Chinese authorities begin large-scale detaining of ethnic Kazakhs and Uyghurs
Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports about a growing wave of arrests of ethnic Kazakhs and Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China. According to the RFA source, the Xinjiang police issue quotas for their arrests. The main objects of repression are those people who criticise the policy of the Communist Party of China, and also those who have relatives abroad.
Photo by EPA
Usually, having relatives abroad in China is not considered to be something that defames a person, however, when it comes to ethnic Kazakhs or Uyghurs, the situation looks quite different. Traditionally, Uyghurs consider it unjust for China to have annexed East Turkestan, which they call XUAR, and they are fighting for the independence of Xinjiang. The Kazakhs, who number up to a half million in China, show no separatist sentiments. However, more than 200,000 Uyghurs live in neighboring Kazakhstan, have permanent contacts with their compatriots in China. Thus, the shadow of separatism also falls upon the Chinese Kazakhs, some of whom, according to Beijing, may be involved in separatist activities.
Earlier, Uyghurs were persecuted on religious grounds, and objects of worship were confiscated. However, these persecutions are selective: Muslims living in other parts of China practise their religion unhindered.
Chinese authorities believe that the Islam practised by the Uyghurs is an additional factor that encourages separatism. They associate local Islam with the extremist organisation, the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (IMET), whose task is to create an independent state based on Sharia in the territory of the XUAR. For almost 25 years of its existence, IMET has taken responsibility for more than 200 terrorist acts.
Both Uyghurs and Kazakhs, as well as other non-Han people living in the territory of China, are called "Shaoshu Minzu" or “small nationalities”. The traditional attitude of the indigenous Han people to Minzu is contemptuous, and they are considered barbaric, to some extent. This attitude is supported by the state, which has long since applied a stick and carrot policy to Minzu. If Minzu submits to the central government in everything, it receives opportunities to develop, within the traditional range of residence. If Minzu is obstinate, China tries to suppress the population, and any means are used: from bribery to violence.
Uyghurs, as it has become clear, do not want to submit. The annexing of East Turkestan to China is considered a historical injustice which must be corrected. The situation is aggravated by the policy of the Chinese government: the government actively transferred the Han Chinese in the XUAR, thus eroding the national balance that has developed. In addition, some of the land in XUAR has been seized for state needs, though people living there are paid compensation and offered to move to other areas, including those where there are no compact settlements of Turkic peoples.
Under Mao Zedong, during the Cultural Revolution the grit of Uyghurs and other local Muslims helped them defend their national dignity and religious independence, as the Red Guards could not destroy the mosques and establish their own order here. However, now the intransigence of the Turks in the XUAR is extremely irritating to the government of the PRC and serves as a source for new repression.
According to the Radio Free Asia informant, at least 3,000 Uyghurs and Kazakhs are arrested every week, as places of detention are now overcrowded and new prisons are being built. The jail cells are reported to be so small that they do not allow prisoners to rise to their full height. Criminal proceedings have begun against some detainees, and without court decisions they are sent to the so-called centres of re-education, which are labour camps (Lao Jiao, Laogai).
Also, everyday conflicts between the Turks and Han people are contributing to increasing problems. In Xinjiang, Han people live in better conditions and have preferences before local residents, whether they are Uyghurs or other Minzu people. Frequent quarrels between Han Chinese and Uyghurs sometimes end with bloodshed, which only aggravates the overall situation in XUAR.
One way or another, the policy of the Chinese government's power-based pressure on the peoples inhabiting XUAR is increasingly less effective, and is a source of growing problems. If the Chinese government seriously intends to fight separatism, sooner or later it will have to find other, more modern and more reasonable methods.