Understanding the Uighurs

Pt, 01/06/2014 - 12:33 -- Anonymous (doğrulanmamış)
Below is a transcript of the broacast, which can be found at the here.
TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: For decades, the authority in China have been trying to suppress a separatist movement in the far-west province known as Xinjiang, where the mainly Muslim ethnic Uighur community is seeking independence. 
Today, China's boom has seen those tensions with the country's 10 million Uighurs resurface. The Government says the movement contains Islamic extremists, citing last October's suicide attack in front of the iconic Chairman Mao portrait in Beijing. 
The fallout is also being felt in Australia, with Uighurs now saying living here, they're being spied on by China, they're being harassed and even tortured if they return home. 
Here's China correspondent Stephen McDonnell.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL, REPORTER: China's far-western province of Xinjiang is home to a spectacular landscape. Its remote mountains share vast borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Local ethnic Uighurs speak a Turkic language, believe in Islam and many want independence from China. Beijing worries that this region could become a hotbed of radical Muslim separatism.
QIN GANG, CHINESE GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN (voiceover translation): In order to accomplish the goal of separating Xinjiang from China, they'll conduct major terrorist activities from both within and outside China, so the Chinese Government will continue its firm assault on them.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: It's hard to imagine that brewing tensions here could reverberate all the way to Australia, but they are.
MAMTIMIN ALA, WORLD UIGHUR CONGRESS: One of my friends in Melbourne who showed me a text message and which was full of hatred and a threat and that text message was telling me that, "You are pig and you should stop your activities, otherwise you will be killed."
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: In 2009, Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi, saw bloody ethnic clashes. There are regular reports of violence there, especially between local Uighurs and Han Chinese officials. 
Last October, a car exploded into a fireball in front of Beijing's historic Tiananmen Gate. Chinese officials say an ethnic Uighur drove the vehicle through crash barriers and into a crowd of tourists, injuring dozens and killing two bystanders. We're told he then deliberately ignited flammable liquid inside the car and that the driver, his wife and mother all died. The Chinese Government says this suicide attack should be enough proof for anyone who doubts violent extremism is coming out of Xinjiang.
QIN GANG (voiceover translation): This lays bare the terrorist essence of this organisation and it allows those people who recently suspected the nature of the incident to clearly see its nature.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: As with all such incidents in China, it's virtually impossible to verify what happened across the square behind me and underneath Tiananmen Gate on October 28th. Five people have been arrested, but there won't be an open trial. The actions certainly got people's attention, but it wasn't all that sophisticated, really, leaving some to question if China should actually be worried about it.
Online, a group calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party has claimed this as a jihadi operation, warning of other attacks in the Chinese capital. But again, how would you know that they're not just grabbing onto the event in search of publicity? Either way, the immolation in the cultural and political heart of China has shocked this country.
XIONG KUNXIN, MINZU UNIVERSITY (voiceover translation): I thought it was inconceivable. I couldn't imagine that Uighurs from Xinjiang Province, three people from a family, would do this.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Professor Xiong Kunxin teaches ethnic theory and policy at Minzu University. He thinks the foreign media, by focusing on reasons behind the car fire, hasn't sufficiently condemned the attackers.
XIONG KUNXIN (voiceover translation): I've noticed that America's CNN and Britain's BBC have sympathy for the terrorists. Why don't they have sympathy for the victims, foreigners who were among the dead and injured? 
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: But an ethnic Uighur scholar from the same university has very different take on the car immolation.
ILHAM TOTHI, LECTURER, MINZU UNIVERSITY (voiceover translation): They declared it was a terrorist attack carried out by a Uighur. Well I can't accept it without proof.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Yet he does see why Uighur resentment would be brewing. There's economic development in resource-rich Xinjiang, but many locals feel Han Chinese, who now outnumber them in the province, are getting more than their fair share of the wealth. Then there are the cultural differences.
ILHAM TOTHI (voiceover translation): We should have the right to use our language and develop our education. We should have the right to decide on the development of our towns. We should have the power of decision-making.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: By speaking out, Ilham Tothi attracts the attention of Chinese State Security. He's regularly followed as he leaves the university. Recently he says a car he recognised crashed into him with his wife and children inside. He says men then approached him and one started to speak.
ILHAM TOTHI (voiceover translation): He said, "I want to crash into you and kill your family." They were our national security officials and police. They are behaving like the Mafia. They didn't intend to kill me because the cars were close and the crash wasn't serious. They wanted to threaten me and stop me from talking.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: We asked him why he wasn't afraid to be speaking to us.
ILHAM TOTHI (voiceover translation): I didn't see their car this morning, but I'm always in danger. I've lived under threat for many years. If I don't speak out, they'll become more and more arrogant.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Then our interview is interrupted. Somebody claiming to be from campus security says we need special permission to proceed. Ilham Tothi starts photographing those behind him and the authorities don't like it. We leave the university grounds, but it's not long until we're being watched, so it's time to go.
Facing an unhappy life in Xinjiang, many Uighurs have emigrated to Australia, but the local community says even there its activities are watched closely by Chinese officials. Then if Australian Uighurs return home to visit their families, they say they face special attention.
MAMTIMIN ALA: They can get the Chinese Uighur to go back to China, but when they arrive in China, then they will - they will face very strict interrogation, or series of interrogation.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Prominent Australian community member Dr Mamtimin Ala is also vice president of the World Uighur Congress. From a community meeting in Western Sydney, he told us that the intimidation of Uighurs when they visit Xinjiang works.
MAMTIMIN ALA: When they come back to Australia and then they become politically inactive, because that trauma would force them to step out of this line.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: He also says their jobs are threatened.
MAMTIMIN ALA: Some Uighurs - mostly the Uighurs in Melbourne are currently working for the construction companies run by Chinese people. So quite interestingly, that these companies are keeping an eye on the activities of the Uighurs working in that - the company. So if any Uighur person in that company wants to attend a demonstration organised either by the Victoria association or by the Australian Uighur Association or by any legal association in Australia, then they would be warned not to attend that demonstration.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: But the allegations get worse than simple questioning of people when they travel to China.
MAMTIMIN ALA: Because so many people were interrogated and also tortured by the Chinese Government. It's like - even I knew one person that - who was taken to an unknown place and where he was tortured and he was forced to make a confession, forced to give all the information that he knows about the people in Australia. ... Because China's intelligence agents would tell them that, "If you reveal this issue, our treatment to any Australian agency, you have your family," and same issue, same dilemma. "You have family here with us and then we can put them in danger."
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Some in China say their intelligence agencies would be crazy to be not monitoring Uighur groups both at home and abroad.
XIONG KUNXIN (voiceover translation): I think the Government should take measures to prevent terrorist attacks from happening again since China and every other country faces these terrorist threats.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: There's currently a major crackdown in place in Xinjiang after the fire-bombed car in Beijing. Tension is likely to remain high there for some time to come. 
TRACY BOWDEN: Stephen McDonnell reporting.