Urumqi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The capital of Xinjiang seems quiet this morning, after the demonstrations and violence of recent days. The deployment of tens of thousands of soldiers has had the effect of stopping clashes between Uyghurs and Han, although there are sporadic incidents.
The moment of greatest tension so far was July 7, when thousands of Han Chinese attacked Uyghurs’ houses and shops, seeking their own justice for the violence suffered by other Han Chinese when the Uyghurs demonstrations last week, degenerated into attacks on shops and the burning of police cars. The Uyghur population accuses the police of having fired on a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, provoking their reaction.
President Hu Jintao arrived yesterday in Beijing, leaving the G8 summit in Italy, because of the dramatic developments in the situation, which could lead to interethnic clashes throughout the country.
Besides the deployment of the military, calm is also being maintained with threats. Yesterday, Li Zhi, Urumqi Party secretary, said he would seek the death penalty for rioters who resorted to “cruel means” and murdered people, threatening the coexistence between Uyghurs and Han.
The death penalty is widely used in Xinjiang against the so-called "Islamic terrorism" of the Uyghurs, an excuse that gives Beijing an iron grip on the questions of autonomy and justice for the Uyghurs, marginalized and persecuted minority.
According to international organizations, hundreds of death sentences are imposed every year against the Uyghurs.
In Kashgar thousands of students are under house arrest to prevent their participation in any event. The soldiers who occupy Urumqi, from tanks and trucks full of troops, use megaphones to launch a call to coexistence between ethnic groups. Even on TV there are images invoking friendship between Uyghurs and Han are being broadcast. Yu Zhengsheng, secretary of the Party in Shanghai and the city mayor, Han Zheng, were shown on television while visiting a Uyghur restaurant, chatting with the owner and preaching on "stability and harmony”, without which there cannot be “well-being” or “economic development".
According to a scheme that closely echoes the suppression of Tibetan revolts last year and the charges against the Dalai Lama, the Beijing government and the national media are pointing the finger at "external forces" and in particular the World Uyghur Congress and Rebiya Kadeer, in exile in the United States, for having planned and instigated the demonstrations and violence. According to Chinese newspapers, there is also "evidence" that the U.S. State Department funds Rebiya Kadeer for his terrorist plots.
The Kadeer, an entrepreneur originally a member of the Party, later disillusioned in her search for greater autonomy for the Uyghurs, was arrested in 2000 for having "revealed state secrets." In 2005 she received permission on medical reasons to abandon Xinjiang and sought refuge in the United States. Her family remained in their homeland continually subjected to pressure and arrests. The Xinhua and the Party have called her "corrupt", committed to "international terrorism", "separatism" and "extremist forces", eager to "sabotage activities to mark 60 years of the founding of the People's Republic of China", in October this year.
Meanwhile, the Uyghurs’ cause is gaining worldwide sympathy. Exiled Uyghurs have organized demonstrations in front of Chinese embassies in Japan, France and Australia. The Turkish premier Erodgan said yesterday that he intends to present the problem of Uyghurs in China before the UN Security Council. Turks and Uyghurs have historical as well as ethnic and linguistic ties.
The tension that began in Xinjiang worries China. There is only the ethnic issue hanging in the balance, but also the discontent of many groups of the Chinese population because of corruption, economic crisis and repression of dissent. The Xinjiang spark could inflame other crisis situations around the country. "In the context of China - said Calla Weimer, academic in Singapore -, when there aren’t avenues for the expression of grievances and repression, it all just simmers ready to explode".