Also on Friday, border guards in neighboring Kyrgyzstan said that a group of Uyghurs were killed after crossing the border and that their belongings indicated that they belonged to a separatist group. These are the latest in a series of violent incidents in Xinjiang, which authorities blame on separatist, or terrorist, groups, though few details are released about individuals involved or the events themselves, and journalists are not allowed to independently investigate.
East Turkestan & the Uyghurs
Last October, a sport-utility vehicle sped onto a crowded Beijing sidewalk and exploded at the foot of Tiananmen gate, killing five people and injuring nearly 40 others. In the aftermath of the attack, the Chinese government declared the explosion an act of terrorism committed by Islamic jihadists from western China. Meanwhile, the foreign media turned the spotlight on the home province of the attackers -- China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region -- where some nine million Turkic-speaking Muslims, known as Uighurs, have lived under the control of the Chinese Communist Party since 1950. This arrangement has not been altogether peaceful; just this week, for example, local police gunned down six people in the city of Xinhe.
Chinese authorities have forcibly relocated more than half of the ethnic minority Uyghurs—mostly farmers and herders—from three mountain townships in the Xinjiang region to make way for tourist resorts without providing them adequate compensation or job opportunities, according to area sources. Villagers from the three townships in Kumul (in Chinese, Hami) prefecture, in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Uyghur Region, told RFA’s Uyghur Service that in addition to being stripped of their livelihoods, they fear losing their cultural traditions, as local officials resettle them to suburban neighborhoods.
The European Union joined the United States in criticizing China for the detention of outspoken ethnic minority Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti as Beijing maintained its silence on his whereabouts and the specific charges he faces. The Chinese government said the professor at Beijing's Central University for Nationalities was "criminally detained" from his home on Wednesday because he was "under suspicion of committing crimes and violating the law" but it did not give any details.
BEIJING (Reuters) - China decried what it called interference in its internal affairs on Friday, after both the United States and European Union voiced concern over the detention of a high-profile ethnic Uighur academic from the restive western region of Xinjiang. Police in Beijing on Wednesday seized Ilham Tohti, a prominent economist who has championed the rights of the Muslim Uighur community, from his home and his whereabouts were unknown, his wife and a close friend told Reuters.
The bleak outlook for Uyghurs hoping to succeed in this Han dominated system has led to increased tension drawn upon ethnic lines. Protests against the Han influx became increasingly violent during the 1990s in response to the CCP’s tightening grip on Xinjiang’s administration. Although protests decreased in the early 2000s, the riots of 2009 were a bloody wake-up call to the worsening state of Uyghur-Han relations. The Chinese government, however, blamed these acts of violence not on state policy but on the encouragement of international agitators such as Rabiya Qadir, the leader of the World Uyghur Congress. The government labels all Uyghur violence as “terrorist acts” as a way to associate Uyghur separatism with global Islamic extremism and point the blame to causes external to Xinjiang’s domestic situation.
Police took Tohti, a vocal critic of Beijing's policies in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang, and his mother away from the family home in Beijing between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, the Uyghur Online website said. Police officers from Beijing and from the Xinjiang regional police department locked Tohti's wife and the couple's two children in the bathroom during the arrest and seized all the family's communications devices, the report said.
Wednesday's detention is the latest indication of the government's increasing hardline stance on dissent surrounding Xinjiang, where a series of violent riots in the past year have killed at least 91 people, rights activists say. Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uighur people who speak a Turkic language. Many resent what they see as oppressive treatment by the government, though Beijing says they are granted wide religious, cultural and linguistic freedoms. Police in Beijing seized Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uighur economist who has championed the rights of the Uighur community in Xinjiang, at his home and his whereabouts were unknown, his wife and close friend told Reuters.
The Uyghur people's modern relationship with China is often sketched by analysts in terms of historic milestones. For example, the onset of the reform period in China in the late 1970s ushered in a period of détente; a signal that this was eroding came with unrest in 1990 in Baren. The definitive turning-point was, however, reached when Chinese forces killed Uyghur protesters in Ghulja in 1997. If this led Uyghurs in general to lose whatever belief they had had in the Chinese state, the deadly inter-ethnic violence in Urumchi in 2009 is cited as the moment when relations between Han and Uyghur communities became irretrievable.
Mr Reyim, 31, is a Uyghur (pronounced "weega" or "weecour"). He hails from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, and he is eager to share his food with those in his adopted homeland. "Not many Kiwis will ever get a chance to travel to Xinjiang, so by starting a restaurant serving Uyghur food I think it will be the only way they will get a chance to experience our food," Mr Reyim said.