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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

TROUBLES ACROSS TURKESTAN

July 17, 2009

Jul 16th 2009 


Contrasting responses to China's crackdown in Xinjiang

THE plight of Turkey's Kurdish minority has never been of compelling
interest to ordinary Chinese people. But in the past few days internet
forums in China have been clamouring their support for Kurdish
separatists. As Chinese security forces reimpose order after a bloody
spasm of ethnic unrest in Xinjiang, Turkey is finding itself in the
line of fire.

The country's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, helped ensure this
by suggesting that the recent violence in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi
involved "genocide". The rioting in Urumqi began with attacks by
Turkic-speaking Uighurs on ethnic Han Chinese, but the reaction of the
security forces and reprisals by Han mobs has claimed dozens of Uighur
lives. China's official media says the latest death toll is 192, at
least 46 of them Uighurs (though it is unclear if the count includes
two Uighurs killed by police on July 13th). Turkey's trade minister
Nihat Ergun hinted strongly that Turkish consumers should boycott
Chinese goods (though his ministry quickly said that this was a
personal view). Mr Erdogan proposed a discussion of the rioting in the
UN Security Council. This is a non-starter given China's power of veto,
but the very idea infuriated China.

Turkey's cultural, religious and ethnic links with Xinjiang make it
difficult for leaders there to keep quiet. Turkey has long been a haven
for disaffected Uighurs, including Isa Yusuf Alptekin, the pre-eminent
leader of Uighur nationalism until his death in 1995. To China's fury,
Mr Erdogan, when mayor of Istanbul, named part of a central park after
Alptekin in the 1990s.

 In recent years Turkey's support for the Uighur cause had been
dampened by China's rapid economic rise and its growing international
clout. In 2003 Mr Erdogan visited China with a large delegation to mend
relations. A few days before rioting erupted in Urumqi, Turkey's
President Abdullah Gul also paid a visit, saying afterwards that
relations had turned "a new page". They are now in tatters.

In contrast, most Western and Muslim countries have not seen much
benefit in riling China over an issue that arouses little international
attention compared with human-rights abuses in neighbouring Tibet. The
reaction to Xinjiang's unrest among Central Asian countries which are
home to Turkic peoples has also been muted. The immediate concern for
the Kazakh and Kyrgyz governments has been the safe return from
Xinjiang of their citizens, many of them shuttle traders. Both
countries have sizeable Uighur populations--50,000 in Kyrgyzstan;
300,000 in Kazakhstan (including the prime minister, Karim Massimov).
There are also an estimated 1m ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang, who complain
that they face the same sort of pressure on their culture and
traditions as the Uighur.

 Mindful of China's proximity, and of the dangers of being sucked into
further unrest, the "stans" have taken a dim view of Uighur separatism.
Kazakhstan, for example, has sent a few separatists wanted by China
back to Xinjiang. In Turkey, by contrast, Mr Erdogan has offered a visa
to Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur exile accused by China of fomenting
Xinjiang's violence.

The rewards of Central Asia's co-operation are obvious. In April China
agreed to lend Kazakhstan $10 billion in a "loan-for-oil" deal. In June
it offered another $10 billion in credit to members of the Shanghai
Co-operation Organisation--which links four Central Asian states with
Russia and China--to shore up their struggling economies. As Turkey
will find, there may be little to be gained by supporting the hapless
Uighurs, except, perhaps, secret sympathy for its stance beyond China.
 


See this article with graphics and related items at

http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14052216

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