PROTESTS WARN CHINA OF ETHNIC MINORITY TENSIONS
July 16, 2015
Recently, several incidents and protests related to China’s minority policies have broken out, bringing the troubled relationship between China and its Uighur minority back in to the public attention.
According to several news sources, police shot and killed three knife-wielding “Xinjiang terrorist suspects” during a raid in China’s northeastern city of Shenyang on July 13. While Chinese state media identified the suspects as “resisting terrorists,” World Uyghur Congress, the largest Uighur rights group in exile, claimed they belonged to “a group of Uighurs who were trying to flee China.”
Earlier last week, a series of demonstrations against the Chinese government erupted across Turkey in response to local authorities’ rules prohibiting Uighur people from fasting and observing religious rituals during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Thousands of protestors chanted anti-Chinese slogans on the streets of Istanbul and burned the Chinese flag. The Chinese embassy in Turkey issued a travel warning encouraging Chinese tourists to “avoid filming protests or going out alone.”
Two days later, protests returned to Istanbul after Thailand decided to deport over 100 Uighurs held in Bangkok back to China. Demonstrations turned violent when a group of protesters managed to break into the Thai consulate, smash windows, and vandalize the interior of the offices. The Thai government defended their decision as a difficult one and noted that they did not send all detained Uighurs back to China. “China asked for all Uighur Muslims in Thailand to be sent back but we said we could not do it,” a spokesperson from Thai government said. “More than 170 Uighurs were identified as Turkish citizens and sent to Turkey from Thailand over the past month.”
Due to its close religious and ethnic connections with the Uighur community in China, Turkey is a proactive supporter of the Uighur nationalist movement and a top destination for Uighurs fleeing China. The Turkish government has frequently criticized China’s policies towards Uighur minorities and called on the regime to respect the religious freedom of Chinese Muslims. In a statement released on July 9, the Turkish foreign ministry said the news of Uighurs being “banned from fasting and fulfilling other acts of worship had been received with sadness by the Turkish public.”
The relationship between China’s majority Han Chinese and China’s 55 officially recognized minorities has long been problematic. Over the past two decades, ethnic tensions has risen in provinces traditionally settled by minorities, such as Xinjiang and Tibet, as the Chinese government tightens control through repressive religious policies and increasing influx of Han migrants. The international community has expressed deep concern over the human rights abuses against China’s minorities, as well as fears of forced integration and cultural dilution.
Despite the enormous amount of capital China has invested in Xinjiang, the relationship between China and the Uighur minority continues to deteriorate. “In some of these large western cities, the situation looks a lot like the American segregated South — people living alongside each other in radically different conditions, not really communicating,” says Charles Freeman, a China scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Andy Zhou, the program assistant for EastWest Institute’s China, East Asia and United States Program, warned that “no amount of material investment will draw China closer together if the Uighurs and other minority populations are not convinced that they can stake their future success on integration with the Chinese nation.”
For more information on this topic, please visit the following links:
New York Times – “Chinese Police Say 3 Killed by Officers Were ‘Xinjiang Terrorists”
Economists – “Bashing and wooing China”
Foreign Policy – “China’s Minority Problem — And Ours”
The Diplomat – “Ramadan or Education: An Impossible Choice for China’s Uyghurs”
South China Morning Post – “Why China restricts fasting by Xinjiang Muslims during Ramadan”
For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:
环球时报 – “专家：土耳其有泛突厥主义情节 很多人不知新疆”
BBC 中文网 – “中国土耳其关系因维吾尔族议题陷入紧张”
Compiled and edited by Junxiao Liang.