Sep 30, 2014

East Turkestan: China Opposes Broadcasting of Program on Ethnic Uyghurs

On Tuesday evening, 30 September 2014, the Australian TV channel ABC will present a Foreign Correspondent program on the Uyghurs, a persecuted ethnic minority in China. Reporter Stephen McDonell and the ABC production team faced several problems during the filming, due to the strong opposition of the Chinese government.

Below is an article published by Mail Online

The Chinese government has threatened a diplomatic row with Australia if the ABC goes ahead on Tuesday [30 September 2014] with broadcasting a programme about China's escalating crackdown on the persecuted ethnic minority group, the Uighurs.

The ABC's Foreign Correspondent is due to air at 8pm on Tuesday [30 September 2014] with a report by Beijing-based reporter Stephen McDonell on the small Muslim community in the autonomous far-western region of Xianjing [East Turkestan] in China.

The report, which is due to air on the ABC's Foreign Correspondent program on Tuesday [30 September 2014] night, deals with the Chinese government's increasingly harsh crackdown on the Uighurs, a small Muslim community who live in the far-western province.

During his attempts to film in Xinjiang, McDonell is aggressively challenged to present a journalist's card and an 'interviewing permit' without which, he is told, interviews are illegal.

The Uighurs, who the Chinese blame for a campaign of violence in their quest to have an independent homeland, have fallen prey to increasing restrictions which include bans on people with head scarves, veils and long beards from boarding buses.

Women who wear traditional veils cannot enter petrol stations, banks or hospitals and are also barred from taking government jobs.

Uighur people in Xinjiang, who speak a Turkic language, have been beset for years by violence that the government blames on Islamist militants or separatists.

Following Stephen McDonell's visit to Xinjiang earlier this month to film the report, the Chinese embassy in Canberra set up a meeting with ABC managing director, Mark Scott, and requested that the programme not go to air.

The ABC has confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that embassy officials had gathered intelligence on McDonnell and his film crew's assignment and suggested if the programme was broadcast it would have wider ramifications.

The embassy officials first sent a letter to Mr Scott, then held an hour-long meeting with ABC director of corporate affairs, Michael Millett.

Mr Millett told Daily Mail Australia: 'The Chinese government has expressed concern about this week’s Foreign Correspondent program about the Uighur’s campaign for an independent homeland.

'Representatives from the Chinese embassy made it clear that they didn't want the program shown.'

Mr Millett said the Chinese officials were polite but forceful.

'The ABC can confirm however the programme, by Beijing correspondent Stephen McDonell, will be broadcast as scheduled tonight,' he said.

McDonell braved Chinese restrictions on filming Uighurs in Xianjing, which has been beset with unrest over the last 18 months, but where the government's tight security makes it almost impossible for journalists to make independent assessments of the violence.

About 100 people were killed when knife-wielding attackers staged assaults in two towns in the region's south in late July, state media said, including 59 'terrorists' shot dead by police. A suicide bombing killed 39 people at a market in Urumqi in May [2014].

Human rights activists say the Chinese government's repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, have provoked the unrest.

'Officials in Karamay city are endorsing an openly racist and discriminatory policy aimed at ordinary Uighur people,' Alim Seytoff, the president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association, said in an emailed statement.

While many Uighur women dress in much the same casual style as those elsewhere in China, some have begun to wear the full veil, a garment more common in Pakistan or Afghanistan, two of the eight countries which border Xinjiang province.