China Links Terrorism and Drugs in War on Uyghur Groups


2004-07-29
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Chinese authorities have stepped up a campaign to eradicate pro-independence activists among its Muslim Uyghur minority, targetting "terrorists" and drug-traffickers in a single campaign in the name of the U.S.-led war on terror, RFA's Uyghur service reports.

Earlier this month, the authorities in the northwestern Muslim region of Xinjiang executed a Uyghur man accused of separatist activities. An additional 20 Uyghurs from the ages of 15 to 30, were sentenced to jail terms of between three and 10 years.

Idris Kadir, 29, was executed on July 19 according to the Germany-based East Turkestan Information Centre (ETIC). East Turkestan is the name pro-independence groups use for Xinjiang, which is home to the Turkic-speaking Muslim Uyghur minority.

" ; China has repackaged its repression of Uyghurs as a fight against 'terrorism'. " ;

The group was convicted of "separatism" and "manufacture and storage of illegal weapons".

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities are hosting a multinational anti-terror conference in Shanghai this week in an effort to get cooperation from Russia and four Central Asian republics in its fight against Uyghur separatists, regarded as terrorists by Beijing.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), comprising China, Russia and four Central Asian republics, had entered a new period of cooperation against terrorism and drugs, secretary general Zhang Deguang was quoted as saying by official media.

"The SCO has entered a new period of practical cooperation after three years of development," Zhang said during an SCO seminar on security matters sponsored by the Chinese ministry of defence.

Zhang said SCO members would increase cooperation in fighting the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as drug trafficking, according to Xinhua news agency.

This is the first high-profile linkage of the issues of terrorism and drug trafficking by Chinese officials, and points to a campaign which is defined more by ethnicity than by specific actions of clearly identified terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.

Shanghai security forces are at the cutting edge of China's fight against its growing drug problem, but their expertise with Uyghur drug dealers has led to a hardening of official attitudes towards the entire ethnic group.

The Shanghai Group, founded in 1996 by three Central Asian countries, Russia and China, was transformed into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation when Uzbekistan joined in 2001.

Amnesty International has accused Beijing of using the global war on terror to justify repression of its Uyghur community, who face torture and execution when forcibly returned from neighbouring countries.

"China has repackaged its repression of Uighurs as a fight against 'terrorism'," the London-based human rights organisation said in the report.

"Since the 11 September 2001 attacks on the USA, the Chinese government has been using 'anti-terrorism' as a pretext to increase its crackdown on all forms of political or religious dissent in the region."

The 10-day seminar opened in China on July 22 and brings together six military officials from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to discuss regional and international issues, including anti-terrorism, Xinhua said.

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