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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China in Tiananmen, Tibet, Xinjiang ... same country, same repressive approach

July 8, 2009

July 07, 2009

Full Comment's Araminta Wordsworth brings you a regular dose of
international punditry at its finest. Today: Something terrible is happening
in Xinjiang in China's far west, where at least 156 people have died in
riots in the provincial capital Urumqi in the last three days.

Chinese officials say most of the victims were Han Chinese; local Uighurs
say they were Uighur, and the bloodshed started when police fired on a
peaceful protest. In the 60th year of Communist China's existence, it's
becoming clear the party has failed to weld together this huge nation, that
resentment of the Han Chinese majority simmers in Muslim Xinjiang just as it
does in Buddhist Tibet. It's also worth remembering that in repatriating
Guantanomo Bay inmates, the U.S. refused to return the Uighur detainees to
their homeland and the tender mercies of the Chinese authorities. Instead,
it found homes for them in Bermuda and Palau.

The world has much to say about this. The Times of London's editorial writer
says Beijing's treatment of the Uighurs shows Han nationalism is an ideology
that cannot bring stability or peace to all China.

"The party wants to portray a country that is rich, contented and united
under its leadership. The uprisings in Tibet and Xianjiang paint a very
different picture - one of imperial rule over minorities who resent the loss
of their cultures, freedoms and ability to determine their future. China's
response in each case has been to crack down, reinforce its police and
military presence, cut phone and communication links, arrest anyone
suspected of separatist sympathies and blame exiles and outside forces for
orchestrating the riots ... But the repressive State is finding it harder to
assert its authority while encouraging an open economy. A growing difficulty
is control of information. Chinese media, though under close party control,
have now to operate in real time, where they must compete with other news
sources and report accurately if they are to retain any credibility."

For The Independent, the violence and its aftermath show little has changed
since Tiananmen.
"Beijing has accused Uighur groups based overseas of orchestrating the
attacks as part of a separatist campaign of terror. This is a familiar tune.
Ever since [9/11], Beijing has sought to present the Muslim Uighurs as
allied to al-Qaeda and other international Islamist terror groups. There is
clearly a separatist movement in Xinjiang, as the sporadic attacks on
government targets since the early 1990s demonstrates. But China has
produced no evidence of a connection between the Uighur independence
movement and foreign terror groups. Moreover, Beijing can hardly be
considered an innocent party when it comes to the relations with the Uighurs
... Twenty years after the Communist leadership sent in tanks to crush
student protests in Tiananmen, we have a graphic reminder that the Chinese
government will brook no challenges to its authority. Despite two decades of
rapid economic development and an unprecedented opening up to the rest of
the world, China has confirmed that it remains a repressive autocracy
intolerant of cultural diversity within its borders and prepared to use
extreme force against its own people."

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in a translation provided by Der
Spiegel) notes Beijing is now orchestrating the news coverage.
"[T]he Chinese government is taking a completely different approach to the
one they took last year during the unrest in Tibet. They found themselves on
the defensive back then, roundly criticized for their heavy handed and
restrictive approach to coverage of the protests in Lhasa. This time around
the Beijing-controlled media had already prepared numbers, pictures and
background information - before any of the Western media even knew what was
going on. The world's media ended up getting the shocking news ... from the
Chinese state news agency itself.

This difference is the result of a directive issued about a year ago by
Chinese President Hu Jintao: he told the Chinese media that, in order to
beat critics, both at home and abroad, they should set their own agenda when
it came to fast-breaking news stories." And so the state sanctioned coverage
of this massive outbreak of violence curbs any further questions - even when
it's obvious there' still a lot of explaining to do."

An editorial in the official China Daily shows little else has changed.
Talking of the "unfortunate" bloodshed, it asserts "Xinjiang does not belong
to any single nationality; in fact, it never has in the history of the
ancient Silk Roads. The [Uighur protesters'] politicizing of the Shaoguan
incident, or any isolated street-level or workplace strife, is as dastardly
and despicable as the desperate move by a rumor-mongering individual.

It is easy to see the slender thread by which hung the separatists' genuine
hope of succeeding in their grand but nefarious scheme. All that they can do
now is to stir up violence and grab some media attention - by using the
quick-tempered youth in their hometowns as cheap sacrifices. Their
destruction and killings are soon to be laid bare as evidence of how these
elements pursue their hideous cause."

This is roundly refuted by a Uighur living the United States who writes in
the Bermuda Sun newspaper,

"Uighurs and Chinese are as different as two people can be. We have
different language and writing system, different customs, different food,
different music and dancing, different farming tools, different clothes,
different literature and folklores, different history, different religion,
different physical appearance, and different anything that makes a people
If we had a shared history and lived in the same country 'since the ancient
times', how come a typical Uighur in China eats less Chinese food than a
typical American? The truth is China occupied our land just as they occupied
Tibet and is trying to destroy our people and erase the history of our land
to cover up its robbery.
China used to call the movement associated with this desire separatism
before 9/11, but now they call it 'terrorism.' "

Compiled by Araminta Wordsworth
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