Uighur Update: Protests Go International
While little new information has come out since Chinese officials confirmed the stifling of a protest by Uighurs in Hotan on Wednesday, word of the unrest appears to have brought expatriate Uighurs into the fold of Olympic torch protestors. According to AP, six were detained when they disrupted the torch relay on its way through Istanbul:
The demonstrators were detained after they broke away from a larger group of protesters and shouted slogans just feet away from Tugba Karademir, a Turkish figure skater and Olympic athlete who had just started to run with the torch through the city.
About 200 Uighur Muslims had converged ahead of the ceremony near Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and the domed Haghia Sofia church.
…”Turkey, stand by your brothers,” read a banner at the protest in Istanbul.
“We don’t want a country like China, with a bad human rights record, to hold the Olympics, which symbolize humanity, peace and brotherhood,” protester Hayrullah Efendigil said.
The Times (UK) has apparently manged to talk with an official in the Hotan (also spelled Khotan) regional government, who drew a link between the Uighur protests and the March riots in Tibetan areas. The New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristoff also draws the link between Xinjiang and Tibet in his blog:
Is Xinjiang the next Tibet? In short, will the prospect of the upcoming Olympics encourage Uighurs to protest because they think they have leverage in the run-up to the Olympics, in the same way that Tibetans have?…This seems to have been one demonstration with only 500 people, and it apparently was suppressed quickly. And maybe Uighurs are too scared to organize protests. But my hunch is that if they sense an opportunity and if they believe they can get away with it (perhaps because security forces are restraining themselves in the run-up to the Olympics), they’ll take to the streets.
On the opposite side, Michael Manning, the English blogosphere’s go-to guy on Xinjiang, cautions against making too much of the news:
If this protest had taken place before March 14th, no one would be paying attention at all and no one would care…But with the whole world waiting for western China to explode, people seem to be seizing on the Xinjiang unrest as some sort of spreading of the flames of unrest. That’s a bit of a reach, if you ask me.
Of course, with Rebiya Kadeer writing an editorial in the Washington Post today declaring Uyghur solidarity with the Tibetan people, I’m sure we’re just hours away from an endless stream of Xinhua diatribes against the Dalai-Rebiya clique.
Anyway, I’m considering this case closed, as its a week old and I don’t see the potential for any further “spreading” of unrest in Xinjiang. But that’s no guarantee that some new problem might not arise.