East Turkestan: Uyghur Leaflets Prompt Crackdown
Chinese military cracks down on Uyghur pro-independence leaflets in the north-western province of Xinjiang and enforces ‘ethnic harmony’ campaign.
Below is an article published by Radio Free Asia
Chinese authorities in the troubled north-western region of Xinjiang have detained at least six people following the appearance of leaflets in Aksu city calling for independence from Beijing, an overseas Uyghur group said.
Leaflets containing the phrases "Demand independence,""Resist Sinicization," and "Uyghur people unite" began appearing in the western city of Aksu on July 1, as the ruling Communist Party marked its 90th anniversary with nationwide events, according to Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress.
The leaflets sparked a city-wide investigation by state security police, who feared the leaflets would arrive in the regional capital of Urumqi ahead of the July 5 anniversary of bloody ethnic riots, Raxit said.
"Armed Chinese military personnel, including special police, were carrying out investigations of people they suspected of distributing the leaflets," he said.
"At least six or seven people were taken away against their will in police cars in the middle of the night," Raxit said. "It is not clear what has happened to them."
Earlier bomb attack
A bomb attack in Aksu last August left eight people dead, including two of the bombers, and 15 wounded after a man riding a three-wheeled vehicle threw explosives at a group of uniformed patrolmen.
Four Uyghurs were arrested shortly after the attack and two Uyghur men were later executed for their alleged role in the Aug. 19 blasts.
Raxit said the Aksu authorities had begun a 100-day "strike hard" campaign in the city after the leaflets were discovered, stepping up security patrols around the clock, even in small residential neighborhoods and alleyways.
He said the leaflets were in keeping with growing discontent among Aksu's Uyghur population with increasing pressure in recent years on their traditional culture, Muslim religious practice, and ability to make a living.
Many Uyghurs see China as exploiting natural resources in their region, which enjoyed two brief periods of independence as East Turkestan in the early 20th century, and which has chafed under Beijing's rule since 1949.
An employee who answered the phone at the Aksu municipal police department confirmed there was an investigative campaign under way.
"This has been going on for almost a week," she said. "This happens every year, maybe as much as every three months."
She denied any pro-independence leaflets had been found, or that any Uyghurs had been detained.
An employee at a hotel in downtown Aksu said police checks on the identity of guests had been tightened, with frequent spot checks by local police to ensure all guests were registered with a national identity card.
Full background checks were being run on anyone with a foreign passport, who had to register on arrival with three separate departments, while some had been turned away, she added.
'Ethnic harmony' campaign
Local official news websites reported an "ethnic harmony" education campaign in the city aimed at "strengthening ideological and political education among teachers and students."
The campaign will target schoolchildren from the age of seven onwards, who will be required to attend four days of political education sessions in July and August, according to the local Aksu Pinganwang website.
Local authorities have also called a conference on social stability beginning on Thursday, the website said.