Monday, June 26, 2006

The Uighur of Xinjiang

I thought I might break for a moment from my usual political muckraking, to write a post about a subject that's rarely mentioned in the UK. It concerns the Uighur people of south-western China, in Xinjiang province. A Turkic people, via whose lands today's Uzbek, Kazakh, Azeri, Turkish and all other Turkic peoples of west Asia may well have migrated, the Uighur are subjected to daily repression by the Chinese authorities. They are routinely oppressed by the Chinese military, with innocent herdsmen being accused of being a part of separatist movements. The Uighur are Muslims, and the Chinese government has jumped on the "war on terror" bandwagon in order to intensify its repression of this predominantly peaceful (there are separatist movements, but the overwhelming majority eschew violence) people. Mosques are summarily closed by the authorities and the Uighur language is banned from use in universities. Uighur people are regularly forced to work, unpaid, building gas lines and similar projects.

Incidentally, lest any of you are harbouring illusions that "there's no smoke without fire" or "they wouldn't do it without a reason", I would ask you to remember that this is the regime which arrests people for believing that moving around slowly in a park is good for the soul. And executes them, and harvests their organs. Are you gonna believe them, or the Uighur?

There are Uighurs in Guantanamo Bay, again thanks to their being swept up in the so-called "War on Terror". They have serious trouble getting lawyers nominated to represent them, as is required in the USA, because elderly relatives on a hill in Xinjiang are not likely to be contacted by anyone in the USA, and even if they were, their familiarity with US law is likely to be somewhat sketchy. Such are the rights of prisoners in Freedom Central. There are organisations working to help the Uighur, but they face a regime in Beijing determined to treat their people with unimaginable brutality, and a western "human rights" movement that largely neither knows nor cares about their people's plight.

So I would especially say to those of you who believe in an "anti-imperialism" which treats any regime that "counterbalances" the USA in a "multi-polar" world as a good thing, just you remember the Uighur. Just you remember that blithering on from London about how "we mustn't criticise" such regimes until after imperialism is beaten, is so much easier than doing so whilst standing in front of a weeping bereaved mother in Xinjiang, whose son has just been executed for "political crimes".

And to those of you (of all political and religious stripes) who claim to be speaking up for Muslim people worldwide, I have a question. Why are these people so much less deserving of your voice than the Palestinians, the Chechens or the Iraqis?

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are plenty of ethnic groups that are enduring levels of oppression that are as least as bad as that suffered by the Palestinians. But the left has no answer or sympathy, despite the fact that these disputes are intimately bound up with the exploitation of resources and the state's desire to impose its authority. This is a problem with viewing world affairs in terms of "American imperialism", instead of broader issues relating to capitalism. The US is not the only militarily powerful capitalist state and is not the only state to be carrying out aggression against the masses. Also, ethnicity and class often mean the same thing in some countries and cultures, but there is little analysis of how these coincide and how ethnicity is a mobilising force for progressive movements. Perhaps the anarchists and other libertarians have been more broad-minded about these issues, with the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas opening the way for progressive ethnic-based challenges to the state and capitalism. But sections of the Marxist left have been quick to dismiss this as "false consciousness".

7:00 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

That's absolutely right, and I think there are also basic forms of cynicism at work as well. For instance, Uighur voters and/or supporters don't tend to carry much sway in UK local elections, not that I would ever suggest that any particular group on the UK left would ever make decisions about its political priorities based on such a fact...

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Uighur voters and/or supporters don't tend to carry much sway in UK local elections"

How many Palestinians are there in the UK? Not enough to influence election results. There are probably more Lebanese than Palestinians, yet I don't see a lot of mobilisation around their ethnic issues - eg the assassination of Rafik Hariri

9:33 AM  
Anonymous boogski said...

My question is, are the Uighur people violating Chinese law? From the Chinese Constitution:

; any acts that undermine the unity of the nationalities or instigate their secession are prohibited.

I'd argue that China is the most successful Socialist country ever. If you read their Constitution, I'd have to ask what's not to like (from a Socialist point of view)?

I think it's a case of you Socialist types wanting to have your cake and eat it, too.

2:44 PM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

No Anon, but a lot of people who care about the Palestinians, but not about the Uighur, do vote in local elections in the UK.

Boogski, can you really conceive of a truly egalitarian law that represses people (the vast majority of whom are peaceful, rural people)? In which case, really, I don't think you properly understand what socialism is. You're not the biggest culprit by any means though - it's a problem you share with a lot of people who do call themselves "socialist".

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"any acts that undermine the unity of the nationalities or instigate their secession are prohibited."

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights state that "All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."

China is a signatory and therefore has an obligation to protect the Uighurs' right to self-determination, not quash it.

"Unity" is not the same as enforced conformity. The people of East Turkestan and Tibet have a right to pursue their own development, but I don't think they have ever been asked. How can one call this "unity"?

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No Anon, but a lot of people who care about the Palestinians, but not about the Uighur, do vote in local elections in the UK."

Why are the Palestinians in particular such a great issue for the left?

3:18 PM  
Anonymous boogski said...

Volty said:

Boogski, can you really conceive of a truly egalitarian law that represses people (the vast majority of whom are peaceful, rural people)? In which case, really, I don't think you properly understand what socialism is.

No! I concieve of people doing just what they're good at. Looking after themselves.

I'd like to take this chance to point out the two richest fuckers in the WORLD have pledged a substantial amount of their fortune to the same cause that YOU Commie fucks would have attempted to acquire at the point of a gun.

Fuck.
You.

6:24 PM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Huh? "Fuck you" because what? I don't recall advocating a Stalinist regime in Indiana (or London for that matter), or that anyone shoot Warren Buffet, so what are you talking about?

Did something wind you up this evening? Or do you just not like being told that you don't understand some things? Because that sure wasn't a proportionate response to my comment, even if it really does demonstrate that what I said the first time round is true.

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't really understand what Boogski is trying to say.

5:03 AM  
Anonymous Boogski said...

Er, sorry. I meant "fuck you" more as a friendly jibe. Not the "burn in hell" kind of "fuck you".

Perhaps it IS frustration on my part when trying to understand exactly what flavor of socialist you are, Volty. It seems like there are more varieties of you guys than Heinz has of steak sauce.

There's a lot of slamming of wealthy capitalists on socialist websites and then I read what the two MOST wealthy ones have chosen to do with their fortunes and I ask myself what exactly you people are bitching about. We're talking about billions of dollars being used to help the poorest of the poor in Africa and elsewhere and not one fucking word of aknowledgement from you and your cronies. So yeah. It irritates me sometimes.

If I understand correctly, I'm a member of the petite bourgeoisie. Could someone tell me why this is a bad thing?

The Chinese seem to have an excellent handle on socialism as I see it. Where have they gone wrong in your opinion? They're simply enforcing their Constitution which, if I were a socialist, really doesn't seem unreasonable.

4:50 PM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

No worries Booger, I've got a thick skin ;-)

I think the real problem that most socialists (at least those that I think of as reasonable) would have with Gates and Buffet, isn't that they personally are wealthy. It's with a system that allows any one man to become so rich, whilst so many starve. "It's nothing personal", if you will.

As to the Chinese regime, the problem I've got with it is that it's brutally oppressive. I'm a democrat (the political term, not the party) as well as a socialist, and I see the two as being indivisible. As would most of those on the libertarian left who have views similar to mine.

11:55 PM  

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