More reason to support China’s promotion of human rights in Xinjiang

The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China recently released a white paper called ‘Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang‘.

Well worth a read, since it reveals why developing countries, and especially Islamic countries understand and support the very successful measures in Xinjiang to curb the three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism. The following article from The Global Times explains why:

China on Friday released a white paper on vocational education and training in Xinjiang. For the past two years, the vocational education and training centers have been the focus of debate on Xinjiang affairs. Western countries have been fiercely critical, while developing countries, including Islamic nations, have shown a general understanding and support.

Through a thorough review of the white paper, it is clear why Islamic countries support the facilities, and why they receive more significant approval worldwide amid adverse reports from Western media.

A closer examination of the white paper shows the following reasons why the vocational education and training centers are valuable.

First, they were created based on facts, while providing an objective and powerful response to the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Terrorism and extremism used to run rampant in Xinjiang. As mentioned in the white paper, there had been thousands of terrorist incidents including bombs, assassinations and poisonings from 1990-2016.

Violent terrorist attacks are spiritually instigated and supported by extremism and too powerful and complicated to be addressed by the general rule of law. As a result, vocational education and training centers serve as the best solution to solving this problem at its root. The facilities are a manifestation of the times.

Second, the centers are nothing like the depictions from Western media that have referred to them as “detention camps” that torture specific ethnic minorities. The centers have become a life school for the trainees and a place where they learn vital knowledge on laws and standard Chinese language while mastering one or two vocational skills. The centers provide possibilities for many impoverished trainees who were infected by extremism and have now reshaped their livelihoods. Undoubtedly, the centers will continue to change the fate of many poor people in Xinjiang.

Third, the centers are managed with care. They provide trainees with ideal conditions and are an improvement for those from impoverished places. Besides, the centers are not “closed learning” facilities. Even though they function as boarding schools, trainees are allowed to go home regularly, request time off, and communicate freely with the outside world.

Fourth, as a key governance measure in Xinjiang in recent years, the centers have achieved more than initially expected. So far, many trainees have already graduated. In doing so, not only have they strengthened their abilities to resist extremism but have also secured employment. In nearly three consecutive years, there has been no violent terrorist attack in Xinjiang, which is mainly due to the vocational education and training centers.

When looking back on recent years, the centers haven’t been crushed by the enormous pressure placed on them by Western opinion, and instead, have become even better. It shows that as long as a cause is based on facts and benefits majority of the people, it can experience continuous development.

The West-dominated discourse targeting the centers is similar to an iron curtain. But progress has been achieved in the communication over the centers. Attacks of the West have not extended beyond public opinion and went pale in the face of transparent progress by the Chinese side. Besides, the US and other Western countries have been unable to convince Islamic nations to join them to oppose the Xinjiang governance. China has gradually gained the initiative.

It’s fair to say China has conducted its most difficult human rights debate with the US and other Western countries in recent years, securing a glorious victory. China won as its efforts in Xinjiang have been pragmatic and based on facts. Proper governance has been implemented for the wellbeing of all ethnic groups in the region, rather than an attempt to win laud from the US and other Western nations. By adhering to this principle and moving forward, China has received more recognition from the international community, while its opponents are destined to become further isolated.

 

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Increasing international (and Muslim) support for China’s human rights achievements in Xinjiang (updated)

Update: the letter mentioned below now includes 50 signatories, from countries whose population totals 2 billion. Of these, 28 are Muslim-majority countries.

‘No investigation, no right to speak [meiyou diaocha jiu meiyou fanyanquan]’.

This Chinese saying is particularly relevant for some in a small number of former colonising countries who like to make unfounded statements about China. That they have been used to seeing the world in their image is obvious; that they misunderstand much of the rest of the world is also obvious. But times are changing fast, for the voices from precisely such parts are increasingly strong and being heard.

Xinjiang and its highly successful counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation programs are a case in point. In contrast to the former colonisers, many foreign delegations and journalists from other countries have visited Xinjiang and undertaken proper investigation. Notably, this includes investigators from Muslim-majority and developing countries, which support China’s approach.

One recent result of this process of investigation is a joint letter from the ambassadors of 37 countries, which was sent to the UN’s human rights council. The letter indicates strong support for China’s successes in Xinjiang and its promotion of a Chinese Marxist approach to human rights. \

As Xinhua news reports:

July 12 (Xinhua) — Ambassadors of 37 countries on Friday sent a joint letter to the President of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to show their support for China on its “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights”.

“We commend China’s remarkable achievements in the field of human rights by adhering to the people-centered development philosophy and protecting and promoting human rights through development,” the joint letter said.

“We also appreciate China’s contributions to the international human rights cause,” it said.

The ambassadors expressed their “firm opposition” to relevant countries’ practice of politicizing human rights issues, by naming and shaming, and publicly exerting pressures on other countries.

“We urge the OHCHR, Treaty Bodies and relevant Special Procedures mandate holders to conduct their work in an objective and impartial manner according to their mandate and with true and genuinely credible information, and value the communication with member states,” the joint letter said.

The letter was signed by the ambassadors to UN at Geneva from Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Cuba, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Nigeria, Angola, Togo, Tajikistan, Philippines, Belarus and a number of other countries from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

RESPECTING HUMAN RIGHTS IN COUNTER-TERRORISM

As for issues related to China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the UN envoys said that terrorism, separatism and religious extremism have caused enormous damage to people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, which has seriously infringed upon human rights, including right to life, health and development.

“Faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers,” they noted.

They mentioned that safety and security has returned to Xinjiang and the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there are safeguarded.

“The past three consecutive years has seen not a single terrorist attack in Xinjiang and people there enjoy a stronger sense of happiness, fulfillment and security,” the envoys stressed.

The ambassadors said they noted “with appreciation” that human rights are respected and protected in China in the process of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization.

“We appreciate China’s commitment to openness and transparency. China has invited a number of diplomats, international organizations officials and journalist to Xinjiang to witness the progress of the human rights cause and the outcomes of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization there,” they said, adding that what they saw and heard in Xinjiang completely contradicted what was reported in some western media.

“We call on relevant countries to refrain from employing unfounded charges against China based on unconfirmed information before they visit Xinjiang,” they concluded.

FULL SUPPORT FROM LOCAL PEOPLE

At the end of the letter, the ambassadors, on behalf of the respective country of them, request that this letter be recorded as an official document of the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council and be published on the official UN Website.

Friday marked the last day of the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council, which started on June 24.

Li Song, the Charge d’Affaires of the Permanent Mission of China to UN at Geneva, spoke on Friday at a UN Human Rights Council session, expressing appreciation and gratitude to the 37 ambassadors for their supports.

Li Song told the Council that China welcomes those who truly adhere to the principles of objectivity and fairness to come to visit Xinjiang, to take a look and feel its beauty, prosperity, hospitality, development and progress.

Once plagued by terrorist attacks, Li said, Xinjiang was determined to take lawful actions to fight crimes of violence and terrorism, and at the same time to take prevention and de-radicalization means to address the root causes, including the setting up of vocational education and training centers.

“Now these measures have achieved good results and gained full support from the local people,” the senior Chinese diplomat said.

“The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, along with the entire Chinese people, will stride forward to build a brighter future of their own,” Li added.

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation supports China’s anti-terrorism actions in Xinjiang

The Xinjiang Autonomous Region has developed what is arguably the most effective anti-terrorism and de-radicalism program in the world. Since 2016, no further terrorist attacks have occurred, a notable achievement in light of the multitude of incidents incited by ‘East Turkistan’ forces since the 1990s. Recently, the UN’s under-secretary of counter-terrorism, Vladimir Koronkov (see here, here and here), visited Xinjiang and indicated strong support for the local and central government approaches to dealing with the problem of terrorism in Xinjiang.

Perhaps even more important are the resolutions of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which has well over 50 members and represents the voice of the Islamic world.

Most recently, the foreign ministers of the OIC met on 1-2 March 2019 and adopted a series of resolutions, the most pertinent of which are the following:

Welcomes the outcomes of the visit conducted by the General Secretariat’s delegation upon invitation from the People’s Republic of China; commends the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens; and looks forward to further cooperation between the OIC and the People’s Republic of China.

This is resolution 20, which must be seen in light of the initial resolutions:

1. Reiterates its commitment to all ministerial resolutions on Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC Member States and calls on Member States to provide assistance to them and to contribute to the settlement of their problems in full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries to which they belong, and through cooperation with the governments of these States;

2. Emphasizes the need to respect the rights of Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC Member States; alarmed by the problems they face, resulting from discrimination, repression or persecution; and stresses the importance of continued coordination between the Member States in order to find ways to assist them to solve their problems, protect their religious, cultural, civil, political and economic rights and preserve their Islamic identity;

3. Emphasizes that the protection of the rights and identity of Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC Member States is primarily the responsibility of the Governments of those States, consistent with the principles of international law.

6. Emphasizes that the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 on “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief” constitutes a historic consensus by bringing together divergent views on eliminating religious discrimination and intolerance on the basis of proposals made on behalf of the OIC and other stakeholders and encourages the OIC member states to extend full support to the Istanbul Process in connection with the Resolution 16/18”.

7. Reaffirms that education is a natural right for all members of the community free from any discrimination as underlined by all the pertinent international accords and treaties and invites the Member States, including Islamic non-governmental as well as civil-society institutions, in coordination with the states concerned, to extend all forms of assistance such as to strengthen the educational system, particularly through sending teachers to contribute to the education of the children belonging to Muslim communities and through the extension of scholarships for studies in schools and universities.

As far as the OIC is concerned, China is doing a great job in Xinjiang. Other countries will soon adopt its approach.

 

Terrorist acts by ‘East Turkistan’ forces in Xinjiang from 1990 to 2016

The following is a partial list of terrorist acts perpetrated in Xinjiang by various elements of the ‘East Turkistan’ movement, from 1990 to 2016. The first date marks the beginning of an upsurge in such attacks and the last date – 2016 – indicates that last time a terrorist act occurred in Xinjiang.

After you have read through the list, which remains partial, you will realise why the Chinese government had to act, focusing on short-term security measures and long-term measures determined by the basic human right to socio-economic wellbeing.

The following is quoted from the white paper, published in March 2019 by the Chinese State Council:

Incomplete statistics show that from 1990 to the end of 2016, separatist, terrorist and extremist forces launched thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, killing large numbers of innocent people and hundreds of police officers, and causing immeasurable damage to property.

Killing ordinary people

On February 5, 1992, while the whole of China was celebrating the Spring Festival, a terrorist group planted bombs on a No. 52 and a No. 30 bus in Urumqi, blowing up the 2 buses, killing 3 people and injuring 23 others.

On February 25, 1997, “East Turkistan” terrorists caused explosions on a No. 2, a No. 10 and a No. 44 bus in Urumqi, destroying the 3 buses, killing 9 and causing serious injury to 68.

On July 30, 2011, two terrorists hijacked a truck at the junction of a food street in Kashgar City, stabbed the driver to death, drove the truck into the crowd, and then attacked the public with their knives. In this incident, 8 were killed and 27 injured.

The next day, knife-wielding terrorists randomly attacked pedestrians on Xiangxie Street, Renmin West Road, killing 6 and injuring 15.

On February 28, 2012, nine knife-wielding terrorists attacked civilians on Xingfu Road, Yecheng County, Kashgar Prefecture, resulting in 15 deaths and 20 injuries.

On March 1, 2014, eight knife-wielding Xinjiang terrorists attacked passengers at the Kunming Railway Station Square and the ticket lobby, leaving 31 dead and 141 injured.

On April 30, 2014, two terrorists hid in the crowd at the exit of Urumqi Railway Station. One attacked people with his knife and the other detonated a device inside his suitcase, killing 3 and injuring 79.

On May 22, 2014, five terrorists drove two SUVs through the fence of the morning fair of North Park Road of Saybagh District, Urumqi, into the crowd, and then detonated a bomb, claiming the life of 39 and leaving 94 injured.

On September 18, 2015, terrorists attacked a coal mine in Baicheng County, Aksu Prefecture, causing 16 deaths and 18 injuries.

Assassinating religious leaders

On August 24, 1993, two terrorists stabbed Senior Mullah Abulizi, imam of the Great Mosque in Yecheng County, Kashgar Prefecture, leaving him seriously wounded.

On March 22, 1996, two masked terrorists broke into the house of Akemusidike Aji, vice president of the Islamic Association of Xinhe County, Aksu Prefecture, and assistant imam of a mosque, and shot him dead.

On May 12, 1996, Aronghan Aji, vice president of the China Islamic Association and president of Xinjiang Islamic Association, and hatip of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar was stabbed 21 times by four terrorists on his way to a mosque and seriously wounded.

On November 6, 1997, a terrorist group, under the command of the “East Turkistan” organization stationed abroad, shot and killed Senior Mullah Younusi Sidike, member of the China Islamic Association, president of Aksu Islamic Association and imam of the Great Mosque of Baicheng County, on his way to the mosque for worship.

On January 27, 1998, this same group shot and killed Abulizi Aji, imam of the Great Mosque of Baicheng County on his way to the mosque for worship.

On July 30, 2014, the 74-year-old Senior Mullah Juma Tayier, vice president of Xinjiang Islamic Association and imam of the Id Kah Mosque, was brutally killed by three terrorists on his way home after morning Fajr prayer.

Endangering public security

On May 23, 1998, the East Turkistan Liberation Organization dispatched trained terrorists from abroad into Xinjiang who placed more than 40 incendiary devices with self-ignition equipment in crowded places such as shopping malls, wholesale markets and hotels in Urumqi, resulting in 15 arson cases.

On March 7, 2008, terrorists carried a disguised explosive device that could cause catastrophic crash onto Flight CZ6901 from Urumqi to Beijing, intending to blow up the plane.

On June 29, 2012, six terrorists attempted to hijack Flight GS7554 from Hotan to Urumqi following the example of the September 11 attacks.

On October 28, 2013, three Xinjiang terrorists drove a jeep carrying 31 barrels of gasoline, 20 ignitors, 5 knives, and several iron bars onto the sidewalk on the east of Tiananmen Square in central Beijing and accelerated it towards tourists and policemen on duty, until it crashed into the barrier of the Golden Water Bridge. They then ignited the gasoline to set the jeep on fire, resulting in deaths of 2 people including 1 foreigner and injuries to over 40.

Attacking government organs

On August 27, 1996, six terrorists drove to the seat of Jianggelesi Township government, Yecheng County, Kashgar Prefecture, cut the telephone line, and killed a deputy township head and a policeman on duty. They then kidnapped three security men and a plumber, drove them to the desert ten kilometers away, and killed them.

On October 24, 1999, a group of terrorists armed with guns, knives, and explosive devices attacked a police station in Saili Township, Zepu County, Kashgar Prefecture. They threw incendiary bottles and explosive devices at the station, shot dead a public security guard and a criminal suspect in custody, injured a policeman and a public security guard, and burned 10 rooms, 1 jeep and 3 motorcycles in the police station.

On August 4, 2008, terrorists drove a stolen dump truck into the back of a queue of armed frontier police at drill on Seman Road, Kashgar City, and threw homemade grenades, leaving 16 dead and 16 injured.

On April 23, 2013, when terrorists were found making explosives at their home in Selibuya Town, Bachu County, Kashgar Prefecture by three visiting community workers, they killed them on the spot and then attacked local government staff and police coming to their rescue, resulting in 15 deaths and 2 severely injured.

On June 26, 2013, terrorists launched attacks at the police station, patrol squadron, seat of local government and construction sites of Lukeqin Township, Shanshan County, Turpan Prefecture, resulting in 24 deaths and 25 injuries.

On July 28, 2014, terrorists with knives and axes attacked the government building and police station of Ailixihu Town, Shache County, Kashgar Prefecture. Some then moved on to Huangdi Town where they attacked civilians and smashed and burned passing vehicles, causing 37 deaths and 13 injuries and destroying 31 vehicles.

On September 21, 2014, the police station and farmer’s market of Yangxia Town, the police station of Tierekebazha Town, and a store at the Luntai county seat, Bayingol Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture were hit by bomb blasts which claimed the life of 10, caused injuries to 54 and damaged 79 vehicles.

On December 28, 2016, four terrorists drove into the courtyard of Moyu County government, Hotan Prefecture, detonated a homemade explosive device, and attacked government staff, leaving 2 dead and 3 injured.

Planning riots

On April 5, 1990, incited by the East Turkistan Islamic Party (also known as Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, East Turkistan Islamic Party of Allah, East Turkistan Islamic Hezbollah), a group of terrorists with submachine guns, pistols, explosive devices and grenades, mustered over 200 people to attack the government building of Baren Township, Akto County, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, kidnapping 10 people, killing 6 armed police officers, and blowing up 2 vehicles.

From February 5 to 8, 1997, this organization again perpetrated the Yining Incident. In the riots 7 people were killed and 198 injured, including civilians, public security officers and armed police officers, 64 of whom were severely wounded; more than 30 vehicles were damaged and 2 houses were burned down.

On July 5, 2009, the “East Turkistan” forces inside and outside China engineered a riot in Urumqi which shocked the whole world. Thousands of terrorists attacked civilians, government organs, public security and police officers, residential houses, stores and public transportation facilities, causing 197 deaths and injuries to over 1,700, smashing and burning down 331 stores and 1,325 vehicles, and damaging many public facilities.

It is no wonder people told me only a few years ago not to go to Xinjiang. These days, of course, it is dafe to go, so much so that more 100 million international and Chinese visitors went in 2018.

Chinese State Council White Paper: The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang

The much-awaited white paper on Xinjiang from the Chinese State Council was published today (18 March 2019). It is called ‘The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang’ (download in English here). Various newspaper articles have highlighted parts of the document, although the best is this article from the Global Times, which also mentions one of the visits by representatives from Muslim majority countries that are singulalry unimpressed by the efforts of a few former colonisers to slander China over Xinjiang.

As for the white paper itself, please note section 3, which lists many – but not all – of the terrorist acts that have taken place in Xinjiang, especially during the escallation of such acts in the 1990s. Sections 4 and 5 explain how anti-terrorism and de-extremism measures have been developed, through careful study of practices in other parts of the world.

To quote:

‘Education and training centers have been established with the goal of educating and rehabilitating people guilty of minor crimes or law-breaking and eradicating the influence of terrorism and extremism, in order to prevent them from falling victim to terrorism and extremism, and to nip terrorist activities in the bud.

At present, the trainees at the centers fall into three categories:

  1. People who were incited, coerced or induced into participating in terrorist or extremist activities, or people who participated in terrorist or extremist activities in circumstances that were not serious enough to constitute a crime;
  2. People who were incited, coerced or induced into participating in terrorist or extremist activities, or people who participated in terrorist or extremist activities that posed a real danger but did not cause actual harm, whose subjective culpability was not deep, who made confessions of their crimes and were contrite about their past actions and thus can be exempted from punishment in accordance with the law, and who have demonstrated the willingness to receive training;
  3. People who were convicted and received prison sentence for terrorist or extremist crimes and after serving their sentences, have been assessed as still posing potential threats to society, and who have been ordered by people’s courts to receive education at the centers in accordance with the law.

In accordance with Articles 29 and 30 of the Counterterrorism Law of the People’s Republic of China, people in the first and third categories will be placed at the centers to receive support and education. With regard to people in the second category, a small number of them should be punished severely, while the majority should be rehabilitated in accordance with the policy of striking a balance between punishment and compassion. Confession, repentance, and willingness to receive training are preconditions for leniency, and these people will receive education to help reform their ways after they have been exempted from penalty in accordance with the law’.

After providing further detail, section 5 concludes:

‘Thanks to these preventive measures, Xinjiang has witnessed a marked change in the social environment in recent years. A healthy atmosphere is spreading, while evil influences are declining. The citizens’ legal awareness has been notably enhanced. The trend in society is now to pursue knowledge of modern science and technology and a cultured way of life. Citizens now consciously resist religious extremism. The ethnic groups of Xinjiang now enjoy closer relations through communication, exchange and blending. People have a much stronger sense of fulfillment, happiness and security’.

Finally, sections 6 and 7 indicate how the measures in Xinjiang accord with the protection of human rights, in both the agreed international frameworks and the specific Chinese Marxist emphasis on the right to socio-economic wellbeing.

Well worth a read!

Note: you may also wish to read: ‘Progress in Human Rights Protection over the 40 Years of Reform and Opening Up in China‘.

Why Xinjiang? Why now?

Guess that is what you get for not reading corporate, state-owned and ‘independent’ media in places like Australia. Within one day after returning, a number of people have been brought me up to speed on what is not merely selective sensationalism in regard to Xinjiang, but what can only be described as wilful misinformation. I have heard talk in the media and by government figures of ‘camps’ (invoking Nazi concentration camps), of ‘brainwashing’, of a whole minority nationality – the Uyghur – being subjected to ‘human rights abuses’.

My initial reaction was to think that this was a large science fiction plot, with another earth-like planet and a place called China, about which fanciful narratives had been developed. It is certainly not the China in which I live and work for a large part of the year. But then I realised that such narratives are supposedly speaking about the same place. So I enquired further and found that the following information is systematically not made available in this part of the world, even though one can easily find it (and not merely in an earlier post).

Ever since the incorporation of Xinjiang into China in the mid-eighteenth century, it has been a restive part of the country on the western border. However, from the 1990s, these problems have become more acute. The reason was a notable increase in influence from Islamic extremism from further west, with a number of outcomes.

To begin with, there were a spate of terrorist attacks. If we take only the period from 2008, we find: an attempted suicide attack on a China Southern flight in 2008; in the same year there were threats to launch attacks on the Beijing Olympics; a car ramming in Tiananmen Square in 2013, with injuries but no fatalities; a knife attack Kunming Railway Station in 2014, killing tens of people and injuring many more. All were perpetrated by radical Muslim Uyghurs. Further, some Uyghurs were discovered training with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and had developed links with militant groups in restive parts of Pakistan. Radical fronts outside China were passing weapons, explosives and militants along drug routes. The list could go on, but the situation is quite clear: some Muslims among the Uyghur minority were engaged in organising and carrying out terrorist activities.

The question arose: how to deal with this distinct and deadly problem? It is not a problem facing China alone. In countries like Australia, there are strong pushes to have people stripped of citizenship and expelled. But this is hardly a solution, for it passes the problem onto someone else. In other places, the response is to lock them up and throw away the key. But this serves to radicalise them even further. More brutally, some countries send armed forces to the supposed source of terrorism, invade and destroy the country in question and thereby foster with even more extremism.

Some places, however, have decided to try a different approach. The primary problem was with mostly young people from a range of backgrounds. They may have been fighting in the Middle East, been to training camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan, married an extremist husband, or been radicalised at home and formed part of a cell. Upon returning home or having the their cell discovered, the problem was to find a way to help them fit back into their local communities. In close consultation with Muslim leaders, programs were set up. Given an often low level of education, the programs included classes to improve educational levels. Often unemployable and poor, they were give vocational training in skills for future work. Contact with outside radical groups was closed or monitored very closely. And – most importantly – a long process of cultural, ideological and theological education began, led by local experts and Muslim leaders, to try and get these young extremists to see that Islam is not about what they had been led to believe.

This approach has been and continues to be tried in many places around the world, with different emphases and different levels of success. For example, the city of Aarhus, Denmark, undertook a such a deradicalization program, albeit not without some controversy inside Denmark, since a good number wanted them expelled for good. Turkey has had significant success with its program, France some success, the UK perhaps less so and Australia even less. In fact, ‘deradicalization’ has become an in-word, journals have been established, businesses have tried to cash in. As is their common practice, Chinese scholars and government officials (both national and local – in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region) studied these approaches carefully and came up with one that is similar in some respects and unique in others (more information here, here and here). The Chinese prefer to call them ‘de-extremism’ activities, given the dangers of separatism, extremism and terrorism.

Of course, we may criticise one or another approach. None is perfect in dealing with a persistent problem shared by many countries. Some times they are too heavy-handed and alienate young people further. At other times they are too soft and make not enough difference. But the underlying purpose in a Chinese situation should not be forgotten: the recovery of a person’s life so that they may re-enter as a productive member the society they left not so long ago.

As I have mentioned before on a number of occasions, these programs are only part of an immediate response to a profound challenge to social and religious harmony (hexie), stability (wending) and security (anquan). But what is unique about the Chinese method relates to the basic human right to economic wellbeing. Thus, the longer term approach is to deal with the systemic poverty in Xinjiang, based on the position that poverty provides a breeding ground for radicalism like this. Not all such approaches in the past have worked so well, so now Xinjiang receives a massive amount of preferential economic incentives for people to innovate and find their own ways out of poverty. It is also a significant feature of the Belt and Road Initiative, for which Xinjiang is the pivot.

This raises the double question with which I started. Why Xinjiang? Why now? For a minority of ‘Western’ countries, Tibet used to be the flavour of the month, but now it is Xinjiang. Are the de-extremism programs new in Xinjiang? No, the programs in various forms have been under way for four or five years, although they were revised and updated in April 2017, with new regulations and the expansion of vocational and training centres. The more significant poverty alleviation projects span decades. So why do media outlets and some government figures in a relatively small number of countries focus so much attention on Xinjiang?

The first part of an answer is that 2018 marked the first real signs of significant success of the Chinese approach in Xinjiang. A minimal standard is that no terrorist activity has taken place since 2014, compared with 1,136 across the world in 2017 and 639 in the first half of 2018. More importantly the perception in China and abroad is that Xinjiang is now safe for travel. A few years ago I mentioned to a few people that I would like to travel to Xinjiang. Too dangerous! They said. Don’t go there. Now there is no problem. This year more than 100 million Chinese and foreign travellers flocked to Xinjiang. Further, with the Belt and Road Initiative, economic activity has noticeably improved, with investments doubling over the last two years and Xinjiang growing in 2017 by 7.6 percent. As has been pointed out again and again and again and again and again, stability has returned to Xinjiang as a result of the programs.

The second part of the answer comes from a Turkish perspective: 2018 saw the official launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, with close and pragmatic cooperation between all Central Asian countries, a number of European countries, nearly all countries in Africa, and many in other parts of the world. The initiative has been running already for some time, but 2017 was the launch. A significant plank in the initiative is Turkey, for whom China is its second largest trading partner (Germany is still the first, for now). Given the importance of both Xinjiang and Turkey in the Belt and Road Initiative, the rhetoric and misinformation concerning Xinjiang is seen – quite strongly in Turkey – as an effort by some ‘Western’ countries to drive a wedge between China and Turkey.

Turkey is of course not the only Muslim majority country to be involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. It includes Pakistan, the countries of Central Asia, some in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia. Noticeably, these countries have not joined the rhetoric and misinformation from a handful of ‘Western’ countries. But the Turkish perspective may give us an insight into why Xinjiang has become the flavour of the month among some ‘Western’ countries.

The catch is that the effort will not succeed. The Muslim majority countries are singularly unimpressed with some ‘Western’ countries, which have consistently demonised Islam for a good while, now trying to irritate China over its treatment of Muslim extremists. And the Chinese are confident enough that the Belt and Road Initiative has already developed too far for anyone to derail it.

Xinjiang’s soft landing to peace, stability deserves respect

Following on from my earlier piece on the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, the Chinese papers are producing a series of articles on Xinjiang, including:

‘Governance in Xinjiang stands on righteous side’ (here)

‘Interfaith harmony is mainstream in Xinjiang’ (here)

And this article as well, from the Global Times:

Xinjiang’s situation has been improving in recent years. Its flourishing tourism shows Chinese societal confidence in Xinjiang security is recovering rapidly. The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region revised its anti-extremism regulation last Tuesday, which will further promote the fight against the three evil forces of separatism, extremism and terrorism in Xinjiang.

The regulation stipulates that government above county level can set up vocational training centers. This has attracted wide attention. Since the beginning of this year, some Western media and politicians have been viciously attacking actions adopted by Xinjiang to help those affected by extremism to return to their families and society through educational transformation, accusing Xinjiang of “violating human rights”. Trainees learn the national language, laws and job skills in the institutes. Western forces accuse the authorities of religious persecution. Radical Western politicians and media have set off a wave of anti-China rhetoric and Xinjiang has become their new target.

When terrorism was spreading in Xinjiang a few years ago, the local authorities took firm action and successfully prevented the situation from worsening. Xinjiang miraculously realized a soft landing toward peace and stability. The turmoil was avoided and tranquility was restored.

Thanks to the incredible hard work of people and officials in the region, the success has contributed to Northwest China and even the whole country. By strengthening governance, Xinjiang has avoided extreme situations which happened in other parts of the world. It should be seen as a rare positive example of governing high-risk situations.

From Bosnia and Herzegovina to Kosovo, Libya and Syria, the tragic stories are different but also similar. Many people died and a large number of refugees fled those regions. The West intervened in those regions’ turmoil, but the price was high. Does the West really want to see shocking humanitarian disasters in Xinjiang and watch Xinjiang create hundreds of thousands even millions of refugees?

Officials in Xinjiang and Western forces have different goals. The governance in Xinjiang is to restore peace and stability, wipe out extremism and benefit people of all ethnicities in the region. But Western forces only want to find fault with China, suppress China internationally on the one hand and mess up governance in Xinjiang on the other.

Those Western forces don’t care about the welfare of the Xinjiang people. They would rather sacrifice stability in Xinjiang and the lives of hundreds of thousands for a single geopolitical victory over China.

Vocational training centers in Xinjiang and internment in the West are fundamentally different. An increasing number of trainees reintegrated into society and found employment after finishing training at the vocational training centers. Obviously, vocational training is a periodic and temporary plan aimed at eradicating extremism. It has been proven effective with the least cost to Xinjiang stability.

Some Westerners who know nothing about Xinjiang interpret the region with their stereotypes and political prejudice. In the West-led opinion sphere, they make up a set of narratives against governance in the region. These narratives are detached from the reality in Xinjiang and full of their own values, geopolitics and sentiments.

Even Chinese authorities find Xinjiang governance a thorny issue, so how can Westerners have the sincerity and patience to rack their brains to offer suggestions? They are just messing up the whole thing and creating a narrative against China.

China needs to strengthen communication with the world over Xinjiang governance, but the purpose is not to persuade Western political and opinion elites who hold a hostile attitude toward China. They don’t plan to understand Xinjiang. They more hope to see a turbulent Xinjiang. They are only interested in finding a new perspective to mount an offensive against China and add a fresh angle to their outdated rhetoric.