Central Asia Theater

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)

China: Han-Tibetan solidarity emerging

Police in Sechuan's Aba county on Dec. 11 detained two Tibetan men—a monk at the local Kirti monastery and his nephew—on charges of "inciting" self-immolations. Four days earlier, the self-immolation of a 17-year-old girl at Rebkong monastery town in Qinghai brought the total number of such cases to 95. Chinese authorities again accused the Dalai Lama of encouraging the practice. (The Hindu, Dec. 11) The following day, the New York Times ran an op-ed, "Tibet is Burning," by prominent human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong, who has defended peasants struggling to keep their lands before China's onslaught of "development."  Xu writes about his journey in October to pay respects to the family of Nangdrol, an 18-year-old self-immolation martyr. Paraphrasing the note left by Nangdrol, Xu calls the current situation in Tibet "scarless torture." He writes about his fellow passengers on his ride in a car packed with locals to Nangdrol's hometown of Barma in northeast Tibet:

Kazakhstan sentences opposition leader to prison

A court in Kazakhstan on Oct. 8 sentenced an outspoken political activist to seven-and-a-half years in jail for allegedly colluding with a fugitive billionaire to overthrow the government. Specifically, Judge Berdybek Myrzabekov found Vladimir Kozlov, head of the unofficial Alga! partyguilty of inciting dissent among striking oil workers in what became a series of violent clashes between police and workers that left 15 people dead last December. The judge declared that Kozlov had turned a labor dispute into a politicized strike on orders from billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov, a rival of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Koslov, however, has consistently denied the charges and proclaimed that his case was an attempt by the President to quell civil protests within the country.

Tibetan writer self-immolates in TAR

A Tibetan writer and poet died Oct. 4 after setting himself on fire to protest Chinese policies in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Gudrup, 43, self-immolated in the town of Driru (Chinese: Biru) in TAR's Nagqu (Nagchu) prefecture. He left a note on the popular Chinese social networking site QQ.com, in which he called for Tibetans to "foster unity and solidarity" and not "lose courage" in the struggle for freedom. So far, 53 Tibetans have torched themselves to protest Chinese rule. Gudrup's is the fifth self-immolaiton to be reported in the TAR. The first self-immolation in Lhasa, TAR's capital, was reported earlier this year.

Central Asia opium wars escalate

Tajikistan sealed its border with Afghanistan this week, after clashes with armed rebels left 48 dead. Security forces are now searching for Tolib Ayombekov, a former rebel who became a commander of the border guard after a 1997 peace deal and is now believed to have taken up arms again. Ayombekov has been a fugitive since he refused to show up for questioning about the July 21 murder of a local security official in southern Badakhshan province, or to turn over men under his command suspected in the slaying. A conflict over control of the cross-border traffic in Afghan opium is said to be behind the fighting. (IWPR, July 31; DPA, July 30; Registan, July 27; AP, July 25)

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