Jul 30, 2002

China continues to use the war against international terrorism to persecute Uighurs

By Erkin Alptekin, UNPO General Secretary

Immediately after the barbaric terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, Chinese officials staged a worldwide campaign to portray Uighurs as „terrorists“. Since then the Chinese authorities are using the war against international terrorism as an excuse to persecute, arrest, torture and execute Uighurs in Eastern Turkestan. Since September 11th the Chinese authorities have arrested more than 3000 Uighurs throughout the country. Until now almost 30 Uighurs have been executed in various parts of Eastern Turkestan.

In order to justify their claims the Chinese officials blamed Uighurs for carrying out three bomb attacks in the region since 1992, and three attacks overseas in the last three years. China has also claimed that there are several hundred Uighurs in Afghanistan in training camps linked to Osama bin Laden.

Although no one claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks, Chinese officials have always blamed the Uighurs. In fact, many Uighurs believe that the Chinese agents themselves are planting bombs in order to discredit their just cause. According to a report by AFP on December 27, 2001, 318 ethnic Chinese terrorists were captured by Chinese security forces in Eastern Turkestan. The report said that these ethnic Chinese terrorists were not only responsible for several bomb attacks, but also for similar attacks in the interior of China. These arrests indicate that turmoil in Eastern Turkestan blamed on Uighurs was actually the work of ethnic Chinese. Furthermore, the great majority of Uighurs living at home and abroad has always condemned such acts of terrorism. However, where some Uighurs may have carried out bombings, this should be treated as a spontaneous expression of widespread frustration and desperation in their land. After all, it was the Chinese leaders who through the years conducted at least 46 nuclear tests, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Uighurs as a result of the radioactive fallout. Yet, the world has remained silent on these acts of mass destruction.

Bomb attacks take place in China proper on a daily basis. Last year alone, almost 2000 bomb attacks took place in the interior of China, which killed more than 200 people and wounded almost 1000. For instance, in the region of Jiang Shu on March 6, 2001, a bomb explosion in a school killed 47 children. Ten days later in the city of Juang of the Xi Jia region, 108 people lost their lives in a devastating bomb attack. Again in March, bomb blasts at a dormitory in the northern industrial city of Shijiazhuang killed more than 100 people. On December 15, 2001, an ethnic Chinese blew up the McDonalds building in the city of Xian. One day later 23 bomb attacks took place in the province of Guangdung. But the Chinese officials treated these events as ordinary criminal acts and not as terrorism. Similar in nature events in Eastern Turkestan are readily blamed on “Uighur terrorists”. Because the Uighurs are Muslims and the label suites them better.

It is not the first time that the Chinese authorities are blaming the Uighurs for the turmoil in Eastern Turkestan. In the last 50 years they have attempted to characterize the Uighurs as “Agents of the American Paper Tigers”, “The puppets of the Soviet Hegemonists”, “Pan Turkists”, “Counter revolutionaries”, “Separatists”, “Islamic Militants”, and now “terrorists”. It is not difficult to imagine that Uighurs are experiencing identity problems.

Chinese officials have claimed that hundreds of Uighurs were to be found in Afghanistan in the training camps linked to Osama bin Laden. The war in Afghanistan against the international terrorists seems almost over. Hundreds of terrorists were killed, thousands were captured and some of them were taken to the Guantanamo US military base in Cuba. Among the killed, captured or imprisoned no Uighurs have been found. If there are any Uighurs among the POW’s held in Guantanamo they will be brought to justice.

Before September 11th only 16 Uighurs have been captured by the Northern Alliance. Interviewed by foreign journalists, they said that since religious schools are forbidden by the Chinese in Eastern Turkestan, they came to study Islam in Pakistan. But the Jamiati Islami Parti of Pakistan sent them to Afghanistan. However, instead of giving them religious education, the Taleban forced them to join their ranks to fight against the Northern Alliance. As they did not want to fight the Turkic Uzbeks, they defected to the Northern Alliance.

In order to internationalise the so-called “Uighur terrorism”, Chinese officials also accused the Uighurs of bombing the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, murdering a Chinese official in Bishkek in Kyrgyz tan, and killing two local Kazakh policemen in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Turkish officials have confirmed that there was no bomb attack on the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul. The truth is a fire broke out in the consulate building as results of an electrical short-circuit. The Kazakh and Kyrgyz officials have said that the other two incidents were ordinary crimes without any political motives.

The Chinese officials have also claimed that the Uighurs received financial aid from Osama bin Laden. But until know they have failed to present any evidence. On the other hand, Uighurs have enough evidence to prove that China extended economic and military aid to Osama bin Laden during the Taleban rule.

In August 2001, Osama bin Laden called for “good relations” between Afghanistan and China, saying this would be in China’s interest and would reduce US military and economic influence in Asia.

Despite the UN embargo on Afghanistan, China was secretly aiding the Taleban regime through Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional Government. The Xinjiang Year Book 2000 carries an article on page 319, which says the Xinjiang Regional Government has extended 40 million Yuan economic aid to Taleban ruled Afghanistan in the year 1999, and will continue to help the Taleban in the future.

Central Asian officials believe that a great portion of this aid has been given to Osama bin Laden to train Uzbek fundamentalist groups. Among the 800 terrorists killed during the last Anaconda Operations in Northeast Afghanistan, bodies of tens of Uzbek citizens were found. It is also believed that China, for the last couple of years, was using the Taleban and Al Qaida to destabilize Central Asian Republics such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Stan and Uzbekistan through “Islamic Terrorism”. The aim was to force the oil, gold and gas rich Central Asian republics into compromises with China to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia, which still treats the Central Asia as its own „backyard“. As a result of that policy Uzbekistan, when under Islamic forces’ assault in the year 2000, appealed to China and not to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), for emergency military aid. Only two months later, Kyrgyz Stan followed in tightening military relations with China in a reaction to Islamic terrorism and subversion originating from the Taleban and Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaida organization.

Moreover, large amounts of Chinese weapons and ammunitions found in the Al Qaida secret caves around the Tora Bora region is the best proof that the Chinese were rendering Osama bin Laden military assistance.

China’s fierce propaganda campaign to portray Uighurs as terrorists after September 11th has failed. The international community did not believe China’s lies. President Bush, Mr. Collin Powel, the Secretary of State, Mrs Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, General Taylor, the US Anti- terror official, all expressed their concerns to the Chinese leadership during their trips to China in October and November 2001, and stated that the Chinese government should not use the campaign against international terrorism to crackdown on minorities in China.

This will not be the last time that the Chinese officials have tried to deceive the international community. They will continue to do so in the future. This is perhaps because deception, falsification and distortion of facts are deeply rooted in the mainstream of Chinese policy towards its neighbours. The following record written by the great Chinese historian Pan Ku of the Han Dynasty (206BC - 200AD), exemplifies the mainstream of the Chinese policy towards their neighbours:

“...Punish them when they intrude and guard them when they retreat. Receive them when they offer tribute as a sign of admiration for our righteousness. Restrain them continually; make it appear that all the blame is on their side. This is the proper policy of the sage rulers towards the barbarians...”

In a secret document of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, entitled “Defending the Stability of Xinjiang”, adopted on March 1996, it is briefly stated that:

“..Through disinformation prevent, by all means, the separatist forces from making the so-called Eastern Turkestan problem an international one...”

Therefore, the well- known Western scholar and Sinologist, Prof. Wolfram Eberhad, wrote that the Chinese always present one-sided information, thus, it is necessary to check other sources before coming to a final conclusion concerning the so-called “facts” the Chinese present.
Whatever, the Chinese may claim, whatever the international media may write, and whatever the international community may believe, the great majority of Uighurs living at home and abroad are determined to achieve their goal through peaceful means. By doing so, the Uighurs are not trying to appease the Chinese, the international community or the international media. It is because they have learned a bitter lesson from their own history that armed resistance leads to the destruction of peoples. The Uighurs understand that pursuit of their legal rights cannot be used to justify terrorism. It was in this spirit that the Uighurs were among the founding members of the Allied Committee of the Peoples of Eastern Turkestan, Tibet and Inner Mongolia and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, which seeks to provide a voice for all such nations and peoples who deplore violence and terrorism.