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Beijing Review Exclusive
Special> Focus on Xinjiang> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: July 20, 2009 NO. 29 JULY 23, 2009
Sowing Terror
The Xinjiang riot could set a dangerous precedent for future attacks by separatist groups, experts say

Instigating panic-sowing riots has become another tool used by terrorist organizations to augment their traditional attacks, said Li Wei, Director of the Center for Counter-terrorism Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. Li's comments came on the heels of the deadly July 5 riots in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Li said in diversifying their activities of disrupting social stability and development, various separatist and extremist organizations might more and more resort to terrorizing riots that feature smashing, looting, burning and killing. Such violence is more destructive and inflicts more pain and panic on the public.

According to Li, the objective of the Urumqi riot earlier this month was aimed at creating terror, and this is different from most street riots that usually result in property losses.

Official figures show the July 5 riot had led to 192 deaths and 1,721 people injured as of July 15. Li said it indicated that the riot was well planned and targeted human casualties as a goal and was therefore more effective at creating terror than those that target property loss.

Li also said the incident revealed two new methods that foreign anti-China groups are using to whip up anti-government sentiment­—using the Internet to spread information and sending people back to China to organize the riot. Li said problems, such as imbalanced social and economic development, exist in every country. In the Urumqi riot, terrorist organizations exaggerated the extent of these problems and distorted their causes.

Two Uygurs died in a toy factory brawl between Uygur and Han workers in south China's Guangdong Province on June 26. Members of the World Uygur Congress (WUC) used that incident to create chaos, according to a spokesman from the Xinjiang Regional Department of Public Security. The WUC is a separatist organization founded in Munich in 2004.

The police spokesman said the WUC made false accusations on the Internet that "the incident (brawl) is an organized, pre-emptive and systematic ethnic cleansing against Uygurs, which is being manipulated by the Communist Party of China and conducted by civilians."

Even without the factory brawl, the separatist WUC could have used similar incidents as excuses for fomenting violence, said Li.

Li said that though WUC leader Rebiya Kadeer tries to establish herself as a warrior for democracy, she knows that preaching alone could not guarantee long-term assistance from foreign anti-China groups. Kadeer believes that only by combining her propaganda campaigns with underground sabotage can the WUC increase its influence among "East Turkistan" organizations and obtain more generous funding from foreign separatist backers, he said.

Since the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Li said, Kadeer has been actively soliciting financial support from the international community under the banner of human rights and democracy. Li said anti-China forces are more than willing to see her cause real trouble for China. Since the international community is more united in fighting against terrorism, terrorist organizations act in a more secret manner, he said. Just like other separatist and terrorist organizations, the WUC immediately denied any link to the riot shortly after the incident, but instigating such a riot is totally consistent with the WUC's principles and actions, he said.

Other experts refuted the accusation that the Uygur people are unfairly treated in China. Qi Qingshun, an expert on ethnic studies at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said close relations and mutual support between Xinjiang's ethnic minorities and Han people took shape in the 1950s. He said the Central Government has increased its investment in Xinjiang since the 1990s, which has contributed to fast economic growth and people's higher living standards in the autonomous region.

Qi said the riot on July 5 is neither a clash of different ethnic groups nor a religious conflict. Instead, he said, it is part of an ongoing battle between anti-China forces and people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

In recent years, the Central Government has issued many preferential economic policies for Xinjiang. It has also allocated special funds for the construction of earthquake-resistant housing, subsidized student tuitions, trained government officials of ethnic minorities and protected the cultural heritage of minorities. The policies have helped Xinjiang's economy maintain a double-digit annual growth rate over the last five years.

Violations of Chinese Sovereignty Not Allowed

The Chinese Government will deal with the July 5 riot in northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region according to law to safeguard the security of the people's lives and property, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had earlier described the riot in Xinjiang as "a kind of genocide," a charge the Chinese Foreign Ministry said made no sense.

The riot, which caused huge loss of life and property to people of various ethnic groups, seriously undermined local social order and stability, Yang said in a phone conversation on July 12.

It was a grave crime orchestrated by the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism at home and abroad, he added.

Turkey respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and will not interfere in China's internal affairs, Davutoglu said, according to a news release from China's Foreign Ministry.

It will not allow anyone to carry out activities sabotaging China's sovereignty and territorial integrity on Turkish soil, he said.

Both officials underlined the importance of the China-Turkey relationship, saying that the two countries need to make joint efforts to sustain the momentum of their friendly cooperation, which serves the interests of both countries and of the Chinese and Turkish people.

Supporters of Xinjiang separatists attacked the Chinese Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on July 7, two days after the outbreak of the riot in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang.


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