Uighurs feel pressure in Flight 370 case

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) has issued a statement protesting "speculation" over the fate of the missing Malaysian Boeing 777 airliner that disappeared March 8 over the South China Sea en route to Beijing. Among the 239 passengers was Memetjan Abla, an acclaimed Uighur artist whose work dealt with social and political themes. Abla was traveling as part of a Chinese state-sponsored group of 29 artists. UHRP writes: "Conjecture alleging Mr. Abla's presence on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 as evidence of possible Uyghur involvement in the plane's fate is a disservice to his life and work. At present, there is no publicly available evidence to support a Uyghur connection hypothesis and UAA urges commentators to await the results of a full investigation into the incident." As an example of irresponsible speculation, UAA links to a Tweet from Rupert Murdoch: "777crash confirms jihadists turning to make trouble for China. Chance for US to make common cause, befriend China while Russia bullies." (UAA, March 10)

The paranoia has been escalated by an e-mail sent to journalists across China in the name of a "Chinese Martyrs' Brigade" claiming responsibility for the disappearance of Flight 370. It read: "You kill one of our clan, we will kill 100 of you as pay back… We wished 100% of the flight was all Chinese people." The full text does not appear to be online, but media accounts say it asserts two motives. The first is to retaliate against the Malaysian government for "cruel persecution," though no further details were provided. The second is to respond to the Chinese government for its persecution of the Uighurs. Both Chinese and Malaysian authorities have dismissed the statement as a hoax. (IBT, Want China Times, March 10)

Meawhile, despite international cooperation in the search for Flight 370, tensions remain heightened over the conetsted South China Sea. Even as the search goes on, Manila air-dropped food and water to Philippine soldiers posted on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, after Chinese forces blocked two supply ships from reaching the troops. Chinese ships patrolling waters around the shoal, known in China as the Ren'ai reef, on March 9 ordered Philippine ships carrying construction materials to leave the area. (SMH, March 13)