Central Asia Theater

China: Uighurs imprisoned for online 'extremism'

Courts in China's far western Xinjiang province on June 20 sentenced 11 ethnic Uighurs to up to six years in prison for promoting extremism. Eight of those convicted came from the old Silk Road city of Kashgar, the Justice Ministry's official newspaper Legal Daily. Although the report did not mention ethnicity, all had Uighur names. In one case, the suspect visited "illegal" websites to download material that "whipped up religious fervor," "preached 'holy war'" and "whipped up ethnic enmity." Another eight received terms of up to 13 years for such crimes as "organizing a terrorist organization."

Asia's secret nuclear arms race

For all the hoopla about North Korea, a far more significant threat on the Asian continent is getting virtually no coverage: the nuclear arms race between China and Pakistan on one side and India on the other. Quartz magazine reported June 3 that China is the only "internationally sanctioned" nuclear weapon power currently increasing its stockpile. Beijing added about 10 warheads to its arsenal over the past year, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). But the key phrase here is "internationally sanctioned," as China is one of the five nuclear nations "grandfathered in" by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), along with the US, Russia, UK and France (although these are obliged by the NPT to seek disarmament, as is frequently forgotten). A June 16 interview with SIPRI researcher Phillip Schell in the Times of India reveals that the problem isn't just China—India and Pakistan similarly boosted their arsenals by about 10 warheads each over the past year...

Kyrgyzstan: emergency over mining protests

Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev declared a state of emergency in Dzhety Ohuz district of the Issyk Kul region May 31, after hundreds of protesters at the town of Barskoon stormed the facilities of the Kumtor  gold mine, run by the Canadian-based Centerra Gold. Hundreds of villagers, some on horseback, blocked the road to the mine earlier in the week, to demand its nationalization, and more local social benefits. Villagers later seized a power substation and cut electricity to the mine. When security forces moved to clear the road, clashes erupted, with police using tear-gas and firearms; several protesters were injured and one reportedly killed. Some 80 have been arrested, and a curfew imposed across the district.

China-India border face-off amid Tibet unrest

India is protesting what it calls an incursion by some 30 Chinese troops from across the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas. New Delhi says the troops entered from Tibet on April 15, and established an encampment 10 kilometers within India-controlled territory, in Depsang valley of Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir state. Chinese helicopters also reportedly entered India's airspace. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid is to visit Beijing next month to discuss the border tensions, but China denies its troops have entered Indian territory.

China: US hand in Xinjiang violence?

Chinese authorities say order has been restored after clashes between armed men and officials and police in Bachu (Uighur: Maralbeshi) county near Kashgar in the western part of Xinjiang April 23. The death toll stands at 21, including 15 police officers and social workers, in what official news portal Tianshan Net called a "violent terror incident." Fighting apparently started when a patrol of police, local officials and community workers were set upon with knives and axes. Ethnic Uighurs were blamed for the attack, in which six of the assailants were slain. The Foreign Ministry said a "violent terrorist group" was behind the assault. (BBC News, April 25; BBC NewsAFPAl Jazeera, April 24)

China: Mongol herders' protest march blocked

Authorities in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region earlier this month blocked an attempted cross-country march by traditional Mongol herders, with police assaulting hundreds in two incidents. In the first incident, herders from Inner Mongolia’s Durbed (Chinese: Siziwang) banner (county) gathered at Hohhot train station on March 1, intending to march nearly 500 kilometers to Beijing. But police quickly arrived and broke up the gathering, according to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC). The following day, troops in a dozen police vehicles descended on Halgait village in Zaruud (Zhalute) banner, breaking up another group that intended to march on Beijing. The herders hoped to arrive in Beijing for the meeting of the National People's Congress where Xi Jinping was installed as president, to protest confiscation of grazing lands.

Tibet mine disaster exposes internal colonialism

Thousands of rescuers are struggling to reach 83 workers trapped by a landslide at a gold mine at Gyama, Maizhokunggar county, in China's Tibetan Autonomous Region March 29. The facility is operated by the Tibet Huatailong Mining Development Co, a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Gold Group Corp. Ironically, the Gyama mine was something of a showcase for Beijing's development of Tibet; the Huatailong company took it over in 2009 from some dozen small-scale private companies that operated on the margins of the law in what official news agency Xinhua called a "rat race for the rich ore supplies." The disaster prompted a flurry of criticisms on Chinese social media, but AP reports these were quickly "scrubbed off or blocked from public view by censors." 

Tibet: self-immolations reach 114

A young monk burned himself to death in Luchu (Chinese: Luqu) county of Kanlho (Gannan) prefecture, Gansu province, on March 26—the third Tibetan to torch himself and die in as many days, taking the total reported toll since February 2009 to 114. Konchog Tenzin, 28, torched himself at a major road intersection near his Mori monastery. Local Tibetans quickly moved the scorched remains of the monk’s body to the monastery for prayer services, as Chinese security forces moved in after the incident. Troops have been deployed to the towns near Mori monastery, with restrictions on freedom of movement imposed on the local Tibetans. (Tibetan Review, March 29)