Ongoing protest in Tibet and Xinjiang
  • Mon, 03/19/2012 - 22:31

Published on Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Written by TCA

Dharamsala and Urunchi, Mar. 14 (TCA) – Protests in Tibet continue , this time on the eve of the 53rd anniversary of the Tibet uprising (10 March 1959 ). Historically, Beijing, which had been repressing the Tibetan people, was responsible for creating social, political, and religious tensions that ended with the flight of the Dalai Lama, and the self-immolation of a young Tibetan monk who was acting in protest against Chinese rule in the autonomous region.

The most recent incident occurred on March 10 of this year in Aba, a town in the Sichuan province. The strict censorship of the Chinese government kept the news underground, finally emerging thanks to the intervention of Free Tibet - an activist group based in London. Last week, Chinese police officers arrested six Tibetan monks for protesting against Beijing through the distribution of leaflets extolling independence, and showing pictures and movies of self-immolations. One of those movies, of 38 year old monk Khedrub Dorje from Ganzi County, showed a man "severely beaten" and then "locked up".

Last year alone, more than 24 Tibetans, including many youths, chose self-immolation as a way to protest the rigid censorship and strict controls imposed on them regarding their worship, and the opening and closing of the monasteries. The Dalai Lama has always emphasized that he is "not encouraging" these extreme forms of protest, but he has praised the "courage" of those who make this ultimate gesture. One can say that the Chinese, and those in the Tibetan community who are not actively discouraging these acts, are indirectly supporting the results achieved by "cultural genocide," further exasperating a tense situation.

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (called East Turkestan by the Uyghur), at the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing this week, revealed a disturbing failure on the part of Chinese authorities to examine the role of official policy played in the Uyghur unrest. In the wake of similar remarks made in the past by officials in East Turkestan, regional authorities have heightened crackdowns on the expression of peaceful Uyghur identity and dissent. The Uyghur American Association (UAA) fear that the most recent comments made by the regional governor and Communist Party chief portend an increase in official mechanisms designed to repress the community, including unlawful detentions, security checks, resulting in a corresponding rise in unrest. The UAA believes that the broad scope of actions being carried out amongst the Uyghur belies the official stance that they are only targeting a tiny percentage of Uyghurs, who are thought to be creating disharmony in the region.

The past year has seen a spike in unrest in the southern areas of East Turkestan, including incidents that reportedly involved the deaths of at least 10 Chinese and Uyghurs in Kargilik (Chinese: Yecheng) in late February, the killings of seven Uyghurs in Guma (Chinese: Pishan) in late December, and violent unrest that reportedly took place in the cities of Kashgar and Hotan in July and August, respectively. According to Chinese authorities, recent incidents of unrest in the southern part of East Turkestan stemmed from “Islamic separatists” with ties to militants in Pakistan.

Chinese media and official sources continue to proclaim the necessity of developing the region along with the continued need to fight the three evil social forces of separatism, extremism and terrorism, to ensure stability.

Past rhetoric aimed at the “three evil forces” has preceded a spike in the arrests of Uyghurs in East Turkestan, followed by long-term detention, imprisonment, torture and even execution. There is no doubt that Chinese authorities have been instructed to maintain strict security, mainly after the deadly unrest that rocked the regional capital of Urumchi beginning July 5, 2009. According to Uyghur American association (UAA) Chinese officials actively worked to exacerbate disharmony between Han Chinese and Uyghurs, but authorities did not publicly recognize their role in furthering ethnic discord. Often the accusations imply that Western nations have been instigating terrorism, separatism and extremism in the area.

Crackdowns on Uyghurs in East Turkestan, coupled with a rise in police and security monitoring, have been implemented since the unrest took place in Urumchi on July 5, 2009. An untold number of Uyghurs were detained and “forcibly disappeared.” More than 130,000 troops were deployed to East Turkestan from other regions of China in a bid to restore order, and crack down on the Uyghur population following July 5. In August 2011, Beijing officials dispatched an elite anti-terrorism unit known as “Snow Leopard” to East Turkestan on the eve of a major trade expo taking place in Urumchi.