Foreign Policy Blogs

Xinjiang: 'Endangering State Security'

china-police.jpgThe Chinese government released a report in one of their official publications detailing the number of arrests for ‘endangering state security’ in the past year and unfortunately the news was not good for the Uighurs of Xinjiang Province. According to the report 1,154 Xinjiang citizens were indicted for crimes against state security in 2008, which of course included the Beijing-hosted Olympics.

The 1,154 number is indeed a significant one as in 2007 only 742 citizens were charged with the crime against the state in the whole country. It definitely appears that the Chinese government changed some of the criteria for such an arrest and conviction. Those who are convicted of a ‘crime against the state’ face the death penalty, a punishment the Chinese Communist government is not shy in giving out.

Before one can completely condemn the Chinese government for what looks like a concerted effort to punish and undermine individual political and religious rights for the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang, we must also recall the very real security breaches and attacks which occurred in the province in 2008. Two Uighur separatists, with ties in Pakistan, attempted to blow up a plane in mid air early in the year, and right as the Olympics were starting two Uighur men attacked and killed 17 Chinese policemen in Kashgar (update: these two men were sentenced to death, but for murder, not for national security crimes), and several bombing incidents also occurred near many government facilities in the region as the Olympics were ongoing.  There is also strong evidence that some of the Uighur militants, particularly members of East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), have connections with militants near the Pakistan/Afghan border.

Of course the Chinese government's policies and actions in the region have gone beyond arrests for security issues.  Beijing's leaders have also forcibly emigrated Uighur women out of the region and Han Chinese citizens in.  The government also strongly restricts the practice of Islam, forbidding government employees from attending Mosque, and forcibly registering religious groups and leaders.  Sidik Haji Rozi, a prominent Uighur scholar and dissident living in the United States, describes in detail some of these transgressions and the discouraging recent past for the Uighur people.

These escalating indictment numbers for the Xinjiang region are indeed worrisome (but at least the Chinese government put out the stats) especially combined with other oppressive and invasive Chinese government policies in the region.  This is a clear case of the Chinese government attempting to gain greater control over the region and to assure a peaceful and quiet Olympic games.  I guess we can hope that the numbers will drop dramatically down next year, but of course this would be a small conciliation.

 

Author

Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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