An organization in Pakistan with close ties to the Chinese authorities compelled several Uyghurs and local Pakistanis to attend a welcoming ceremony in Islamabad for China’s public security minister in an apparent bid to portray that the Uyghur community backs Beijing, local sources said.
The visit by minister Meng Jianzhu last month came amid charges by Beijing that Islamist camps in Pakistan were training "terrorists" from minority Uyghurs in China’s northwestern Xinjiang blamed for two deadly attacks in July in the region.
The sources said the Overseas Chinese Association of Pakistan, an organization of Uyghurs living in Pakistan, recruited the local Uyghurs and Pakistanis to create a “fake welcoming group” for Meng during a ceremony at the Chinese embassy.
“There were some local [Pakistani] people who also participated in the ceremony wearing Uyghur clothing. They came to the party just to eat and dance, but the Chinese officials were not aware that they weren’t Uyghur,” said one Uyghur resident of Pakistan who attended the ceremony and wishes to remain anonymous.
He said that around 30 people attended the ceremony, including some Uyghurs from Rawalpindi and Gilgit, in the north of Pakistan. At the ceremony, they listened to speeches by embassy officials and feasted.
“Embassy officials thanked the association’s chief for bringing a lot of Uyghurs to the ceremony,” he said.
Abdukeyyum Shemshidin, a Uyghur living in Rawalpindi, 8 miles (13 kilometers) south of Islamabad, said that association officials initially tried to woo Uyghurs to attend the ceremony but, on discovering lukewarm interest among the community, ferried several of them to the embassy without informing them what was involved or where they were going.
“On that day, they [the board of the association] came to my neighborhood to bring people to the embassy to attend the ceremony for greeting Meng Jianzhu. Nobody was interested in going, and in the end they only succeeded in bringing a few older people by begging and saying it would be a meeting of just a few minutes with free dinner offered,” he said.
“I believe that [those who went] felt regret for attending, because they had no idea about the agenda of the ceremony. Some of them were not even aware that the location of the ceremony was the Chinese embassy,” he added.
Shemshidin is a member of the Omer Uyghur Trust, a Uyghur organization in Pakistan that has been harassed by Pakistani authorities, some say following pressure from Beijing.
Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region resent Chinese rule and controls on their religion, culture and language. Not recognized
The Overseas Chinese Association, which organized the welcoming reception for minister Meng, is led by Uyghur businessmen Raza Khan and Abdukeyyim Majit who, Uyghur activists claim, are not recognized as community leaders by Uyghurs in Pakistan. They were appointed and not elected to their posts.
In a previous interview with RFA, the two officials acknowledged receiving funding from the embassy in the past.
Hesenjan, a Uyghur restaurant owner in Rawalpindi, accused them of pocketing some of the funds.
When contacted by RFA, Raza Khan declined to comment, saying he would only to speak to Pakistani and Chinese media and not the “Western” media.
However, a Uyghur resident in Rawalpindi defended the association, saying he did not see anything “fake” in the Uyghur welcoming reception for the minister.
“It is impossible [that this happened],” said Eneytulla, who did not participate in the welcoming ceremony .
“My relatives were there. I would have heard about that if the local people [Pakistanis] came to the ceremony wearing Uyghur clothing,” he said.
Contacted by RFA on Friday, Chinese embassy staff in Islamabad said no press officer was available to respond to questions.Business
Omerjan, founder of the Omer Uyghur Trust, said there are around 3,000 Uyghurs in Pakistan.
He said the association has only 10 to 15 members, all of them linked to business with China.
Most of them joined the association fearing any trouble to their business, he said.
“Because the majority of our community do not want to deal with Chinese authorities … the association is finding it hard to organize Uyghur people under the association’s name,” he said.
“That is why sometimes they do something funny or dirty, just like having the fake welcoming group.”
But, Omerjan said, the larger concern was that the association was claiming that the Uyghurs in Xinjiang were treated fairly.
“In our view, the interest of the 20 million Uyghurs in East Turkistan [is of paramount importance].” Violence
Chinese authorities, wary of instability and the threat to the Communist Party's grip on power, often link Uyghurs in Xinjiang to violent separatist groups, including the Al-Qaeda terror network.
Chinese state media said those responsible for violent attacks in two ancient Silk Road cities at the end of July had been trained in Pakistan-based camps by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
Last month, Xinjiang courts sentenced four Uyghurs to death for the violence which left 32 people dead.
Chinese authorities have accused the ETIM, which wants an independent homeland for Xinjiang's Uyghurs, of orchestrating attacks in the resource-rich region. Xinjiang borders eight countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani promised Meng maximum support in fighting Muslim separatists.
"We are true friends. China's enemy is our enemy, we will extend our full cooperation to China on security," he told Meng.Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur service. Translated by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink and Parameswaran Ponnudurai.