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William Jones: UN ambassadors contradict media hype on Xinjiang

2019-08-06

By William Jones    Source: CGTN    Published: 2019-7-28


Ambassadors from 50 countries assigned to the United Nations Office at Geneva wrote a letter to the President of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to voice their support for China's position on issues related to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.


The letter from this prestigious group of individuals shows the lie from tremendous propaganda in the Western media about alleged "suppression" of the Uygur people in Xinjiang by Chinese authorities.


The signers were all from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe and included the ambassador to the UNO from the Organization of Islamic Countries.


In spite of the fact that China has over the past couple of years invited numerous delegations from other countries, including an American delegation headed by this author, to visit Xinjiang and the sites of the education center set up by the Chinese government to provide vocational training for the local people, particularly the young, the Western media is continually harping about the existence of "detention centers" and "human rights violations" in Xinjiang.


But the reports coming from these on-site visitors have been overwhelming positive, even from a group of foreign journalists who were invited to visit the education centers and to report on what they had seen.


According to their reports, the courses at these centers concentrate on teaching Mandarin, as well as giving the people new skill sets, and attempting to wean people away from any radical Islamic views to which they may have been subject.


Xinjiang has been part of China for centuries. This border region became of central importance along the ancient Silk Road during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-AD 220).


It is home to a great number of ethnic groups as is typical of Central Asia, of which it is part. But it has never comprised an independent state and the much-touted notion of "East Turkestan" has never existed.


During the 19th century the region became a focal point for machinations in the "Great Game" between Great Britain and Russia, but by the end of the Second World War, it was again clearly part of the Republic of China (1912-1949), and subsequently of the People's Republic of China, which was founded in 1949.


During the 1950s, China established the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, which was responsible for building up the border region, advancing agricultural production and building transportation and other necessary infrastructure.


The immense region of Xinjiang with its 1.66 million square kilometers is divided by the Tianshan Mountains. The northern part where the capital Urumqi is located has a relatively benevolent climate. In the south of the Tianshan range lie more arid regions and the massive Taklamakan Desert.


The northern region has benefited greatly from the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with the land ports of Urumqi and Ili as major centers along the route, creating a tremendous possibility for economic development.


The relatively-poorer southern portion of Xinjiang, which has been the most difficult in terms of the spread of radical Islam and of radical terrorist groups, has not reaped the same benefit in spite of major efforts by the Chinese government to provide irrigation, including the Tarim River Basin project, attempting to bring back some of the rivers which had been totally dried up by the increasing desertification in order to create new areas for agricultural production.


And the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which goes from Xinjiang to Pakistan via Kashgar, has also presented greater opportunities for the development in southern Xinjiang.


An increase in terrorism in Xinjiang began in the 1990s, in the aftermath of the Iraq War which was the catalyst for the increase of a radical version of Islam throughout the Middle East and beyond.


During the wars and insurgencies that followed, in Syria and elsewhere, Uygur activists were recruited to the networks of the terrorists, and many of them were infiltrated back to Xinjiang to create local networks of terror in the region.


Richard Black, a member of U.S.'s Virginia State Senate, who had visited Syria several times, reported on the existence of extremist Uygur terrorist cells in Syria, who were playing a major role in the insurgency against Bashar Assad and represented some of the most fanatic proponents of terrorist jihad.


The recent White Paper issued by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense noted that the Chinese authorities have disrupted 1,588 violent terrorist gangs in Xinjiang since 2014.


And while many of those arrested have been incarcerated, the policy of the government is rather a pro-active policy of eliminating or reducing the spread of radical Islamist ideology.


While Islam, as most other religions, is worshiped freely in China – and many of those who adhere to Islam are playing important roles in Chinese society – there is an attempt to reduce the influence of radical mullahs, who in Xinjiang, as well as in other Muslim regions, try to spread their sinister influence.


While the education centers are geared to giving the people there a means of livelihood, they are also an attempt to counteract the seeds of thought which would lead to terrorist activities.


In this China is doing no differently than what many of the Muslim countries also are doing to prevent the growth of terrorism domestically.


While my delegation, which was in Urumqi at the end of last December – for reasons of internal scheduling – only in Urumqi and that only for a few days, we were able to see some of the advances that had been made in that growing metropolis, visiting the mosque and the bazaar as well as the railroad yards.


Had time permitted, we would have liked to have seen much more. But it was clear from the people in Uygur to whom we were able to talk that the prospects for their development were much improved by the continued expansion of the BRI.


Never has this isolated region and its people ever been closer to being fully integrated into the mainstream of international commerce and trade than it is today, with all that entails in terms of growing prosperity for the region as a whole.


William Jones is the Washington Bureau Chief for the Executive Intelligence Review, and a non-resident senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

Key Words: UN   media   Xinjiang   William Jones  

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