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China: Xinjiang, bilingualism to reduce ethnic tensions

Asia @en di

The peak of ethnic tension in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China, was reached in July 2009, when in the capital of Urumqi thousands of Uyghurs clashed with Han ethnic groups. The police forces, sent to suppress clashes, were soon to face both sides and responded harshly. According to official figures released by the Chinese authorities the riots ended with 197 dead and 1721 injured. Other sources close to the Uyghurs, claimed that the victims were actually a few hundred. Human Rights Watch testified that there were police raids in the days following the clashes, with the subsequent disappearance of dozens of Uighur militants.

The tension between Uyghurs and Han has gone on for many decades, in fact since 1949, when the People’s Liberation Army took control of what was called the Second Republic of Eastern Turkestan, annexing it to the nascent Republic of China. That it was an imperialistic invasion or a peaceful annexation with the consent of the inhabitants has since then be subject of discussion and confrontation. Certainly, the strong independence movement that claims to represent 45% of the Uighur Muslim population against social and demographic invasion of the China of the Han, the main group of the whole country, has always fought to preserve the cultural specificity of Xinjiang minorities, coming several times to open conflict with the central state authorities.
Since 2009 there no other episodes of similar severity has happened, but accidents are not missed and tensions remain. The Han, which account for 41% of the region population compared to 45% of the Uyghurs, complain of discrimination on various fronts, including the workplace. Uyghurs and other minorities of the largest administrative division of the People’s Republic, continue instead to oppose what they see as China’s cultural imperialism, whose main instrument is identified in the imposition of Mandarin as the official language at the expense of the indigenous languages ​​of Turkmen origin.
To ease tensions and try to start an ethnic peace process, the central authorities have decided to promote a campaign for the dissemination of bilingualism in preschool education, as to allow the younger generations to master both Mandarin and indigenous languages. Xinjiang will thus be allowed to use central government funds to take from two to three years the period of bilingual preschool education provided to rural areas in the next four years, from 2016 to 2020. The aim is to bring 85% of children in the region, by 2020, to have access to these programs.
Funds budgeted for the first year is 154 million dollars and will be used for the construction of 552 bilingual kindergartens in the autonomous region, starting from the rural areas of the south.


Luca Marchesini

China, Maitra: “Xinjiang is not a religious, but an economical issue”

Asia @en di

European Affairs interviewed Ramtanu Maitra (analyst with the US-based Eir magazine. He contributes regularly in three Indian defense quarterlies: Aakrosh, Agni and the Indian Defence Review. He used to write on South Asia in the Asia Times online) to speak about Beijing “will have to move westward in order to bring over land oil and gas from Central Asia and Arabia”. And Xinjiang where Islam that “is surely not a major issue for the Uyghurs”.

For the Uyghurs, do the issues of independence and religion go hand in hand?

“Religion is surely not a major issue for the Uyghurs. They do not seem to be ready to lay down their lives to protect their religion. But when a number of other factors that disturb them come into play against a powerful front, such as the Han-led Beijing, religious identity is displayed. Particularly since adherents of Islam, many of whom are victims of colonial West in the past, have begun to assert themselves in recent years, to display religion on their shirtsleeves is surely considered an effective weapon. Beijing has shown little competence in dealing with the Muslims and does not seem to realize that to dishonor Muslims, even in China where Muslims are a very small minority, it could mean localized trouble that Beijing may have to curb by using state’s authority, which often overlooks compassion and legality. Not allowing the Uyghurs, even to a handful of them who are in the workforce, not to fast during the Ramadan is a policy which could bring together the more assertive Uyghurs and get them in direct contact with more aggressive Muslims who are in the lookout to declare Jihad against any non-Islamic country”.

“I think most Uyghurs are not interested in seeking independence. There could be a few who do so, but majority of the Uyghurs just do not want to get swamped by the Hans. Since Beijing has adopted the policy of developing at least a minimal infrastructure in the western China ( read: Xinjiang) in order to gain an access to Central Asia, South Asia and Southwest Asia, it has brought in , and will be bringing in more in the future, many Hans from east of Xinjiang. These Hans are skilled, better paid and have come to settle down in Xinjiang to raise their families”.

“All these are issues with the Uyghurs, who really want to be left alone. However, that is not going to happen. While many Uyghurs will take it lying down this demographic change, undermining their absolute majority in Xinjiang ( not that different from what happened or what is happening in Tibet) over the years, some will stand up indignantly declaring it as a state policy to obliterate their identity, culture, their way of life and impose upon them the culture to be obedient to the Hans. The latter group of Uyghurs may talk about independence, but they cannot, like the Tibetans, can build up a case to justify their independence from China, a massive power. At the same time, many Uyghurs, who, and whose forefathers, had lived a hard life, welcome the developments that Beijing is bringing into Xinjiang. There is no way the rebellious Uyghurs can bring under one umbrella the entire community on a very abstract cause such as independence from China”.


Has the repopulation of Xinjiang, through the shifting of the Han there in the last 15 years, had a contrary effect with respect to Beijing’s aim to suppress the Uyghurs requests?

“Beijing’s policy to bring in Hans into Xinjiang during the last 15 years is not to undermine the Uyghurs. As I have pointed out earlier, China needs to develop an infrastructure to gain access to its West where seas of oil and gas exists that Beijing could use effectively to sustain and grow its economy. The process has unleashed migration of many Hans to Xinjiang, the Uyghur land, one may call it. The process has also modernized ,and will continue to modernize further, strips of Xinjiang. Uyghurs will draw benefit from all that, but they will also have to come into a daily contact with the Hans, many of whom have little understanding of Islamic do’s and don’t’s, their culture and the isolationist attitude of the Uyghurs. Some Hans may even go as far as trying to prove a phony Han superiority over the Uyghurs. These differences may result in clashes and conflicts from time to time, but there is no reason to believe that over many years, these two ethnic groups will not be able to live side by side”.

“Going back to answering your question, I believe Beijing’s policy is not to suppress the Uyghurs but loaded with non-compassion, Beijing saw no reason to make real social efforts to integrate the Uyghurs with the rest of China. On the other hand, if China wanted to suppress the Uyghurs, why didn’t Beijing bring in the Hans into Xinjiang between 1950 and 2000? They did not bring in the Hans into Xinjiang, because China was not involved then in its newly-adopted Silk Road economic policy”.


Does the fact that over 200 Chinese have gone to combat in Syria since 2012 make China one of the most at-risk countries as regards the Jihadi threat?

“No. This is ridiculous. If thousands of Islamic radicals have not posed a serious threat to 64 million Brits, why 200 radicals would pose any sort of problem to a nation of 1.2 billion? It will not. But what China does not want is being forced to use his hammer to deal with the Uyghurs. China wants a “peaceful rise”, that is its constant refrain. Violent acts to curb the Uyghur uprisings, however small those could be, would be played up by the western media in bold headlines and will be seized upon by the powers-that-be in the West to showcase that China, in essence, is ruthless, intolerant to other religious groups and will readily exercise force when it cannot get its way”.


The passage of the new Silk Road and the presence of oil and gas resources. Is economics the real driver behind Beijing’s anti-Islam policy in Xinjiang?

“A yes-and-no is my answer to that question. China will have to move westward in order to bring over land oil and gas from Central Asia and Arabia. But China will also need to bring in many mineral reserves in order to keep its factories churning out varieties of products. But it is not going to be an one-way road. China, with its very broad and capable production base, will actively seek markets in Central Asia, Southwest Asia, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Crimea Europe et al. Already in Kyrgyzstan almost every item that is sold in the market carries the label: “Made in China”. That is the “yes” part of my answer”.

“The “no” part of the answer is that China is not doing this as an anti-Islam policy in Xinjiang. All the countries in China’s west who are expected to provide China an access to their valuable energy sources and many mineral reserves, with the exception of Russia and Georgia, are all Muslim nations. The “Stan” nations, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and the entire Arabia are Islam-dominated nations. Beijing has so far been less than sensitive to the Uyghurs, at least as of now, but it is not foolish. It knows which side of the bread is buttered and who provides and butters it”.

Giacomo Pratali


China, anti terrorism campaign: a quiet repression

Asia @en di

Xinjiang is the scene of a bloody repression of Beijing the minority Uighurs, a Muslim, has always defended the autonomy of its territory. Bejing decided to tighten anti terror campaign because of the Islamic terrorism and the economic reasons

Jihadism does not concern only Arabic States and Western. September 11 attack, attempts in European capital cities, Al Qaeda attention-seeking behaviour in the beginning of 21st century, Islamic State propaganda. All these elements are misleading because not only United States and Europe must fight fondamentalism.

Sure enough anti-terrorism legislation became a prime interest for China. It’s especially adopted in Xinjiang, which borders on Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and where lives Uighurs, Sunnis of Turkish origin.

This area is very important from economic persepctive. Here new Silk Road will live again and will connect China to Europe by land and sea. Moreover, Xinjiang containes oil and gas resources. But all these grown factors are contrasting with jihadist threat. Furthermore, nationalist reason has been always present here because of Uighurs fights from 1911 to 1949 and Eastern Turkestan foundation for short times. So patriotic and religious sentiments are at the bottom of fights against government.

Bejing has to want to battle it. The “ethnic submergence” in Xinjiang began after September 11 attack and consists in Han, the great majority of Chineses, relocation in this territory. This political program is running as Uighurs has decreased from 80% to 45% of population.

This battle got worse since April 2014, when anti terrorism campaign became more aggressive. First of all because at least 200 Chineses went to Syria to enlist in Islamic State from 2012 to this year. Moreover, Uighurs attacks in Xinjiang was over 800 since 2013. So Bejing extended anti terrorism campaign to the end of 2015 and increased its brutality against population. Sure enough, over 2000 people was killed in July 2014. A forgotten slaughter, but on the same degree of Tien An Men Square or Tibet.

Furthermore, over 27000 suspected terrorists captured in 2014. 55 estimated jihadists are taken to trial up against 7000 people. While criminal acts regarding Uighurs increased of 45%. Moreover government forbade the burqa, the full beard and the Ramadan for public empolyees.This can stop to imperious economic development is therefore basic in Bejing action. Which is battling the problem in a different way than the West. Indeed, the government’s attitude is different towards the Hui, the other ethnic group of Islamic faith in China. This because the Hui have not hardly ever take position against Popular Republic, unlike the Uighur.

Xinjiang matter is becoming more and more considerable. This matter could propose again in Africa, where China owns several economical profits, and could turn in global problem. So Bejing could be an important geopolitical part of Internation Community against Islamic Fundamentalist.

Giacomo Pratali


Giacomo Pratali
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