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article imageU.S. Watchdog Group Warns of ‘Hard’ Crackdown in China Special

By Christopher Szabo     Jul 10, 2009 in World
Reports from China’s restive Xinjiang province are focusing on Friday prayers at mosques, a possible source of further unrest. The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) reports authorities plan a ”fierce crackdown.”
Henryk Szadziewski, manager of the U.S.-based organisation, told Digital journal about the situation in Urumqi, the strife torn capital of the province:
According to what we know the city of Urumqi remains tense. At present the Chinese authorities are preparing for a fierce crackdown in the city. Local officials have ominously declared that there will be execution of protestors and the police are now arresting numberless Uyghur men. We expect little transparency from the legal system during this time.
Responding in an e-mail to accusations by China that Uyghur groups outside the U.S., including his own, where involved in planning the protests, Szadziewski said:
These accusations are baseless. The Chinese authorities seem to blame others for their policy failings. Repressive Chinese policies and unchecked Han nationalism are the causes of this unrest.
I asked whether the UHRP expected the anger and possible violence to spread. Szadziewski answered:
At this point we are unsure what will happen next except that the coming crackdown will fall hard on the Uyghur population.
Many people were surprised by the apparent suddenness of the riots and Chinese clampdown. I wondered what the underlying causes of the protests might be. The UHRP manager explained:
The causes of Uyghur dissatisfaction run deep. There are egregious and systematic human rights abuses by Chinese authorities against Uyghurs. There is no freedom of speech and detentions on political charges are frequent. In fact, according to Amnesty International, Uyghurs are the only people within China who are executed on political charges. While the judicial system lacks any transparency there are frequent and documented cases of torture enacted on Uyghur detainees.
The current unrest is often described as being caused by ”ethnic tensions.” This catch phrase doesn’t explain much. Szadziewski gave details of discrimination against Uyghurs in their own land:
Uyghurs face a number of economic, social and cultural rights abuses. Uyghurs face discrimination in the job market and in general have lower standards of living than Han Chinese. Uyghurs under 18 and Uyghurs employed in the state sector are not permitted to enter mosques and forbidden from observing Ramadan. Imams are carefully vetted by the Chinese Communist authorities. Uyghur children are being educated in Mandarin Chinese – a language completely alien to Uyghur.
Szadziewski revealed a little-known aspect of China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority:
Kashgar Old City
The Old Town of the Silk Road City of Kashgar, soon to be demolished. What input do the local people in this autonomous region have?
Young women in southern East Turkestan are subject to forcible transfer to sweatshops in eastern China. Kashgar Old City, a cultural center of the Uyghur, is also facing demolition by Chinese authorities in what the Chinese government calls a “resident resettlement project,” which is in fact another tool of assimilating the Uyghurs
Szadziewski said the UHRP condemned the violence on all sides and urged restraint from everyone involved.
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