded the amount spent on the military since 2011, the New York Times reported in March.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

“Broadly targeting an entire religious or ethnic community in response to the actions of a few only increases the potential for violent extremism,” said Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, last month after the department criticized China’s persecution of minorities in its annual report on religious freedom.

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20-08-14, 21:18
PetroChina Said to Plan Energy Asset Sale in Restive Xinjiang

By Aibing Guo August 18, 2014


The parent of PetroChina Co. plans to sell oil and gas field stakes to local investors in the northwest province of Xinjiang as part of government efforts to bring growth and jobs to the restive region, said two company officials.

State-owned parent China National Petroleum Corp., the nation’s biggest oil and gas producer, is looking for partners with around 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) to invest in exploration and production ventures, the people said, asking not to be named as the plan isn’t public.

Beijing-based PetroChina owns most of its parent’s oil and gas fields in Xinjiang and will handle the offer of stakes in at least two large untapped oil and gas fields this year, the people said, declining to identify the fields or their size. Qu Guangxue, CNPC’s Beijing-based spokesman, did not answer two calls to his office seeking comment.

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Partners would be limited to companies backed by the Xinjiang government or Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp., the people said. Any joint ventures would pay taxes to Xinjiang not the central government, they said. Xinjiang Production and Construction was a one-time military body that guarded Xinjiang’s borders in the 1950s and now oversees commodities output in parts of the province from cotton and fruit to coal and chemical products.

Xinjiang is the gateway for China’s natural gas imports from Central Asia. CNPC’s four west-to-east pipelines all run through the region, pumping fuel to markets in eastern and southern parts of China, such as Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Invest West

CNPC, whose operations make up one sixth of Xinjiang’s GDP, is following an initiative from the central government to boost the province’s economy. Xinjiang, which contains about a quarter of China’s onshore crude reserves and almost 30 percent of its natural gas, has been riven by deadly protests in recent years as ethnic groups sought independence.

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PetroChina has reported proven crude oil reserves of 1.55 billion barrels in Xinjiang. That’s about a sixth of Angola’s, an OPEC member and the second largest oil producer in Africa.

At a conference in Xinjiang in May, CNPC general manager Liao Yongyuan said the company would invest 340 billion yuan in the province from 2014 to 2020, making it the company’s biggest oil and gas production base in China. In June, Chairman Zhou Jiping said CNPC would open up Xinjiang to investors.

‘National Call’

“CNPC is heeding to a national call in Xinjiang,” said Lin Boqiang, director of the Energy Economics Research Center at Xiamen University and an independent director of PetroChina.

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Setting up joint ventures would help the company diversify its shareholding structure and boost earnings by unleashing untapped reserves, Lin said.

CNPC may also allow companies to independently operate its proven oil and gas fields in Xinjiang, the two people said. CNPC would charge a fee on every barrel of oil or cubic meter of gas they produced.

Later opening up the province’s resources could expand beyond Xinjiang government-backed companies to include private investors both domestic and foreign, the people said.

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The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is the largest area of its type in China and has borders with Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, among others. The region has a population of about 22 million in an area around four times the size of California.

Uighur Unrest

Han Chinese make up 41 percent of the population, while Uighurs, a Muslim people from eastern and central Asia, account for about 45 percent. Uighur demands for autonomy and protests against Chinese rule have led to deadly clashes.

As many as 96 local people were killed in Xinjiang in July alone, mostly by police, as celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan, when Muslims complete a month of fasting, led to clashes, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

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China has labeled Uighur separatists as “religious extremists and terrorists” and started a one-year crackdown campaign in May.

The Uyghur American Association in a July 29 statement condemned what it called “excessive state violence” against the local ethnic community and said the deaths in July amounted to “extrajudicial killings.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Aibing Guo in Hong Kong at aguo10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net Peter Langan