Rabeya Kadeer: “The USSR’s fate awaits China”
The Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XUAR) has been unstable over the last several years: Some in the local Uighur population are unhappy with the way the Chinese authorities are handling the region and are demanding independence from Beijing. Armed clashes between the Uighur population of the region and the Chinese authorities often take place in XUAR. As a rule, they end with violent executions of disorder inciters.
The Urumqi Syndrome
Two weeks ago, the Chinese authorities announced the launch of a campaign against armed extremism in Xinjiang over the next year. [Perhaps the author is referring to the anti-terror campaign in XUAR launched in May 2014; Fergana.Ru.] The reason for that was the death of 39 people in Urumqi in terrorist acts by five suicide bombers in various parts of the region. Back then, as the Xinhua state-run news agency of China reported, the eventual number of fatalities was 50, while 54 more people sustained injuries in the aftermath of said explosions.
According to local officials, four police officers, six bystanders and forty suicide bombers died in total. The blasts rocked a bazaar, two police stations and a store. Some of the attackers died during the attack, while police killed the rest in street fights. Beijing accuses the Uighur separatists of staging said terrorist attacks as they speak out for cessation of Xinjiang from the PRC.
Discontentedness regularly rears head among the local population in XUAR. Over the last several month, the region saw several attacks on railway stations in Urumqi and Kunmin; a vehicle driven by an ethnic Uighur ran into a group of people on the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing five people.
Earlier in 2009, clashes between ethnic Uighurs and ethnic Chinese in Urumqi, the administrative center of XUAR, left over 150 people killed. The authorities have imposed martial law and prohibited access to mosques.
But who actually is behind all these terrorist acts? Could one be expecting a Hong Kong-style scenario in XUAR and Tibet? Rabeya Kadeer, the currently exiled leader of the Uighur opposition, spoke with a reporter of the Kazakh weekly magazine ADAM bol (Guljan Yergaliyeva, editor in chief) over the phone from Washington D.C., USA.
“This is not terror!”
ADAM bol: Ms Kadeer, how would you comment on the latest events in XUAR? Were they indeed terror on the part of Uighur separatists, as the Chinese authorities claim?
Rabeya Kadeer: The violent policies Beijing is exercising have resulted in such radical actions on the part of the Uighurs. The Uighurs in China are under brutal ethnic persecution. We are prohibited from speaking in our native language and practice our religion. The situation in XUAR, like that in Ukraine, reminds [the times of] World War Two. You can see armed military personnel in streets in large cities. Innocent young men are arrested right on the street, and are [consequently] imprisoned with no investigation or trial. Nobody is aware of their fates. Only post factum do we learn they were executed by shooting. That said, trials are held in violation of human rights. The Uighurs are denied even lawyer’s assistance. Mothers are scared to let their children out, because there are a number of cases when a child does not come back from school or university. Only later it was learned that [this or that] child died in police dungeons. Those mothers attempting to complain against police officers’ actions were later found dead. Perhaps no other nation has experienced so much grief and humiliation, and continues to face. The authorities do not respond to our numerous statements. Therefore, the latest events are a reaction to Beijing’s [actions] to stop its genocide of the Uighur people.
We do not call this terrorism. Just like the Ukrainians, we are only trying [to achieve] our independence and free ourselves from the colonial oppression of China. The protestors our nation staged were peaceful in nature. But in response the Chinese started shedding our blood, and this makes it clear as to who is the real extremist.
The terror attacks are provocations of secret services
ADAM bol: According to the Chinese media outlets’ claims, the Eastern Turkestan freedom movement of the Uighurs is somehow linked the Islamic radicals of Al-Qaidah. Is that so?
Rabeya Kadeer: After the PRC announced it was a member of an international anti-terror coalition, the authorities started paying special attention to practicing Muslims by practically putting them under police surveillance. This problem exists for many decades, but it is remembered far less than that of in the neighboring Tibet, for instance.
Beijing identified “three evil forces”: extremism, terrorism and separatism. Any violation of human rights is justified with the necessity to fight those three forces. So, unthinkable things happened to our religion in the past. They turned mosques into pigpens and forced imams to burn Qurans in streets. Preaching religion to Uighurs younger than 18 years of age is prohibited, and the authorities would punish you if you send your child to a madrassa.
We are not linked with the Islamic radicals of Al-Qaidah in any way. The Chinese secret services themselves train such provocateurs and claim they are extremists. They want to thus show to the world that the Uighurs are terrorists, while in reality we are a peaceful nation. We pursue only one goal: freeing our nation from the yoke of China.
XUAR is the land that belongs to the Uighur nation, which China occupied in 1949. China is an invader. Is it normal when an invading state accuses the people of and in the occupied land of separatism? Even if the Uighurs want to separate from China, they should not be called separatists.
Regarding [claims] that we are part of guerilla fighting in Afghanistan, Syria and Chechnya; this is yet another [episode of] Beijing’s delirium. Maybe there are [ethnic] Uighurs among fighters in the Middle East, but we do not support them. As a matter of fact, there are other ethnicities among the radicals of IS.
ADAM bol front page
“THE WEST IS NOT TO BE BLAMED”
ADAM bol: Some experts, following the modern trend, depict the West as China’s main opponent. Reportedly, “the western democracy” is trying to prevent the PRC from becoming a global superpower by creating zone of instability in the region. What is your opinion on this?
Rabeya Kadeer: China pays lots of attention to its image in the world. Therefore, this country tries to maintain the image of a country with a 5000-year civilization at all costs. But as soon as the violence and dishonor of the Chinese authorities are brought out to light, that image will be destroyed. The West has nothing to do with what is going on in XUAR, Tibet and Hong Kong. It is all China’s fault.
China must be held accountable for its crimes against the Uighurs and Tibetans, and change its repressive policies, if it wants to be treated as a serious player at the global level. China cannot be both great and evil at the same time.
“WE DEMAND PEACEFUL TALKS”
ADAM bol: How close is cooperation between you and the Tibetan activists and organizations?
Rabeya Kadeer: The policies China practices in Eastern Turkestan and Tibet are the same in essence: it is aimed at destroying these two indigenous peoples by a cultural genocide. As a result, both Uighurs and Tibetans are suffering from the brutality of the Chinese authorities in their own lands.
His holiness Dalai Lama is a close friend of mine. I have deep respect for him, because he is a man of faith, courage and peacefulness. Any country must launch talks with him on the peaceful resolution of the problem of Tibet. During many long years, he has repeatedly proved the immutability of his convictions that violence is unacceptable. He continues to speak out with peaceful propositions to establish Tibet’s autonomy.
In order to regulate the conflicts in XUAR, to my mind, there are only two scenarios, depending on policies the Chinese leadership would choose. First: China decides to violently crack down on protest rallies and continues repressions against the Uighur population. This can trigger an escalation of the situation in Eastern Turkestan. Second: Peaceful talks between Uighurs and Beijing. We insist on peaceful negotiations.
International pressure can certainly play a key role. Therefore, the international community must continue pressuring China. Otherwise China would perceive a lack thereof as a “greet light” and would step up persecutions of the Uighurs, Tibetans and Hong Kong residents.
GOVERNMENT IN EXILE
ADAM bol: At certain point in time, you used to talk about the establishment of a government of Uighurs in exile, like that of Dalai Lama’s…
Rabeya Kadeer: Yes, we did want establish it earlier, but certain agents of China announced [the establishment] of a government in emigration and did not allow us to achieve our plan in this manner. So, there are two governments in exile. All this is the Chinese state bodies’ works. Such a step was undertaken in order to prevent us from establishing a genuine government in exile. We will not rush to establish it. Perhaps, time is necessary for its establishment.
BEIJING’S POLITICAL GAMES
ADAM bol: Several years ago, an exchange of fire occurred close to the Chinese border on the Kyrgyz side between [Kyrgyz] border guards and a group of armed men. The Kyrgyz power-wielding bodies say the killed [men] were Uighur terrorists, who were allegedly planning to seize weapons from shepherds and hunters to commit a couple of terrorist acts and then return to China. Are you aware of this version?
Rabeya Kadeer: These [people] were indeed Uighurs. However, the Chinese secret services forced them to commit such a provocation. We are aware that these young men were imprisoned [presumably at the time of the attack], and they were forced to do such a thing. The Chinese authorities made an agreement with the Kyrgyz secret services to stage such an operation. If these guys were indeed terrorists, then why were they not taken alive for interrogation, but were killed on the spot? This was Beijing’s yet another political game. Every Uighur knows about it.
ADAM bol: What is your opinion as to what the events in Hong Kong will eventually lead to? Can residents in this region defend their autonomy per agreements with Beijing?
Rabeya Kadeer: Hong Kong, just like XUAR, is fighting for its independence. The events taking place there could play a decisive role in China’s collapse. It is not impossible that China will face the fate of the USSR in the near future, and we will be able to free ourselves from China’s colonial yoke. If Hong Kong is able to defend its independence, then the same could [potentially] be observed in other regional units in China.