News / Asia

In Xinjiang, Poverty, Exclusion Greater Threat Than Islam

Two ethnic Uighur men walk in a clothing market in downtown Urumqi, Xinjiang province, Nov. 1, 2013.
Two ethnic Uighur men walk in a clothing market in downtown Urumqi, Xinjiang province, Nov. 1, 2013.
Reuters
In the dirty backstreets of the Uighur old quarter of Xinjiang's capital Urumqi in China's far west, Abuduwahapu frowns when asked what he thinks is the root cause of the region's festering problem with violence and unrest.
 
“The Han Chinese don't have faith, and the Uighurs do. So they don't really understand each other,” he said, referring to the Muslim religion the Turkic-speaking Uighur people follow, in contrast to the official atheism of the ruling Communist Party.
 
Vehicles travel along Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of a portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013.Vehicles travel along Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of a portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013.
x
Vehicles travel along Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of a portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013.
Vehicles travel along Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of a portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013.
But for the teenage bread delivery boy, it's not Islam that's driving people to commit acts of violence, such as last week's deadly car crash in Beijing's Tiananmen Square - blamed by the government on Uighur Islamist extremists who want independence.
 
“Some people there support independence and some do not. Mostly, those who support it are unsatisfied because they are poor,” said Abuduwahapu, who came to Urumqi two years ago from the heavily Uighur old Silk Road city of Kashgar in Xinjiang's southwest, near the Pakistani and Afghan border.
 
“The Han are afraid of Uighers. They are afraid if we had guns, we would kill them,” he said, standing next to piles of smoldering garbage on plots of land where buildings have been demolished.
 
China's claims that it is fighting an Islamist insurgency in energy-rich Xinjiang - a vast area of deserts, mountains and forests geographically located in central Asia - are not new.
 
A decade ago, China used the 9/11 attacks in the United States to justify getting tough with what it said were al-Qaida-backed extremists who wanted to bring similar carnage to Xinjiang.
 
For many Chinese, the rather benign view of Xinjiang which existed in China pre-Sept. 11, 2001 - as an exotic frontier with colorful minorities who love dancing and singing - has been replaced with suspicion.
 
A Chinese policeman of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team stands guard on a main street next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 31, 2013.A Chinese policeman of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team stands guard on a main street next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 31, 2013.
x
A Chinese policeman of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team stands guard on a main street next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 31, 2013.
A Chinese policeman of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team stands guard on a main street next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 31, 2013.
China says al-Qaida and others work with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, in Beijing's eyes the foremost terror group in Xinjiang, and spraypaints warnings on walls against Hizb ut-Tahrir, a supranational group that says its goal is to establish a pan-national Muslim state.
 
​The incident on Tiananmen Square has only added to China's unease.
 
“The Han seem to be afraid of us. I don't know why. They won't tell us,” said a 22-year-old Uighur man who runs a shoe and clothing shop a stone's throw from an armed police training ground in Urumqi.
 
Security Crackdown
 
Since 2001 - a process that started arguably even before - China has conducted a sweeping security crackdown in Xinjiang, further repressing Uighur culture, religious tradition and language, rights groups say, despite strong government denials of offering the Uighurs anything but wide-ranging freedoms.
 
Some Uighurs believe their only alternative may be to draw closer to Islam, and by doing so, further the distance between themselves and the Communist Party and the Han Chinese.
 
While many Uighur women in Urumqi dress in much the same casual fashions as their Han counterparts, others have begun to wear full veils, something more common in Pakistan or Afghanistan than Xinjiang.
 
“It's only since the state has been repressing religious practices in Xinjiang so hard, that ironically it has caused Uighur Muslims to re-traditionalize, to re-Islamize at a very rapid rate now,” said Joanne Smith Finley, a lecturer in Chinese studies at Britain's Newcastle University who studies Xinjiang.
 
“There is no tradition in Xinjiang of any kind of radical Islamism,” she added.
 
The government has recognized the economic roots of some of the problems, and has poured money into development in the form of schools, hospitals and roads. To be sure, incomes have risen, especially in the countryside where many Uighurs live.
 
Annual rural incomes averaged a little under 6,400 yuan ($1,000) a year in 2012, up some 15 percent on the previous year, though this is still 1,500 yuan less than the national average and more than 11,000 yuan less than Shanghai's rural residents, the country's richest.
 
Discrimination against Uighurs in the job market - including employment advertisements saying “no Uighurs accepted” - is another issue, despite government attempts to end this.
 
Ilham Tohti, an ethnic Uighur economist based in China and a longtime critic of Chinese policy toward Xinjiang, told Reuters he feared the Tiananmen incident would only lead to more repression and discrimination, further fanning the flames.
 
“Whatever happens, this will have a long-term and far-reaching impact on Uighurs, and will cause great harm. It will only worsen the obstacles Uighurs face in Han-dominated society,” he said.
 
($1 = 6.0995 Chinese yuan)

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Wangchuk from: NYC
November 08, 2013 9:42 AM
Xinjiang was an independent state from 1945-49 called Eastern Turkestan & that freedom ended when the PLA invaded in '49. Uighurs were once the vast majority but now they make up only about 45% of the pop., drowning in a sea of Chinese migrants. Uighurs face discrimination from the CCP & Chinese companies. Uighurs face restrictions on their religion that don't apply to Chinese or Hui Muslims. China treats Xinjiang like a colony & Uighurs as 2nd class citizens. At police checkpoints, Uighurs are routinely searched while Chinese travelers breeze through. Until Uighurs have genuine self-rule, these problems will persist.


by: li west hung from: brasil
November 04, 2013 6:20 PM
Islam did exist way before. Why is it suddenly a threat? Is it because the west tells you so? The enemy of Islam desire to create a bad image of Islam through media and look for excuse to devour the wealth Man. And if you truly fear Islam of being ruled by it then know, it will do so, if it is the Truth from the Creator of THIS Planet


by: li weijian from: Evanston IL. USA
November 04, 2013 4:56 PM
It is really difficult for me to understan why VOA produces this kind of inmagined story. For poltical reasons to blacken image of Chinese governmnet? I don't really know. Reports without survey can only weaken the credibility of VOA. Terrorist attacks in USA are terrorist crimes; Terrorist attacks in are represses on human rights?

In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
November 08, 2013 9:44 AM
Looks like the 50 Cent Party is alive & well on VOA's forums. These people are paid by the CCP to defend the CCP online. The CCP has 2 million people (larger than the PLA) to monitor & control online opinion, including foreign websites like VOA (which is banned in China).


by: gest
November 04, 2013 1:17 PM
It is funny they do not know why Chinese are afraid of those thugs, they steal they kill in broad day light with many many people present,if the witness is willing to help, they would kill so no one dares to stand near them.


by: chendu from: china
November 04, 2013 12:50 PM
Those people are thieves and thugs.


by: news from: london
November 04, 2013 12:42 PM
Those xinjiang minorities are thieves, whenever or wherever you see them near you in Shanghai or Beijing , you need to keep your eyes on your wallets or bags. They stole my closest family members' wallets by cutting the bags and no one dared to say anything until they left the scene, by that time , it was too late, because those thieves are so dangerous no one dares to say anything even if they saw the crime happening before their eyes.

In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
November 08, 2013 9:45 AM
Thank you for confirming that many Han Chinese are racist when it comes to Uighurs & other "minorities" in China.


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
November 04, 2013 12:10 PM
Make no mistake about this, it is the same illusion as saying hunger is a greater threat than snake bite. Countries that used to live in peace and harmony welcomed the once thought to be peaceful religion making the same mistake but today they wish they had made the right choice. If you live in hunger, but you can sleep at night without fear of bombs and grenades exploding over your roof, killing your children in school, shooting your social gatherings in the name of religion, or alleging all kinds of spurious allegations against your children for blasphemy, you should count yourself blessed.

But ask people in Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran etc. where anyone not belonging to Islam is cheaper than a pigeon. China is growing up and will get there, if you make the mistake of settling with Islam today, it will ask you to change to its sharia rule tomorrow. Inch by inch it eats you up until you're minority, then it starts to oppress and dominate. Please don't go there, it's dangerous.


by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
November 04, 2013 11:24 AM
It is not religion or poverty for terrorism in and from Xinjiang in the eastern China. It is of Chinese making. China has territorial dispute with Turkmenistan. The Chinese People Army occupied east Turkmenistan and call the area as Xinjiang. The people of Xinjiang is fighting for their freedom. The aggression of China in Xinjiang (1949), Tibet (1959) and Manchuria/Outer Mongolia (1945) have to pay a heavy price in the form of terrorism. The freedom movements in these occupied areas is heightened by the colonization of the Hans, the Chinese ethnic majority, similar to the Israeli settlements in West Bank. Since these territorial claims are by China, the major powers like US and Russia don't want to raise the issue in the shroud of bilateral trade. Both these powers have no moral ground to support the legitimate aspirations of the people in these Chinese occupied territories.

In Response

by: oldlamb from: Guangzhou
November 04, 2013 10:37 PM
Mr.Davis,I don't think your historical knowledge of Xinjiang is richer than Xinjiang economy.Please, To review the history,there were numerous small countries before Qing Dynasty(400 years) in Xinjiang.After Qing Dynasty was established,this small countries has been united in Chinese centre regime.and meanwhile,clashes in Xinjiang have been not uncommon between Uighurs and the Han Chinese majority or members of the government security forces. The estimative figure were killed would be more than 10 thousands people since Qing Dynasty.
So it must be pointed out what you say is wrong that the aggression of China in Xinjiang (1949), Tibet (1959) and Manchuria/Outer Mongolia (1945) have to pay a heavy price in the form of terrorism.


by: oldlamb from: Guangzhou
November 04, 2013 9:37 AM
Xinjiang is not the poorest province in China,as Ningxia,Guizhou are poorer than Xinjiang.I wonder why Xinjiang is more unrest and violent?
The correct answere is:there are many foreign countries preferring to collobrate with separatists get through the national boundaries in Xinjang,in contrast to the minorities in Ningxia,Guizhou where no national boundaries.
Poverty is not the linchpin!

In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
November 08, 2013 9:48 AM
Actually there are a lot of protests in Ningxia & Guizhou. In fact, throughout China there are over 100,000 mass protests per year. Clearly Chinese people are dissatisified w/ the Party just like Uighurs & Tibetans. The difference is that the CCP automatically labels Uighur/Tibetan protests as terrorism or separatism but takes a gentler approach when Han Chinese protest. It's an example of the racial discrimination within the Party.

In Response

by: oliviachen from: Guizhou
November 04, 2013 10:19 AM
Totally agree with you. Those who do not know the real conditions,please just shout out.


by: Somebody who is sick of I from: secret
November 03, 2013 11:36 PM
This is a politically-correct but factually-incorrect article.

Comments page of 2
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid