By Michael Auslin – After repeated denials, Chinese officials finally admitted last month that they have set up internment camps in the far-western province of Xinjiang, where up to one million ethnic Uighurs, almost all of whom are Muslim, are being held. Under Chinas anti-terrorism law and religious affairs regulation, the government in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region publicly introduced the Regulation on De-extremification. What itdescribes is a new gulag, where re-education and the suppression of Uighur identity is its main goal.
There are approximately 25 million Muslims in China today, but these new draconian laws in Xinjiang are aimed solely at the ethnic Uighurs, of which there are just over 11 million. Unlike the Hui, another major Muslim ethnic group who have largely assimilated into Chinese society, Uighurs have resisted intermarriage, speak their own Turkic language, and advocated for some level of autonomy, making them a target for suppression. Over the decades, Beijings heavy-handed approach has helped outside Islamist elements make inroads among Uighur youth, and spurred the formation of radical groups. As a result, the Uighurs have remained a largely colonised people, and Xinjiang has become the epicentre of Chinese Muslim resistance to Beijing.
Uighur activists have conducted numerous violent attacks since 1990, including bus bombings in Shanghai and Kunming, multiple sword and knife attacks at train stations in major cities, and a car bombing in Tiananmen Square, the symbolic centre of China. Ties between Uighur radicals, previously known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and the Taliban and Al Qaeda are among the reasons Beijing has cracked down on them so strongly.
That some Uighurs are extremists is undeniable. But the new measures introduced by the Chinese authorities do not just aim to prevent religious violence. At first glance, many of the new regulations concern activities that bedevil Western states, such as the forced wearing of the burqa in Muslim communities; or which occur in Islamist-run territories around the Middle East, such as ethnic cleansing by forcing those of other faiths out of their homes. Yet read a little further, and the real objectives of the regulations are soon revealed. In order to contain and eradicate extremification, the state will make religion more Chinese…and actively guide religion to become compatible with socialist society (Sec. 1, Article 4). In other words, the goal is to Sinicize Islam and make it serve the state.
To achieve this, those suspected of being extremists or being susceptible to extremist ideology are being interned in military school-style camps, with regimented daily schedules. The provincial regulation mandates Maoist-style ideological education, psychological rehabilitation and behaviour correction and the use of informants throughout society. The totalitarian reach of the law is shown by the fact that it is now illegal in Xinjiang to reject or refuse public goods and services such as radio and television. Reminiscent of the Stalinist era, it is now a crime simply to opt out of listening to state propaganda.
Xinjiang has become, in essence, a police state, controlled by a massive paramilitary force; ubiquitous, intrusive surveillance, including advanced facial recognition technology; regular roundups of suspected radicals; and a stifling of civil society. Sinification takes various forms, including the authorities cutting short the dresses of Muslim women. More controversially, reports from Chinese state media suggest mandatory heath examinations in Xinjiang have allowed the state to collect DNA from Uighurs, in order to build a genetic database that will allow even tighter control. And then there are the internment camps.
To understand the driving motive behind the new laws, it is important to remember that the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) is, fundamentally, an empire. Over the centuries, Chinas Han majority, which today makes up 91 per cent of the Chinese population, has pressured and actively suppressed ethnic minorities. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continued these assimilationist policies as part of a strategy for ruling one of the most linguistically and ethnically diverse polities on earth. From Tibetans to Tatars, and from Kazakhs to Uzbeks, todays Chinese empire is built on the control of dozens of minority groups and the tight monitoring of their religions and cultures. Maintaining the integrity of the state is a priority for president Xi Jinping second only to ensuring the Partys own survival and both aims are inextricably linked.
Uighurs portray themselves as freedom fighters, challenging Beijing for their independence, little different from Tibetans or Taiwanese, other than being ethnically distinct and Muslim. Any viable separatist movement in the region alarms the central government, as other autonomy movements are watching closely what happens in Xinjiang. If Xi relaxes his grip there, activists in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Tibet are sure to take advantage to press their own claims.
The Uighurs and Xinjiang pose another problem for the central government, this one geopolitical. Xinjiang sits squarely along Beijings One Belt, One Road (OBOR) corridor. President Xi Jinpings flagship foreign policy initiative, OBOR aims to be a $1 trillion (£780 billion) infrastructure development which will create land and maritime-based trade routes reaching all the way from China to Western Europe.
Xinjiangs geostrategic location along the Belt and Road means it is the access point to much of Central Asia. Just as importantly, Xinjiang contains vast natural resources, with estimates of up to 5 billion barrels of oil and up to 13 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Any effective resistance to Chinese control over Xinjiang, let along the formation of an independent Islamic republic, would pose a huge threat to Beijings plans to increase its influence throughout Eurasia.
Ethnic separatism, driven by religious radicalisation, is one of the greatest fears of Xi Jinping and his fellow rulers. As a multi-ethnic empire, the PRC cannot allow successful independence movements in any of its subordinate areas for fear of contagion. This political concern is heightened by the transnational nature of the Islamist movement. Even moderate Muslims in Xinjiang are perceived by Beijing as a threat, the leading edge of a radicalisation movement that could challenge central control of the strategic province, as well as infect other Muslims in China and spill over to other regions. Xi will not soon ease his heavy-handed control over Xinjiang and its Uighurs, and as a result is engendering more of the anti-Chinese sentiment that he is trying to stamp out. Such repression is becoming a hallmark of Xis rule, and is increasingly defining Chinas direction over the next decade.
Source: Spectator Blogs
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Oxfam forced to suspend Ebola response in DR Congo following pre-election violence
Oxfam has been forced to suspend its work in the Ebola ravaged areas of Beni and Butembo, due to vio..
Oxfam has been forced to suspend its work in the Ebola ravaged areas of Beni and Butembo, due to violent protests following the announcement that people in these areas wont be able to cast their votes for a new president, when the rest of country goes to the polls this Sunday.
Raphael Mbuyi, Oxfams acting Country Director in the DRC said: “This is an extremely worrying situation, as every time the Ebola response has been suspended before weve seen a big spike in the number of new cases. This could mean Ebola spreading to even more people and potentially other countries in the region, putting many more lives at risk.
“However, its not surprising that people who have had their votes taken away at the last minute are frustrated and going to the streets. These people deserve to have their say as well.
“All parties need to find a way for people who have been devastated by Ebola and have lived through decades of violent conflict, to cast their vote.
“Whatever the outcome, there needs to be an end to the years of misery people in this country have had to endure. Just because elections are being held does not mean there will be peace.”
Notes to editors
Spokespeople available for interview in Kinshasa, DRC and in the UK.
For more information or to request an interview, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1865 472498.
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Gaza’s water crisis is ‘a ticking time bomb’
Reporter Sandy Tolan – In the Middle East’s Gaza Strip, a narrow piece of contested land where three..
Reporter Sandy Tolan – In the Middle East’s Gaza Strip, a narrow piece of contested land where three out of four people are refugees, unsafe drinking water has led to a worsening health crisis. Gazan children suffer from diarrhea, kidney disease, stunted growth and impaired IQ.
Twenty years ago, 85 percent of Gazas drinking wells were too contaminated for human consumption. Today, that figure is 97 percent.
Local tap water is too salty to drink because the aquifer below Gaza has been over-pumped so severely that seawater is flowing in. Two-thirds of Gazans get water delivered by truck. Desalinated water is pumped into rooftop tanks via hoses. But the desalinated water is unregulated and because this water has virtually no salt, its prone to fecal contamination. When children drink this water, they get diarrhea.
Repeated bouts of diarrhea can lead to stunting and developmental problems, including a measurable impact on IQ. Late last year a British medical journal found an “alarming magnitude”of stunting among Gazan children.
Children drink and fill water jugs at a mosque in Gaza City.
Credit: Abdel Kareem Hanna/The World
“If you really want to change the lives of people, you have to solve the water issue first,” says Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesperson for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. “Otherwise, you will see a huge collapse of everything in Gaza.”
“It’s a ticking time bomb,” agrees Gidon Bromberg, director of EcoPeace Middle East, based in Tel Aviv. “We have a situation where two million people no longer have access to potable groundwater. When people are drinking unhealthy water … disease is a direct consequence. Should pandemic disease break out in Gaza, people will simply start moving to the fences of Israel and Egypt, and they won’t be moving with stones or with rockets. Theyll be moving with empty buckets, desperately calling out for clean water.”
Assigning blame for the plight of Gazans is not exactly simple. Take the fact that only three percent of Gazas drinking water wells are actually drinkable. Is that because Gazas citrus farmers pumped too much? Or because Israeli agricultural settlers depleted a deep pocket of fresh water before they left Gaza in 2005? Or the simple fact that Gazas population quadrupled in a matter of weeks when towns and villages fell to Israel in 1948?
Food- and water-borne diseases have also been a concern — the power is shut off for 20 hours a day. Are Israel and Egypt to blame for withholding fuel deliveries? Or Israel, for bombing water and sewage infrastructure in Gaza during the 2014 war? Or the fight between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which deprives Gazans of critical medicines? Israels economic blockade of Gaza contributes to worsening poverty, skyrocketing unemployment and child malnutrition, according to several human rights groups.
A peace deal could have connected Gaza to the West Bank, where the vast Mountain Aquifer is big enough to end Gazas water crisis. As it is, there is no peace. The two Palestinian territories are splintered. And Israel has effective control over all the water.
Critics say Israel could solve the whole problem by simply implementing power lines into Gaza. But Israeli officials say they are already sending water to Gaza and to do more would be rewarding Gazas bad actors.
“What’s going on in Gaza is a real catastrophe,” says Ori Shor, spokesperson of the Israeli Water Authority. “The situation there is unbearable. But it’s also frustrating, at least from our point of view, because it’s a bit difficult to help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. The problem in Gaza is really that Hamas does nothing to try even to solve the problem.”
Shor says Israel is providing more than twice the amount of water they are obligated to provide based on current agreements. But that amount is just a fraction of the clean water Gazans need every day.
Fifteen members of the Nimnim family at home in the Beach refugee camp.
Credit: Abdel Kareem Hanna/The World
As the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, humanitarian groups estimate that Gaza will become uninhabitable by 2020 — barely a year from now. To avoid that, international relief agencies and the Palestinian Water Authority are working on a network of big sewage and desalination plants.
Donors have pledged $500 million to build out this network. But one large obstacle remains: On most days, Gaza has electricity for only four hours, which makes running these projects almost impossible.
“At this time, we dont have [enough electricity], but we hope,” says Kamal Abu Moammar, manager of the Southern Gaza Desalination Plant. “Many of our ministers say they will solve this problem. But we don’t know when. Or how.”