|The Communists 'advising' the Uyghurs in the 1950s|
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State-run media Xinhua, however, promotes Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region — home to many ethnic minority groups — as a ‘paradise on earth’
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently released a 117-page report entitled “Eradicating Ideological Viruses - China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims;” it gave fresh evidence of Beijing’s “mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment, and the increasingly pervasive controls on daily life.”
The US based agency affirmed: “Throughout the region, the Turkic Muslim population of 13 million is subjected to forced political indoctrination, collective punishment, restrictions on movement and communications, heightened religious restrictions, and mass surveillance in violation of international human rights law.”
History of abuse
Bloomberg, citing a United Nations’ assessment, said that the Chinese authorities have detained more than one million Uighurs: “As its mosques are shuttered and travel across its borders restricted, Xinjiang - once at the intersection of ancient Silk Road trade routes - threatens to become a black hole in President Xi Jinping’s effort to build new ones.”
But the fact that the Uyghurs are badly treated by Beijing, is not new; one just needs to go through some old reports of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to understand that it has been ongoing process since the 1950s.
One such report of January 1951 states: “Muslims in Sinkiang [Xinjiang] are discontented with the Communist regime. Officially there are no restrictions on prayers, but orchestras play for dancing at evening-prayer time to distract the young, and young men enlisted as soldiers have no time to attend religious services. Gatherings of more than four people are prohibited.”
Another CIA report of September 1952 notes: “Prior to June 1952 the Chinese Communist Government in southwestern Sinkiang Province had adopted a policy of deporting all persons whose families originally migrated to Sinkiang from the area which is now West Pakistan. Deportation was preceded by confiscation of property, and the persons being deported were accompanied to the Sinkiang-Pakistan border by an armed guard.”
Today, the Chinese authorities have detained a number of Uighur women who are married to Pakistani businessmen from Gilgit-Baltistan region. It has deeply angered Pakistan, supposedly China’s all-weather friend.
In 1952, two years after the arrival of the first Chinese troops in former Eastern Turkestan, the CIA says: “all major government departments, including those of agriculture, police, secret police, magistrates, revenue, and engineering, were headed by Chinese officials and advised by Soviet officials.” The Uyghurs were not trusted and removed from all their posts; ditto today.
In March 1953, a CIA report asserts: “In the fall of 1952 no one was permitted to travel from southwestern Sinkiang …where the authorities were engaged in liquidating large numbers of people accused of having participated in the 1944 revolt against Chinese rule.”
The CIA agents reported that the fortification walls surrounding Kashgar had been torn down by forced labor: “All women in both cities were compelled to work at removing the debris resulting from the destruction. The men of Kashgar were being forced to work on the construction of roads and buildings.”
Communists take over
By the end of year, all profitable business, including the silk industry in Hotan had been taken over by the Communist authorities: “Private business was discouraged, and almost all shops had been turned into government owned cooperative stores. The salaries paid to shopkeepers were barely enough to cover their living expenses.”
And like the Communist officials would do in Tibet a couple of years later, the new government of Xinjiang told the people: “the Chinese in the administrative structure are there simply to teach the natives of Sinkiang the art of governing, and that soon the full governmental administrative responsibility would be turned over to the people of Sinkiang.”
The same report cited a long list of purges, arrests and executions.
More than 60 years later, ferocious repression and forced assimilation still takes place in the restive region; the Uyghurs face repression, reeducation and relocation.
On July 6, The People's Daily noted that Beijing has relocated “461,000 poverty-ridden residents to work in other parts of the region during the first quarter of the year,” in a bid to “improve social stability and alleviate poverty.”
The report asserted that the Xinjiang government planned to further transfer 100,000 residents from southern Hotan and Kashgar prefectures by 2019, to get employed somewhere else.
Yu Shaoxiang, an ‘expert’ at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told The Global Times: “poverty alleviation in Xinjiang is more difficult compared to other places because, aside from poverty, Xinjiang also faces ethnic issues.”
The irony is that this region is the hub the ‘humanist’ Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which is to bring prosperity and happiness to the local populations.
It does not mean that China does face serious challenges, not only from infiltration from its friend in the South, but also from the Syrian-trained Uighurs returning to Xinjiang.
But can this be a pretext for such drastic policies?
On August 31, during a hearing at the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Hu Lianhe, the Chinese representative countered the claims that the Muslim minorities was being subjected to extrajudicial detention and political indoctrination. Hu denied the existence of ‘re-education camps’, asserting instead that China is ‘a victim of terrorism’, and that the Xinjiang has only initiated a “special campaign to crack down on violent terrorist activities according to law.” He however admitted to the trial and imprisonment of ‘a number of criminals’ and that people guilty of minor offenses were sent “to vocational education and employment training centers…to assist with their rehabilitation and reintegration”
In the meantime, Xinhua promotes the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, as a ‘paradise on earth’. It affirms that 130 million tourists visited the Western province during the first nine months of 2018. Can you believe it? But for sure, the Han tourists did not visit the reeducation camps.