Xinjiang 'Tense' Amid Arab Turmoil

Authorities tightly control the distribution of Uyghur publications in China's northwest.
2011-02-22
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Chinese authorities are targeting Uyghur publications throughout the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
RFA

Authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang have launched a new crackdown on Uyghur-language publications in the wake of a wave of popular uprisings across the Middle East, an exile group said.

"News of the Jasmine Revolutions in the Arab world has been tightly controlled, particularly the reports in the Uyghur language," said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC).

"The government is worried that there will be a new round of large-scale protests [in Xinjiang]."

But he said the news blackout had not been total.

"Local Uyghurs have already received news of this kind via a number of channels," Raxit said.

Officials have been running extensive checks on mail and parcels coming into the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), he added.

"Anyone wishing to courier books and DVDs or other publications is required to register using their real name," Raxit said.

"That includes their national identity card number, which must be written clearly on the form."

He said distribution trucks carrying Uyghur-language published materials are routinely stopped and searched en-route.

Dissident film

Among the material officials consider subversive is a film about exiled dissident Rebiya Kadeer, whom China has blamed for instigating deadly ethnic unrest in the region, where many chafe under Beijing's rule.

"Some of the Uyghur-language video stores in Urumqi have been selling Rebiya Kadeer's film, 'The 10 Conditions of Love,'" Raxit said.

"The authorities have been cracking down on this very hard in Urumqi, but also along the main communication routes south, north, and east of the city," he said.

Raxit said the authorities have hit back with a propaganda campaign of their own, producing videos and printed material calling for a boycott of exile-produced material.

In the Tianshan district of Urumqi, which was rocked in July 2009 by ethnic violence in which at least 200 people were killed, local officials raided the Erdaoqiao DVD market in a  search for banned videos.

Raxit said the WUC has called on the Chinese government to stop targeting Uyghur-language cultural materials.

"They should ... stop using oppression to silence people wishing to hold different opinions," he added.

'Concern' over unrest

Beijing on Tuesday expressed "concern" about the continuing bloodshed in Libya, after Col. Moammar Gadhafi vowed to fight pro-democracy forces to the "last drop of blood."

"China hopes the country can restore social stability and political order as soon as possible," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a regular news briefing.

Ma said Chinese businesses had been attacked and Chinese nationals injured in Libya since the unrest erupted there on Feb. 16, following the "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia, which sparked pro-democracy revolts in Egypt, as well as widespread popular demonstrations in Iran, Bahrain, and Yemen.

As with the unrest in the other Middle Eastern countries, Chinese official media focused on government efforts to evacuate Chinese nationals in the North African country.

China's cabinet, or State Council, have set up a special task force to direct the evacuation of Chinese, including people from the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan in Libya and ensure their safety, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The media have limited coverage of the unrest to a predetermined script and moved to ban or limit discussion of the topic online.

An anonymous online call for Chinese to come out onto the streets in major cities at the weekend for the country's own "Jasmine Revolution" drew a swift response from the authorities even as only a handful of protesters turned up.

Chinese police clamped down on political dissidents and rights activists nationwide, holding them under house arrest or in out-of-town locations until Monday.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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