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Greater Kashmir
19-09-06, 18:08
The Politics of Persecution-II

Hashim Iqbal comments on the regimes of China and East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and explains how religious freedom is denied to a class of people.

In human history, religion will ultimately disappear. All religious organizations in China will bow their heads to the leadership of the party and the government. The true aim of religious schools is to produce professional religious officials who support the party administration and the socialist system. These religious officials must remain loyal to the party’s policy on religion. The fundamental purpose of religious bodies is to play an important role in spreading the country’s political influence.

A speech by Ali Jing Jiang, a member of the People’s Republic of China Islamic Community, at the 5th meeting of the Islamic Society of North America in the USA on September 1, 1986, shows just how fully the Red Chinese administration has put into effect the decisions set out in that declaration. In his speech, Ali Jing Jiang stated that in China it is legally forbidden to give any religious education, either at home or at school, to minors under the age of 18. Although some religious schools have been opened as the result of pressure from Islamic countries, there are more Marxist, Leninist and Maoist ideas taught in them. Jiang expressed that all the teachers in such schools are communists and atheists and young people are being raised with no knowledge of religion. In other schools, he said, religion is taught as if it were something that needed to be forgotten, a primitive belief belonging to the lowest levels of Chinese society. That situation has rapidly begun to distance young people from religious belief. He also added that the government keeps a tight rein on Muslims’ activities and that the communists are using Islam merely as a tool with which to improve relations with Muslim nations.

The anti-religious pronunciations of the Chinese Communist Party are not new. The Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to portray religious devotion as “a primitive belief belonging to the very lowest levels of Chinese society,” is an example of this ignorance and idiocy.

While the Communist Party uses such propaganda methods, it also at the same time steps up its oppression of Muslims. Following the initiatives demanding independence in the 1990s, (the Baren uprising, the Gulja uprising) the oppression of Muslims was stepped up even further. The way these uprisings spread to the whole of East Turkestan, and the fact that Turks in public posts also supported the demands for independence, greatly alarmed Red China. It initiated another ruthless campaign against those Muslims who had backed independence movements. Hundreds of thousands of people were detained, thousands executed and tens of thousands were sent to labor camps. Michael Winchester, one of the rare journalists able to enter the region and send out a secret report about the oppression of Muslims, had this to say in an article titled “Inside Story China: Beijing vs. Islam”:

Since then they have closed down unregistered mosques; forbidden the use of loud-speakers outside registered ones; banned Quranic classes for children and youths; prohibited foreign money for religious purposes; tightened exit requirements; imposed an age restriction on Hajj pilgrims; outlawed unauthorized religious publications; and cracked down on Communist party members visiting mosques.

One Turkestan resident interviewed by Winchester (who refused to give his real name) said that since he worked in a state office he was never able to go to the mosque, and that he would be sacked if he were to be seen doing so. The reason was the increased Chinese hostility to Islam which began at the end of the 1980s. A 1997 article in the official East Turkestan newspaper, the Xinjiang Daily, set out what party members’ view of religion should be:
Those party members firmly believe in religion and who refuse to change their ways after education should be given a certain period to make corrections, be persuaded to withdraw from the party or dismissed from the party according to the seriousness of their case. In recent years, 98 religious party members have been dealt with.

In East Turkestan, those who are caught praying or studying the Qur’an are punished, particularly if they are aged under 18, because Chinese law explicitly prohibits minors from studying the Qur’an. In 1999, for example, five 12-year-olds were arrested for reading the Qur’an. When one of them fled from the police station, his family were arrested and tortured by the police (and told that they would not be released until he gave himself up). That incident is just one of the many frequently encountered in East Turkestan. Thousands of people have been detained and tortured simply for living in accordance with their religion, or for teaching other people who want to do so. The accusations made against religious figures who have been detained are particularly noteworthy. For instance, on October 28, 1999, Memet Eli, the imam of the Oybagh Mosque in Hotan, was arrested and heavily fined for teaching religion contrary to the Communist Party policy. This is how his “crimes” were set out in the indictment:

During his duty as an Imam, Memet Ali did not study, teach and implement Communist Party’s regulations on religion. He pretended he did not see the instructions of department of religious supervision. When related departments organized study and educational activities for religious personals, he did not attend. He allowed people with unclear identity to stay at the mosque.

Although human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International express concern over the deteriorating situation in East Turkestan, expertise on the region is so scarce that activists agree that without critical support from Uyghur-run human rights organizations, very little information from within East Turkestan will see the light of day. Some information collection and documentation has begun in a sporadic way in Uyghur communities across the diaspora, but the effect will be limited without the establishment of a human rights organization specifically focused on the Uyghur situation.

--Concluded
(The author is research scholar in CCAS Kashmir University and can be mailed at hashimkashmiry@hotmail.com )

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Greater Kashmir
19-09-06, 18:22
The Politics of Persecution-I

Hashim Iqbal comments on the regimes of China and East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and explains how religious freedom is denied to a class of people.

A basic knowledge of geography makes it easy to understand the Chinese view on East Turkestan (Xinjiang). Two important obstacles to communications exist between China and the West: the first is the 5,000-kilometer Taklamakan Desert, and the second is the Great Wall of China that stretches along the entire length of the China border.

East Turkestan is the only Chinese territory beyond the desert and the Great Wall, thus making it China’s window to the West. The political effect of its location (and its geographical and strategic advantages) make East Turkestan indispensable to China. That is one reason why, instead of withdrawing from East Turkestan, China is trying to impose their occupation on the local population. On the one hand, it takes away the peoples’ freedoms, including those of receiving news and communications, by closing East Turkestan off and keeping the region as far from the world’s awareness as possible.

These lands, which form the westernmost point of Chinese territory, were used by the Chinese as a buffer zone against the Soviet threat during the Cold War. These lands are thus of great interest to China for its own security and that of the other countries in the region. Even if Russia no longer poses a threat to China, China still maintains its land and air forces in the region, and also keeps a large part of its nuclear arsenal there. Another important reason for the continuing presence of China’s forces in East Turkestan is to maintain the necessary control over the local Muslim population.

However, geo-strategic concerns are not the only reason for China’s interest in controlling East Turkestan. As noted, the region also possesses considerable natural resources, and the land is very productive. East Turkestan, known as the Kuwait of the twenty-first century, is of particular interest for its oil, natural gas, uranium, coal, gold and silver mines, and is one of China’s most important sources of these resources. Authorities on the subject say that East Turkestan will be China’s second most important center of oil and natural gas production. The Tarim Basin in the middle of East Turkestan in particular is thought to have considerable petrol reserves. That basin is therefore known as the “Sea of Hope,” and is estimated to have potential oil reserves of more than 10.7 billion tons. Research carried out by geologists has revealed a 300-million tons of oil and a 220-billion cubic-meters of natural gas capacity.

China’s dependence on East Turkestan for energy is not restricted to the oil beds in the Tarim Basin. East Turkestan will also be the natural route for any pipeline from the Central Asian Turkish states, which will in turn be of vital importance to Chinese industry. The best way for China to insure its transportation system is effective and secure is to keep East Turkestan under its control.

The region’s rich natural gas, coal, and copper deposits also make it indispensable for the Chinese economy. Of the 148 different minerals extracted in all of Red China, 118 come from East Turkestan (this is 85 percent of China’s mineral production). Among these, coal, with its high quality and energy content, is especially important. The coal reserves in East Turkestan are estimated at some 2 trillion tons, half of China’s total coal reserves. One study at the end of 2000 revealed that China’s richest copper mines were in East Turkestan. It is known facts that China’s other regions possess little copper, and that which exists is insufficient to meet the country’s needs. The rich copper deposits in East Turkestan make the region even more important in Chinese eyes.

Alongside these mines, the fact that East Turkestan is one of China’s largest producers of cotton is another reason why China regards the area as important. the red Chinese administration is unwilling to hand over the production of cotton, the raw material of the Chinese textile industry, to the Muslim uighurs, and constantly develops new strategies to maintain control over the region. the aim behind these strategies, is not to allow East Turkestan to develop, but to make it dependent on Beijing.

As said above we saw how East Turkestan is of great strategic and economic importance for China. Yet the frequent arrests of devout Muslims in East Turkestan, not allowing them to live in accordance with their religion, and the pressure put on their religious leaders, make it clear that there is more to their policy of oppression. First and foremost, it means that Red China is greatly concerned by the presence of Islam in East Turkestan.

Although the roots of the Chinese attacks on Islam and Muslims go far back in history, these policies were changed into a systematic policy of oppression, and even genocide, with the establishment of the communist regime. When Mao founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949, all manifestations of Islam were made targets. This hostility towards Islam began with the closure of mosques, religious schools and other institutions providing religious education. The situation worsened after portraits of Chairman Mao were hung in the now empty places of worship (and Muslims were forced to show their respect for such images). Some 29,000 mosques were closed during that period. The following stage consisted of the arrest of religious leaders on groundless and baseless charges and accusations. Some of these were condemned to death, and more than 54,000 religious figures were condemned to work in the most terrible conditions in Chinese labor camps.

Throughout that period, physical and mental torture was inflicted on men of faith. Some Muslims were rounded up into public squares and made to confess the so-called “divinity” of Chairman Mao. The communist administration confiscated the alms given for the maintenance and restoration of the mosques and all the property belonging to religious leaders. Studying and teaching the Qur’an were completely banned. Religious works were seized from peoples’ homes. Writings in Arabic were burned, including a large number of historical handwritten texts.

Modern Chinese oppression of the Muslims in East Turkestan is felt most heavily in the field of religion. As in all communist regimes, hostility to religion is part of the official state policy of Red China. A document called “The Basic Viewpoint and Policy on [the] Religious Question During Our Country’s Socialist Period,” circulated internally through party channels throughout China in 1982 by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, openly states that fact:

--To be concluded
(The author is research scholar in CCAS Kashmir University and can be mailed at hashimkashmiry@hotmail.com )

http://www.greaterkashmir.com/full_story.asp?Date=19_9_2006&ItemID=2&cat=12