Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Break-up of China has begun: Xinjiang uprising

Muslim extremists attempted 'uprising' in Xinjiang: China (The Hindu, 2 April 2008)

Beijing-New York (PTI): Muslim extremists in Xinjiang had tried to stage an "uprising" against the Chinese rule in the restive oil-rich region last month when Beijing was engaged in quelling pro-independence protests in Tibet, the local government said on wednesday.

A "small number of elements" tried to incite "splittism, create disturbances in the market place and even trick the masses into an uprising," it said on its website.

There were no reports of injuries and the situation had returned to normal, the local government said, linking the people involved in the protest with what it called "three evil forces", an expression that China uses to refer to separatism, religious extremism and terrorism.

The US-funded Radio Free Asia said the Uyghurs had staged protests on March 23 and 24 in two areas in Khotan prefecture following the death of a prominent Uyghur businessman and philanthropist Mutallip Hajim, 38, in police custody.

The protest, which the government said was controlled by the police intervention, came as China was wrestling with the unrest in Tibet, which had erupted on a scale not seen in the last two decades after monks-led demonstrations in the capital city of Lhasa broke into violence, leaving 20 people dead.

The confirmation of the incident also comes close on the heels of China saying last month that a 19-year old woman suspect, an Uygur ethnic, had confessed to her role in the foiled terrorist plot to crash a Beijing-bound passenger aircraft from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

Beijing had earlier claimed to have foiled another plot targeting the upcoming Olympics here with the killing of two terrorists in the same region in January this year. The plane plot was blamed on Eastern Turkestan "separatist forces."

China confirms Xinjiang protests
By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

China has admitted that protests took place in a restive western region last month, days after unrest in Tibet.

Protesters "caused a disturbance" in the market town of Hotan in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, according to the local government.

But there are conflicting reports about what caused the incident and the number of people involved.

Officials say protesters wanted independence for Xinjiang, but other reports blamed local disputes.

Xinjiang is a mostly Muslim region, many of whose inhabitants would like to see greater autonomy from Beijing.


According to Hotan local government, the incident took place on 23 March in the town's bazaar.

"A small number of the 'three forces'... attempted to incite the masses and provoke an incident," a press release said. No one was injured.

The "three forces" is a term used by the Chinese government for separatists, terrorists and extremists.

The press release went on to say that the public security bureau and the police stopped the protesters, who, it said, wanted to split the motherland.

Fu Chao, a spokesman for Hotan local government, told the BBC that several dozen protesters had distributed leaflets calling for demonstrations.

The protesters were calling on Uighurs, the main ethnic group in Xinjiang, to follow the lead of the Tibetans, he said.

Tibetans staged a series of protests in Tibet and other western provinces last month.

Mr Chao said most of the protesters had been arrested, and some of them had already been sent for "re-education".

Headscarf ban

But a report from Radio Free Asia (RFA), a US-funded broadcaster, said two local issues had led to the protests in Hotan, also spelt Khotan.

It said witnesses told the radio station that the death of a prominent local businessman and philanthropist while in custody had sparked anger.

Protesters were also demanding the authorities scrap a proposed headscarf ban in Hotan, an oasis town thousands of miles from Beijing, said RFA.

They also want China to stop using torture to suppress Uighur demands for greater autonomy, it added.

RFA also claims there were two protests in two locations in Hotan involving hundreds of people.

There has been sporadic violence in Xinjiang in recent years.

Chinese officials said last month that they had raided the hideout of what they called a terrorist group planning an attack on the Olympics.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/04/02 10:48:26 GMT

From Times Online
April 2, 2008
Tibet unrests spills over into China's Xinjiang
Jane Macartney, Beijing

Unrest in Tibet has spilled over with an eruption of anger among Muslim separatists in China’s vast westernmost region of Xinjiang.

As many as 1,000 people staged a demonstration in a marketplace in the southern Silk Road city of Khotan on March 23, the local government confirmed. It gave no reason as to why no report of the unrest had been made public for so many days, but it is not unusual for Chinese authorities to keep any such disruptions quiet.

Muslim extremists trying to start a rebellion were to blame, the Khotan government said. “A small number of elements ? tried to incite splittism, create disturbances in the market place and even trick the masses into an uprising.”

The latest sign of spreading pro-independence unrest among China’s ethnic minorities comes just weeks after the government said it was facing a serious threat to the Olympics from terrorists among the Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Radio Free Asia, funded by the US government, said several hundred Uighurs had staged a demonstration in the ancient oasis town to protest against limits on the wearing of headscarves by local women and demanding an end to the torture of Uighurs and the release of political prisoners.

Fu Chao, an official with the Hotan Regional Administrative Office, said the protest involved people who wanted to establish an Islamic nation and to separate Xinjiang from China and not because of a head scarf ban. He said the government discouraged Uighur women from wearing scarves while they work because it is inconvenient, but that the practice was otherwise accepted.

The demonstration had apparently been incited by the unrest in Tibet, where anti-Chinese rioters rampaged through the capital, Lhasa, on March 14 leaving 18 people dead and setting fire to hundreds of shops and offices.

The Khotan government said the people involved adhered to the "three evil forces", a Chinese expression that refers to separatism, religious extremism and terrorism. "Our police immediately intervened to prevent this and are dealing with it in accordance with the law."

Another local official said police took several dozen protesters into custody. Some had been released after being “educated”. Others “core splittists” were still in custody, he said.

Last month, officials said a woman had confessed to attempting to hijack and crash a Chinese passenger plane from Xinjiang in what officials said was part of a terror campaign by a radical Islamic independence group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. The reports said the woman was from China's Turkic Muslim Uighur minority.

As the latest report of unrest emerged, officials announced that a Beijing concert by Canadian pop superstar Celine Dion scheduled for April 13 had been cancelled because organisers had failed to obtain the proper permit despite the sale of thousands of tickets. She would still perform in Shanghai on April 11.

The cancellation appeared to be linked to the concert organier, Emma Ticketmaster, which was involved in a controversy last month after Icelandic singer Bjork played her song, "Declare Independence," and chanted "Tibet! Tibet!" during a concert the company promoted in Shanghai.

China's Culture Ministry said it would tighten controls over foreign performers after the Bjork incident, but ministry officials later said that it was an isolated case and would not affect foreign artists coming to perform.

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