On December 15, the People’s Republic of China commenced a series of press releases on "Uygur Terrorism" in which they "publicly" and for the "first time" identified Uygur organisations and individuals that they claim to be terrorists.
The Uygur are a Turkic/Muslim ethnic group numbering some 7 million who live mainly in the economically and strategically important north western border region known as Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
A Caucasian race and speaking the Turkic language the Uygur have long harbored sentiments of independence and there were several isolated incidences of violence perpetrated in the 1990s by individuals or small groups claiming to represent the cause. More realistically today the Uygur generally seek nothing more than greater autonomy and cultural integrity within the PRC
The Chinese have repeatedly claimed that there existed several well organised and active "separatist/ terrorist" organisations whose objective were for the Uygur to gain independence from China and the establishment of the state of East Turkestan.
They have attributed some 400 terrorist acts to these groups which they claim have resulted in 200 deaths and 400 injured to these groups since 1990.
On the basis of this "organised" and "ongoing" terrorist activity the PRC has very heavily cracked down on any form of dissent, rights of association, free speech and religious freedom. Amnesty International, among other groups and commentators, has claimed numerous incidence of unlawful detention, prison sentences and even executions in the name of the "War on Terrorism".
It is also claimed, by some who are knowledgeable in the "Uygur Question", that like some other states in Central Asia and elsewhere, China have used the events of "9/11" and the subsequent "War on terrorism" to mask an ongoing and meditated attacks on this ethnic group. By bringing their policies toward the Uygur under the banner of The "War" they have been successful in achieving their objectives without international scrutiny, and further, in fact, the likes of the US have turned a "blind eye" to these activities as a trade off for Chinese support.
Among the organisations listed in these series of press releases was the "East Turkestan Islamic Movement" a little known group who had been listed in 2002 as an internationally recognised terrorist organisation by the UN as a result of lobbying by China and supported by the United States.
The press releases claimed the leader of this so called terrorist group was one Hassan Mahsun an Uygur living in exile who, it was further claimed, had strong ties to Al Qaida and had masterminded, among other things, several bomb attacks within China. These claims had been refuted by Mahsun in several prior interviews.
These were the events of December 15 2003.
On December 23 2003 it was reported by the BBC that Mahsun was killed in October 2003 by Pakistani soldiers in a raid on a suspected Al Qaida hideout in South Waziristan, Pakistan. It was further reported that the Chinese Government were involved in making positive identification of the body through DNA testing.
On the same day the Chinese newspaper Xinhua ran a similar story. Later that day Xinhua edited out all links to the story claiming it had been withdrawn because of it’s "sensitive nature". (Yahoo News)
How then does the PRC release fairly significant press statements identifying the virtual "Bin Laden" of Uygur terrorists groups when they supposedly actively participated in his bodies identification in October? Why was the Xinhua article cut?
It would seem that these events give strong credence to the arguments that the PRC is waging a calculated and pre-meditated campaign against the Uygur. At the very least it raises some very serious questions.
How could this happen? Perhaps because the press release was written well in advance and set for release at a particular opportune time?
Does the cutting of the Xinhua article prove that the PRC recognises it’s fairly significant mistake?
Does the fact that this mistake was allowed to occur prove that the case for the existence of Uygur terrorism argued by the PRC is not taken seriously enough, even by them, to the point that the death of China’s "Bin Laden" is of so little consequence?
These questions raise very serious doubts about the Chinese claims as to the existence of Uygur terrorist groups and in doing so suggests that the Chinese "War on Terorism" is in fact a war on the Uygur and their human rights.
It also casts serious doubts on the US’s and other countries’ foreign policy towards China ( and other countries for that matter) in respect of human rights violations in the name of the "War on Terrorism".
In pursuit of the objectives embodied in the "War on Terrorism" are we "throwing the baby out with the bath water"?