Afghanistan

Taliban regime in oil deal with Chinese company

Afghanistan’s Taliban regime has agreed to sign a contract with a Chinese company to exploit oil in the Amu Darya basin in the country’s north. The contract with the Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum & Gas Co. (CAPEIC) is to be the first major resource extraction deal the regime has signed with a foreign company since taking power in 2021. “The Amu Darya oil contract is an important project between China and Afghanistan,” China’s ambassador, Wang Yu, told a joint press conference with Taliban officials in Kabul. Beijing has not formally recognized the Taliban government but has significant interests in Afghanistan, a country deemed critical for its Belt & Road Initiative. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Central Asia
Ulaanbaatar

Mining corruption behind Mongolia unrest

Following angry street protests in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian government has agreed to open an investigation into the so-called “coal mafia,” a group of state officials and executives accused pilfering the country’s subsurface wealth for personal profit to the tune of some $12 billion. Demonstrators attempted to storm the Government Palace, and blocked the capital’s main boulevard, Peace Avenue. At issue are the vast Tavan Tolgoi coalfields in the Gobi Desert, under exploitation by the Mongolian Mining Corporation, a pillar of the national economy. (Photo via EuroWeekly News)

Central Asia
Xinjiang

Podcast: state capitalism and the Uyghur genocide

In Episode 149 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the UN Human Rights Office determination that China may be guilty of “crimes against humanity” in its mass detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province is dismissed by the tankie-left ANSWER Coalition as “propagandistic.” Meanwhile, it falls to Radio Free Asia, media arm of the US State Department, to aggressively cover the very real conditions of forced labor faced by the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of Xinjiang—and how Western corporations benefit from it. While the Western pseudo-left betrays the Uyghurs, US imperialism exploits their suffering for propaganda against a rising China in the Great Game for the Asia-Pacific region. Figures such as Australia’s Kevin Rudd incorrectly portray a “Return of Red China,” blaming the PRC’s increasingly totalitarian direction on a supposed neo-Marxism. Fortunately, the new anthology Xinjiang Year Zero offers a corrective perspective, placing the industrial-detention complex and techno-security state in the context of global capitalism and settler colonialism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Central Asia
Uyghurs

Uyghur Tribunal accuses China of genocide

The Uyghur Tribunal, a “people’s tribunal” established in the UK, appended a December 2021 judgment, incorporating nearly 300 additional pages of historical background, legal definitions and evidence. The initial judgment found that hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims have been detained in China’s western Xinjiang region, and many been subject to torture. The appended judgment accuses Chinese authorities of genocide. It acknowledges that, in contrast to treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, the detained Uyghurs are allowed to eventually return to society in most cases. However, it notes that, coinciding with mass detention, mosques have been destroyed and religious activity suppressed. Those who use the Uyghur language in public are punished, and child separation from families is common. The appended judgment concludes that taken together, these practices constitute genocide. (Photo: Leonhard Lenz/Wikimedia Commons)

Central Asia
China prison

UN report confirms forced labor in Xinjiang, Tibet

United Nations Special Rapporteur on slavery Tomoya Obokata released a report on contemporary forms of slavery, which found that it is “reasonable to conclude” that forced labor “among Uygur, Kazakh and other ethnic minorities in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing” is taking place in China’s Xinjiang region. The report added: “Similar arrangements have also been identified in the Tibet Autonomous Region, where an extensive labour transfer programme has shifted mainly farmers, herders and other rural workers into low-skilled and low-paid employment.” (Photo via Bitter Winter)

Central Asia
Karakalpakstan

Karakalpakstan retains right to secede after unrest

Following a day of angry protests that left 18 dead and hundreds wounded, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced that he will not proceed with a planned constitutional change to revoke the right of the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, in the country’s remote northeast, to secede via referendum. The announcement came as Mirziyoyev made an emergency visit to Nukus, the riot-stricken regional capital of Karakalpakstan. He also imposed a month-long state of emergency in the region, which has been ecologically devastated by the shrinking of the Aral Sea. (Map: Wikipedia)

Central Asia
xinjiang

Leaked documents reveal abuse of Uyghurs

China’s President Xi Jinping held a video call with UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet during her visit to Xinjiang. But Bachelet’s fact-finding tour co-incided with new evidence of crimes against the Uyghur people of the province. A hacker broke into a computer network in Xinjiang’s so-called “Vocational Skills Education & Training Centers,” releasing a cache of files that document significant abuses. The Xinjiang Police Files, published by the Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies, include images from inside the camps, as well as thousands of detainee records. The records indicate that 12% of the 2018 adult Uyghur population of some counties was in camps or prisons. The files also include a 2017 internal speech by Chen Quanguo, then Communist Party secretary for Xinjiang, in which he apparently ordered guards to shoot to kill anyone who tried to escape the camps, and called for officials to “exercise firm control over religious believers.” (Image: Xinjiang Police Files)

Afghanistan
kunar

Pipeline plans threatened by Af-Pak border clashes

Afghanistan authorities say some 60 civilians, including five children, were killed as Pakistan launched air-strikes across the border on Khost and Kunar provinces. The strikes follow a series of attacks on security forces by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistan’s borderlands. The escalation was harshly condemned both by the Taliban regime and the Afghan permanent mission in the United Nations—the loyalty of which remains unclear more than six months after the Taliban takeover. The new tensions come a week after top diplomats from China, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and other regional states met for a summit in China’s Anhui province on reviving the long-stalled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which would deliver Central Asian gas to world markets through Afghan territory. (Photo via Khaama Press)

Central Asia
Sukhbaatar

Youth protests in Mongolian capital

Thousands of young Mongolians with no political affiliation filled central Sukhbaatar Square in the capital Ulaanbaatar for two days of peaceful protest, demanding reforms to address a long list of grievances related to taxation, inflation, job opportunities, police brutality and judicial independence. After the first day’s demonstration broke up, one group of some 20 youth was set upon by the police and beaten—which only set off a second day of protests. Support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s aggression was also a popular sentiment at the demonstrations, with many protesters displaying the Ukrainian colors as well as the Mongolian flag. Mongolia’s government abstained in the two UN General Assembly votes condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo via Twitter)

Central Asia
russia

Podcast: the looming breakup of Russia

In Episode 118 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the possibility that Putin’s criminal adventure in Ukraine could backfire horribly, actually portending the implosion of the Russian Federation into its constituent entities, the “autonomous” republics, oblasts and krais. Troops from Russia’s Far East were apparently involved in the horrific massacre at the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. But indigenous leaders from Siberia and the Russian Arctic are breaking with Moscow over the Ukraine war. Rumblings of separatist sentiment are now heard from Yakutia (Sakha), Khabarovsk, Kalmykia, Kamchatka, Tatarstan, Tuva, the Altai Republic, and the entirety of Siberia. China, which controlled much of what is now the Russian Far East until the 1850s, has its own expansionist designs on the region. Frederick Engels called for the “destruction forever” of Russia during the Crimean War, but it may collapse due to its own internal contradictions rather than Western aggression. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: PCL)

Central Asia
Itelmeni

Russian indigenous leaders protest Putin’s war

Exiled leaders of Russia’s Itelmen, Kamchadal, Udege, Shor, Saami and Selkup indigenous peoples issued a statement declaring that they are “outraged by the war President Putin has unleashed against Ukraine. At the moment, the entire population of Ukraine is in grave danger. Old people, women and children are dying. Cities and towns of an independent country are being destroyed because their inhabitants did not want to obey the will of a dictator and a tyrant.” The statement adds: “As representatives of Indigenous peoples, we express solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their struggle for freedom and are extremely concerned about ensuring the rights of Indigenous peoples during the war on Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean Peninsula that remains illegally occupied by Russia.” (Photo of Itelmen people in the Kamchatka Peninsula via Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
Tengiz

Ukraine war portends new oil shock

Long-depressed oil prices are suddenly soaring in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with impacts already being felt globally. Exports from Kazakhstan and the Caspian Basin are virtually paralyzed, as the Black Sea pipeline terminal delivering the crude to Western markets is incurring a prohibitive “war risk insurance premium.” Berlin has suspended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany—and Russia has retaliated by threatening to cut gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 line. In his executive order barring Russian oil and gas imports to the US, President Biden issued a warning to the oil companies, urging that the war should not serve as an excuse for price-gouging. But it is actually the oil futures market that plays a determinant role in fixing the international price. There’s a big psychological element involved, which is why every escalation in the Middle East (without fail) jacks up oil prices. A war in Europe will almost certainly mean another oil shock, with grim implications for the world economy and Biden’s political chances. (Photo of Kazakh oil-field via Wikimedia Commons)