Chinese Township Official Grabs Uyghur Farmers’ Greenhouses in Xinjiang


2015.04.23
xinjiang-yengi-sheher-county-kashgar-prefecture-map.jpg The map shows Yengi-sheher county in Kashgar prefecture.
RFA

Some Chinese Communist Party secretaries who oversee townships in China’s restive western Xinjiang region have confiscated greenhouses from local Uyghur residents and given them to Han Chinese who have moved there from other provinces, a Uyghur farmer said.

Eli Rehim, who resides in the twelfth village in Yengi’eriq township of Kashgar Yéngi-sheher county (in Chinese, Shule) said one such official confiscated nine of his greenhouses and gave them to Han-Chinese acquaintances.

With the approval of town officials, Rehim began to build several greenhouses in his village, starting in 1996, to raise vegetables. He said he was a “model peasant” in Yengi’eriq Township and had received several official rewards.

“I gave up conventional farming, such as growing wheat and corn, and switched to growing in a greenhouse,” he told RFA’s Uyghur Service. “After years of hard labor I started to make some profit. My living standards were improving, so I became more courageous and expended my greenhouses.”

Rehim’s greenhouses covered an area of five mu of land [0.82 acres], making them the largest such plot of greenhouses in the township, he said.

In 2011, a new Han Chinese Party secretary surnamed Yu took office in Yéngi’eriq Township. Soon afterwards, he appropriated nine of Rehim’s greenhouses along with 12 others owned by local Uyghur families and turned them over to Han Chinese residents who had moved there from other provinces, Rehim said.

Ethnic majority Han Chinese cadres occupy almost all of the Communist Party’s first secretary positions in townships in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, home to millions of Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim Uyghurs.

County Party committees are responsible for appointing township Party secretaries.  Before the end of the 1990s, Uyghurs occupied nearly all the township party secretary positions in the southern part of Xinjiang. But then they started being replaced by Han Chinese ones who favored Han Chinese migrants who resettled there, by taking away resources from the Uyghurs and giving them to the newcomers.

‘Exemplary farmer’

As the only farmer who did greenhouse farming in the village in the late 1990s, Rehim was cited as an exemplary farmer at the township and county levels. Former Kashgar

prefecture party boss, Shi Dagang, visited Rehim’s village and praised him for his efforts. Township directors encouraged him to expand his greenhouses, Rehim said.

But three months after Yu’s arrival as township Party secretary, Rehim lost his greenhouses when the prefectural government gave funds to greenhouse farmers to upgrade or repair their facilities.

“Our township head Yu ordered the installation of metallic pillars inside greenhouses in the township territory,” he said. “My greenhouses were upgraded or repaired with the same specifications.”

One day when Rehim was working in his greenhouses, Yu and other Uyghur town officials visited him and asked him if he grew plants and vegetables in all of the structures.

Yu went on to say that because the town spent 30 yuan [U.S. $4.90] on upgrading each greenhouse, Rehim could not oversee all the ones he built. He informed Rehim that he could only farm in one greenhouse and had to hand over the others.

When Rehim told Yu that he had the legal paperwork and land certificate for the greenhouses and reminded him that village township heads supported the construction of the facilities, Yu became angry and screamed at him, he said.

After Yu confiscated the greenhouses, he gave them to Han Chinese migrants from his hometown under Yengi’eriq township’s assistance programs known as “Financial Aid for Relocation” and “Border Region Development Project,” Rehim said.

One woman grew flowers in Rehim’s greenhouses, but soon left the area and returned to her home province because she did not like it there, he said. Yu reallocated the greenhouses to other Han Chinese, but they too eventually left.

“Now I cannot even get near my greenhouses,” he said, adding that at the time they were handed over to the new owners, the Uyghur township governor and vice Party secretary were present, but did not say anything.

Privileges for Han Chinese

Yu also took 12 greenhouses away from other Uyghur residents and gave them to Han Chinese families.

“If migrant Han Chinese do greenhouse farming here, they enjoy a lot of privileges, such as tax concessions and interest-free loans, but we do not have such rights,” Rehim said. “Instead, we are forced to leave our land and go broke.’

Rehim said he petitioned the county, prefectural and regional governments to get his greenhouses back.

He even bribed a county vice Party secretary with 14,000 yuan [U.S. $2,260], he said.

“Right now, we’ve been destroyed as a family,” Rehim said, adding that he is doing various tasks to try to earn a living while his oldest son has become a hired hand.

“We have eight people in our family,” Rehim said. “If I keep petitioning the government, I’m afraid I’ll be labeled a ‘separatist’ or ‘terrorist.’ That will bring devastation to our children. So, finally I decided to write an open letter.”

Reported by Eset Sulaiman. Translated by Eset Sulaiman and Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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