Uighur Woes
Uighur Muslims and China’s Expanding Authoritarianism

The age of Xi hasn’t been easy time for China’s Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority which lives primarily in the Western region of Xinjiang. Ramadam has been curtailed, Uighurs have been forced to sell booze and cigarettes, passports have been seized, and the area has seen violence that’s claimed “hundreds” of lives. But the rhetoric on the Uighurs seems to be shifting into especially high gear lately, according to Reuters:

China’s military must bring “modern civilization” to the restive southern areas of the Xinjiang region, where Muslim ethnic Uighurs are in majority, and help develop its economy, two senior army officers wrote in an influential journal […]

Writing in the latest edition of the bimonthly Communist Party magazine Qiushi, the commander of the southern Xinjiang military region Li Haiyang and its military commissar Miao Wenjiang said that soldiers must “ardently love” the area. […]

The article promised an even greater zeal in fighting terror.

“The struggle against terror and to maintain stability is severe and complex. It is a real war with knives and guns, a life and death war,” it said. “Strike early, strike at the small and strike at the roots.”

This article comes as Reuters also reports that some Xinjiang authorities have issued another round of Ramadan controls, including, apparently, on fasting. The crackdown is beginning to become a geopolitical issue with some of China’s friends and neighbors in the Middle East:

Turkey’s foreign ministry said it had been “saddened” by these reports and passed its concern on to the Chinese ambassador in Ankara.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China wanted to have a good relationship with Turkey.

“China has already demanded that Turkey clarify these reports and we have expressed concern about the statement from the Turkish foreign ministry,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

“You should know that all the people of Xinjiang enjoy the freedom of religious belief accorded to them by the Chinese constitution,” she added.

We’ll leave it to you, the reader, to square the circle of “religious freedom” and whatever it takes to enforce “restrictions on fasting.” As we’ve noted before, China has some legitimate worries about the radicalization of the Uighurs, who have connections to Pakistan and Afghanistan. But crackdowns like this won’t forestall radicalization; rather, they could make it more likely.

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