Uyghur Update: 27th June – 3rd July

Sitting in the airport and my outgoing flight is delayed because the incoming flight was delayed. Probably because of the rain. So I’ll make use of the surprisingly good wifi and do a little update on the Uyghur news for this week.

 

Probably one of the last pieces of news about Ramadan for this year: A half-hour interview regarding the Ramadan/fasting ban was published on OGN News – “Turkistani activist Abdugheni Sabit joins Bilal Abdul Kareem to unpack the issues“. I have not watched it but I should probably do that at some point…

TRT World picked up on the Muslim name ban and spoke to Nury Turkel for an 8 minute news segment.

 

Digital surveillance is being increased. I’m just going to paste the first section of this article here because it’s a direct quote from Chinese authorities:

Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang are ordering residents to hand in all digital devices for “checking” at local police stations by Aug. 1, as part of an operation targeting “terrorist videos,” according to an announcement and official sources.

“According to the requirements of stability maintenance measures, the Baoshan community district will be carrying out a specific anti-terrorist videos operation,” a notice issued to residents of the regional capital Urumqi’s Baoshan district said.

“Please would all residents and business owners of the district submit their personal ID cards, cell phones, external drives, portable hard drives, notebook computers and media storage cards and any similar devices to our district police post for registration and scanning by Aug. 1, 2017,” the June 27 notice said.

“Anyone who fails to submit the above devices and content by the stated time will be dealt with according to the relevant national law, should any problems arise,” it said, calling on local people to respond “proactively” to the order.

An employee who answered the phone at the Baoshan district committee offices confirmed to RFA that the order is genuine.

“Handheld computers, smartphones, and storage devices [must be handed in],” she said. “We have a special system for scanning them, and this is happening across the whole city, not just here in our district.”

“These are orders from higher up.”

I have heard personal accounts of travellers having their phones bugged or having spyware installed on their electronics but I guess now the surveillance is totally overt. I mean wow, just read this:

“As long as you are a Chinese citizen, it is your obligation to cooperate with us, under the necessity of stability maintenance,” he said.

“As soon as residents see the announcement, they should bring their smart phones, USB drives, [tablets] and notebook computers—these four types of devices—to the nearest police station for inspection.”

According to the officer, authorities will install software that opens “everything” stored on the devices, including documents, archived items, and “anything unclean,” without providing details.

He said that “every Chinese citizen has an obligation to participate” in the inspection, though he acknowledged that the order did not extend beyond Xinjiang, where he said the situation is “unlike any other part” of China in the aftermath of ethnic unrest in Urumqi, on July 5, 2009.

If anyone fails to bring a device for inspection, “we will find them through their mobile phone,” the officer said.

“Everyone must obey—if they don’t come, they will face legal consequences,” he added.

The officer said that anyone born in Xinjiang must comply with the order, regardless of whether they are living in other parts of China, or even in one of “26 designated countries” abroad, without specifying which nations.

“They must bring their devices for checkup as soon as they return,” he said.

“This includes all Han Chinese and ethnic minorities. As long as you are from Xinjiang, you understand well what we’re doing here.”

This comes on the heels of rumours that people going back home from other countries are having their passports or papers confiscated if they were born in Xinjiang, whether or not they are currently naturalised to another country. I have yet to find an official source for this information but at this rate I feel like the rumours are understated rather than exaggerated. I do know that anyone born in East Turkestan living outside of China is questioned for hours when they fly back. For example, the son of a large company who was naturalised to Australia was questioned for hours at the airport then turned back.

Liu Xiaobo has been making headlines again. A bit of background:

China imprisoned Mr. Liu in 2008 and sentenced him to 11 years in prison for “incitement to subversion of state power.” His crime? He helped write Charter 08, a peaceful call for political reform signed by thousands of Chinese. The manifesto was based on Charter 77, a Soviet-era human-rights petition written by Czech dissidents including Vaclav Havel.

As the Nobel citation noted, “Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China’s own constitution and fundamental human rights.” Beijing continues to imprison anyone who protests its failure to abide by its own laws.

China also tries to punish foreign individuals and institutions that expose its human-rights abuses. That includes the nation of Norway, home to the Nobel Committee. After Mr. Liu won the Peace Prize, which is administered by a private foundation, Beijing curtailed diplomatic relations and trade on grounds that Norway had honored a “criminal.” Chinese authorities also put his wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest. Such ruthlessnees is a hallmark of the current generation of Chinese Communist rulers.

He has now been released because he is in the late stages of liver cancer. Apparently he is being treated but I highly doubt they will let him live. China will not allow him to get treatment overseas, but it is unlikely he would even survive the trip considering how bad they have let the cancer get before releasing him. WUC has responded with an open letter asking to release Ilham Tohti and all other political prisoners as well.

Speaking of Tohti, he was rewarded with this year’s Weimar Human Rights Award. Video. The award is given to “individuals, groups or organizations who actively advocate humaneness and tolerance between persons and peoples, and who particularly promote the protection and establishment of fundamental values such as equality, freedom and justice against the background of their ethnic and religious identity in their or for their home country.” The UHRP wrote an article to explain Ilham Tohti and other political prisoners’ situations in a more in-depth manner.

From a personal account, I heard that the president of a Xinjiang university was arrested and disappeared; no one has seen or heard from him in a while. China is really cracking down on academics…

June 26th marked International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, so WUC released a letter outlining the pervasiveness of torture used against Uyghurs by Chinese officials, including some personal accounts of torture by victims. WUC also released an updated version of their report on Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers: Seeking A Place To Breathe Freely. It outlines 2 decades’ worth of reports of Uyghurs being forcibly returned.

Over the years, many countries have caved into pressure to send Uyghur refugees or asylum seekers to China. One case is outlined in this RFA piece, which describes Rizwangul, 21, who has been missing since 2014 since being deported from Vietnam. No one has heard from her, and her family has not been informed of her charges.

China and Kyrgyzstan held some exercises to train soldiers to stop weapons smuggling across the borders. They still cite ETIM as a dangerous factor.

Speaking of borders, China seems to be attempting to expand them through the Himalayan Mountains. A new tank was also tested in Tibet:

Next to the 105-millimeter tank gun, the Xinqingtan MBT is reportedly armed with a 35-millimeter grenade launcher and a 12.7-millimeter machine gun. The tank can reportedly be fitted with advanced composite armor and explosive reactive armor. According to some reports, the PLA plans to induct up to 300 Xinqingtan MBTs. The tank will likely be used for reconnaissance and infantry support operations in mountainous terrain.

…and it looks like Russia and China have signed a “roadmap on military cooperation for 2017-2020.” Earlier, Russia had signed one with India, too. Hmm.

On the contrary, there are still some who are standing up to China: Hong Kong, Yap Island. Go go gheyret qiling! lol

Another article on the BRI project: China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia: insurmountable obstacles and unmanageable risks?. It discusses some huge numbers with regards to financial investments into Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan and how China’s usual strategies may fall short there because of the “inequality and unemployment, and a potentially inflammatory mix of growing Islamic fundamentalism and latent ethnic tensions”. However, the author also analyses potential risks for the Central Asian countries themselves, outlining how countries like Kazakhstan has already “…regularly acquiesced to China on ‘domestic issues’, including targeting ethnic Uighurs on China’s behalf.” He also discusses some issues with religious extremists such as IS and Wahhabi mosques. He states that China’s treatment of Uyghurs could be fuel for extremists to target their investment projects.

The narrative of “fast economic growth” in “Xinjiang” is a familiar one, but a different perspective is shown in this article: Security clampdown in far-western China exacts toll on businesses. It states that “traders, business owners and residents in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, are seeing little benefit from the central government’s cash injection” because of “tightened security as the Chinese government seeks to control one of its biggest domestic threats” so “there are roadblocks and stringent security checks across the region, including at restaurants, hotels and shops, making it slow and frustrating to move around.” The article includes some interviews with business owners and the general idea is that the fast economic growth rate of the region does not really reflect individuals. The most interesting part in the article were the anecdotes of daily life:

People here point to many disruptions in ordinary life as one reason the economy doesn’t feel buoyant at street level.

Group gatherings, whether for charity fun runs or trade expos, are often banned or canceled at the last minute, they say. Phone lines sometimes go dead, and there’s no 4G internet because the authorities fear high-speed internet would help militants organize.

While Belt and Road has created opportunities, small businesses complain these projects often reward large state-owned enterprises.

“The Belt and Road Initiative doesn’t help small businessmen like me,” said Zhou Bangquan who sells men’s shoes in Urumqi.

“It helps big state-owned enterprises that do energy or have big infrastructure projects.”

The article also talks about “study”, or the re-education camps that people are being forced to attend:

People are required to attend flag ceremonies and other patriotic education, instead of working, say locals. Such events are meant to encourage Uighurs to become patriotic Chinese citizens but can also be used to monitor their behavior.

“I’m losing my mind, I’ve already had six staff sent back to their hometowns this past month for study,” said a restaurant manager in Urumqi who, like many people Reuters spoke to in Xinjiang, declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

His Uighur staff were required to return home to southern Xinjiang for one month’s study of Mandarin Chinese, another month learning about China’s legal system and a month of vocational training, he said.

“We all spend so much time doing things that aren’t our actual jobs. I have to take my staff to watch a flag-raising forty weeks of the year. If I don’t, I will be taken away for thirty days of study,” he said.

As well as the time spent on such matters, Uighurs – who represent just over 45 percent of the population – are being increasingly marginalized by the Han Chinese, undermining the overall economy.

Three Han Chinese entrepreneurs told Reuters local authorities had told them not to employ Uighurs. And a Han Chinese real estate agent in Urumqi said he had been told not to sell properties to Uighurs from southern Xinjiang.

These changes seem to have taken place after “…Chen Quanguo became its new Communist Party boss last August in what analysts say was an implicit endorsement of his previous hard-line management of ethnic strife in Tibet.”

“Xinjiang used to have a policy of ‘with one hand we maintain stability, with the other hand we grow the economy’ but now it’s just ‘maintain stability with both hands, at all costs’,” said a local businessman and former government official.

Chen said in a speech last September that “all our work in Xinjiang revolves around maintaining a tight grip on stability.”

I did quote a lot of the article but I didn’t quote all of it so check it out.

 

In the West, UK diplomats are apparently “kowtowing” to China – they had a two-day meeting with Chinese officials to discuss human rights:

Topics included “freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, access to justice and ethnic minorities’ rights,” the Conservative MP added.

“The UK strongly believes that respect for human rights is vital for growth and stability, and that these regular talks are an important part of our relationship with China.”

However, Field’s statement made no mention of Liu’s plight. Nor did it reference the severe political chill that has descended on China since president Xi Jinping took power in late 2012. That clampdown has seen top human rights lawyers vanish into secret detentionmoderate academics thrown into jail and the publishers of anti-Communist party books snatched in Hong Kong and Thailand.

…so:

“That the UK held a human rights dialogue with China at a time when the latter is torturing Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, disappearing human rights lawyers, and ripping up [Hong Kong’s] ‘one country, two systems’ – without clearly aspiring to challenge any of those realities – simply shows how badly London has strayed from its purported claims [to defend human rights].”

Basically, London seems to be sucking up to China to cement them trade deals as they go through Brexit. smh.

However, human rights activist speaking at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) in the US “slammed the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses in a public hearing on June 28.” Click on this link to read more – the article quotes the activists and their concerns in more detail, for example:

Chris Smith said that U.S. leadership is more important than ever when it comes to human rights in China, as China’s growing economic power and persistent diplomatic efforts have succeeded in dampening global criticism of its escalating repression.

Despite all that, the US President was blasted by this New York Times reporter: Trump Is China’s Chump. You read it right, the author literally writes: …he’s a sucker who’s shrinking U.S. influence in [the Asia-Pacific] region and [is] helping make China great again.” He talks about the TPP and Trump’s complete ineptitude/lack of understanding of it. I personally am not too sure about TPP but the President of USA should probably have a firm grasp of it before tearing it up, I guess. The author goes on to say that China has Trump in the palm of their hand. Basically. Sigh.

There was, however, another article claiming the “honeymoon period” between Trump and China was over as the US might be sending an arms package to Taiwan? Honestly idk, Trump is a confusing mess to say the least.

Human trafficking in China was outlined in a report by the US Department of State – China was downgraded to being one of the worst offenders in the world. There was a bit on Uyghurs:

reports continue to emerge from the restive Xinjiang province that say Uighur Muslims are being put into forced labour by officials “despite the local government issuing a notice in early 2017 that the practice had been completely abolished”

Other news outlets reported in slightly more detail: VOA NewsReuters. China responded by saying the US was being irresponsible and that they were doing their best to tackle trafficking. People commented saying the US was being hypocritical. I believe the human trafficking in China really is a lot worse though… considering the amount of missing people… and… you know… the personal accounts we hear…

Anyway, you can read the full report on human trafficking here.

An article came out stating that China was attempting to demote human rights at the UN. I can see that happening, tbh – they devalue every single thing Uyghurs and other minorities claim during UN human rights meetings, as I have shown in previous posts. The article states that:

China is determined to cut the funding for human rights officers in UN peacekeeping missions. This is something that, according to Human Rights Watch, is happening almost in secret since very few journalists cover UN budget consultations. But the rights organization has spoken to several diplomats involved in those consultations, emphasizing the importance of spreading knowledge of what China is up to.

Click on the link above to read the article because it is pretty interesting.

Uyghurs were represented at the Conference on Self-determination in the Globalised Age at Scotland Parliament, hosted by UNPO on June 27th:

Mr Erkin Alptekin, one of the founders of the UNPO, and for many years representative of East Turkestan, spoke about his vast experience in campaigning and lobbying for unrepresented and oppressed Nations and Peoples. He highlighted the importance of providing an international platform for those who have been ignored and persecuted due to their ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

WUC’s Dolkun Isa was also elected as Vice-President of UNPO and a resolution was reviewed and adopted on East Turkestan specifying the concerns of the WUC and addressing their role as a Member Organization of the UNPO at the 13th general meeting in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

 

In slightly more human-interest-y news:

Apparently movie screenings will now be preceded by some BS propaganda ads about “The China Dream,” “The Core Ideology of Socialism,” “The Four Comprehensives,” and “The ‘Five-in-One’ General Layout.” Basically:

…cinemas have been instructed to show one of four minute-long videos collectively titled “The Glory and the Dream” before every movie screening. The clips will be shown from July through October in the run-up to the Communist Party’s 19th National Congress in November — China’s most important political event held every five years.

I always liked Jackie Chan movies but I am just really disappointed with his politics.

Last week I mentioned Islamophobia in China as there were a few articles published on that week. This week I found a podcast on Islamophobia in China called Islamophobia in China, explained by Alice Su and Ma Tianjie. They talk about anti-Muslim rhetoric in regards to Hui and Uyghur Muslims. Alice Su talked about her thesis on the soft power struggle between China and the US in Egypt, common stereotypes of Uyghur street food sellers, and other really interesting things. Give it a listen if you have an hour to spare.

 

Outside of politics:

This mini-biography of Kuresh Kusen was published by the London Uyghur Ensemble — I have always really liked his music, and it is especially great to get hype to before a protest lol.

Speaking of the London Uyghur Ensemble, I had not realised it was shutting down, but apparently it is no longer shutting down due to support from the international Uyghur community! Nice.

Looks like there is an Uyghur wrestler vying for WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion title while defending his WBO Oriental Super Middleweight champion title in India next month. I must admit I do not know much about wrestling, but good luck I suppose.

Also, this is all speculation on my part, but there is this new Kpop band called Varsity and in it there’s a rapper called Manny who is Muslim and from China. Do you think he’s Uyghur? The first Uyghur Kpop idol? He could be Hui but just look at his face:

kpop-varsity-profile-members-boy-group-debut-round-one-manny

Anyway, tell me if I missed anything.

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