China’s Desperate ‘Terrorists’

I had intended the most recent post on Xinjiang to be my last on the subject. I considered “The War For Xinjiang” to be the culmination of the series of posts on that region and I thought I would be moving on to other places and topics…

However, the volume of harassment and threats I have received (Yes, China, I can see which networks the hacking attempts originate from) compel me to post this editorial from the Wall Street Journal as a gesture of my contempt for those who attempt to silence others with threats and harassment rather than facts or logic.


China’s Desperate ‘Terrorists’

Human rights abuses in Xinjiang create a cycle of violence

Nov. 4, 2013 11:59 a.m. ET

A week after a car hit several pedestrians and burst into flames near Beijing’s Tiananmen, or Gate of Heavenly Peace, it remains unclear what happened and why. The Chinese authorities claim that three members of the Uighur ethnic minority carried out a “carefully planned, organized and premeditated” terrorist attack. But the government’s own reports suggest that instead of an attack, the car’s three occupants wanted to burn themselves to death in protest against Chinese rule, as more than 100 Tibetans have done over the last three years.

The alleged terrorists included a man, his wife and his mother. The blood relationship hints at some kind of family grievance, perhaps an injustice suffered at the hands of officials in the far west Uighur homeland of Xinjiang. Radio Free Asia quoted one of the man’s classmates as saying that a relative had disappeared after the July 2009 riots in Urumqi, when many young Uighur men were rounded up by the authorities and never heard from again. Another died in a traffic accident that was never resolved.

If the family did intend to take revenge on a large number of Chinese bystanders, they didn’t have the means to do so. The authorities listed their weapons as gasoline, knives and iron rods. Lacking explosives or firearms, their actions seem desperate rather than carefully planned or organized. As the exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer writes nearby, some bystanders saw the car swerve to avoid pedestrians and heard the horn. While two tourists died, this suggests that killing others may not have been the goal.

None of this has stopped Beijing from using the incident to call for a renewed crackdown on the supposed threat of Islamic extremism. The Communist Party’s security czar Meng Jianzhu blamed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a group that the Bush administration placed on a list of terrorist organizations after 9/11 as a sop to Beijing. But few Westerners had even heard of it before 2001, and many scholars are skeptical it ever existed.

It is true that Beijing’s repressive policies have become a self-fulfilling prophecy, driving some Uighurs to acts of terrorism. However, there is little evidence of effective organization behind the attacks. This summer saw several outbreaks of rioting and violence against Han Chinese across Xinjiang, but the perpetrators used improvised weapons and the execution was amateurish.

The Uighurs’ anger stems not from radical Islam or any other ideology but from practical and cultural considerations. Economic development in Xinjiang hasn’t helped, with the best jobs typically reserved for Han Chinese. Uighur identity has also been endangered, as state-run schools forbid the speaking of Uighur. Children are not allowed in mosques, and displays of Islamic practice, such as fasting during Ramadan, are prohibited.

Until the Chinese authorities provide credible evidence to think otherwise, last week’s incident looks to be part of a long-standing pattern of Beijing twisting every case of Uighur resistance into an allegation of radical Islamist terrorism. But it is China’s human-rights abuses that are responsible for the rising tension in Xinjiang, a reality that will haunt the regime as long as those abuses continue.

The original article can be found here.

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