(en) Trouble in the Empire?

esperanto (lingvoj@mailhost.lds.co.uk)
Mon, 22 Sep 1997 00:31:04 +0000

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China, perhaps more than most, induces a willingness in comentators to exagerate perhaps in proportion to her size. To insinuate therefore, in any way, that the country is unsettled by terrorism would be out of order... in many ways. Perhaps though it is safe to say that state terrorism is on the increase. The regime has recently laid down rules whereby, when they come into effect, there should be less in the way of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. However, before we get the chance to see if it will be honoured, the Chinese execution machine is going out with banners flying as they say.

Amnesty International recorded an average of about 20 executions a day in China last year. The figure may well be a fragment of the total because the actual figure is a state secret. The recorded figure - minus the 'secrets' - is still an impressive 4,367 giving the regime the distinction of having murdered, last year, three times as many as all the others states in the world put together. Second place went to the Ukraine with a meagre 167. China wins hands down. Terrorism indeed.

In Shanghai last year the death sentence was given for stealing ball point pens and badminton racquets and a 'hooligan' met his maker for sticking thorns and pointed sticks into the backsides of female cyclists. Not too pleasant granted but, well, I ask you.

Truth of the matter is that it is the poor who get it in the neck and 'justice' is often pretty summary with one week trials perhaps something of a luxury. Nor are 'seperatists' treated with kid gloves: 42 in Tibet last year and 160 in Xinjiang.


Xinjiang (literally 'the new dominion') is perhaps another area of the Empire open to exageration. Covering one sixth of the biggest country in the world and lying on the Chinese/Asian faultline it is also significant in other ways. It has coal, copper, gold and iron and although its oil reserves are less important than at one time thought plans are in the pipeline (geddit?) to link the area to surounding areas which may prove more useful. Meanwhile the Taklamakan desert is a more than useful nuclear testing ground.

It is therefore annoying the Chinese authorities to find another of those troublesome seperatist groups springing up and causing all kinds of trouble. These people have staged riots in the capital Urumqi and other towns from Khotan in the south to Kashgar in the west. A riot in Gulja left ten (official) and possibly more than 40 (unofficial) dead. A railway bridge and an armaments store have been blown up and there is a claim that an oil refinery has been attacked. Add to this the bombings in Beijing reported by FPI earlier this year and you might conclude this is a troublesome spot for the Han administration.

We may be wary of over reaction but less can be said of the Chinese who, it is reported, have stationed 1,000,000 troops in the area. But there are others who may be reacting too.

It has been Chinese policy since the region was annexed in 1949 to 'add sand' to the local population by encouraging Han Chinese to settle in the region. 5% of the population in 1949, today the figure is 38% - a policy also pursued in Tibet. However, the February riots at Gulja encouraged 1,200 to pack their bags and flee under army escort.


Of course since 1989 and the end of hirstory we are all good capitalists now. The big bad post-commie bogeymen are the Islamics and so that is what they must be. In fact the Uighurs see their protest as more anti-colonial rather than Islamic. Their flag - a white star and cresent moon on a blue field - is more like secular Turkey rather than Iran or Saudi Arabia. Turkey indeed sets the linguistic parameters of the culture to a degree and has given some support to seperatist demands when most governments, ignoring their plight, have little wish to annoy the rulers of what they hope is to become the biggest market they could wet-dream of. However, the term Uighur is one that went out of fashion for centuries before being reintroduced earlier this century. The area, rather than being an area of Turkic expansion, should be seen as one that was Turkified under medieval empires which included a Muslim wing and a Buddhist one.

The Uighurs are a more disparate bunch than the label would suggest. Indeed they do not represent the only other grouping apart from the Han. 1m Kazakhs live on the mountain slopes of Dzungaria and there are other groupings such as the Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Hui and Xibe with their own languages and cultures - perhaps deserving seperate language feeds.

The aims of the Urghurs are doomed from the off due to those startegic amd mineral reasons we have already spoken of. In a recent statement Erkin Alptekin, a Urghur leader, said, 'The Urghurs wish to be able to choose their destiny. We had our sovereign state before the Manchu conquest and we wish to see it re-established'. This might suit Mr Alptekin and his cronies over the border. The people who live in the area may want to dance a different dance if the situation destabilises further.

lingvoj (for a-infos and fpi)

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