Religious Minorities of China and China's balancing game

sorcerer

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Beijing's Xinjiang Policy: Striking Too Hard?

China's long-running Uighur insurgency has flared up dramatically of late, with more than 900 recorded deaths in the past seven years. This puts the conflict's cumulative death toll in a range similar to that of The Troubles in Ireland or the ETA/Basque separatist violence in Spain. Russia's longstanding conflicts in the Caucasus share elements with China's Xinjiang troubles, and also show how harsh repression actually intensifies conflicts and encourages metastasis into other previously peaceful parts of the country.

Kinetic repression, restrictions on worship and religious attire, and a police state response alone will not placate the Uighurs in Xinjiang. The precise set of methods necessary to achieve peace is not yet clear. However, the consequences of failing to identify and employ a more holistic, less inflammatory set of policies to pacify Xinjiang are quite clear: continued violence in the province, as well as periodic substantial terror attacks elsewhere in China, such as the bloody Kunming train station attack of 1 March 2014.

Incident Data

The Chinese government's security apparatus is striking hard in Xinjiang, with increasingly frequent kinetic police actions and nearly weekly announcements of long prison sentences and death sentences being handed down to suspected "separatists." The frequency of violent incidents has risen sharply in the past 18 months, with security force actions, Uighur attacks on security forces and facilities, and insurgent attacks on railway stations and markets accounting for the bulk of the death toll since the first quarter of 2013 (Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1: Xinjiang insurgency cumulative deaths by incident type, October 2007-to-31 December 2014


Before delving deeper into the data, a bit here regarding humanity, as well as sourcing of the data. First and foremost, the data points depicted in this analysis are not mere "statistics" Rather, each arises from tragedy befalling people with deep and complex human stories and we feel for the families of all who are deceased and injured in these incidents. Second, the data come from an extensive search of reputable Chinese and English language sources, including Xinhua, Xinjiang local sources, Reuters, RFA, and the New York Times. The dataset is useful, but limited, as it only captures what was reported, and thus likely under-reports the true death toll. It focuses on actual fatalities because they are a proxy for the seriousness of violence. Finally, the dataset seeks to focus on acts that are politically motivated, rather than simple run-of-the-mill criminality

So, what is driving the upswing in violence and what might these data points portend for Xinjiang's future security environment? The surge in violence between Uighur demonstrators, insurgents, and Chinese security forces in Xinjiang suggests the conflict is entering a new phase in which deep Uighur frustration at repressive police and security practice is boiling over. Indeed, the fact that demonstrators equipped only with axes, farm implements, and crude home-made explosives are willing to attack security forces armed with automatic weapons suggests a profound degree of anger and desperation.

Lethal attacks on security forces and police facilities increased sharply in the summer of 2013 and have trended strongly upward since then. The deliberate and increasingly frequent (and bloody) targeting of security forces also serves as a warning sign that the Chinese government has overplayed its hand with respect to repression and has reached a tipping point where greater armed repression simply sparks more violence and makes security forces and facilities lightning rods, for they are viewed by many Uighurs as the hand that enforces and enables repressive policies.

Geographic Concentration of Xinjiang's Violence

The worst documented outbreak of violence in at least the past 20 years occurred in Urumqi during July 2009, when nearly 200 people died and at least 1,700 reported injuries. Aside from the spasm of violence in Urumqi, the majority of violent incidents have occurred in the Uighur-centric population belt arcing through Western and Southwestern Xinjiang, in particular the area around the city of Kashgar (Exhibit 2).

Northern Xinjiang has been remarkably quiet, despite hosting reasonably large population centers (as reflected by the nighttime light emissions depicted in Exhibit 2). It is likely that the quiet in these area stems from the fact that these communities are newer and primarily populated by Han who have migrated to Xinjiang in order to staff various industrial enterprises and oil and natural resources development projects – for instance the large refinery and oil storage facilities at Dushanzi west of Urumqi.

Serious mass casualty incidents have also occurred in Urumqi (May 2014 market bombing), Luntai, and in the Turpan area southeast of Urumqi. This map only captures deaths in Xinjiang and does not reflect the Kunming Train Station attacks and other incidents perpetrated by insurgents elsewhere outside Xinjiang.


Exhibit 2: Known Deaths by County in Xinjiang, October 2007-to-31 December 2014


While making clear ethnic identifications is tough because of a lack of details in most media reports of incidents, Uighurs account for the overwhelming majority of deaths from security force actions, attacks on police and police facilities, and security forces firing on demonstrators. Deaths from "other attacks" and large-scale ethnic violence are primarily a mix of Uighurs and Han

Putting the Conflict in Perspective

The Xinjiang conflict could get much bloodier than it is today. Some Uighurs were captured fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and there are very likely a number of Uighurs in the ranks of ISIS/ISIL today. If they survive, they will be imbued with confidence, will have seen the benefits of accessing larger-scale financing, and will almost certainly receive encouragement to take their fight to other parts of China with a scale and intensity not yet seen. Our view at this point is that China's competent and wide-reaching – if imperfect – surveillance apparatus will prevent a large-scale influx of Uighurs who have fought under the radical Islamic banner in the Middle East and Afghanistan/Pakistan. Foreign jihadist movements will serve primarily as cheerleaders, not quartermasters or providers of soldiers, for anti-Beijing elements in Xinjiang.

The threat will not be an existential one to the Chinese state, as most Uighurs would prefer a peaceful accommodation. But even if only 1 percent of Uighurs hold extreme views, there are 10 million in Xinjiang and even for a state security apparatus as formidable as China's, 100,000 or more angry people present a tough challenge.

Even if the attacks are not an existential threat, they will be very difficult to anticipate and prevent. Recent attacks such as the Boston Marathon Bombing, Westgate Mall Attack in Kenya, and the Charlie Hebdo attack in France mark an emerging trend of low cost, easy to plan terrorist attacks that are exceedingly difficult to prevent. China has already experienced such attacks – for instance the Kunming Train Station attacks, Tiananmen Square attack, and the May 2014 attack on a farmer's market in Urumqi – where common items like knives, gunpowder or fertilizer, and SUVs became lethal weapons. Just as important, such attacks do not kill thousands as 9-11 did, but they are immensely disruptive and can sow disproportionate fear in a society.

The nature of attacks in Xinjiang suggests that foreign terror actors may provide inspiration, but that the men and materials are all locally-sourced. The fact that the attacks use readily available local materials (vehicles, fertilizer, gunpowder, knives, axes) poses a real dilemma for Beijing because there is no apparent flow of weapons from abroad that can be interdicted.

To boot, unless the Chinese government prevents Uighurs from owning cars and common woodcutting and food preparation tools – which is unlikely – the means of attack are always present. Indeed, the possession of potential bombmaking materials like ammonium nitrate – a common fertilizer – has been seriously restricted since at least 2006 in Xinjiang.

On a tactical level, Xinjiang's insurgency does offer China's public (and private) security apparatus a number of tangible benefits. Xinjiang gives China's security forces an internal, restricted access "beta lab" in which to test new techniques and technologies (such as drones) before the Chinese military potentially employs them beyond China's borders.

The continuing conflict in Xinjiang is also creating a core group of police and paramilitary personnel with significant live fire experience in a hostile operational environment. These men (and increasingly, women) offer a prime talent pool for China's new private security providers as they recruit staff to hire out to Chinese miners and construction firms operating in Africa and other areas where projects may require armed protection.

The growing insurgency in Xinjiang is imposing significant costs on the Chinese government, but the province's rich mineral resources and strategic geographical position are too valuable to give up, even at the cost of a much bloodier conflict than that which exists today. One looming question is "will Uighur insurgents expand their campaign to include key energy, mining, and other critical infrastructure in Xinjiang?" Such a move is conceivable, but most of these assets lie in open desert and basin and range-type geography that is easily kept under surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles and other means.

Moreover, destroying infrastructure takes more capability than attacking a train station or market. Firearms, explosives, or heavy tools such as welding and cutting equipment are essential if one hopes to break open a pipeline, destroy rail lines, damage power transformers, or topple power transmission pylons. Such implements are difficult to get ahold of in Xinjiang – for unlike the Middle East and other parts of Central Asia – civilian access to firearms and explosives is tightly restricted and attempts to obtain such items on the black market risks exposing plotters to law enforcement. The other possibility is that Uighur insurgents or their supporters abroad could launch cyber attacks on critical infrastructure or other assets in China. To date, we locate no mention of such attacks and it appears this threat dimension has not yet manifested itself.

The Uighur-dominated areas such as Kashgar where much of the violence has occurred lately are strategically located, but the primary infrastructure arteries (gas pipelines) and mineral resources (coal and oil fields) lie either far out in the virtually uninhabited Taklamakan Desert or sit well north of the "Uighur belt" of Southern and Southwest Xinjiang (Exhibit 3).


Exhibit 3: Xinjiang Violence and Proximity to Key Mineral Resources and Key Rail and Pipeline Infrastructure


Bottom Line

Forbidding Uighurs' religious worship is also clearly not a solution, as Beijing and its local agents cannot excise belief from the minds of the faithful. If anything, harsh repression of religion simply empowers the most radical elements who are willing to openly confront the Chinese government – creating exactly the turmoil Beijing seeks to avoid. China is clearly in control of Xinjiang. If Beijing employed more tolerant policies that recognized Uighurs' religious and economic needs and expressed confidence in its hold on the region, this loosening would very likely have the counter-intuitive effect of defusing tensions, reducing violence, and making both Uighurs and Han better off. "Strike hard" programs are not the answer and will only catalyze additional violence.

Beijing’s Xinjiang Policy: Striking Too Hard? | The Diplomat
 

sorcerer

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SIS gaining in Pak: Here's why China should be more worried than India
The Islamic State (IS), also known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is just reported to have increased its presence in Pakistan in a big way and recruited up to 12,000 people from the restive Balochistan province. (Find more details of this IS recruitment drive in Balochistan here.)

Does it mean that the already tinderbox situation that Pakistan is in would be further exacerbated? If so, is it good or bad for India? How does it impact India?
Answering the first question is easier. Pakistan is a country that is in the cross hairs of jihadist terrorism that it had itself fawned and encouraged. Pakistan has been using terrorism as an instrument of its foreign policy for over three decades.

Pakistan is now faced with the Frankenstein monster. The 'creation' now wants to gobble up the 'creator'.

There are umpteen number of jihadist outfits, owing allegiance to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Al Qaeda, which are vying with one another in wreaking havoc on Pakistan through the means they know the best: terrorism.

Now the entry of IS in the volatile Pakistani theatre is set to complicate things further for Islamabad as well as Rawalpindi.

The development is a new challenge for Pakistan, and a very serious one. Not only will it inevitably roil the already volatile waters in the country further but will also harm it diplomatically and would eventually cast a shadow on Pakistan's all-weather strategic ties with China.

Forget the Indian angle for a moment, the rise of IS in Pakistan is an alarm bell for Pakistan's best friend China.

Wu Sike, China's special envoy to the Middle East, recently remarked that up to 100 Chinese citizens may be fighting for IS; most of whom, if not all, are Uighurs from Xinjiang, China's restive Muslim dominated region.

News of the first Chinese national captured in Iraq while fighting on behalf of the IS came in early September 2014.

The IS has already spoken of revenge against China for its alleged various sins of omission and commission.

A few months ago, IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi had remarked that "Muslim rights are forcibly seized in China, India, and Palestine". This was the first time when China was mentioned on al-Baghdadi's list. The IS has already released its China-specific plans and a map which shows that IS plans to control a significant portion of Xinjiang in the next five years.

(Incidentally, Al-Baghdadi may have been killed or seriously injured in a US-led air strike on the IS in the western Iraqi border town of al-Qaim on Friday, 7 November.)

Nothing perturbs the Chinese than the very talk of terrorism in China, particularly the jihadist brand of terror, given Beijing's concerns about Xinjiang. Therefore, the rise and spread of IS in Pakistan should worry China more than India.

Now let's turn to the India angle and how the rise and spread of IS in Pakistan may affect India.

The Islamic State is an anathema for India too. The outfit is already attracting large number of youths from various parts of India in its fold. Though there is no official count of Indians who have joined the IS, the number may well be in hundreds.

Therefore, from that perspective it would be a nightmare for India if IS were to expand its presence its presence in its immediate neighbourhood. The news about IS recruiting up to 12,000 men in Balochistan means that this newest terror outfit is knocking on the Indian doors.

The implications of the IS threat on India are not lost on the Indian strategic establishment. The fact that India is home to the second largest population in the world (after China) heightens the IS threat further. But India has been tackling such threats practically on a day-to-day basis for several decades and has thus acquired a significant degree of resilience in this context.


However, the most immediate impact of the IS rise in Pakistan will be on Pakistan itself. Conditions in Pakistan are ripe and favourable for any jihadist terror outfit to do business. The world may soon get to hear of the exploits of IS in Pakistan.

This will inevitably rock the Pakistani boat further. A nation which is already grappling with myriads of blood-letting jihadist terror outfits would find it extremely difficult to tackle yet another high-profile terror merchant like IS.

The current Pakistan situation proffers a ready-to-go kind of environment for all terror outfits of all hues and ideologies and IS has joined the list of such outfits active on that country. But IS won't be just another addition. It can be a veritable game changer in the current situation for Pakistan which is already struggling hard to stay afloat in fighting the Frankenstein monsters. This can hasten the fall of Pakistan as a nation.

ISIS gaining in Pak: Here's why China should be more worried than India - Firstpost
 

Ray

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Pakistan many claim that her relations with China is "higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight and sweeter than honey" , but reality has zapped China across the eye and they are now smelling the coffee.

They are on board to support India in the UN on a resolution to punish all who perpetrate and finance terrorism like Pakistan.
 

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China forces imams to dance in street | Asia-Pasific | Worldbulletin News


Excerpts :
China has forced the imams of Xinjiang to dance in the street, and swear to an oath that they will not teach religion to children as well telling them that prayer is harmful to the soul.
...imams of the mosques in the Xinjiang (East Turkestan) have been forced to gather in a square dancing en masse...
...forced to chant out slogans such as 'peace of the country gives peace to the soul". Many of the imams were forcibly given Chinese flags...
...young people were told to stay away from mosques, and that the prayer was harmful to ones health...
Female teachers were instructed to teach children to stay away from religious education...
Regards,
Virendra
 

sorcerer

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^^
Updating the news with a video

Searched for the video to see whose tunes they were dancing to...(Duh!!! no pun intended :D)
 
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Ray

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^^
Updating the news with a video

Searched for the video to see whose tunes they were dancing to...(Duh!!! no pun intended :D)
Prayers are harmful for the soul?

The Chinese are ignorant since they have no clue of religion.

Poor souls, these Communists of China.
 
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sorcerer

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China's New Silk Road and Its Impact on Xinjiang

China's plans for Central Asia are likely to see Beijing take a tighter grip on the restive Xinjiang region.

China's New Silk Road is of interest to the West largely because of the great power rivalry that appears to be once again emerging in the Central Asian region.
Some pundits have suggested that China may well be displacing the U.S. and Russia in Central Asia, a region of longstanding geostrategic significance to all parties. Of course, this is not entirely a surprise for those who predicted that U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan would leave a power vacuum. While economic integration with Russia holds its attractions, resistance to the geopolitical designs of Russia is finding expression amongst the wealthiest Central Asian countries. The U.S. invariably ties deals to some kind of reform. China, on the other hand, is increasingly seen by many Central Asian governments as a genuine partner for mutual security and development, not least because it does not interfere in their domestic affairs.

However, China's newly unveiled Silk Road Economic Belt initiative in effect ties Central Asia in with the restive Xinjiang region, which opens up a new angle of interest – namely, what impact the New Silk Road is likely to have on the Uighur minority in Xinjiang. Although this initiative represents China's primary interest in energy, raw materials, and markets that will continue to drive economic growth, it cannot be understood only in economic terms. The New Silk Road is undeniably related to security issues in China's Western frontier, beset with what Beijing calls the "three evils" of terrorism, separatism and fundamentalism. The repression of Muslim Uighurs has long inspired fighters from Central Asia (and Afghanistan) to support them. Indeed, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's recent threat to occupy part of Xinjiang and his message to the Uighurs that "your brothers all over the world are waiting for your rescue, and are anticipating your brigades" appears to have been taken seriously by the Chinese leadership. One can reasonably infer that Central Asia has become even more significant to the security of China.

The close relationship between security concerns and economic initiatives in Central Asia has had precedent. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was initially established as a means to prevent "foreign jihadists" from instigating violence in the Xinjiang region, and has helped to secure assurances from Central Asian governments that they will never support "militant separatists" on the basis of religious and ethnic commonalities. Although China generally avoids domestic interference, it has used the SCO to pressure the governments of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to shut down Uighur political parties and newspapers. China's interest in greater security cooperation within the SCO appears to also have been revived of late, an indication of how important a stable Central Asian region continues to be to security within China's national borders. Indeed, China has just recently hosted the largest military drill with SCO members since 2004 within its own borders. It has also been working to shore up the security capabilities of its Central Asian member states through intelligence, equipment and resource sharing, in large part for counter-terrorism purposes.

From this security angle, what impact the New Silk Road is likely to have on the Uighur minority in Xinjiang is a warranted concern. Owing to the religious and ethnic commonalities Central Asians have with the Uighur Muslim population, weaving together Xinjiang and the region could conceivably complicate China's economic relations with the region and constrain the actions Beijing takes to contain what it understands to be foreign-inspired Islamic "terrorism." Under the tenure of former energy and security czar Zhou Yongkang – whose star has since fallen quite dramatically – violence in the region had been escalating. The increased exercise of hard power is highly visible, not least because the repression of some of the most moderate activists has fuelled local agitation, excited the international media and the "foreign jihadists" that so worry the Chinese government.

From a religious angle, it might behoove the Chinese leadership to take a different tack toward Xinjiang, especially since increased violence in the region suggests that repression is self-defeating. But how realistic is this? Certainly, some have looked to Zhou's disgraced departure as an opening for change. However, it would appear that the Chinese leadership's solution to unrest in Xinjiang is just more economic development and more repression in the meantime. If security cooperation within the SCO is any indication of the shared hardline approach to sources of instability in Central Asia, a sea change in China's approach to stabilizing its Western frontier appears slim. Indeed, the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of the SCO issued a strongly worded statement after the April 30 train station attack last year that it "resolutely supports the Chinese government in adopting all necessary measures for fighting various forms of terrorist crimes of violence, striking at the arrogance of violent terrorists, and maintaining public security and stability." Taking on the role as a force for stability also strengthens China's position in the Central Asian region, further blunting any pressure that may be exerted on China to change its policies toward the Uighurs. Moreover, China ties economic incentives to security cooperation – Chinese President Xi Jinping recently offered SCO members joint projects worth $5 billion in exchange for a commitment to fight extremism in the region. Indeed, the economic benefits of working with China are too great to lose, any form of extremism would create instability and threaten prosperity, and with the rise of the Islamic State, it looks like there will continue to be little outside support for the Uighurs.

Moreover, as China's investment and trade along the New Silk Road continue to grow, the region may well become economically dependent upon Beijing. By developing extensive gas and oil pipelines, as well as developing a network of transportation links, China is making itself economically indispensable to Xinjiang and the countries lying within the modern-day Silk Road. The Chinese government also offers generous trade and loan terms, thus creating an environment in which Uighurs will continue to be repressed lest a separatist movement destabilize relations with China and jeopardize economic development. On top of that, by eliminating other major competitors, whether economic or political, countries within Central Asia do not have many other partners to turn to who can offer few of the benefits of working with China. Their investment-led diplomacy and hands-off approach to politics make the Chinese the perfect match for authoritarian governments in Central Asia. This makes for a win-win situation because Chinese trade partners in Central Asia will likely take the same hands-off approach to China's domestic policy towards the Uighurs. Taken together, China appears to be successfully capitalizing on the economic opportunities within the region, while increasing the isolation of the Uighurs.

Although religious and cultural similarities link the Uighur population in Xinjiang to its Western neighbors, the ties are only so strong when matched up against the benefits that China's friendship can offer. As former states of the Soviet Union, countries in the Central Asian region are still establishing themselves and it is hard to do so when under the thumb of Russia. China offers itself as a viable alternative and it also allows these governments to use the great powers against one another in order to gain the greatest benefits. Countries in Central Asia are also in great need of stability and security, which gives the governments of the region and China common ground in dealing with the "foreign jihadists." These security threats also allow for the oppression of political dissidence in Central Asia. It is telling that opposition to growing relations with China are mostly at the grassroots level in Central Asia.

China's overland prong of the "New Silk Road" is important to China because it helps to wean it from overreliance on maritime routes in the South and East China Seas, where tensions have intensified considerably in recent years. The support that the U.S. has been giving to its Pacific allies in maritime disputes has arguably increased the importance of this economic belt to the Chinese. The consequence of this is likely to be a tightening grip on the Uighurs. The iron grip will continue as economic development and national security form the foundation of China's pivot.

Su-Mei Ooi is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Butler University and Kate Trinkle was a graduating senior at Butler University at the time of writing.
China's New Silk Road and Its Impact on Xinjiang | The Diplomat
 

PrashantAzazel

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The only positive I see here is that they have banned religious indoctrination of the minors in mosques. Every country has a different way of dealing with fundamentalism. I just hope that this assimilation / secession of uighurs remains less violent...
 

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China's Crackdowns in Tibet
The United Nations is set to receive evidence that Chinese People's Armed Police troops have repeatedly opened fire on unarmed Tibetan protesters calling for religious freedom over the past seven years.

Evidence of deadly attacks by the Chinese paramilitary on Buddhist demonstrators across the Tibetan Plateau – provided by witnesses, whistleblowers, and a secret government document smuggled out of Tibet – will be presented to the UN's Committee against Torture later this year.

International human rights groups, working with figures inside Tibet who aim to expose these killings internationally, will gather in Geneva in November for the UN hearing.

"The usage of live ammunition against peaceful Tibetan protestors does exist and it is also disproportionate," Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay, the head of Tibet's government-in-exile, told The Diplomat. "This is clearly in violation of international law," said the prime minister, a former research fellow at prestigious Harvard Law School who wrote his graduate thesis on Buddhism and Human Rights.

Tsering Tsomo, executive director of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, described the serial shootings of Tibetan protesters as "crimes against humanity." She said the rights center has amassed powerful evidence that Chinese armed police consistently use overwhelming force to crush pacifist dissent in the former Buddhist kingdom.

In one assault on August 12 of last year, witnesses reported that troops fired into an assembly of protesters who were calling for the release of a detained religious and cultural leader in the village of Kardze; four of the 10 demonstrators who were shot were also arrested.

Denied medical treatment for their bullet wounds, each of these captured protesters died over the course of the next five days, Tsomo said.

She added that witnesses to armed crackdowns on Tibetan demonstrators face immense risks in reporting the incidents to the outside world.

"Intense government surveillance of communication channels," she explained, has caused Tibetans to "get disappeared, tortured, detained and imprisoned on charges of violating China's "state secrets" law when all they did was share information about human rights violations."

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights that Tsomo heads is based in Dharamsala, the ever-expanding sanctuary provided by India's government to host the Dalai Lama and a continuous stream of Tibetans who have fled into exile since the People's Liberation Army marched into their Himalayan homeland in the 1950s.

The center, situated near the western edge of the Tibetan Plateau, has also acquired a classified report issued by the Lhasa Public Security Bureau revealing that Chinese security forces used machine guns to quell initially peaceful protests in March 2008, Tsomo said.

The rights group has published the signed document on its website, and intends to submit it to the 10 international legal experts who lead the UN Committee against Torture.

Grim Details

The government report, secreted out of the Tibetan capital, provides grim details on victims of the People's Armed Police attack on Buddhist monks, nuns and pilgrims in the Place of the Gods, as Lhasa was traditionally known. Compiled for the Chinese leadership, the document notes that the body of one young Tibetan woman was riddled with 15 bullet holes. A compatriot felled by automatic weapons fire near the Ramoche Temple, in the ancient quarter of Lhasa, was shot 17 times.

This official chronicle of the massive attack on Buddhist demonstrators in central Lhasa in mid-March of 2008 also demonstrates the massive fabrication of "facts" that Communist Party leaders in Tibet and in Beijing presented to the world about how they handled the protests and the cause of deaths linked to the demonstrations, Tsomo pointed out.

Tibet's party-appointed governor, Qiangba Puncog, told reporters at the time that despite escalating protests, "Security forces did not carry or use any destructive weapons, but tear gas and water cannons were employed."

The only deaths stemming from the protests, he claimed, were brought about by Tibetan rioters who had torched government buildings and shops across Lhasa. "Thirteen innocent civilians were killed," he told the world.

The government's officially published list of these "victims of violent arson attacks" included 30-year-old Lhakpa Tsering and 24-year-old Wangdu Dargay, both of Lhasa.

But the newly uncovered Lhasa security report tells a different story: Both of these residents of the Tibetan capital were listed in this secret chronicle as having been killed by automatic weapons during the paramilitary's assault on protesters calling for an end to communist controls on Tibet's monasteries and people.

This leaked document and contemporaneous witness accounts all show that paramilitary troops deployed battle-strength firepower to wipe out civil protests while hiding their actions from the rest of the world, Tsomo explained. (Foreign reporters are routinely barred from traveling inside Tibet, and Lhasa, surrounded by super-high mountains and a heavy military presence, is easy to seal off.

The Chinese paramilitary, backed by armored personnel carriers, killed more than 100 protesters during this assault; more than 5000 Tibetan Buddhists were arrested in a crackdown mounted across the ancient Tibetan capital, she added.

The leaders of China's Ministry of National Defense states on its official website that: "The People's Armed Police Force is the state's shock force in handling public emergencies."

This component of the Chinese armed forces is deployed to "disperse illegal assemblies," it adds, and the PAPF joined "operations to handle the "3.14"³ [March 14, 2008] Lhasa riots."

"The People's Armed Police Force is assigned such missions by the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, the State Council, the Central Military Commission or local Party committees," the defense ministry leadership states.

The paramilitary's repeated assaults on protesters are part of a wider, systematic attack on the leaders, symbols and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, said John Gaudette, legal research officer at the Tibetan Center in Dharamsala. In this decades-long battle, he explained, the Communist Party of China has imprisoned Buddhists for possessing images or teachings of the Dalai Lama, orchestrated the enforced disappearance of the Panchen Lama for the last 19 years, destroyed religious symbols including brass prayer wheels and stone shrines across Tibet, and tortured – sometimes until death – clerics who dare to call for the Dalai's return to Lhasa.

Meanwhile, the president of the Washington, D.C.-based International Campaign for Tibet, Matteo Mecacci, said the four Kardze demonstrators who were shot and held captive until they died last August represent just a fraction of Tibetan political and religious prisoners who have died in detention. Torture pervades China's web of prisons across Tibet, he claimed, and security agents who cause the death of Tibetans ranging from Buddhist scholars to young lamas are never punished.

China signed the International Convention against Torture in 1988, and its violations of that treaty will be reviewed this year, said Mecacci, a Florentine legal scholar and former member of the Italian parliament who has been a leading advocate of stronger rights protections in the United Nations. He said he will present the International Campaign for Tibet's evidence on China's treaty violations – gathered in part from Tibetan political detainees who have escaped into exile – to the UN's anti-torture group.

In a communiqué to the Chinese government issued in 2008 – just months following the People's Armed Police mass assault on lama-led dissent – the committee's legal experts stated they were alarmed about "The failure to investigate the deaths resulting from indiscriminate firing by the police into crowds of reportedly largely peaceful demonstrators in Kardze county, Ngaba county and Lhasa."

The UN jurists also called on China to allow independent inquiries into these casualties, and into reports of widespread torture of Tibetans detained since the crackdown. Those found responsible for the shooting or torture of peaceful activists, they added, should be prosecuted.

But as Matteo Mecacci and other scholars on human rights point out, the UN's monitors can only pinpoint violations of the anti-torture agreement and instruct the treaty-breaking state – in this case China – which remedial steps to take to comply with the convention. The UN group – so far – has no power to compel Beijing to follow its instructions, or even to prevent Chinese security forces from shooting or torturing government critics again in the future.

Anti-Rights 'Model'

China's routine flouting of UN rights standards and conventions, through the ongoing deployment of armed troops against Buddhist dissidents and those seeking to escape into exile, creates an anti-rights model that can be followed by authoritarian governments around the world. "For a country that is now the second biggest economy in the world to continue to despise international cooperation on human rights issues is embarrassing and dangerous," added Mecacci.

But the impunity that Chinese party and paramilitary leaders now enjoy inside Tibet and worldwide could soon come to an end if the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act now being debated in the U.S. Congress becomes law.

Passage of this legislation would press President Barack Obama to "impose targeted sanctions for Chinese officials responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, and other human rights abuses in Tibet," said Tsering Tsomo.

Matteo Mecacci said the International Campaign for Tibet and its human rights allies aim to work with American legislators for rapid passage of the law, which will bar the world's biggest rights abusers from entering the U.S. and freeze any assets they have inside the U.S.

The legislation would also function as the first effective deterrent to violating internationally recognized basic rights in Tibet, Mecacci said. Lawmakers across the continents should follow the U.S. lead to draft similar laws aimed at strengthening this deterrent, he added. His group is already pressing for Europe-wide sanctions on rights offenders via ICT's offices in Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels.

Kaydor Aukatsang, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Americas, said that the introduction of the new American rights bill "sends a powerful message to Chinese officials that human rights abusers will face consequences."

Aukatsang, a member of the Tibetan government-in-exile, added that crafting a deterrent to China's human rights crimes in Tibet is so urgent that the U.S. president and State Department should act immediately to begin screening Chinese government and military leaders seeking to enter the U.S. for complicity in attacks on Tibetans and their religion.

"Chinese Communist Party and People's Liberation Army officials responsible for shooting unarmed protesters should face consequences for their actions," said the Dalai Lama's envoy, who is based in Washington.

Mecacci agreed, and said one potential legal basis is already in place for tracking and banning those orchestrating assaults in Tibet from crossing American borders. Four years ago, Obama, a former constitutional law professor himself, signed an Executive Order that blocks visas for "perpetrators of serious human rights abuses or humanitarian law," Mecacci said. This rights-based travel ban, he added, should be expanded across the free world.

Kevin Holden is a freelance journalist based in Asia.
China's Crackdowns in Tibet | The Diplomat
 

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Uyghur Terrorism: A Misnomer?
Thailand’s recent deportation to China of more than 100 Uyghurs – the majority ethnic group in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region – drew a rebuke from the United Nations. It also prompted a strong public reaction within Turkey, which led to the Turkish government reiterating its determination to receive Turkic-speaking Uyghurs fleeing China.

In response, Beijing published a report on home-grown terrorism, claiming that police in China’s Yunnan Province have shot dead “four violent terrorists” and arrested 553 “extremists” attempting to leave China for foreign warzones like Syria and Iraq since 2014. While not making direct reference to the Xinjiang Uyghurs, the subtext to such pronouncements is that the Uyghurs attempting to leave China have strong links with global terrorism, and pose a genuine security threat.

The Problem of Xinjiang

Few people outside China knew about Xinjiang or the Uyghurs before news of Uyghur fighters joining the Islamic State started being reported internationally. This is in stark contrast to Tibet, which many view as a historically independent region, and where China’sauthoritarian approach has regularly found itself in the international spotlight.

The international media’s focus on the Islamic State’s Uyghurs has had the unfortunate effect of shoehorning perceptions of Uyghurs into the global grand narrative of culture clash, terrorism, and Islamic threat.

The reality is much more complex.

For a start, the movement – both legal and illegal – of Uyghurs between China and its Central Asian neighbors like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan has long preceded the global focus on international terrorism. The Uyghurs are a Turkic people. Their history, language, culture, religion and lifestyle far more closely resemble the Turkic peoples of Central Asia than the Han Chinese who comprise 92 percent of China’s population.

This sense of ethnic difference has to a large extent formed the basis of longstanding anti-Han sentiment among the Xinjiang Uyghurs. The Chinese leadership has also for decades perceived these sentiments as the presence of a separatist movement in Xinjiang.

The Uyghurs’ situation is complicated by the fact that Xinjiang – a vast oil- and gas-rich swathe of territory in China’s northwest occupying one-sixth of the country’s area – is of great strategic value.

Perceived Religious and Cultural Suppression

The Chinese government has repeatedly emphasized the importance of interethnic harmony in Xinjiang and rapid integration of the Uyghurs into the Han-dominated Chinese society. Yet, many Uyghurs see policies intended to promote these goals as attempts to suppress their culture and religion.

Compared to the Hui Muslim communities of central and eastern China, Uyghurs face many more restrictions on their religious expression and way of life. While Xinjiang houses many distinctive mosques, women, students, and public servants face significant restrictions on entering them. Praying in schools, wearing headscarves to work, and fasting during Ramadan are also severely circumscribed. The study of the Qur’an and Arabic is tightly controlled. Even the Uyghur language is being gradually phased out in most educational institutions in Xinjiang.

The increasing security presence in the region, whether in the form of “re-educating” religious leaders or the installation of surveillance cameras and sharp increases in inspection routes, serve to ensure that religious institutions do not advocate Islamic values that are not endorsed by the Chinese state.

Migration and Economic Disparity

The migration of Han Chinese into Xinjiang and the significant Han-Uyghur economic disparity are also major sources of unhappiness among the Uyghurs.

Government-sponsored immigration of Han Chinese into Xinjiang has always been a central component of the Communist Party of China’s policy in Xinjiang. The proportion of Han Chinese living in the region rose from about 5 percent in the 1940s to about 40 percent today. There is large-scale unemployment among the Uyghurs, including young university graduates. Han Chinese are also over-represented in local government jobs.

Beijing has asserted that the quality of life for Uyghurs has improved significantly. Yet deep-seated resentment among the Uyghurs remains, resulting in significant ethnic tensions in Xinjiang. This culminated in the series of violent riots in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, in 2009. This inter-ethnic violence in Xinjiang remains a significant problem today.

Risks of Conflation

It may not be the place of other countries to interfere in China’s domestic policies. It may also be debatable whether countries like Thailand have an obligation to open their doors to asylum seekers such as the Xinjiang Uyghurs.

However, it is critical for both Beijing and the international community to recognize that the uneasy coexistence between the Uyghurs and China’s Han majority is a deep-rooted socio-economic problem. China’s “Uyghur problem” was not created by the September 11 attacks or the rise of the Islamic State. Ethnic tensions and violence in Xinjiang stem from decades’ worth of discrimination, perceived religious and cultural suppression, and economic disparities.

Conflating domestic protest with international terrorism – which both Beijing and the international media are guilty of in the case of the Uyghurs – is unhelpful for two reasons.

First, it is a distraction. It reduces the pressure for governments to resolve domestic problems and tensions. This could result in further resentment and alienation among groups marginalized by state policies, and increase the allure of a violent but radically different world such as that promised by the Islamic State.

Second, as Brian Jenkins from the RAND Corporation suggested: “Some governments are prone to label as terrorism all violent acts committed by their political opponents …. what is called terrorism thus seems to depend on one’s point of view.” Overly broad definitions of terrorism can allow governments to label and punish dissenters as terrorists. Governments may therefore be tempted by a ready-made narrative to back up the claim that domestic unrest derives from outside influences rather than from authentic local concerns. This carries the risk of undermining the legitimacy of genuine international counter-terrorism efforts.

Angela Poh is a PhD Candidate at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/uyghur-terrorism-a-misnomer/
 

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