China Reform Monitor - No. 948
Special CRM on China's restive minorities;
Part One: Uighurs
February 15, 2012
Editor’s Note: Xinjiang and Tibet remain the two most restive regions in China. Both Uighurs and Tibetans continue to chafe under Beijing’s repression of Islam and Tibetan Buddhism, respectively, and Beijing is facing increasingly outspoken opposition from both groups. In July 2009, Uighur riots in Urumqi left 197 people dead and hundreds injured. Since last March at least 20 Tibetans have burned themselves to death in public places and Tibetan protests have increased in terms of frequency and size. Poverty, disease, and the lack of job opportunities for these ethnic groups has catalyzed the problem and compounded tensions among them and China’s Han majority. Authorities have blamed overseas separatists for stoking discontent while vowing to crackdown on religious extremism and reduce poverty in both regions.
Authorities have found 1,332 children between the ages of 10 and 18 abducted from Xinjiang as part of a countrywide campaign begun last April. The abducted children were forced to steal by criminal gangs that lured them from their hometowns with fake job offers in eastern Chinese cities, the official People’s Daily reports. Some of the rescued children were returned to their homes, others were placed in government-run shelters, and those suffering from injuries or diseases were sent to hospitals for treatment. The Xinjiang regional government is currently building a 50 million yuan ($7.9 million) center to shelter and educate rescued children.
China has jailed two Uighurs deported from Cambodia for life and another for 17 years, the China Post reports. The three Uighurs were among a group of about 20 who had sought asylum in Cambodia, following ethic riots between Uighurs and majority Han Chinese in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi in July 2009. The jail terms of the others were not known because court proceedings were held in secret. Cambodia, the recipient of increasingly large amounts of Chinese investment and trade, was sharply rebuked by human rights groups for deporting the asylum seekers. Two days after Cambodia deported the Uighurs, Chinese Vice President Xi visited Phnom Penh and signed 14 trade deals worth $850 million.
Xinjiang’s security services are recruiting 8,000 new officers to conduct a “crack down on illegal religious activities” and security patrols targeting the migrant population in all villages, the official People’s Daily reports. The suppression of “religious extremists” is part of a countrywide crackdown ahead of the 18th CPC National Congress to be held later this year. Some 41.5 percent of Xinjiang’s 21 million people are Muslim Uighurs and the authorities worry about the spread of extremism in the community.
A polio epidemic has struck four prefectures in Xinjiang – Hotan, Kashgar, Bayingolin and Aksu – with over 20 reported cases since August. Despite the government’s classification of the areas as “polio epidemic zones,” hospitals have failed to report at least 23 new suspected cases, the official China Radio International reports. Authorities have responded by increasing vaccinations and strengthening monitoring efforts, especially among the migrant population. Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a viral disease of the brain and spinal cord that mainly affects children under five years old. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis.
Xinjiang is facing an employment crisis: each year about 500,000 urban residents enter a job market that can only offer 350,000 new positions. In rural Xinjiang, about 2 million people per year migrate to cities outside Xinjiang to find jobs, the official China Daily reports. To cope with the problem the government has launched an aggressive jobs program targeting Uighurs that aims to create 400,000 jobs per year, secure jobs for 85 percent of college graduates, and make it easier to sue employers for discrimination based on race, gender, or religion. Authorities have promised to provide employment opportunities for those who file requests for assistance.