Posts Tagged ‘Han Chinese’

Background to Uighur unrest

July 16, 2009

Nick Holdstock, Edinburgh Review | Eurozine, July 12, 2009

The city at the empire’s edge

The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region of China has seen a series of clashes between the majority Uighurs and Han Chinese settlers since the 1980s. But it was in the city of Yining that the largest protest took place on 5 February 1997. Initially written off by the Chinese authorities as an outbreak of random violence, since 9/11 it has been portrayed as the work of Islamist separatists. Nick Holdstock reports on a more nuanced reality of unemployment, religious repression, and the wish for independence.

On 5 February 1997, something happened in Yining, a small border town in northwest China. There was definitely a march, possibly a riot, maybe even a massacre. There were certainly shootings, injuries and deaths.

When you finally reach Yining, after two days on a train from Beijing, then another day on a bus, you will see the same broad streets lined with twostorey, white-tiled buildings that exist in every town in China. You can buy the same pirate DVDs, engine parts, strips of beef suffocated in plastic as you would elsewhere. You will recognise the men with short black hair in blue or black cheap suits, one hand hovering close to their pager, the other holding a cigarette of almost prohibitive strength. There will be overcrowded buses, red taxis with their fare lights on, men and women squatting, waiting, cracking sunflower seeds. Never mind that the sky’s unusually blue, that once, between a gap in the buildings, you glimpse a line of white-toothed mountains. By the time you reach the town square you will have forgotten that Kazakhstan is less than an hour away.

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Why Obama doesn’t say a word about Deaths in China?

July 11, 2009
by Mohamed Elmasry | Media Monitors Network, Saturday, July 11, 2009

“Repression of the Uighurs has been widely documented for decades. Amnesty International has accused the Chinese government repeatedly of arbitrarily detaining thousands of Uighurs who were at serious risk of torture or ill treatment. It also condemned China for what it called “an assault on Uighur culture as a whole”- closing mosques, restricting the use of the Uighur language, and burning Uighur books and journals.”

“The total of all the Muslims killed in the 17th to the 19th centuries was about 12,000,000. This was the greatest racial genocide in Chinese history.”

“History reveals that the Han hatred of the Muslims, the short-sightedness of the Ch’ing rulers in their anti-Muslim policy and the narrow-mindedness of the Ch’ing Muslims in building their own kingdoms within China were responsible for the death of 12,000,000 Muslims and of an equal or larger number of Han Chinese. In addition, millions of acres of farmland became scorched earth and the Ch’ing treasury was depleted in financing wars. It ultimately led to the humiliation of the corrupt Ch’ing government by the Western powers and eventually to its downfall in 1911.”

— H. Y. Chang [1]

Last week, China’s president cut short his G8 summit trip to rush home after ethnic tensions in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang left at least 156 dead. A group of Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority, were holding a peaceful demonstration to demand a government inquiry into an earlier violent conflict with members of the country’s dominant Han ethnic group.

The deaths took place as government security forces clamped down on the Uighurs who make up the region’s largest ethnic group.

China has more than 50 ethnic minorities, totaling about 100 million, or eight per cent of China’s 1.3 billion people. There are 2.3 million Uighurs in Xinjiang (also called East Turkistan).

When state repression of minorities occurs, Tibet immediately comes to mind, but China’s measures taken against the Uighurs have been far more severe. Unlike the Tibetans, nobody seems to notice or care.

U.S. President Barack Obama has not say a word about the right of the Uighurs to demonstrate or demanded that the Chinese government respect that right.

Repression of the Uighurs has been widely documented for decades. Amnesty International has accused the Chinese government repeatedly of arbitrarily detaining thousands of Uighurs who were at serious risk of torture or ill treatment. It also condemned China for what it called “an assault on Uighur culture as a whole”- closing mosques, restricting the use of the Uighur language, and burning Uighur books and journals.

“Very appalling forms of torture have been recorded in Xinjiang, which as far as we know have never been occurring elsewhere in China,” reported Amnesty International.

The Chinese government has also been conducting cultural cleansing by moving a huge number of Han to Xinjiang. Uighurs complain that these Chinese immigrants enjoy the benefits of the economical development in their oil-rich province.

After 9/11, the Chinese government linked religion and separatism to terrorism and described the Uighur separatists as terrorists. It succeeded in getting one Uighur organization, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, placed on the United Nations’ list of international terrorist organizations. Four Uighurs captured in Afghanistan were incarcerated at Guantánamo for years before being dumped in Albania because no other country would provide them asylum.

Uighurs who have relatives abroad are being put under pressure to stop them from getting involved in any kind of political activity.

The Chinese government has blamed the recent unrest on Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Uigur American Association. She says that the Uighur Muslims have no freedom to practice their religion. The government has accused her of working to “split” China. (China claims control of Xinjiang, and Tibet, based on the fact these regions were once controlled by Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, who ruled most of China in the 13th century.)

Uighurs, like Tibetans, face open discrimination in the booming cities of China’s east and south, an issue highlighted by the beating to death of at least two Uighurs at a toy factory last month in the southern city of Shaoguan.

A mob of hundreds of Han Chinese attacked the workers following rumors that Uighurs raped two local women. “This incident could have been avoided if the Chinese authorities had properly investigated the Shaoguan killings,” said Kadeer.

She sees strong parallels between the unrest in Xinjiang and Tibet, including China’s demonization of minority groups advocating greater autonomy or independence.

She expressed her disappointment at the lack of condemnation of China’s recent crackdown. “For the most part, we are on our own,” she said.


[1]. The Hui (Muslim) minority in China: an historical overview
by H. Y. Chang, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 1469-9591, Volume 8, Issue 1, 1987, Pages 62 – 78

Further Reading:

Looking East: The Challenges and Opportunities of Chinese Islam
by Ridwan Khan, Haider Shamsi Award for Islamic Studies (HSAIS)

Jewel of Chinese Muslim’s Heritage
by Mohammed Khamouch, Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC)

Zheng He – the Chinese Muslim Admiral
by Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC)

The plight of the Uighurs: China’s Muslims suffering as much as the Tibetans
by Fahad Ansari

Religion and Ethics – Islam in China (650-present)
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

China’s Fearful Muslim Minority
by Ash Lucy, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)


Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Far Northwest – by Michael Dillon

Familiar Strangers: A History of Muslims in Northwest China – by Jonathan N. Lipman

China’s Muslim Hui Community – by Michael Dillon

Genocide in the Age of the Nation State: Volume 2: The Rise of the West and Coming Genocide – by Mark Levene

The Chinese Sultanate: Islam, Ethnicity, and the Panthay Rebellion in Southwest China, 1856-1873 – by David Atwill

Muslim Chinese: Ethnic Nationalism in the People’s Republic – by Dru Gladney

The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century – by Ross E. Dunn

Imperial Rivals: China, Russia, and Their Disputed Frontier – by S. C. M. Paine

Muslim History: 570-1950 C.E. – by Akram Zahoor

Related / External Link (s):


by courtesy & © 2009 Mohamed Elmasry

The changing shape of struggle in China

July 10, 2009

David Whitehouse analyzes the upheaval shaking Western China.

Socialist Worker, July 9, 2009

Uighur women protesters challenge Chinese riot police during demonstrations in western Xinjiang province (Peter Parks | AFP)Uighur women protesters challenge Chinese riot police during demonstrations in western Xinjiang province (Peter Parks | AFP)

LONG-SIMMERING grievances of China’s Muslim Uighur minority boiled over on June 6 after Chinese police attacked a peaceful demonstration in Urumqi, the capital of China’s vast western province of Xinjiang.

By the end of the evening, 158 people had been killed and 800 injured, according to Chinese officials. Official sources indicated that ethnic Chinese individuals and businesses owned by members of China’s ethnic Han majority were the main victims in the riots, but days later, officials still refused to give an ethnic breakdown of the dead or say how many had been killed by police.

Following the riot, security forces put the cities of Xinjiang under lockdown and held at least 1,500 in detention amid ominous reports of retaliatory violence by mobs of Han Chinese–who now form the majority in most of the province’s cities.

Full article

President Hu skips G8 over China unrest

July 8, 2009
Al Jazeera, July 8, 2009

Troops are out in force on the streets of the predominantly Han Chinese city of Urumqi [Reuters]

China’s president is skipping the G8 summit in Italy and returning to Beijing as ethnic tensions which have already claimed at least 156 lives, flare again.

The official Xinhua news agency said Hu Jintao, who had been on a state visit to Italy ahead of the Group of Eight summit starting on Wednesday, cut short his trip “due to the situation” in Xinjiang.

His hurried return comes as tensions were rising again in Urumqi, the region’s capital, on Wednesday.

Victor Gao, the director of the government-run China National Association of International Studies, called Hu’s early return “very unusual”.

Unprecedented measure


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“Because of the unprecedented scale and the severity of the situation in Xinjiang,” he told Al Jazeera, Hu had taken the “unprecedented measure of leaving the G8 meeting before it starts and coming back to China to exercise his leadership role in calming down the situation in Xinjiang”.

Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan, reporting from Urumqi, said tensions were rising again after a relatively calm Wednesday morning following a curfew overnight.

Ethnic Han Chinese were taking to the streets, our correspondent said, carrying sticks and trying to enter Uighur neighbourhoods dotted around the predominantly Han city despite riot police blocking off main streets and armoured personnel carriers conducting patrols.

In depth

Q&A: China’s restive Uighurs
Xinjiang: China’s ‘other Tibet’
Silk Road city ‘under threat’
Muslim states ‘silent’ on Uighurs
Uighurs blame ‘ethnic hatred’

Uighur leader speaks out
Xinjiang remains in grip of unrest
Exiled Uighur denies stirring unrest
Uighur culture under threat
China clamps down on Uighurs

On Tuesday, thousands of Han Chinese had rampaged through the city seeking revenge against ethnic Uighurs who they say started Sunday’s deadly riots.

Groups of Uighurs also took to the streets and government forces fired tear gas at the crowds and ordered the imposition of a curfew in an effort to maintain control of the city.

According to Chinese authorities at least 156 people died in Sunday’s riot which broke out after a street protest by ethnic Uighurs turned violent.

The riot was some of the deadliest ethnic unrest seen in the country for decades.

Chinese police are reported to have arrested more than 1,400 people in a crackdown that Wang Lequan, the head of the Chinese Communist party in Xinjiang, said was intended to quell the unrest, although he warned “this struggle … against separatism … is far from over”.

Uighurs say Chinese repression and mass Han migration have stoked tensions [Reuters]

Commenting on the government’s handling of the crisis, Victor Gao, who worked as translator for the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, said the government needed to be “very fair and very effective” in tackling the situation.”It is easy to draw the line along ethnic groups, however it is a temptation that we need to resist,” he said.

“I think it’s better to focus on the criminal activities regardless of which ethnic group they are, whether they are Uighurs or Han Chinese.”

Uighur groups say China’s repressive policies combined with years of mass migration to Xinjiang by Han Chinese, China’s largest ethnic group, have stoked ethnic tensions and sown the seeds for violence.

‘Great embarrassment’

Asked if Beijing needed to reconsider its “go west” policy encouraging the Han migration, Gao said China “should not deviate from the overall situation regardless of what’s happening in Urumqi right now”.

Xinjiang and the Uighurs

Xinjiang is officially an autonomous region in China’s west.

Region is sparsely populated but has large reserves of oil, gas and minerals.

Xinjiang was formerly a key transit point on the ancient Silk Road linking China to Europe.

Region’s Turkic speaking Uighur population number around eight million.

Uighur activists say migration from other parts of China is part of official effort to dilute Uighur culture in their own land.

Uighurs say they face repression on a range of fronts, including bans on the teaching of their language.

Uighur separatists have staged series of low-level attacks since early 1990s.

China says Uighur separatists are terrorists and linked to al-Qaeda.

“It is a severe incident, it’s a great embarrassment for us Chinese, but I think we need to continue because I think without stability, improvements of the living standards of the people in Xinjiang, including the Uighurs, will be out of the question.”According to Chinese state media, Sunday’s clashes erupted after a demonstration against the government’s handling of an industrial dispute turned violent.

Beijing blames Uighur exiles for stoking the unrest, singling out Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur businesswoman who was jailed for years in China before being released into exile in the US where she now heads the World Uighur Congress, for “masterminding” the unrest.

But Kadeer, a 62-year-old mother of 11, has rejected the accusations, saying from Washington DC that they were “completely false”.

Activists say the clashes started when armed police moved in to break up a peaceful demonstration called after two Uighur workers at a toy factory in southern China were killed in a clash with Han Chinese staff late last month.

Kadeer said the protests in Urumqi started peacefully.

“They were not violent as the Chinese government has accused. They were not rioters or separatists,” she said.

She did, however, condemn “the violent actions of some of the Uighur demonstrators”, saying she supported only peaceful protests.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Riot police battle protesters as China’s Uighur crisis escalates

July 7, 2009

Times Online/UK, July 7, 2009

Uigher woman confronts police in Xinjiang

(AP) A Uigher woman confronts armed police in Urumqi

Jane Macartney, Urumqi

The challenge China faces as it attempts to regain control of its western-most Muslim region was underlined this morning when hundreds of angry Uighurs clashed yet again with riot police.

Following news that 1,434 people had been arrested for Sunday’s riots, some 300 Muslim ethnic Uighurs confronted heavily-armed riot police in the city of Urumqi demanding the release of family members they said had been arbitrarily arrested in the crackdown following the weekend bloodshed, which left 156 dead and more than 800 wounded.

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