Most Uyghurs consider themselves Chinese
The Biden administration, the Dutch and the EU parliament are indicting the Chinese government of genocide against the Uighur ethnic group in the province of Xinjiang. They imposed sanctions against individual leaders as well as against companies. The People's Republic of China responded with counter-sanctions against EU parliamentarians and research institutes specializing in China.
In contrast, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation welcomed the conditions under which Muslims live in China in 2019, which was also confirmed by the Chinese Foreign Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Iran in March of this year has been.
In order to understand that on the one hand the western states condemn China for the living conditions of an Islamic ethnic group and on the other hand Islamic states praise China for these conditions, one has to look at the background and details.
There are two major Muslim ethnic groups in China: the Hui, the majority of whom settle in Ninxia Province, and the Uyghurs, the majority of whom live in Xinjiang. Both groups enjoy protection and privileges as granted by law to all 55 national minorities in the People's Republic of China. They were and will be granted preferential access to educational institutions, tax breaks and the non-application of the one-child policy, which has since ended, with the waiver of birth restrictions.
In Ningxia I was able to convince myself of the regular visits to mosques and the free exercise of Muslim traditions. The conflicts in the Xinjiang province are obviously not about Islam, but about the separatist efforts that have resurfaced for more than 20 years to separate the autonomous region of Xinjiang from China and convert it into an Islamic caliphate. Such structures already existed, although not internationally recognized, from 1865 to 1877, from 1933 to 1934 and from 1944 to 1949.
The reasons for the resurgent emergence of these aspirations for political and territorial independence can be found both in the autonomous province of Xinjiang itself as well as outside of China - and this campaigned with inadequate and open political pressure.
The Xinjiang Province is characterized by sparsely populated grasslands, deserts and mountains with a traditionally modest agricultural use. As a consequence, the prosperity and level of education of the population are far below that of other regions in China, especially when compared to the industrial provinces in the east and on the coasts of the country. During my many professional and tourist stays in the province over the past 30 years, I was surprised to see such backwardness in China in the 1990s.
In order to compensate for these differences in prosperity, but also to be able to use the diverse resources, investments have been made in the development of industry, infrastructure and agriculture since the 80s and 90s, with a strong influx of non-Uyghurs, especially Han , was connected to the province. The new residents had a higher education and also took on the better-paid positions. A prosperity gap developed between the Uyghurs and the Han Chinese, which was reflected in increasing tensions.
The ethnic group's exile organization, the Uyghur World Congress, based in Munich and supported by a state-funded US think tank, regards itself as a kind of government in exile and calls for an independent East Turkestan. At the same time, this world congress maintains a military organization, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is ultimately responsible for terrorist attacks, but was removed from the list of terrorist organizations by the USA in 2020.
This situation was additionally fueled by the military conflicts in neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the Wakhan Corridor bordering China, violent Uighurs were trained together with the Taliban for religious struggle. Uyghur groups later came into contact with terrorist organizations in other countries, even joined IS and fought in Syria and Libya, among others.
Already in the years between 2000 and 2010 terrorist attacks were carried out on Chinese territory, in the provinces and in cities by Islamist-influenced Uighurs. Hundreds of civilian and security forces were killed.
In Xinjiang, it is not about the suppression of Islam or the Uighur ethnic groups en bloc, but about combating separatist efforts, which are supported by foreign forces through a political Islamist ideology, not to be confused with the usual practice of the religion of Islam. The terrorist actions designed by separatists to destabilize the situation, especially in the affected areas, are to be uncovered and prevented as a precaution in this context by the Chinese security forces.
The Chinese central government is trying to counter the simmering threat of terrorism with a complete package of measures: increased investment in infrastructure and in industrial and agricultural development, expansion of the education system and thus overcoming poverty. In addition, a system of control and surveillance was set up to prevent any separatist and terrorist activities, which undoubtedly also affect the peaceful civilian population. There are heavily armed checkpoints at the entrances and exits of every village and city, and within the cities there is a police station every 500 meters. Surveillance cameras for facial recognition are ubiquitous. That is not nice and doesn’t seem peaceful or relaxed and frightening for western visitors.
Industrialization and the modernization of agriculture are to be seen above all in the context of government efforts to eradicate poverty. Partnership agreements have been made between the cities of Xinjiang Province and more affluent provinces that provide for the posting of experienced managers, known in the West as cadres. The same principle has been applied in other provinces such as Guizhou or Sichuan. It received a lot of praise in the international media.
In addition to setting up a digitally supported small-scale industry in the villages, these development projects also include setting up modern production facilities for the textile, automotive and electronics industries. Companies from the partner regions are investing in Xinjiang by building new production facilities for their branch of industry. The workers required for this are recruited from the local population, i.e. the Uighur people, which inevitably has to be combined with previous training. At the same time, this industrialization entails relocation to the new industrial centers. Around three million Uyghurs who lived in more than 3,500 villages were lifted out of poverty, including by relocating 170,000 people.
Agriculture was also transformed industrially. American agricultural machinery exporters in particular made the business of the century by supplying harvesting machines to the cotton industry. Today around 70 to 80 percent of cotton harvests are mechanized. This led to a sharp decline in the number of harvest workers. While around 700,000 harvest workers from all over China were still needed in 2008, the figure was only 100,000 in 2018; however, these are now only provided by the Xinjiang province, i.e. from the Uighur population.
All of these measures made it possible to overcome absolute poverty among the Uyghurs by 2020. During my last trip through Xinjiang, just before the Corona crisis, I was able to see all of this for myself in 2019.
The developments in the Xinjiang province have come into the tension between the USA and China since the containment policy of the Trump administration. They are evaluated according to the interests of the US and its allies. New industrial complexes with educational institutions are reinterpreted as internment camps.
The number of approximately one million Uighurs interned in the Western media is based on an estimate by the Chinese Human Rights Defenders network, supported by the US National Empowerment Fund, which asked eight people in eight villages whether and how many people they knew were interned in camps be. It was found that around ten percent of the village population were interned. This percentage was then extrapolated to the entire population and the number one million was born. To the best of my knowledge, there is no further or more substantial evidence. The situation is similar with the number of camps. The BBC evaluated satellite images and identified newly built, walled-in complexes as possible camps. These complexes can also be new industrial plants and companies.
A recently published study by the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy in the United States, based on the same original and similar weak data, concluded that China was committing genocide.
This study is a string of unchecked secondary information and statements from Uyghurs living abroad and is ultimately based on internet research by the anthropologist Adrian Zenz, who works in the environment of right-wing evangelical Christians and works for a right-wing conservative think tank in the USA.
The study, which would have required the confirmation of independent scientists, is still waiting for the signature of 33 of the 66 scientists questioned, who did not give their pro because of legitimate doubts. In an interview in the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” in March 2021, Zenz admitted that the evidence for the genocide allegation was “very thin”, but found it “from a symbolic point of view” to use the term anyway because it “ achieve a strong psychological effect "and thus lead to" economic consequences ".
All of this calls into question the credibility of the accusations, but clearly shows the intent behind them: destabilizing China with the stated aim of preventing the successful rise of China, or at least slowing it down.
What is most frightening is the fact that the constructed facts and suspected cases presented are taken over by western media without being examined and serve as the basis for political decisions.
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