Repression is not defined by strict measurements. If a state is able to deny the basic rights of a people in any way it is crossing over into the realm of repression. If it attempts to limit the access of a people to their faith it is a repressive regime. If it blocks a people from the same rights that it assures to others within it's population the state is repressive by nature. It is an act of tyranny that though it may be hard to put to words it is always identifiable when you see it.
In a country where the state has no prescribed religion and recognizes only the rights of the majority the line between normality and repression is often blurred. But it is there. And for the Uyghur people it is a reality that threatens to deny them their heritage, their faith, and their future. For in a state where the perverted desires of the few are put above the needs of the many it is always those left on the fringe that pay the most. In China's unstable Xingiang region the Uyghur people are the ones left on the fringe of society. They are the ones that bear the weight of a country's greed.
The weight of a nation can break the will of a people to fight... to resist. Yet when pushed too far that weight can create unity. A certain bond is formed in a people that are oppressed by brutal tyrants. It is a link to that once formed it is hard to break. All the degradation, all the humiliation, all the pain and suffering; they become reasons to push back. The tears that mothers have shed over children taken away by jackbooted thugs become the water that nurtures bitter seeds. The blood and sweat that fathers sacrifice for their families' sake only serve to feed the hunger for change. All of which are planted in the minds of the youth who watch as their parents backs' break under the heavy hands of authoritarian beasts.
Change that comes from this form is not something that waits patiently for the right time and place. Change that comes from this form is that which comes like fire. It razes the structure of society and puts siege to the cornerstone of a government that has held it down for far too long.
This is what China is struggling to contain as it tucks it's iron fists in a velvet glove. All the while the regime finds new ways to keep prying eyes out of the troubled region. For this reason the national propaganda is the only form of press allowed into areas where the security forces heighten their presence. China is once again attempting to blackout the region so that the rest of the world can't see what dirty deeds are being done behind closed doors.
The rage that China created in the hearts and minds of the Uyghur community has flared up time and time again. With each new riot came an opportunity to round up the men and boys. With each new stabbing or alleged attack came a new chance for China to open fire on Uyghur protesters. The most notable incident in recent memory was the July 5th 2009 violence in Urumqi. It was a riot in which the Han majority was rewarded for turning a peaceful protest violent. Their reward has been the persistent repression of their Uyghur neighbors every July since.
This past Ramadan the anniversary of the July violence was celebrated by the fascist state by placing hundreds of Uyghur students in detention centers where they were not allowed to observe the holy month. Uyghur children were bussed to state run schools where they were forced to hand over all electronic devices that could be used to contact the outside world. Once under arrest the children were daily subjected to state propaganda that was intended to help the reeducation process take root in the Uyghur community.
"Due to Ramadan, places of worship will be forbidden from holding all sorts of religious teaching activity. If there are violations, the places will be sealed."
~ Posted Chinese Order in Karamay
In addition the state supported increased police presence in Uyghur neighborhoods across the Xinjiang region. In Karamay the security forces were meant to enforce restrictions on Uyghur travel and to prevent visits to mosque and religious facilities. Those allowed to visit the mosque were ordered when they could be present in the mosque and for how long. A police officer was present at all times to assure the order was carried out to the letter of the law. Not a minute longer was allowed in the heavily restricted prayer times.
Then comes the French style ban on headscarves. Chinese authorities in many parts of Xinjiang have put out orders to prevent Uyghur women from wearing hijabs and other traditional head coverings. Most notably the area of Hotan has seen (mostly peaceful) demonstrations against such restrictive ordinances that violate the Uyghur peoples' religious rights.
"We have a policy of going and checking bearded and strangely clothed people, according to orders from the top,” Uchturpan public security department’s intelligence unit.
This restriction on religious attire was highlighted on August 5th when a Uyghur man was stopped by two police officers and ordered to shave his beard. When the man refused the altercation became violent. As a result the police pulled their weapons and opened fire. In the end the Uyghur man was gunned down while using his knife to defend what dignity the state had left him with.
All of these are just examples of the barbarism with which the Uyghurs are forced to live. When local concerns are brought through the proper channels the state responds with vast sweeps of the community and even harsher laws. This sort of discrimination against the Uyghurs, who watch as the state ships in Han settlers, is the food for revolution. It cannot be ignored as China attempts to force economic advancement while segregating the minority population from the economic windfall.
With every exploitation that the Uyghur people suffer comes a new seed cast in a bitter field. And while only time will tell what will grow from this maltreatment it is only reasonable to assume that it will not be beneficial to the state. A government cannot sow the worst forms of abuse and expect to reap the best of a neglected population's efforts.
So what exactly are the seeds that China is planting?
Displacement and Replacement
Let's start with the displacement of Uyghur people and the replacement by the state with ethnic Han Chinese.
The outbreak of violence in July of 2009 drastically changed the way that China approached the issue of "assimilation" and "economic adjustments" in the Xinjiang region. Where the government had been attempting to stifle religious practices gradually while simultaneously increasing manufacturing activity in Uyghur villages and cities they suddenly ramped up their approach.
By the end of July 2009 the capitol of Urumqi was blanketed with 20,000 new Chinese military personnel. Uyghur citizens were forced out of large sections of the city while the government bussed in Han citizens. Homes where Uyghur families had just recently raised their children were now being occupied by Chinese transported in from Eastern China. The jobs these displaced Uyghurs had held in local factories were then handed over by the state to the Han immigrants. Any Uyghur who dared to speak out was caught up in the dragnet that the security forces had cast over the city.
Official and unofficial detainment centers were created for the Uyghur citizens of Urumqi. Countless civilians who were detained after the riots were not heard from again. This helped China's official campaign of uprooting the Uyghur people. It allowed the Han immigrants to be left in place since nobody would be coming back to claim the "abandoned" homes in which the state had placed them.
If we fast forward a couple years the campaign of displacing Uyghurs has not stopped. It has instead grown and been added onto as China continues to "develop" the region by removing the native population. With one way the Uyghur population is being displaced is through the forcible relocation of young Uyghur girls.
In official propaganda the state tells Uyghur women that the process of moving to Eastern China to work in factories is both "enjoyable" and "rewarding". In reality the Uyghur women face absolutely no security as they are placed in areas without social networks to help them adjust to the abrupt deportation from their homeland. Girls who are relocated are given little to no education about where they are being sent to. Religious, social, and cultural concerns are not addressed once the Uyghur girls are shipped to factory jobs that pay them less than their Han counterparts.
While income in the West is dictated by the relationship between the employer and the employee the income for the Uyghur is dictated by the relationship between the ethnic group and the state. This is most painfully obvious when we look at the Uyghur people who are subjected to inhumane working conditions in Chinese factories. While employment is relative to their ethnicity in areas more directly state controlled economic regions those who do find employment are restricted to jobs the state finds suitable for their "ethnic class".
In studies done in 2008 researchers found that the "informal economy" of Xinjiang was segmented not by what a person could achieve or their level of education in a field but rather their given ethnicity. This showed that ethnic Han were given the highest paying jobs while Uyghur workers were only permitted to perform menial task and lower levels of employment. There was not one single career field shown that could prove this given rule of employment in Xinjiang wrong. Across the board Uyghur workers were being forced to work beneath Han (who at times had less education and/or training).
These economic studies showed that despite any apparent equality that China claimed existed in their schools that Uyghur were limited in their own "autonomous region". No matter how hard a Uyghur student tried they would not be permitted by the current economic system to advance to the top of their career field simply due to their ethnicity.
For the Uyghur who worked at the top level permitted to them in this bias system there was the added reality that income was slanted in favor of Han workers. The same studies showed that Uyghur who held the same job and did the same work as a Han citizen earned considerably less. This once again served the Chinese goal of repression in both economic and social standings for the Uyghur community.
Religious and ethnic prejudice against the Uyghur people in China is both an institutionalized and social mechanism.
While the state officially recognizes the Uyghur as "racially and culturally distinct" (thus making them a recognized minority) they do little to respect the culture of the Uyghur people. This is based in the constitution of China in the aspect that the official religious status of the state is that it is atheist. However, religious tolerance is achieved (minutely) through the lose wording which states that China has the right to regulate "normal religious activities". The wording is measured in such that it permits the state the right to dictate to a given faith what is "normal" and what is not. Therefore giving China permission to deny religious observances, practices, and organizations at any time for any reason.
The willingness on China's part to accept Islam as a "normal" part of Muslim culture has broadened over the past couple decades as China has grown in both its economy and materialistic needs. With exploitative relationships with Middle Eastern countries came the desire on China's part to show that it can tolerate Islam... to an extent. This allows China the ability to play it's hand with trading partners while at the same time telling Western nations that it is becoming more religiously tolerant.
In reality the religious tolerance that China shows toward Muslim minorities is limited only to what it views is beneficial to the state. When political pressure is mounted by the outside the Chinese either give a token of goodwill or simply block access to regions like Xinjiang all together. In the end the religious rights of the repressed minority never truly grow but are simply loaned for a time before being taken away again.
As for the cultural aspect of religious discrimination the nature of the problem arises through long held prejudices against Muslims in Western China. From the very moment that Islam arrived there have been distinctions made between the faith and its followers and the rest of Chinese society. One of the main reasons has been the fact that Islam first arrived by traveling up the "silk road".
The fact that Islam arrived in China through the mouths and books of merchants has damaged the relationship between Muslim minorities and the Han majority every since. This is in part due to the class system found in China at the time of Islam's arrival. It was a class system that placed merchants at the bottom of the totem pole for the fact that they were seen as "leeches". This meant that Chinese society viewed merchants as contributing the least to society while benefiting the most from it. Thus when Islam arrived in China through the economic trade with the West it was immediately viewed as barbaric.
The stigma that Muslim minorities face can still be traced back to the class system of the Han Dynasty. Today Muslim minorities are still traditionally portrayed as greedy, underhanded, manipulative, and as liars. These prejudices are often applied by the less educated masses of Western China and have shown no signs of leaving the society as education levels rise amongst the citizens of Xinjiang province. The fact that they are so interwoven with the social fabric of China's Han majority has proven to make these prejudices hard to displace.
Ethnic differences in China are difficult to navigate around. While it is at times seen as beneficial to be classified as an ethnic minority it has proven more often than not damning for the Uyghur people. From the moment they are born the Uyghur people are subjected to discrimination due to the given ethnicity they were born as. It is not a far leap for us to suggest that large portions of the opportunities in their lives are shut out by the state simply based upon ethnic classification.
The government of China is structured so rigidly on ethnic lines that Uyghur children face their first encounter with ethnic discrimination from their first day of school. Even in schools that flaunt their "mixed" ethnic student body the Uyghur children can face both physical and mental abuse by their Han classmates and teachers. This is only amplified as Uyghur children work their way from lower levels of education to higher levels.
Once out of the government's schools the Uyghur youth are barraged by social standards that reiterate the supposed superiority of the Han ethnicity to that of their own. Employment, communal participation, and social standings are all regulated by one form of ethnic discrimination or another. Even in an "autonomous" region, where government is supposed to reflect the given ethnic group, those in charge are chosen by their loyalty to the Han majority.
This persistent reminder of a person's lack of supposed value shows the willingness of the Chinese state to subjugate it's own citizens. Of course after a certain point it would be arguable that given the perception of the state, and the way it views it's own people, that China does not see the Uyghur people as Chinese citizens.
For this reason the Chinese government can look forward to the harvest of these vile seeds it has sown. No people should have to live with this sort of barbaric heathenism shown by the Beijing. No people, if history is the best indicator of future behavior, will forever bear this sort of abuse.
(Note: The use of "jihad" in the title is in response to China's misuse of the word when reporting on ethnic violence committed in Xinjiang. We here at Alder's Ledge would like to clarify that jihad is a word that, though misunderstood due to misuse, has a rather beautiful meaning. The word jihad can best be defined as to strive to live a life pleasing to G-d (Allah). This means that it is a term which encourages the believer to strive for a life or morality and greater understanding of their duty to serve the L-rd. However, through it's misuse and misunderstanding over time the term has been associated with "holy war". This misuse of the word was not intended by Alder's Ledge in the aspect that it would further perpetrate this misunderstanding.)
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(note: not all sources listed)
Radio Free Asia
University of Washington Tacoma