In an operation aimed at countering “violent terrorists,” Chinese government authorities killed seven “kidnappers” who were trying to leave the country to attend “foreign jihad camps” – but had stopped along the way to take two hostages.
That’s the official Chinese backstory – presented at a press conference this week – to a Dec. 28 shootout in the restive province of Xinjiang, where indigenous Muslim Uyghurs are struggling to preserve their culture in the face of a still-rising presence of Han Chinese.
Uyghur exiles give a different account of the shootout, which also left one police officer dead. They say police opened fire when locals clashed with officers during a demonstration outside the police bureau to protest a recent security crackdown.
Branding Uyghurs as “terrorists” when they’re involved in clashes with China’s authorities fits a pattern that Rebiya Kadeer, a prominent Uyghur businesswoman and human rights activist, outlined in detail when she spoke at UN Watch’s “We Have a Dream” human rights summit in New York in September.
“In an attempt to label Uyghurs as ‘terrorists,’ the Chinese government has used our Islamic faith as a pretext to conflate peaceful dissent with ‘terrorism,’” she said.
“Since 9/11, hundreds of Uyghurs charged with alleged ‘terrorism’ have been executed, and thousands arrested and sentenced.”
Kadeer’s 18-minute presentation can be seen in full by clicking here; her uninterrupted statement begins at minute eight.
The full presentation provides valuable context to the news stories about the Dec. 28 incident in Xinjiang province, not least on how China’s characterization of Uyghur dissent as “terrorism” is a clear effort to find common cause with the West’s struggle against extremist Islamism. Kadeer explains there is no connection between two.
“The Chinese government hides behind charges of ‘endangering state security’ or ‘splitism’ or ‘terrorism’ when it wants to silence Uyghurs,” Kadeer explains.
“The truth is that Uyghurs who contradict the official narrative of Chinese Communist Party ‘benevolence’ are severely punished. Uyghur dissent has effectively been criminalized.”