Home » Uncategorized » China: Uyghurs and Political Islam – by Godfree Roberts • 25 June 2019

China: Uyghurs and Political Islam – by Godfree Roberts • 25 June 2019

 

I recall, as probably most people don’t, that the Central Intelligence Agency, with assistance from some of China’s neighbors, put $30 million into the destabilization of Tibet and basically financed and trained the participants in the Khampa rebellion and ultimately sought to remove the Dalai Lama from Tibet–which they did. They escorted him out of Tibet to Dharamsala. There were similar efforts made with the Uyghurs during the Cold War that never really got off the ground. In both cases you had religion waved as a banner in support of a desire for independence or autonomy which, of course, is anathema to any state. US Ambassador Chas. H. Freeman.

Since our media have confined themselves to unsupported allegations, I’ve collected several first-hand accounts of happenings in Xinjiang, an area of China I myself have never visited.

Many Chinese consider Uyghurs the descendants of a marooned, white imperialist army living on land that was China’s long before they arrived. Edgar Snow[1] visited Xinjiang in 1937 and reported, “Especially in the ninth century, when vast hordes of Ouigour Turks (whose great leader Seljuk had not yet been born) were summoned to the aid of the T’ang Court to suppress rebellion, Islamism entrenched itself in China. Following their success, many of the Ouigours were rewarded with titles and great estates and settled in the Northwest and in Szechuan and Yunnan. Over a period of centuries the Mohammedans stoutly resisted Chinese absorption but gradually lost their Turkish culture, adopted much that was Chinese, and became more or less submissive to Chinese law. Yet in the nineteenth century they were still powerful enough to make two great bids for power: one when Tu Wei-hsiu for a time set up a kingdom in Yunnan and proclaimed himself Sultan Suleiman; and the last, in 1864, when Mohammedans seized control of all the Northwest and even invaded Hupeh.”

Islam is neither the Uyghurs’ native religion nor their only one but, in its Wahabbi form, it has caused problems around the world, for which we can thank to two fervent Christians, Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski,[2] who considered a united Eurasia, “The only possible challenge to American hegemony.”

In 1979, months before the Soviet entry into Afghanistan, Brzezinski drafted and Carter signed a top-secret Presidential Order authorizing the CIA to train fundamentalist Muslims to wage Jihad against the Soviet Communist infidels and all unbelievers of conservative Sunni Islam and the Mujahideen terror war against Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan became the largest covert action in CIA history.[2] Brzezinski’s ‘Arc of Crisis’ strategy inflamed Muslims in Central Asia to destabilize the USSR during its economic crisis and, when Le Nouvel Observateur later asked if he had any regrets, Brzezinski snapped, “What is most important to the history of the world? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe?”

The Uyghurs had collaborated with the Japanese in WWII and Rebiya Kadeer, ‘Mother of the Uyghurs’ and a US Government client, after kissing the ground at Yasukuni Shrine, called Xinjiang’s postwar reversion to Chinese administration a ‘reconquest.’ Ms Kadeer’s connections are interesting. In the late 1990s Hasan Mahsum, founder of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, ETIM, moved its headquarters to Kabul and met with Osama bin Laden and the CIA-trained Taliban to coordinate action across Central Asia. In 1995 Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then mayor of Istanbul declared, “Eastern Turkestan [Xinjiang] is not only the home of the Turkic peoples but also the cradle of Turkic history, civilization and culture. To forget that would lead to the ignorance of our own history, civilizati on and culture. The martyrs of Eastern Turkestan are our martyrs.” Under Erdogan Turkey became the transit point for international terrorists destined for Syria and Turkish airports were filled with Uyghurs traveling on Turkish passports.

Twenty years later, in 1999, the CIA’s Islam strategist, Graham E. Fuller, announced, “The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Russians. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.”[3]

We will return to Mr. Fuller anon but, first, some background from F. William Engdahl, “Today the West–and especially Washington–is engaged in full-scale irregular war against the stability of China. In recent months Western media and the Washington Administration have begun to raise a hue and cry over alleged mass internment camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang where supposedly up to one million ethnic Uyghur Chinese are being detained and submitted to various forms of ‘re-education.’ Several things about the charges are notable, not the least that all originate from Western media and ‘democracy’ NGOs like Human Rights Watch, whose record for veracity leaves something to be desired.”

Tarring China with the brush of intolerance will be hard work. The colophon of the earliest dated, printed book in existence–a ninth century Chinese translation of the Diamond Sutra–reads, ‘For universal free distribution.’ Though two-thirds of Chinese are atheists in the Western sense and one-fourth are non-religious Taoists, their Constitution guarantees freedom of worship in government-sanctioned religious organizations and their government supports seventy-four seminaries, one thousand seven hundred Tibetan monasteries, three thousand religious organizations, 85,000 religious sites and 300,000 full time Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Ancient Chinese, Taoist and Muslim clergy. The 2000 census recorded 20.3 million Muslims: 1.25 million Kazakhs, 8.4 million Uyghurs and 9.8 million Hui. Neither the Kazakh nor the Hui Muslims have caused trouble.

Mr. Fuller is on a first name basis with Uyghur leaders. Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of the Boston Marathon Tsarnaev brothers, was married to Fuller’s daughter Samantha in the 1990s and was an employee of the CIA-contracted RAND Corporation. In media interviews in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston bombing, ‘Uncle Ruslan’ gave an overdone performance condemning his two nephews while verifying the FBI’s portrayal of them. The media ignored the fact that Tsarni not only worked as a consultant for CIA fronts like RAND and USAID and as a contractor for Halliburton but even established an entity called the Congress of Chechen International Organizations which supported Islamic separatist militants in the Caucasus, using Fuller’s Maryland home as its registered address.

After deploying Islamists in Pakistan in the 2000s to disrupt Chinese infrastructure, in Myanmar to disrupt the China-Myanmar energy assets and across Sudan, Libya and Syria to choke off China’s oil and gas Fuller said, “Uyghurs are indeed in touch with Muslim groups outside Xinjiang, some of them have been radicalized into broader jihadist politics in the process, a handful were earlier involved in guerrilla or terrorist training in Afghanistan, and some are in touch with international Muslim mujahideen struggling for Muslim causes of independence worldwide.” Fuller assigned them to capitalize on the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, weaken trust in China’s government and provoke repression that Western media could condemn as ‘human rights crimes.’ Three weeks before the Games he sponsored a conference, “East Turkestan: 60 Years under Communist Chinese Rule” and the National Endowment for Democracy, NED,[4] handled PR for the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) the emigré group headed by billionaire Rebiya Kadeer[5] and her husband, Sidiq Rouzi, a Voice of America employee. Their ideology[6] is familiar.

On the eve of the Olympics an attempted suicide bombing on a China Southern Airlines flight was thwarted but terrorists in Kashgar, Southern Xinjiang, killed sixteen police officers four days before the opening. The next year Uighur extremists murdered another two hundred in Urumqi but Western media refused to characterize the attacks as acts of terrorism and the violence continued:

  • October 2013: ETIM attack at Tiananmen Square in Beijing killed five.
  • February 2014: A knife attack at a train station in Kunming killed 30.
  • April 2014: A knife and bomb attack in Urumqi killed three and wounded 79.
  • May 2014: Two cars crashed into a market in Urumqi and the attackers lobbed explosives, killing 31 people.
  • September 2014: Suicide bombers and clashes left 50 people dead and 50 injured.
  • October 2015: A knife attack on a coalmine killed 50.

Then came the Syrian War and, on the sidelines of a May 2017 meeting between Syrian and Chinese businessmen in Beijing, Syria’s ambassador[7] to China startled reporters with a surprising number, 5000, the number of Uighurs he claimed were fighting in Syria for various jihadist groups. Many have since returned to China and 12,900 (Uyghur families insist on traveling and staying together, even in prison) have been sentenced to up to two years, mostly for illegally entering the country and are held in re-education camps. The NED is not hiding its involvement:

NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY

China (Xinjiang/East Turkistan). ASIA China [Xinjiang/East Turkistan] Advocacy and Outreach for Uyghur Human Rights Project. $310,000.

To raise awareness about Uyghur human rights issues and to bring such issues to prominence globally. The grantee will research, document, and provide independent and accurate information about human rights violations affecting Uyghurs in China. It will also conduct outreach to Chinese citizens in an effort to improve the human rights conditions for Uyghurs. The grantee will organize leadership and advocacy training seminars for Uyghur youth; monitor, document, and highlight human rights violations in East Turkestan/Xinjiang; and strengthen advocacy on Uyghur issues at the United Nations and the European Parliament.

Today, NED money supports the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) which calls China’s Xinjiang Province ‘East Turkistan’ and China’s administration of Xinjiang as ‘Chinese occupation of East Turkistan,’ runs articles like, Op-ed: A Profile of Rebiya Kadeer, Fearless Uyghur Independence Activist,” and admits that Kadeer seeks Uyghur independence from China.

Faced with an armed insurrection, most states impose martial law or a state of emergency, as Britain did in Malaya from 1945 to 1957 and the US did with the Patriot Act, but China decided–despite popular outrage–to write off its losses and play the long game.

China founded The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),[1] a political, economic, and security alliance, with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, who stopped funneling money and providing corridors for Uyghur terrorists to move into and out of China. The SCO has since expanded to include India and Pakistan and Iran has begun the accession process, making it world’s largest security pact in both area and population and the only one whose membership includes four nuclear powers.

Forming the SCO was easier than assuaging public outrage. An unheard-of lawsuit by victims’ relatives accused the government of reverse discrimination so they stepped up security and published their objectives:

  1. restore law and order
  2. prevent terrorists from inflicting more violence
  3. use ‘high-intensity regulation’
  4. contain the spread of terrorism beyond Xinjiang
  5. purge extremists and separatists from society.

Neighborhood community centres–labelled ‘concentration camps’ in the western press–educate rural Uyghurs about the perils of religious extremism and train them for urban jobs.

In 2013 President Xi toured Eurasia and proposed the Belt and Road Initiative for three billion people, designed to create the biggest market in the world with unparalleled development potential, and built a gas pipeline to China from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan which, like China’s other western pipelines, power lines, and rail and road networks, runs through the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Beijing then moved jobs to Xinjiang and opened vocational schools to train rural youth in literacy and job skills and swore to protect its neighbors from terrorism in exchange for their pledge to reciprocate. To create jobs in the province Xi directed investment from forty-five of China’s top companies and eighty Fortune 500 manufacturers to Urumqi. Corporate investment increased from $10 billion in 2015 to $15 billion in 2017 and infrastructure investments of $70 billion in both 2017 and 2018 lifted the annual goods shipments past 100 million tons with a goal of hourly departures to fifteen European capitals. Half a million Uyghurs have relocated from remote villages to cities and, as a reult, 600,000 Uighurs were lifted out of poverty in 2016, 312,000 in 2017 and 400,000 in 2018. The last poor Uyghurs will join the cash economy in mid-2020.

The real war is being fought in our media and an engineer encountered a classic example in the heartbreaking tale of savage destruction of historic Kashgar Old Town, which The Washington Post called, “An Ancient Culture, Bulldozed Away,” The New York Times, “To Protect an Ancient City, China Moves to Raze It,” TIME, “Tearing Down Old Kashgar: Another Blow to the Uighurs.” Professor Patrik Meyer⁠ takes up the story:

As a tourist, those headlines resonate with me, too. I wish to keep the Kashgar Old Town untouched and to be able to wander along its narrow, shaded alleys lined by adobe houses. However, if I were responsible for the living conditions and safety of its residents, as well as for the modernization of Kashgar writ large, then I would see Beijing’s transformation in a more positive light. Given the almost unprecedented access I was granted between 2010 and 2013 to conduct ethno-political research in Xinjiang and my robust background in civil engineering, I consider myself well positioned to provide a broader perspective on the issues raised by Western journalists when criticizing the KOT renewal project. A simple survey of Western media outlets shows that harsh criticism of Beijing’s renewal of the KOT is built on four central arguments: demolition of Uyghur’s historical heritage, destruction of Uyghur’s social fabric, absence of Uyghurs’ voices in the project, and the sufficient seismic performance of existing houses. Moreover, Western journalists often argue that the goal of Beijing’s works in Kashgar is to weaken, or even erase, Uyghur identity, not to improve their living conditions.

KOT’s historical value is indisputable, but it is not as significant as assumed by the Western critics. While some houses are centennial, with charismatic courtyards and beautifully decorated wooden frames, the majority are a poorly built patchwork of old and new mud and masonry walls. Hence, while the old town as whole has significant historical value, many of its houses are not historically valuable. Kashgar is one of the few Chinese cities where the old town is being partly preserved and remodeled following traditional standards. There is indeed some damage being caused to the Uyghurs’ historical heritage, but it is far less significant than the Western critics claim and it is intended to modernize Kashgar, not to “Demolish the Uyghur History” as argued by the Smithsonian. The second dominant argument, the tearing apart the Uyghur identity, is also happening, but again, not to the extent or for the purpose that it is being reported in the West. China’s fast modernization results in numerous communities being reshaped and displaced, including the one in the KOT. However, when asked for their view about Beijing’s renewal of the KOT, most of its dwellers welcome it. And for good reasons. Their houses are often very small, poorly ventilated, dusty and dark, have no toilets, and are unpractical. It is those who do not live in the old town–Uyghurs, tourist, and Western journalists–who are most critical of the renewal project. Hence, I believe that the KOT project is causing Uyghur identity change, not its destruction, as argued by the West.

As for the third argument, that the Uyghurs have no say in the project, it is again only partially correct. Their voice is indeed absent from the upper levels of the project’s decision making process. However, the majority of homeowners decide whether to stay or leave the KOT and how to proceed with the repair of their houses. They are offered three options, the first being to permanently move to a free, new apartment larger their old house. Second, they can opt to let the government tear down the old house and replace it with a new structure for free, which does not included finishing works such as flooring, windows, and decoration. During the time that this work is being done, the families can rent an apartment subsidized by the government at about $900 per year. In case the house is deemed to be structurally sound, the homeowners are given a subsidy (about US$90/m2) to upgrade the house themselves. Additional subsidies are also offered for those willing to finish the façade using traditional Uyghur style. While there might be some irregularities within this system, most homeowners affected by the renewal of the KOT have the choice to stay or leave, which the Western critics seems to ignore.

Finally, a fourth dominant argument against Beijing’s KOT project is that the old town must be seismically safe because it has survived hundreds of years without being destroyed. Again, this is only partly true. There are a number of houses that were built properly over a hundred years ago, but the majority have been either poorly built or structurally modified in the last 30-50 years, making them prone to structural damage in case of a significant seismic event. Based on my expertise in seismic performance of adobe structures and my countless visits to the KOT, I can confirm that it is not feasible to retrofit most of its houses because of their deficient structural condition.

But the destruction of KOT was small beer compared to the onslaught that began in August, 2018, at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, then conducting its regular review of China’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Gay McDougall, an American lay member of an independent UN body, claimed that China was interning one million Muslims. The OHCHR’s official news release showed that its sole American member made the only mention of alleged re-education camps and said she was “deeply concerned” about “credible reports” alleging mass detentions of millions of Uighurs Muslim minorities in “internment camps.” AP reported that McDougall ‘did not specify a source for that information in her remarks at the hearing’ and video from the session confirms that McDougall provided no source for her claim. Though she failed to name a single source Reuters reported, “UN SAYS IT HAS CREDIBLE REPORTS THAT CHINA HOLDS A MILLION UIGHURS IN SECRET CAMPS.”

China then invited the UN, the EU and the World Muslim Congress to send inspectors to for independent investigations. Eleven muslim nations accepted while the EU and Turkey declined. The Muslim Council’s report commended China for its treatment of Muslims and one inspector, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, gave an interview to The Times of India:

“During this visit, I did not find any instances of forced labour or cultural and religious repression,” Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the Charge d‘affaires, Pakistan‘s Embassy in China, told the state-run Global Times on Thursday.

“The imams we met at the mosques and the students and teachers at the Xinjiang Islamic Institute told us that they enjoy freedom in practicing Islam and that the Chinese government extends support for maintenance of mosques all over Xinjiang,” said Baloch, who visited Xinjiang as part of delegation of diplomats.

“Similarly, I did not see any sign of cultural repression. The Uighur culture as demonstrated by their language, music and dance is very much part of the life of the people of Xinjiang,” she said.

Asked about the security situation in Xinjiang, which has been “beset by terrorism”, Baloch said, “We learned that the recent measures have resulted in improvement of the security situation in Xinjiang and there have been no incidents of terrorism in recent months.”

“The counter-terrorism measures being taken are multidimensional and do not simply focus on law enforcement aspects. Education, poverty alleviation and development are key to the counter-terrorism strategy of the Chinese government,” she said.

Xinjiang‘s regional government invited diplomatic envoys as well as representatives from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Thailand, and Kuwait following reports about detention of thousands of Uighur and other Muslims in massive education camps.

The UN‘s Geneva-based Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last year said that it was alarmed by “numerous reports of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities” being detained in Xinjiang region and called for their immediate release.

Estimates about them “range from tens of thousands to upwards of a million,” it had said.

China defended the camps, saying they are re-education camps aimed at de-radicalising sections of the Uighur population from extremism and separatism.

The US and several other countries besides UN officials have expressed concern over the camps.

China has been carrying out massive crackdown on the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Xinjiang province, where Uyghurs who formed majority in the region were restive over the increasing settlements of Han community.

Pakistan and several other Muslim countries faced criticism about their silence over China‘s crackdown on Muslims in Xinjiang.

China has about 20 million Muslims who are mostly Uighurs, an ethnic group of Turkic origin, and Hui Muslims, who are of the Chinese ethnic origin. While Uighurs lived in Xinjiang, bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Hui Muslims resided in Ningxia province.

A recent report in the Global Times said China passed a five-year plan to ‘sinicize Islam‘ in a bid to make it compatible with its version of socialism.

“This is China‘s important act to explore ways of governing religion in modern countries,” the report said.

Baloch said the delegation was given full and open access to the three centres that they visited in Kashgar and Hotan.

“The training program includes teaching of national common language (Chinese), law and constitution and vocational skills. The students also participate in recreational activities like sports, music and dance. We witnessed several skill classes being offered in these centres,” she said.

“During the visits to these centres, we had the opportunity to interact with both the management and the students. We observed the students to be in good physical health. The living facilities are fairly modern and comfortable with separate dormitories for men and women. They are being served halal food,” she said.

She said the Uighur language is being used in official establishments, airports, subway stations, police stations or hotels.

“Even the copies of the Koran that we saw in the mosques and the Islamic centre were translated into the Uighur language. The most visible sign of protection of Uighur culture by the government is the government-run bilingual kindergarten schools where children learn Putonghua as well as Uighur language and culture from a very young age,” she said.

A Chinese friend, Xiao Zhang, writes,

“I have a friend who just came back from Xinjiang and he has visited some of the re-education camps and talked with people there. He told me that Uighurs really received vocational education inside, not kidding, and cannot get out until completion of courses. The government in Xinjiang simply kept all the potential “trouble makers” they could find in detention based on the reports they received from various sources, among which reports from communities make up a major part. The government has known for years that poorly-educated, unemployed people are more easily radicalized. Now they take actions to ensure they won’t make trouble. This is another example of Chinese style of government behaviour, just like one-child policy.”

Another wrote,

“I have personally been to Xinjiang for around 20 days this summer. I went totally on my own. I did not sign up in any travel agencies for any travel groups. I did not drive but took the train, the bus, or the car, or the horse. From my personal experience, firstly, the Uyghurs are not the only minority in Xinjiang. I saw Mongols, Kazakhs, Hui Muslims and many other minorities. Here I mean Xinjiang is not a place that is dominated by Uyghurs, even if we don’t take the Han Chinese into consideration. It is a far more diverse place. Secondly, Uyghurs keep their different habits, traditions, language, and religions that are exotic to most Chinese. But they also face westernisation in clothing and habits just like people in other areas of China. People worry about the preservation of their cultures across China.

Interestingly, people in Urumqi were hardly dressed in a very religious way, although there were a great number of Muslims. I was told that the local government regarded some of the religious clothing as extremism, for they were not consistent with the local tradition. Maybe what they meant was that the local Muslims should not be dressed like extremists following strict religious laws, since there was no such law in China. People were mostly dressed in a quite modern look, or in their traditional clothing, yet no women will cover their face with black silk.

Thirdly, there is distrust between different ethnic groups. I have to admit that, because I feel that even people of the same ethnicity do not trust each other, let alone the distrust between ethnic groups. In Urumqi, the security check is very strict and almost everywhere. At the gate of a park in the city, I passed the checkpoint within seconds, but a Uyghur-looking man after me took much longer time to pass. Even though the security guard herself also seems to be Uyghur, she still checked the man’s ID cards and computer profiles very carefully. In many other places, I also feel the ‘privilege’ of being a Han Chinese. In Ili, where the East Turkestan Republic is located, I was told that Uyghur police officers were killed in an ATM nearby a year ago by the Uyghur terrorists with long swords. The terrorists were hoping to acquire guns from the officer. So the city restricted all activity in late night. Anyone who are out after midnight will be considered suspicious and the police can check their ID in the street or in the office. Here I want to make further explanation, for in most Chinese cities, it is totally safe to hang out at night at any time you want, and the police won’t patrol in the street checking your ID unless someone complains about noise and etc.

Surely there is racism arising in the distrust. In Urumqi, I asked why ethnic minorities were treated in an unfriendly way and they tried to tell me that it was because of the very unique situations in Xinjiang. Sounds like the discrimination is natural but I cannot judge based on what I learnt. A taxi driver told me that it was the Islam belief that makes the Uyghur not in harmony with the recent society led by the Communist Party and that the religion was toxic. I thought he was referring to Islamic extremism but in a seemingly biased way.

Fourth, I tried to learn about people’s attitudes towards the 2009 riots and got similar responses from Uyghurs and Han. They both feared the riots and tried to tell me how horrible that day was. Some Uyghurs who were Urumqi locals claimed that all those terrorists were not local to the city and tried to kill all the citizens with regardless of ethnicity which made them dreadful. In my journey, most of the Uyghurs I met were friendly farmers, some of whom were even willing to accommodate me for free. On one time, I was taking a 6-hour bus, I talked with a Uyghur guy sitting next to me. We almost talked about everything, including our hometowns, our families and so on. The guy was very talkative and friendly, leaving me a very good impression towards the Uyghur.

Lastly, I mean, I never heard of the re-education camp. So I guess this was not related to normal people’s life. The minorities I met were usually very talkative and complained to me about many things including the policies, the government, the relation between the Han and the minorities, except the camp. I think most Chinese people just want to live a peaceful life no matter in Xinjiang or outside Xinjiang. I was so lucky to travel in Xinjiang, because the scenery I spotted was so great that I would probably pay another visit in the future.

Another visitor, Vadim Mikhailaov, visited,

“Xinjiang appears to have no criminality whatsoever and the police in the streets are unarmed. The checkpoints aren’t too time consuming if you have a Chinese ID card and know the security guards from daily contact. At the checkpoints we visited, on the other hand, annoyed police or security guards struggled with the protocol on how to handle foreigners. We all drank until late and went home without the slightest issue. Our group was coming from many places in the West where stumbling out of a bar late at night can often be quite dangerous. We had to admit that you feel safe at night in Xinjiang. Completely safe. Most places just asked for our passports, took a look, and let us through, sometimes asking which country we came from. A few guards didn’t want to deal with the hassle and just told us to bypass the metal scanner and get out of their sight. As everything in China, enforcement is sometimes spotty. But those were the exceptions; discipline in the surveillance apparatus was generally quite high. We walked leisurely through the city, and while we attracted some attention, we were neither stopped, nor stared at, nor (I think) followed. As I mentioned, there are police everywhere; standing, walking, and driving. They’re not aggressive, or intimidating, or stopping people at random. They’re just there making themselves present.

One big difference between Turpan and Urumqi was that, again, most people were Uyghur. But the police were Uyghur, too. The people manning the checkpoints and the “convenience police stations,” and driving the patrol cars were all Uyghur. It’s worth emphasizing that whatever is happening in Xinjiang is not just an invasion by a foreign army hell-bent on annoying the locals. The locals are quite annoyed, indeed, but it’s their fellow tribesmen doing the grunt work. Or most of it, anyway. I must say that the Uyghur police we saw were more easy-going than the Han police we saw in Urumqi. More chill. Less zealous, you could say. At any rate, they never gave us a hard time, and we got plenty of smiles and easy treatment. Meanwhile France has soldiers, not police, patrolling the streets of Paris. Considering his post-resignation declaration about radical Islam replacing the Republic, I have to wonder what the former French Minister of the Interior, Gérard Collomb, would make of Xinjiang?

China’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan talked to local journalists:

Since the 1990s, the three evil forces – terrorism, religious extremism and separatism– have been a scourge in China’s Xinjiang and implemented a series of appalling terrorist attacks, including the incident in Urumqi on July 5, 2009. What should we do? Aside from taking strong measures, we also need to remove the soil for the three evil forces. All these measures aim to help people who were instigated by the three evil forces or influenced by extremism to come back to reason and to return to society to live a normal life. In order to achieve this purpose, China set up the training centers in accordance with China’s Constitution, the Counterterrorism Law and the Regulations of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on De-radicalization and by referring to the successful experience on counterterrorism from other countries.

The training centers in Xinjiang do not target any ethnic group or certain religion and all people there are treated equally without discrimination. There are two criteria for whether an individual should be in the centers – whether they participated in illegal activities of the three evil forces and whether they pose a threat to the society.

For example, some individuals used social media, such as WhatsApp to promote jihad online or spread videos on violence in circumstances that were not serious enough to constitute a crime. These people go to the training centers. Some people, who received prison sentence for participating in terrorist or extremist activities but refuse to abandon extremism and plan to take revenge, also need to go to the training centers.

To put it simply, people who obey laws and regulations and commit no wrong deeds do not need to worry about “going to the training centers” no matter which ethnic group they are from and whatever their religion is. The training center is not prison, but a school for the public. There is only one goal for the school – to educate people and to stop good people becoming bad. What do people learn in the center? They learn Putonghua to make sure that all Chinese citizens can understand, can speak and can write the national common language. This is the basic requirement and responsibility for a citizen from any civilized country.

Trainees learn knowledge on laws so that all Chinese citizens understand that they live in the 21st Century where laws are put in place and strictly enforced and anyone who violates the laws will be held accountable. The trainees should have the basic awareness of laws so they are not so easily tempted by extremism. They also learn vocational skills at the centers, including pastry making, weaving and textile printing, shoes-making and fixing machinery, hairdressing and make-up and e-commerce. Trainees can choose one to two skills to learn based on their interests. There will be more chance for them to get employment and less risk of becoming involving with the three evil forces.

With the work of these training centers being implemented in order, more and more trainees have graduated from the centers and returned to society and earned a better life. There is no torture in these training centers but only protection and respect for human rights. In contrast to the fake news, trainees’ religions and traditions are fully respected – all the centers offer various kinds of food, including halal food for them to choose. There are different entertainment activities, including singing songs, dancing, chanting or playing basketball for their physical health. Speaking of human rights, let me ask a question, if a modern person could not understand or write the country’s common language, has no idea about modern marriage or zero vocational skills and only enslaves his wife at home or is mistreated by her arranged husband and are used or brainwashed by the three evil forces, how could you say he or she understands human rights?

All the facts have told that the work of training centers has been effective and helpful. For now, the stability and situation in China’s Xinjiang has been improved and there have been no violent incidents in the region for more than two years. It is not only a positive influence on Xinjiang’s work on maintaining security but also makes a great contribution to safeguarding the stability of the adjacent Central Asia area.

Shohrat Zakir, Chairman of the Government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region:

Xinjiang has established a training model with professional vocational training institutions as the platform: learning the country’s common language, legal knowledge, vocational skills, along with de-extremization education as the main content, with achieving employment as the key direction. The vocational training institutions have set up departments of teaching, management, medical care, logistics and security, and allocated a corresponding number of faculty, class advisors, medical, catering, logistics and security staff. In the process of learning and training, the trainees will advance from learning the country’s common language to learning legal knowledge and vocational skills. Firstly, the trainees will take learning the country’s common language as the basis to improve their communication abilities, gain modern science knowledge and enhance their understanding of Chinese history, culture and national conditions. The teaching follows standardized plans, textbooks, materials and systems. The trainees are taught in various methods suited to their literacy to raise their abilities to use the country’s common language as soon as possible. Secondly, the learning of legal knowledge is taken as a key part of cultivating the trainees’ awareness of the nation, citizenship and rule of law. Legal experts are hired to lecture on the Constitution, the criminal law and the civil law, etc., and judges, prosecutors and lawyers are invited to teach the criminal law, the law on public security administration, the anti-terrorism law, the marriage law, the education law and Xinjiang’s de-extremization regulations. Thirdly, vocational learning is taken as a key way to help trainees find employment. Courses on clothing and footwear making, food processing, electronic product assembly, typesetting and printing, hairdressing and e-commerce have been set up to suit local social needs and job market. Multi-skill training is provided to trainees who have the desire and capability to learn, so that they acquire one to two vocational skills upon graduation. Businesses in garment making, mobile phone assembly and ethnic cuisine catering are arranged to offer trainees practical opportunities. In the meantime, they are paid basic incomes and a bonus. The mechanism has taken shape in which the trainees can ‘learn, practice and earn money.

In daily life, vocational institutions and schools strictly implement the spirit of laws and regulations, including the Constitution and religious affairs regulations, and respect and protect the customs and habits of various ethnic groups and their beliefs in diet and daily life. Faculties of the institutions and schools also try their best to ensure and meet the trainees’ needs in study, life, and entertainment on the basis of free education. The cafeteria prepares nutritious free diets, and the dormitories are fully equipped with radio, TV, air conditioning, bathroom and shower. Indoor and outdoor sports venues for basketball, volleyball and table tennis have been built, along with reading rooms, computer labs, film screening rooms, as well as performance venues such as small auditoriums and open-air stages. Various activities such as contests on speech, writing, dancing, singing and sports are organized. Many trainees have said that they were previously affected by extremist thought and had never participated in such kinds of art and sports activities, and now they have realized that life can be so colorful.

Moreover, the vocational institutions and schools pay high attention to the trainees’ mental health and helped them solve problems in life. They not only provide professional psychological counseling services, but also duly deal with complaints from the trainees and their families. All this shows that the management of the vocational institutions and schools are people-oriented.

China’s censor banned the use of ‘anti-Islamic’ words on social media after a clash that involved Muslims fighting at a toll booth went viral. Weibo blocked phrases disrespectful to Muslims and search engines block insults, mockery and defamatory terms, “It’s time to remove radical phrases that discriminate against Islam and are biased against Muslims to prevent worsening online hatred towards them. Those phrases severely undermine religious harmony and ethnic unity,” said Xiong Kunxin, a professor at Beijing’s Minzu University of China in Beijing. “China closes streets for Eid prayers, pays for Muslim Chinese to make the hajj and censors the internet and social media to prevent criticisms of Islam that might inflame social tensions. The idea that they should suddenly demand that the Muslims turn over their Qurans and Prayer mats is classic fake news and state propaganda. As a result, peace may break out and the recent deluge of fake news from Western corporate media paints the Chinese government as a gross violator of human rights while the Empire has droned, bombed, starved and killed millions of Muslim children, women from Afghanistan to Yemen and displaced millions more.”

Video: A Uyghur Re-Education Camp. Translation: “The center provides professional training in clothing making, food preparation and IT. The guy named Ailijiang Masaidi said he received RMB 2800/month and sending RM2600 home. His family is very happy. The 2nd guy named Ahbulaihaidi is now working in a shoe making factory. He said he has mastered most skills and would get RMB 4000-5000/month soon, that would means RMB 60-70k a year. His technical manager says his company fully supports the factory’s effort in Hetian. The 2nd guy says that clothing factory has been set up in Yutian. The lady named Humakuli says she now work in a factory near her home Kashgar. She is working and learning at the same time. Training includes cultural learning about history about Xinjiang and about Zhonghua civilization. The narratives then says the center provides cultural and sports activities including painting, dance and Peking opera etc. The guy who dress as consort Yang is Abdula. He said every one admires him now because he is the best singer. Before he attend the center he was told that all sort of entertainment including singing and dancing is sinful. He said his life used to be gray and now is colorful. Then Kashgar National Congress Deputy Chairman Mijidi said he wants the people to learn about the traditional culture of the Uighur people. Singing and dancing are all acceptable.” The program was implemented in 2014, and since then no terrorist attack has happened in China. So it was considered a major success and was expanded greatly.

Notes

[1] Red Star Over China. Edgar Snow. 1937. Atlantic Books.

[2] The Grand Chessboard, 1990.

[3] Richard Labeviere, Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam, Algora Publishing, 2000, p. 6.

[4] In 2017 the American government funded 48 anti-China groups and organizations through the National Endowment for Democracy, NED, to oppose and harm China’s reputation and to create social and ethnic tensions and conflicts within China. https://www.ned.org.

[5] A Chinese friend provided her background: She had 11 children, which confirms that Uighurs were not subject to China’s One Child Policy.. She was born to a family with no background. She started her business with a roadside convenience store and worked her way to be THE richest person in the province of Xinjiang. This proved Uighurs can earn their business success through hard work. She was a senior member of the People’s Congress of Xinjiang, and a senior member of the National People’s Congress of China. This shows Uighurs were not excluded from political life in China. She was arrested because she provided funding to Eastern Turkestan Independence Movement, labeled as terrorist organization by the US.

[6] “We have to conquer our own country and purify it of all infidels. Then we should conquer the infidels’ countries and spread Islam. The infidels who are usurping our countries have announced war against Islam and Muslims, forcing Muslims to abandon Islam and change their beliefs.” Abdullah Mansour, leader of the Uyghur ETIM. “The Duty of Faith and Support,” Voice of Islam/al-Fajr Media Center, August 26, 2009.

[7] “ISIS militants from China’s Muslim minority group vow to return home and ‘shed blood like rivers’ in the terror group’s first video to target the country By GARETH DAVIES FOR Daily Mail Online PUBLISHED 08:39 BST, 1 March 2017.

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