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China Unlikely to Loosen Its Grip in West

September 1, 2008

Experts Anticipate Unyielding Response to Latest Fatal Attacks in
Xinjiang Province
By Jill Drew
The Washington Post
August 30, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 30 -- Violent outbursts are continuing in the Xinjiang
region of western China, with the latest resulting in the deaths of
two policemen who were attacked Wednesday while searching a cornfield
for a woman they believe is involved in a separatist cell.

State media reported Saturday morning that police found the alleged
assailants and shot six of them dead after they tried to defend
themselves with knives, wounding two security officials.

The attack and ensuing capture of suspects was the fourth incident
this month in the area, bringing the total dead to 39 despite intense
paramilitary police patrols since before Beijing's Summer Olympic Games.

In both Xinjiang and the nearby Tibetan regions, China has deployed
thousands of security personnel in recent months to keep the peace
and root out troublemakers. Now the government might consider keeping
those forces in the regions indefinitely, experts said, because
tensions remain high. Required affirmations of political loyalty and
surveillance of telephone calls, Internet use and physical movement
are also expected to continue.

"Three days ago, I called my mother back in Tibet," said Tenzin
Losel, who fled Tibet for India in 1997 and had not spoken with his
parents since this spring's riot in Lhasa and the ensuing wave of
anti-government protests that swept the Tibetan plateau. He said he
did not want his call to get them in trouble with police, but he
wanted to hear his mother's voice. "She said hello and that she was
okay. Then she asked if I was okay and after I said yes, she just put
down the phone. I felt in that moment the tense division in Tibet."

Losel said he knew the attention paid to China during the Olympics
would not resolve Tibetan issues with the government, but he said
that "there is a feeling of desperation and helplessness" among
exiled Tibetans after the Games because no foreign official spoke out
in support of Tibet. "There is no justice when it comes to politics," he said.

The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim population. Like Tibetans,
they have long chafed under Chinese rule and are pushing for more
cultural and religious freedom and economic opportunity.

The Chinese government rejects calls from foreign governments and
exile Tibetan and Uighur advocacy organizations that it discuss the
groups' grievances against China's policies. July negotiations with
envoys for the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, went nowhere.

Chinese media criticize the Dalai Lama as someone who cannot be
trusted, while government officials insist their problems in Xinjiang
are the work of terrorist forces attempting to split China. Indeed, a
separatist group that calls itself the Turkestan Islamic Party has
issued several threatening videos this year, urging Uighurs to attack
police, government officials and Olympic targets to draw attention to
their call for an independent Uighur nation.

Each of the four attacks this month in Xinjiang was directed at
police or security forces. No group has asserted responsibility for
the incidents, all of which used rudimentary weapons and explosives.

In Xinjiang's Jiashi county, eight police officials armed with clubs
were searching for a suspect when six men wielding knives jumped out
of a cornfield, said Kuerbanjiang, 24, a police officer who was
there. "I heard my colleague yell to me, 'Run, run!' " he said in a
telephone interview. "I saw one person carrying a knife pursuing me.
I escaped very quickly, cutting through a field to get through to the village."

The village police chief and a police assistant both died of stab
wounds in the abdomen, said a nurse at a local hospital who spoke on
the condition of anonymity. A third officer was seriously injured.
All of the officers attacked are Uighurs, not Han Chinese, police
officials said.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 paramilitary police searched for the
attackers, identified from photographs as being the same group that
ambushed and killed three security officials in a nearby town on Aug.
12, Kuerbanjiang said. They found the suspects near Kashgar on Friday
evening, apprehending and wounding three while killing six, according
to an official report from China News.

Uighur advocacy groups say China's approach to the unrest exacerbates
the problems. "I worry about the situation there very much because
the Chinese policy of suppression makes the local situation more
serious," said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uighur
Congress, an exile group based in Germany.

But Chinese academics say Xinjiang is a region where China needs to
maintain a firm hand to prevent separatism and terrorism.

"The main and core issue in Xinjiang is separatism, although it
combines with some farmers and land problems. . . . We cannot regard
this case purely as citizens trying to protect their rights," said Yu
Jianrong, a professor at the Institute of Rural Development in the
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "If you want peaceful life, you
must have strong and forceful measures. If the government wants to
keep Xinjiang inside Chinese territory, they must take measures to
crack down on separatists without any softness."

Nicholas Bequelin, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch, said
the level of government control is already so high that it
constitutes "a very broad denial of rights in both regions." He said
he does not expect China to let up.

Rather, he expects the government to continue to encourage ethnic Han
Chinese to move into the regions, eventually diluting the ethnic
components into the Han majority. "China probably has the most
efficient assimilation model in the world," he said. "It's the
ultimate solution."

Researcher Zhang Jie contributed to this report.

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