While human rights organizations often focus on Beijing's repression of Tibetans and rights advocates throughout China, one group of people, the Uyghurs, has not received the attention a plight of their magnitude should warrant.
This could, in part, be the result of Uyghurs being concentrated in Xinjiang, whose remoteness makes reporting on the situation there more onerous. Beijing's cynical exploitation of the US-led "war on terrorism" since Sept. 11, 2001, as it represses this Muslim minority is also part of the reason why their suffering remains largely unknown. Readers may recall Huseyin Celil, the Canadian Uyghur who in April was sentenced to life in prison for alleged "terrorist activities." Celil, sadly, still languishes in jail and Ottawa has grown conspicuously silent on the matter. In the past six years, more than 3,000 Uyghurs have been arrested on similar charges.
Last week, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Rebiya Kadeer, who lives in exile in the US after spending five years in prison for defending Uyghur rights (or, as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (
Meanwhile, in an Oct. 18 letter to the National People's Congress, Amnesty International called on Chinese authorities to end a practice known as reeducation through labor (RTL). Amnesty reports that hundreds of thousands of Chinese have been affected by RTL, which can be imposed for "crimes" -- such as criticizing the government or following banned beliefs -- that are not considered serious enough to be punishable by criminal law.
While no one has so far come out and put two and two together, the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of women from a specific ethnic group and religious belief bears all the hallmarks of the RTL policy and promises to be as devastating to Uyghur communities as the reeducation program during the Cultural Revolution was for the educated classes. The removal of 240,000 women of reproductive age (most of them are believed to be between 16 and 25 years old) from a population of approximately 8.3 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang will have severe implications for the birth rate there.
As was the case during the Cultural Revolution, Beijing hopes the women subjected to forced transfer will marry Chinese from a different background -- in the present case non-Uyghurs/Muslims -- and thereby break the bonds that tie them to their community.
This, however, is only a new rung in Beijing's long history of trying to erase Uyghur identity. Starting in 1990, China began promoting mixed marriages in Xinjiang, offering Uyghurs better social benefits if they married non-Uyghur Chinese and, conversely, 3,000 yuan (US$402) stipends for Han Chinese marrying Uyghurs. Birth control, forced abortion and sterilization (which the People's Daily claimed in 2001 was "voluntary") have also been reported.
The ramifications of such practices on the social cohesion of Uyghurs have yet to be fully understood, but it is clear they represent an attempt to assimilate the ethnic minority, with the long-term objective of watering down, if not altogether eradicating, its identity. In other words, we are witnessing nothing less than ethnic cleansing. Also, as international conventions define a child as anyone below the age of 18, the forced employment of many Uyghur women is child labor.
Surely all those women cannot be "terrorists." Their only "crime" is being female and belonging to the Uyghur ethnic minority.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
Last month, the Philippine National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea reported that more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels were anchored at the disputed Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea, known as Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines. The task force released astonishing photographs, which showed clusters of enormous fishing trawlers at anchor and tied together in neat rows. Needless to say, the ships were not engaging in commercial fishing activity; they belong to China’s “maritime militia.” Beijing’s flimsy official explanation is that the vessels are temporarily seeking shelter from inclement weather. This is patently ridiculous, given the time that