Despite the yearlong crackdown on terrorism in Xinjiang that has been steadily intensifying since its launch in May, violent incidents have continued to claim lives in the region. While Xinjiang authorities trumpet the smashing of 115 “terror gangs” and the arrests of 334 people [Chinese] after six months of the anti-terror campaign, Didi Tang reports that death tolls suggest violence may even be increasing in Xinjiang. From the AP:
“It’s safe to say that violence has continued roughly as it was before this latest crackdown, if not with greater intensity,” said Rian Thum, an assistant professor specializing in Uighur history at Loyola University New Orleans.
[…] Beijing blames the violence on separatist terrorists fueled by religious extremism and with ties abroad, and argues that it has invested generously to boost Xinjiang’s economy and improve its quality of life. Critics attribute the violence to home-grown disgruntlement over local corruption and an influx of Hans who have brought economic development that has not equally benefited Uighurs.
[…] A six-month report card on the campaign published on the Xinjiang government’s official news site this week focused on prosecution data. It said authorities detained 334 suspects and prosecuted 294 cases of sharing online terrorism-promoting audios and video, and seized 18,000 copies of illegal religious books.
[…] The report also cites as a major success the life imprisonment of a prominent Uighur scholar known for his open criticisms of China’s Xinjiang policies, although the September conviction of Ilham Tohti on the separatism charge has drawn international condemnation. [Source]
Last week, Ilham Tohti’s life sentence and separatism charges were upheld by a Xinjiang court, and this week seven of the scholar’s former students also stood trial for separatism.
At The Telegraph, Tom Phillips reports on authorities’ plans to recruit 3,000 former PLA troops to Xinjiang to further tighten security:
Xinjiang officials are now seeking former troops of “high political quality and military experience” to beef up security in the region, state media announced on Friday. Candidates should be under 30, have no criminal record and be “against separatism and illegal religious activities,” according to the Civil Affairs Bureau in Urumqi, the regional capital. Successful applicants will receive salaries of at least 3,000 yuan (£310) per month and help relocating.
[…] The initiative represented the latest phase in the “securitisation of Xinjiang with a clear focus on protecting the Han population,” said Dr James Leibold, a specialist on China’s ethnic policy from La Trobe University in Australia.
[…] During a recent trip to Hotan, a city in southern Xinjiang that has suffered repeated outbreaks of violence, Dr Leibold recalled seeing around 50 Han Chinese civilians dancing in a public square. Around them stood more than 70 armed police officers with machine guns.
“They just come when the Han come out to dance and when the Han leave, they leave too,” Dr Leibold said. “It was pretty weird.” [Source]
Tom Phillips reported in October on a project that sent 200,000 officials into the Xinjiang backcountry to simultaneously engage in PR efforts and gather intelligence on local Uyghurs (via CDT).
Meanwhile, after Turkey recently expressed a desire to provide shelter for hundreds of Uyghur refugees who were rescued from a human smuggling camp in Thailand in May, China’s Foreign Ministry has criticized Turkey for interfering in Chinese affairs:
“We urge the relevant country to immediately stop meddling in placement work for the relevant case, be cautious with words and actions and not send out mistaken signals that connive in, and even support, illegal immigration activities,” Hua said in a faxed statement to Reuters.
[…] Turkey is home to thousands of Uighurs who have fled Xinjiang since the Chinese Communists took over the region in 1949. It has projected itself as a stable Muslim democracy, a key player at a time of turmoil and unrest in the Middle East. [Source]