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Harsh Chinese Crackdown Coming in Xinjiang

August 19, 2008

Once the troublesome Olympic Games are out of the way, steel will
rain on China's rebellious regions
Willy Lam
Asia Sentinel
August 15, 2008

Chinese Communist Party and military authorities are set to
launch an all-out, life-and-death struggle against underground,
"splittist" elements in Xinjiang, whose three attacks against
security personnel this month resulted in the death of 20 police and
officers of the People's Armed Police.

Diplomatic sources in the Chinese capital said the enhanced military
action would begin immediately after the Olympics end on the 24th,
when the world's attention will no longer be focused on China's human
rights record, including its shabby treatment of the Uighur
minorities in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

The political fortunes of President Hu Jintao's faction are at stake.
Since disturbances began to intensify in Tibet and Xinjiang early
this year, Hu cronies running western China, including the Xinjiang
Autonomous Region Party Secretary Wang Liqun and Tibet Party
Secretary Zhang Qingli, have come in for criticism by other CCP
factions for failing to do a good job in maintaining stability in the
two flashpoint regions.

In the Chinese tradition, cadres under fire for failing to maintain
law and order will normally opt for hawkish and draconian measures so
as to demonstrate their toughness as well as "political
resoluteness." Given that Wang's and Zhang's jobs are on the line,
they would seem to have ample reason to use whatever firepower they
could muster to obliterate bitter foes among the ethnic minorities.

The call to arms was issued August 13 by Politburo member and
Xinjiang region secretary Wang, Hu's protégé. In language that
recalls the excesses of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Wang said
in a meeting with local cadres and military officials that the CCP's
war against the "three evil forces" – or groups advocating terrorism,
separatism and religious extremism -- would be "a struggle unto
death" that will remain long-term, severe and convoluted."

Wang also hinted that there was no room for compromise or for a
non-military settlement of the differences between Beijing and these
"enemy forces." The Politburo stalwart told his comrades that
military and police forces must "seize the initiative in attacking,
hit them [the enemies] wherever they show up, and undertake
pre-emptive strikes" so as to deny the three evil forces
opportunities to re-group.

Recent party documents on the "next stage of struggle" against the
"three evil forces" have underscored the significance of a kind of
responsibility system for PLA, PAP and ordinary police officers. This
means that military and police officers must ensure that areas under
their jurisdiction be free of underground separatist or extremist
bases. And if trouble or quasi-terrorist activities occur in a
certain city, town or county, responsible cadres or officers are to
be fired or demoted immediately.

As Wang said Wednesday: "Every official must man his command post
well. Officials must have a high sense of responsibility toward
safeguarding areas [under their jurisdiction]."

Beijing sources knowledgeable about Beijing's policies toward ethnic
minorities -- especially Uighurs – say that President Hu has totally
abandoned the policy of flexibility and appeasement advocated by his
patron, former party chief Hu Yaobang, in the 1980s.

The sources have pinpointed two new thrusts in Beijing's
long-standing efforts to tame Xinjiang.

Firstly, more troops -- and hardware such as jet fighters -- are to
be moved to the Lanzhou Military Region (MR), which is responsible
for western provinces including Gansu, Ningxia and Xinjiang.
Reinforcements have come, for example, from divisions that were
originally responsible for guarding the border with Russia and for a
possible military confrontation with Taiwan.

With relations across the Strait having been stabilized in the wake
of the triumph of the Kuomintang at presidential polls last March,
several units from the Nanjing Military Region (which is responsible
for Taiwan) have been deployed in the Lanzhou MR for the time being.

Secondly, Xinjiang public security departments will revive the
surveillance and "spying" functions of neighborhood committees in
various cities in the autonomous regions. XAR authorities have
allocated additional funds to hire "part-time informants" that are
attached to neighborhood committees. These informants, who include
both Han Chinese and Uighurs, are tasked with telling police about
suspicious-looking people who have newly moved into the neighborhood.

At least as of now, President Hu is confident that iron-clad tactics
against Uighur "rebels" would not lead to serious international
repercussions. The US has in the past few years toned down criticism
of Beijing's XAR policy partly in return for China's help in
Washington's global anti-terrorism gambit. And President George W
Bush's appearance at the opening ceremony of the Games has convinced
Beijing that whatever it does in Xinjiang or Tibet will not lead to a
deterioration of Sino-U.S. ties.

Moreover, even if the PLA and PAP were to play hardball with
"underground gangs" in the XAR, such actions would pale beside the
recent incursion of Russian groups into Georgia. The Western world's
lukewarm response to the Georgian crisis reinforces the CCP
leadership's belief that it can get away with even the most
repressive policies in Tibet and Xinjiang.
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