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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Xinjiang: China’s Palestine

August 6, 2009

by S.K. Dutta
Mainstream, (India) Vol XLVII, No 33
August 1, 2009

The recent violence in Xinjiang or former East
Turkmenistan, which has left more than 150 dead,
is just the tip of the iceberg as to what is
happening inside China. China is a country which
survives under the iron curtain where the press
and free thought processes are censored. People
are not allowed to assemble together in social
groups. No one is allowed to speak against the
government’s policies. The conditions of the
ethnic minorities, whether Tibetans, Manchus,
Mongols or the Uighurs, are nothing but terrible
since the Red Revolution of the late 1940s and
the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. China
has followed a Han cultural policy under which
the non-Chinese areas of the country have been
transformed into Han Chinese areas through
systematic ethnic cleansing; thereby the ethnic
Tibetans, Uighurs, Manchus and Mongols have been
reduced into minorities in their own ancient homelands.

The political expansion of China started between
the First and Second World Wars and it continued
till the early 1960s. Under this process
independent nation-states were systematically
annexed by the Han Chinese regime with active or
tacit support of the West. Between the last two
World Wars China annexed independent
nation-states like East Turkmenistan or
present-day Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and
Manchuria. Under the same policy it annexed Tibet
in the mid-fifties. As such, to trace the
problems of present-day Xinjiang one has to go
back to the historical past of the late 1920s and
1930s when Xinjiang was an independent country of
East Turkmenistan that was forcefully occupied by
China. Since its annexation China has
systema-tically changed the demographic ratio of
Xinjiang’s population. Han Chinese now account
for half the province’s 21 million population
from seven per cent in the 1953 census. Since the
province is very rich in natural resources like
iron, oil, natural gas, gold, coal, uranium as
well as water, power, forest etc. mainland China
has pumped a huge amount of investment into the
province with proper transfer of Han Chinese into
the area resulting in discrimination and
political and cultural repression of the ethnic Uighur population.

Unofficial estimates put the ratio of Han Chinese
versus Uighurs at 3:2; in the case of greater
Tibet it is still worse: there the ratio is 6:4;
in the case of Inner Mongolia the ratio for Han
Chinese versus Mongols is 4:3 and for Manchuria
it is 6:1 for Han Chinese versus Manchus. Such a
systematic ethnic cleansing has taken place in
greater China in the last seventy years or so.
The whole process has been achieved in a very
systematic manner through the use of brutal
police force with full press censorship and iron
curtain. So what was seen recently in Xinjiang
was the explosion of that simmering volcano which
has been on the boil since the capture of Xinjiang in the early 20th century.

The case of Xinjiang is very similar to that of
Tibet: it is a fight for freedom and independence
from forcible annexation, social, economic,
religious and political domination and
exploi-tation. Perhaps the Xinjiang case becomes
more complex as it has a religious overtone to
it. Here the fight is between the Sunni Muslim
Uighurs and the Buddhist Han Chinese. Things are
getting more and more explosive in Xinjiang with
every passing day as the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban
have made their huge presence among the ethnic
Uighurs actively supported and aided by the ISI
of Pakistan. It’s time for the inter-national
community and UNO to take note of the explosive
situation in Xinjiang and Tibet and do something
about these. The case of Xinjiang is like that of
the occupied lands of Palestine. The problem will
remain till a permanent solution is found for Xinjiang.

. . .

China has had the history of following an
expansionist policy since the Han Dynasty. In the
historical past too China, whenever it got a
chance, played on to this theory with a tendency
to annex the independent neighbouring countries
as and when it was feasible for her. Ancient
Chinese doctrines believed in the concept of
greater cultural China under which the Chinese
population was exported outside to the overseas
shores in a systematic way under a long
time-borne process. Thus we see a good percentage
of Chinese in the overseas, whether in South-East
Asia or East Asia. This policy was followed even
during modern times; as such today we see a good
number of Chinese in the New World whether in
Europe or in America. Settlement of Chinese in
these places was followed by a tendency to
capture the economy of the new settled areas and
then gradually play an active role in its native
social and political scene. Thus it was under the
same principle that the independent neighbouring
countries of China like Tibet, Manchuria, Inner
Mongolia or East Turkmenistan were annexed by
mainland China in the 19th and 20th centuries.

With India, China never had a good equation in
modern times. What happened in 1962 is a glaring
example of this. India should learn a lesson or
two from the 1962 episode and form her policies
towards China with a pinch of salt. It’s true
that our ties with China have improved
dramatically in the last 25 years or so but still
whenever given an opportunity China has tried to
use every means to isolate India in the
inter-national arena. The recent role of China
after the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal at
the NSG and in the IAEA is a graphic instance of
its double-faced approach; as such, India should
view China not as a friend but as a political foe
and formulate her policies according to the
Indian interest in this part of the world.

It’s time for the Indian Government to take
advantage of the situation in Tibet and Xinjiang
and use it for her own benefit. As in diplomacy
what matters is permanent interest. China has
been hostile to India in every forum since
decades now. It’s time for India to pay back
China in the same coin. Since China doesn’t
recognise Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India
and continues to occupy Aksai Chin forcibly till
date, India should immediately derecognise Tibet
and Xinjiang as parts of China and treat them as
disputed. India should raise her voice in every
world forum against the ethnic and human rights
violations in both the provinces forcefully. At
the same time India should try to block and
prevent all international economic and financial
aid to both the provinces of China through all
international institutions like the IMF, World
Bank, Asian Development Bank etc. as China
recently tried to block development aid to
Arunachal Pradesh from the Asian Development Bank
by insisting that Arunachal is a disputed territory.

It’s for India to apply the same policy towards
China and pay her back in her own coin since the
Chinese leadership understands only the language
of no-nonsense diplomacy and not a sugar-coated
one. It’s also in long term Indian interest both
economically and strategically to see an
independent Tibet and Xinjiang and a weakened
China. At the same time it’s in the Western and
American interest to work together with India towards this goal.

Dr Dutta is a foreign policy expert and political critic.
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