March 19, 2014


Pushing the Uighurs Too Far (WANG LIXIONG, MARCH 18, 2014, NY Times)

The radicalization of the Uighurs' cause is an inevitable result of Beijing's continued repression.

As Beijing has ramped up the pressure in recent years against the Uighurs, violent clashes between them and Chinese security forces have been on the rise. When a Uighur man drove a car through a crowd near Tiananmen Square in October, killing two pedestrians and the two other occupants of the car, Beijing's heavy-handed tactics only worsened.

The government likes to flaunt how much money it has showered upon Xinjiang in the last decade. Beijing boasts that urban residents in the region saw their annual per capita income more than double from 2000 to 2009, while rural villagers, officials say, tripled their annual income in that period. New transportation infrastructure and natural gas pipelines, mostly financed by Han Chinese from the East, have continued apace. The changes have propelled Xinjiang into the 10th-fastest-growing region in the country.

But while the economic indicators have soared, the majority Uighurs have been left behind. The best jobs have gone mostly to the Han Chinese. Uighurs lucky enough to find jobs often end up doing manual labor -- toiling in coal mines, cement plants and at construction sites. Unemployment among young Uighurs is widespread. On my nine visits to Xinjiang, I have often seen bands of working-age Uighur youths loitering on the streets, whether I was in a city or in the countryside.

Beijing's economic push into Xinjiang comes with a demographic rush that many Uighurs find most overwhelming. As money from the east has been piped westward, so have people -- more than 8 million of them. Han Chinese now make up some 40 percent of Xinjiang's population, a sharp rise from just less than 7 percent half a century ago. The Han go West to make money and look after their own, explaining why Uighurs are not benefiting from the economic boom. So long as Xinjiang's economy is run by the Han Chinese, Uighurs will be at a disadvantage -- in language and personal networks.

In Urumqi, the regional capital, I saw a public square that had been turned into a restaurant featuring live dance performances. I would pass by to find only a handful of Uighur tour guides accompanying foreign visitors among the several hundred overwhelmingly Han patrons. The local Uighurs had to peek through a new iron fence to enjoy performances by their own people. The image of Uighurs peering through the bars at Han Chinese and foreigners was symbolic of how marginalized the Uighurs have become in their land under Han Chinese rule.

It's not terrorism if your cause is just.
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Posted by at March 19, 2014 3:08 AM

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