Jul 30, 2002

Thousands of Uighur Books burned by Chinese Authorities

Thousands of Uighur Books burned by Chinese Authorities

Chinese authorities in the northwestern province of Xinjiang have burned tens of thousands of books as part of an effort to curb separatism among ethnic Uighurs, Radio Free Asia (RFA)'s Uighur service reported.

The government-owned Kashgar Uighur Publishing House burned 128 copies of A Brief History of the Huns and Ancient Uighur Literature, which officials view as fomenting separatism. It also burned 32,320 copies of Ancient Uighur Craftsmanship, also regarded as promoting separatist religious beliefs, according to sources in Kashgar.

Ancient Uighur Craftsmanship, published in Kashgar in 1988, documents centuries-old Uighur techniques of papermaking, candle-making, carpentry, carpet-making, and silk-weaving. Its opening inscription includes verses from the Koran.

According to the official Kashgar Daily, the Kashgar Uighur Publishing House has also censored more than 330 books and stopped publication of other volumes deemed "problematic."

Chinese officials have denied any knowledge of the book burning. Since Sept. 11 and the ensuing U.S.-led war on terror, the Chinese government has stepped up its "Strike Hard" campaign against separatism -- notably in Muslim-majority Xinjiang.

The State Department's 2001 human rights report, issued in March, noted that the Chinese campaign stressing ethnic unity and condemning "splittism" and "religious extremism" in Xinjiang has continued. "Authorities [have] maintained tight control over 'separatist activities,' announced tightened security measures, and mounted campaigns to crack down on opposition during the year," the report said. "Possession of separatist publications or audiovisual materials is not permitted, and ... has resulted in lengthy prison sentences."