All about human rights?
By Cao Wei  ·  2024-03-18  ·   Source: NO.12 MARCH 21, 2024
Dancers welcome tourists at the entrance of a newly opened scenic area in Tekes County, Xinjiang, on December 22, 2023 (XINHUA)

In recent years, Western countries, the United States in particular, wielded the club of "human rights" to smear China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and vilify the country's governance of the region, accusing the Chinese Government of human rights abuses.

But these accusations do not reflect the actual situation in Xinjiang.

In essence 

China has repeatedly stated that Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights, ethnicity or religion at all, but about combating violent terrorism and separatism.

Separatists, in an attempt to split and control Xinjiang, engaged in violent and terrorist acts of sabotage for a long period of time. This badly undermined local stability and brought enormous suffering to all ethnic groups living in the region, posing a serious threat to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the stability in Central and South Asia, as well as world peace at large.

In response, the authorities launched counter-terrorism and deradicalization efforts in Xinjiang in accordance with the law to protect people's lives, which has garnered the ardent support of people from all ethnic groups. China has urged Western countries not to support the words and deeds of those separatists in undermining China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

There are many factors contributing to the emergence and spread of separatism, including historical issues, the international environment, external interference and ethnic relations. Separatism is often accompanied by terrorist activities and civil wars.

It is worth noting that separatism is something that may threaten any country. Western countries like the U.S., France and Canada faced threats of separatism in history and these countries took tough countermeasures.

Many historical data have revealed that the primary goal of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and his administration in the American Civil War (1861-65) was to fight against separatism, and that the abolition of slavery and the protection of the human rights of black people were only an indirect result. As Lincoln once said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

But, while firmly safeguarding its own sovereignty and territorial integrity, the United States has supported separatist activities in other countries.

The U.S. state of Texas was originally part of Mexico, but later established the separatist regime the "Lone Star Republic" with U.S. support and finally joined the country in 1845. Additionally, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 with the backing of the United States.

Residents chat under apricot trees in Bahrigzi Village of Tar Tajik Township, Akto County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on March 28, 2023 (XINHUA)

Double standards 

Separatist forces deny the fact that Xinjiang has been part of China's territory since ancient times where various ethnic groups have lived together, many cultures have exchanged with each other, and different religions have coexisted. They also attempted to pressure the government to concede to their demands by resorting to violent and terrorist activities.

Statistics show that from 1990 to the end of 2016, separatist, terrorist and extremist forces launched thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, killing large numbers of innocent people and hundreds of police officers, and causing immeasurable damage to property.

If external observers are looking for human rights issues in Xinjiang, they should look first to the thousands of attacks on innocent people in the name of separatism. These attacks violated the basic human rights of the region's people for a quarter of a century, and bringing them to an end was essential for guaranteeing peace and increasing prosperity. 

The Chinese Government has taken decisive measures to strike at terrorism and extremism. It has also worked toward cultivating a stronger sense of Chinese identity to strengthen ethnic unity through increased access to education, better knowledge of the law and the learning of standard Chinese language alongside ethnic minority languages.

While carrying out the teaching of standard Chinese, Xinjiang also provides Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, Mongolian, Xibe and other language courses at primary and secondary schools, thereby ensuring the right of ethnic minorities to learn and use their own languages and effectively protecting their languages and cultures.

The U.S., France and other Western countries adopted similar measures as early as 100 or 200 years ago. Demonstrating a basic proficiency in the French language is part of France's citizenship application process. English proficiency and observing U.S. laws are essential components of the naturalization process in the U.S.

However, similar measures taken by China somehow face groundless accusations and slander by the United States, which intentionally confuses the nature of Xinjiang-related issues and fabricates "human rights abuses" in Xinjiang as an excuse for its sanctions against the region.

Over the years, the U.S. Congress has proposed more than 150 Xinjiang-related bills under the human rights pretext. In 2020 and 2021, it adopted the "Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020" and "Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act," based on hearsay, fabrication and distorted reporting.

The U.S. has also imposed sanctions on more than 10 Chinese officials and 30 companies over so-called human rights issues in Xinjiang. In addition, the U.S. has removed the "East Turkistan Islamic Movement," which was designated a terrorist organization by the UN Security Council as early as in 2002, from its terrorism-related list. All these moves are serious violations of China's sovereignty, and send a dangerously wrong message to separatists.

The U.S. has adopted double standards on the combat against separatism worldwide. It will always support its allies' territorial integrity and national unification, and oppose separatist forces in those countries. But when it comes to its perceived competitors or enemies, the U.S. supports separatist forces in the name of religion, human rights and freedom, and even turns to direct intervention with arms.

It is clear that the U.S. attitude toward separatism in Xinjiang belongs to the latter category. No matter what excuse the U.S. uses to support separatist forces in Xinjiang, its pro-separatist actions jeopardize China's core national interests. 

Separatism not only poses a serious threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country in which it occurs, but also seriously impacts the current international order as a major cause of regional unrest and international conflicts.

As responsible major countries in the world, China and the U.S. should join hands to oppose separatism and uphold the existing international rules, order and system. If the existing international order collapses, not a single country will remain unaffected. 

The author is an associate professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Lanzhou University

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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