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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: winter from: Beijing
November 03, 2013 11:15 PM
nonsense!


by: Chihu from: China
November 03, 2013 9:55 PM
oh please... nothing is a greater threat than Islam... nothing!!
Islam is a global threat... to China, Russia, Europe, America, Israel... everywhere...

In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
November 08, 2013 9:50 AM
Since 1949, the CCP has murdered millions of Chinese, Tibetans, & Uighurs. Even today, the CCP executes more people than the rest of the world combined. The CCP caused the Great Famine under Mao which killed over 30 million Chinese. It seems the CCP is a far greater threat to China than anything else.

In Response

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
November 04, 2013 2:47 AM
Yes, yes Islam is global threat! US president George W. Bush told us, right, Chihu?

In Response

by: Naseer from: Srinagar
November 03, 2013 11:32 PM
Islam is not threat to the world bcoz Islam spread fast in those countries whichare higly developed and literate then why these people embrace ISLAM.It is bcoz of its quality and be sure if not you (Chichu) your childrens would be Muslims in the upcoming days or years.

Comments page of 2
 Previous    

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
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