07/21/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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China takes hard line against Uyghurs, local authorities to adopt special anti-separatism law

The authorities in Xinjiang are preparing a special law. In China special law and order legislation means more powers to the police and less freedom to the people.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Xinjiang wants to quickly pass special laws to deal with separatism in the autonomous region, Chinese newspapers reported yesterday without any explanation. This is a sign that the protests that broke out on 5 July will be met with harsh measures. Officially 197 people died during the violent clashes and more 1,700 were wounded.

Analysts note that China already has some of the toughest anti-secession laws on the books; any new law will simply give more powers to the police and increase already harsh penalties, thus further limiting civil liberties.

Speaking to Xinhua Eligen Imibakhi, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Regional People's Congress, said that this month’s protests were caused by the “three forces,” namely “extremism, separatism and terrorism”.

For years China has used this unholy trinity to justify its persecution of Uyghurs, charging them with being dangerous terrorists.

Chinese authorities insist that demonstrations in early July were organised by secessionist groups, not the spontaneous action of ordinary people.

The mouthpiece of the Communist Party, the People’s Daily, yesterday blamed foreign groups like the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and exiled Uyghyr leader Rebiya Kadeer for masterminding the violence, an accusation which Xinhua reprinted today.

Uyghurs have dismissed Chinese charges, saying the protests were peaceful until police intervened.

Instead WUC representative in Japan Ilham Mahmut called on China to allow a third party to hold an independent investigation into the incidents.

Meanwhile Xingjian’s capital of Urumqi remains an ethnically-divided powder keg.

Uyghurs have become a minority in their own city, restricted to the poorest neighbourhoods.

Ethnic Han Chinese now make up more than 70 per cent of the city’s 2.3 million residents, encouraged to settle in this faraway outpost through incentives and promises of positions of power.

The violent demonstrations have traumatised both groups; each claiming that media coverage of the events has distorted what actually happened.

Officially, 1,400 Uyghurs have been arrested for their involvement in the protests, a figure treated with scorn by Uyghurs, some of whom claim that as many 20,000 have been detained, including innocent passers-by caught up in the events.

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