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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Unrest in Xinjiang and Tibet sends a message to the Chinese authorities

July 31, 2009

30.07.2009 / 04:12 CET

European voice

A second strong signal has been sent to Beijing by its ?autonomous'
regions in little more than a year.

In terms of casualties, the ethnic violence in Xinjiang, which left at
least 197 Han Chinese and Uighurs dead, is the worst since the end of
the Cultural Revolution.?

Following the violence in Tibet in March 2008, it is also the second
strong signal sent to Beijing by its ?autonomous' regions in little more
than a year.

Beijing is wrong when it accuses ?anti-China forces? abroad of sparking
the riots (?What Europe should understand about the violence in Urumqi?,
23-29 July). The protests in Xinjiang were the result of long-standing
frustration and rancour against Beijing's policy of economic, social and
political marginalisation of the Uighurs in their ancestral lands.
Beijing has steadily deprived the Uighurs of their identity, their
culture, their language, the management of their society and their
development ? while for years demonising all opponents as separatists
and terrorists.

Beijing has used a demographic weapon, by encouraging Han Chinese to
contribute to the economic development of Xinjiang by moving to that

In 1955, Uighurs represented 74.7% of Xinjiang's population; that
percentage has since fallen to 47%. Those immigrant Han are now the
first victims of violence.

Xinjiang's Han do not understand the roots of this violence, because
they are not aware that they are perceived as invaders by the local

A Han-Uighur dialogue is needed. But when Yili Hamu (also known as Ilham
Tohti), a highly-regarded Uighur economics professor at Minzu University
in Beijing, created a website dedicated to the promotion of a Han-Uighur
dialogue, Beijing's response was repression. On 6 July, he was seized
and taken to an unknown destination by security agents. So far, 158
courageous Han Chinese academics have signed a petition asking for his

Beijing should understand that colonisation is itself an incitement to
separatism, not a contribution to harmony. It should recognise that
people like Yili Hamu want to bring harmony.

Willy FautrÄ

Director, Human Rights Without Frontiers

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