China's Executions 'Won't Solve Tensions' in Xinjiang: Analysts

2014-08-25
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Police block off the roads leading into Tiananmen Square in Beijing as smoke rises into the air after the crash, Oct. 28, 2013.
Police block off the roads leading into Tiananmen Square in Beijing as smoke rises into the air after the crash, Oct. 28, 2013.
AFP

Updated at 8:00 p.m. ET on 2014-8-25

The execution of eight suspected 'terrorists' in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang is unlikely to put an end to violence in the region, where many of the mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghur minority say they suffer discrimination and religious oppression under Chinese rule, analysts said on Monday.

The eight were executed for involvement in an Oct. 28, 2013 jeep attack on Tiananmen Square, as well as other violent clashes with the authorities in Xinjiang's Aksu, Kashgar and Hotan prefectures, official media reported at the weekend.

Xinhua did not disclose their ethnicities, but they all had names which indicated they were Uyghurs.

The executions were carried out with the approval of the Supreme People's Court, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the regional government as saying.

"From a legal perspective, I think there are better forms of punishment," Beijing-based lawyer Wang Ning told RFA on Monday.

"[These executions] won't just fail to solve the issue at its roots; they could lead to an even more violent backlash," she said.

Xia Ming, political science lecturer at the College of Staten Island in New York, agreed.

"This will do nothing to ease the dilemma that China currently faces in Xinjiang," Xia said.

Root of unrest

He said the roots of Uyghur unrest lie with the violent takeover and suppression of the region by the Communist Party's People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops under late general Wang Zhen in 1949, following two short-lived East Turkestan republics in the 1930s and 1940s.

"The Chinese army started the oppression in Xinjiang," Xia said. "The legacy of Wang Zhen hasn't been resolved to this day."

In February, outspoken political journalist Gao Yu described Wang's takeover of the region as a "massacre," which heralded a period of relative detente between the region and Beijing after the ruling Chinese Communist Party sought to "right the mistakes of Wang Zhen."

But, she added, the "evil policies" of former regional party chief Wang Lequan, who oversaw the region from 1994 to 2010, had since changed the character of Xinjiang in just 20 years.

According to Xia, the party line on ethnic tensions in the region has become more and more hard line in the past decade.

"Since then, the main theme has been one of anti-separatism, anti-violence and anti-terrorism," he said.

In a statement Monday, the exile World Uyghur Congress (WUC) condemned the executions and urged the international community and foreign media to highlight the “objectionable and callous use of the judicial system in China.”

“It has become increasingly common for Chinese authorities to conduct trials and sentence Uyghur suspects exceedingly quickly, with no chance for a full and proper investigation or appeals process,” the WUC said.

It noted that the past few months had seen an increase in the number of arbitrary arrests, detentions and sentencings of Uyghurs without due process of law.

Religious controls

Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority, have their practice of Islam tightly regulated by Beijing, which bans children from mosques and controls everything about their worship, from the wording of sermons to "approved" interpretations of the Quran.

According to the authorities, study of the Quran in an unauthorized location constitutes an "illegal religious activity."

Children, government employees and university students are also banned from fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with supervised lunches laid on to ensure they eat during daylight hours.

Hundreds have died in violence in Xinjiang over the past year, prompting a year-long "anti-terrorism" crackdown which Chinese authorities have blamed on "separatists" whose attacks have increased in scale and sophistication with overseas help.

Last month, 96 people were killed in July 28 riots which erupted after a "gang" of Uyghurs attacked a police station and government offices in Kashgar prefecture's Yarkand (in Chinese, Shache) county, according to official media.

However, Rebiya Kadeer, president of the exile World Uyghur Congress (WUC), accused authorities of a cover up of what she called a "massacre" of Uyghurs in Yarkand and claimed that at least 2,000 Uyghurs may have been killed by Chinese security forces following the riots.

Earlier this month, security forces shot dead three ethnic minority Uyghur Muslim farmers after they allegedly resisted arrest in connection with suspected separatist activities.

But a local Uyghur leader said the three did not commit any "tangible" crimes and were rounded up for possession of knives and axes as well as religious material.

Reported by Yang Jiadai for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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