Central Asia Theater
Ethnic Uighurs from around the world gathered in Washington DC this week to commemorate the anniversary of two short-lived independent republics set up by their forefathers within what is today the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. Around 100 Uighurs attended a ceremony Nov. 12 at Capitol Hill to remember the establishment of the East Turkestan republics on Nov. 12 in 1933 and 1944. Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, praised those who founded the republics, and called on the Uighur people to remain strong in the face of what she called a policy of "repression" under the current Chinese government. "The Uyghur people have been suffering under the oppressive government of China since the destruction of the Uyghur republics; however, the level of repression has since been extended to our beliefs and customs," she said at the ceremony at the Rayburn House of Representatives Office Building.
Security forces in China's far western Xinjiang region last month shot and killed at least 12 men and wounded 20 others during a raid on what authorities described as a "terrorist facility," Radio Free Asia reported Sept. 17. Local officials told Radio Free Asia that the men had been building and testing explosives at a desert encampment near Jigdejay village, Poskam county (Chinese: Zepu), outside the city of Kashgar. One resident said the police were tipped off to the presence of the encampment after a rocket launcher the men were trying to build accidentally exploded, killing one of them.
Over 100 ethnic Tibetans were injured and one man committed suicide in Yulshul (Chinese: Yushu) prefecture* in the Kham region of Eastern Tibet (officially in Qinghai province), as Chinese military forces broke up protests against diamond mining in the area Aug. 19. As in similar protests elsewhere in Qinghai earlier that week, protestors put up large banners printed with President Xi Jinping's recent speech on environmental protection, and charged that the mines have not been approved by China's central government. The clash apparently began when some 1,000 protesters occupied two traditional Tibetan sacred sites, identified as Atod Yultso and Zachen Yultso, at a mine in Dzatoe (Chinese: Zaduo) township, and security forces fired tear-gas to disperse them. Eight protesters were detained, but two identified as leaders are reported to have "disappeared."
Ethnic Tibetans protesting what they called illegal mining operations clashed with Chinese security forces in Gedrong Zatoe county, Qinghai province, Aug. 16. Exiled Tibetan activists with contacts in the region told Phayul news service that the protesters have pledged to block the mining operations, citing the threat to local watersheds. Hundreds of troops arrived at the three townships where protesters were mobilzing, and issued an "ultimatum" to call off the campaign or face arrest. Local Tibetan leader Khentsa Soedor reportedly said, "You can kill us but we will not let the mining take place here. It is our responsibility to protect our environment which is a source of water to many other countries." Authorities detained Soedor's wife for interrogation, and his whereabouts are now unknown.
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."
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'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.
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.