September 29, 2003
Christian Science Monitor

Pressure to Conform in West China

by Robert Marquand

KASHGAR, CHINA - In the blurry quarter-light of dawn, a long line of Uighur men streams silently out of morning prayers at the Idkah Mosque - known as the "Mecca of Xinjiang." The men walk in twos and threes, wearing dark clothes and solemn expressions, and head off to work or homes.

For centuries, the outside of this mosque, a central symbol of China's most Islamic city, which lies along the old Silk Road, was a gathering place for ethnic Muslim Uighurs after prayer - a rich jumble of Persian-style shops, stalls, adobe homes, and tea vendors.

No longer. In recent months, the old neighborhood has been flattened - to be replaced by an open plaza designed to attract tourists. . . .

The eight million Uighurs of Turkic Muslim origin are facing new policies - such as requiring their children to learn Chinese in primary schools - and large funding cuts in majority Uighur colleges. . . .


" Appeal for Uighurs arbitrarily detained ," Amnesty International, january 1, 1999

[Xinjiang is very important to the Chinese government because it contains large oil and gas reserves and it serves as a passageway for transporting oil and gas from Central Asia. In its efforts to colonize and consolidate its control over Xinjiang, the Chinese government has waged an intense campaign to suppress Uyghur nationalist sentiment, dilute their culture, threaten their identity as a distinct people, and assimilate them into Chinese culture. One major way in which the government has accomplished these objectives has been by sponsoring the massive migration of Chinese to the area. In 1949, when the Communists asserted their control over Xinjiang, Uyghurs accounted for at least 93% of the region's population while Chinese accounted for 6 or 7%. By 1997, according to official statistics, the population of Xinjiang was over 17 million, 47% of whom were Uyghurs and 42% of whom were Chinese. In the last few decades, the Chinese-Uyghur ratio in Urumqi, capital city of the XUAR, has shifted from 20-80 to 80-20. . . .

Since the September 11 attacks on the United States, the Chinese government has used the United States' global war on terrorism as a justification for intensifying its crackdown on the Uyghur people.--"Massive Migration of Chinese to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), with Institutionalized Racial Discrimination," Uyghur Human Rights Coalition, 2000]

Louisa Lim, "China's Uighurs mourn way of life," BBC News, October 4, 2003

[Just why is Xinjiang so important to Beijing, and to the new Great Game? It is the biggest region in China, comprising one-sixth of the country's overall territory. It is home to only one-sixtieth of its population, but it has three-quarters of its mineral wealth. Huge reserves of oil and gas are buried mainly in the Tarim Basin in northern Xinjiang. The area is also important as a potential pipeline conduit for crude oil from Kazakhstan.-- Lutz Kleveman, "The New Great Game," Atlantic Monthly Press (2003), p. 101]

[An agreement this month to build a oil pipeline through this tiny hamlet makes it the center of an explosion of economic activity in what only recently was one of the most backward corners of China.--Howard W. French, "China Moves Toward Another West: Central Asia," New York Times, March 28, 2004]

Howard W. French, "Faith Sprouts in Arid Soil of China," New York Times, May 6, 2004

[The Bush Administration, wanting to avert a Chinese veto of its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in the U.N. security council, drafted China into the "war on terrorism" by granting it a free pass to beat up its Tibetans and Uyghurs.--Ted Rall, "Selling Out the Uyghurs: Why 8,000,000 People You've Never Heard Of Hate Us,", December 15, 2004]

[It is being done in the name of anti-separatism and counter-terrorism, says a joint report by Human Rights Watch and Human Rights in China.--"China 'crushing Muslim Uighurs'," BBC, April 12, 2005]

[Human rights groups have long criticized the lack of religious freedom in China and highlighted the harsh treatment of underground Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists and Uighurs, the Muslim ethnic group in the western region of Xinjiang. Yet other Chinese Muslim groups that might be expected to support the Uighurs have rarely done so. . . . the country's 10 Muslim nationalities usually find common cause only when they feel an issue denigrates Islam, as was the case with the cartoons.--Jim Yardley, "A Spectator's Role for China's Muslims," New York Times, February 19, 2006]

[In 1913, while China was in chaos, Tibet, backed by the British Empire, declared independence. War-torn China had no chance to reassert its claim to Tibet until the end of the civil war in May, 1950. Four months later, China's People's Army invaded Tibet and declared it "reunited" to China. Many Tibetans, particularly the warlike Champa, resisted furiously. A year earlier, Chinese troops had invaded and crushed the independent, four-year old Muslim Republic of East Turkistan - today called Xinjiang - whose Turkic-Mongol Uighurs, long fought Chinese rule and Han Chinese immigration.--Eric Margolis, "How To Resolve the Tibet Crisis,", March 25, 2008]

Tim Johnson, "As world watches Tibet, China's Muslim Uighurs face growing repression," McClatchy Newspapers, April 14, 2008

Ben Blanchard, "Radical Islam stirs in China's remote west," Reuters, July 6, 2008

[Chinese officials added nearly 17,000 surveillance cameras last year to the tens of thousands already installed in Urumqi, apparently centered on neighborhoods frequented by Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority. They recently announced plans to put the entire city of some 2.4 million people under "seamless" observation with tens of thousands more.--Tom Lasseter, "Thousands of cameras watch China's Uighurs, inhibiting discourse," McClatchy Newspapers, February 16, 2011]

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