New Zealand Shooting Suspect Praised China For 'Lacking Diversity'

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newzealand-prayer.jpg Muslims attend a special prayer for the victims of the Christchurch mass shooting in New Zealand at the Jamia Masjid in Hong Kong, March 18, 2019.

The white supremacist suspect in last Friday's massacre of worshippers at two New Zealand mosques praised the policies of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which has incarcerated more than a million ethnic minority Muslims in camps in Xinjiang.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that her government will introduce new gun laws after Australian Brenton Tarrant was arrested on suspicion of killing 50 people in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

She had earlier received an email from the suspect, warning of the impending attack and containing a confused outpouring of racist ideology, which included support for China's lack of "diversity."

"The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China," the document said.

The killings of Muslim men, women and children at prayer in New Zealand came as Beijing continues to claim that it needs to incarcerate more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in camps, as part of its "anti-terrorism" drive.

Ardern called the March 15 attack, which also left dozens injured, "a horrific act of terrorism."

University of Canterbury researcher Ben Elley wrote in the New Zealand Herald on Monday: "It was clear that the shooter was a member of the pro-fascist alt-right communities that I have been studying."

"Terror has traditionally been seen as the purview of Islamic extremists, but that thinking that clearly needs to change," he wrote.

However, in the immediate aftermath of the murders, official Chinese media repeated Islamophobic tropes often used by white supremacists, including the claim that immigration is a problem, and that Muslims "cannot integrate."

"Immigrants, especially Muslims, cannot integrate into Western society," the Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid sister paper of Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, said in a March 17 opinion article.

Detention camps

The paper also framed the attack as an inability of "Western" political and social systems to find "solutions."

"How to solve this problem? The Western political system discourages overall planning and long-term solutions," the paper said.

Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang are holding more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslims accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in camps, often for routine religious practices, including praying and attending services, or for having overseas connections of any kind.

Though Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), told China’s official Xinhua news agency in October 2018 that the facilities are an "effective tool" to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training.

Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.

But U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said on March 8 that the camps were “created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity” of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China.

The growing use of mass incarceration by China has coincided with growing online Islamophobia, which is tolerated, if not directly encouraged, by government censors on China's tightly controlled social media platforms, commentators said.

Tseng Chien-yuan, an associate professor of public administration at Chung Hua University in Hsinchu, said Beijing has contributed to global Islamophobia.

"China has given affirmation and encouragement to Islamophobic countercurrents in Western countries in recent years," Tseng told RFA. "You could even say that they have confused some people, and muddied their values."

"I think that's why the killer wrote that."

China's similarities with fascism

Dawa Tsering, representative of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, agreed.

"The reason [Tarrant] felt closest to Chinese values is because he is a fascist," Tsering said. "If you take a look at the way the Communist Party runs the country, stripped of political rhetoric, there are a great many similarities [with fascism]."

"He was just saying what a lot of people are thinking, but may have had private doubts about, or weren't able to say out loud," he said.

Uyghurs have continued to hit back at China's state-sponsored Islamophobia from overseas, tweeting real-life stories and harrowing missing posters of their loved ones to the #MeTooUyghur hashtag on Twitter.

"This is an utterly disgusting portrayal of what it means to be #uyghur and #muslim," Zerina Borhan tweeted on Monday in protest at a series of propaganda videos released by the People's Daily showing Uyghurs enjoying a "new life" after the "re-education" process.

"Hey #China, good job showing the world how much brainwashing you’ve done to 1.5M Uyghurs in concentration camps!" Borhan tweeted. "The world does not believe your lies and propaganda ! #MeTooUyghur"

Earlier on Monday, Abdulla Tohti Arish tweeted that his father Tohti Muhammad Arish, his brother Abduwali Tohti Arish and his wife Ruqiyam Jappar are all detained in Chinese camps.

"I strong[ly] demand [the Chinese Communist Party] release all of my family members and relatives, and [three million] other Uyghurs," he wrote.

Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Shi Shan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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