July 27th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Fixing Australia: Can we trust the Morrison Government?

ENERGY Yallourn early closure more than a mere challenge, Mr Premier

CANBERRA OBSERVED Can Labor learn a lesson or is it unredeemable?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS High power prices lead to more deaths of elderly

GENDER POLITICS Catholic Ed's document strong on doctrine, weak on protocols

ENERGY Renewables do push up power price: Chicago economists

OBITUARY The eminence of Dr Joe Santamaria

HISTORY OF SCIENCE Faith and reason and Father Stanley Jaki, Part 6: Medieval Christendom sparks a revolution

ENVIRONMENT As many Pacific islands are rising as are sinking

ASIAN AFFAIRS Uyghurs lose in ethnic power play

POETRY AND HISTORY The epic of the White Horse

HUMOUR On patrol with Father Bruce

MUSIC Joao Gilberto: Carrier of melodies

CINEMA Crawl: Toothful entertainment

BOOK REVIEW America's postwar boom and its end

BOOK REVIEW The story of the drafting of a great document

BOOK REVIEW The facts behind an undying distortion



FOREIGN AFFAIRS Boris Johnson and the EU: Crash through or just crash

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Uyghurs lose in ethnic power play

by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, July 27, 2019

Like many ethnic minorities in strategically important regions of China, China’s Uyghurs have been on the losing end of an ethnic power play. The Uyghurs (pronounced “we-gars”) are a Turkic people who constitute 45 per cent of the people of Xinjiang, which has a total estimated population of 24 million.

A “re-education” camp for Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.

The Uyghurs do not speak Chinese as a native language, they speak Turkish. The Turks conquered Anatolia, which was called Asia Minor in ancient times. Although the Turks are Muslims, in ancient times Anatolia was a centre of Christianity. The Turks originated in central Asia and the Ottoman Empire, created in 1299, endured until it collapsed after World War I.

The Uyghurs are Muslims and have been in a state of rebellion against Beijing for many years. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officially tolerates religion but, under President Xi Jinping, it is cracking down on all religions, including Christian house churches.

The CCP is also trying to impose its will on Hong Kong, whose freedoms are guaranteed by law. The people of Hong Kong are in a similar situation to the Uyghurs.

Xinjiang is a strategically important region. It is officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, equivalent to a province. Xinjiang has a very big area and a relatively small population. In recent years, the Han Chinese population has increased dramatically.

The capital, Urumqi, which these days is predominantly Han Chinese, has 9 per cent of the population of Xinjiang, but produces 25 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Urumqi has a population of 3 million, but Uyghurs are only 13 per cent of the population. This is the result of an age-old Han Chinese tactic – encourage migration by Han Chinese to a new area, first outbreed the natives and then out-compete them.

The Han Chinese are the world’s lar­gest ethnic group. Of China’s population of 1.37 billion, more than 1 billion are Han Chinese. There are some 100 subgroups within the Han Chinese population. The Uyghurs and the Tibetans are not Han Chinese.

The name Han Chinese is derived from the Great Han Dynasty, China’s great dynasty, comparable with the Roman Empire. The Han Dynasty ruled China from 202BC to 220AD. In Chinese, Chinatown is known as Han Ren Jiu, or “Street of the Han People”.

 It is very common to see melons in Chinese cities that have been grown in Xinjiang. In cities all over China, people from Xinjiang can be found selling barbecued mutton skewers at the side of the road.

President Xi Jinping is the most domineering leader since Mao Zedong. He wants the CCP to control everything. Xi is President, CCP Secretary General and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. In other words, he is Head of State, head of the Party and he controls the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

It is rare for one man to control the top three posts in China. Deng Xiaoping, for example, was known as the “paramount leader” as he held only the post of Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Deng had never been a soldier; it is said he was too short, but he had been a military cadre. He understood soldiers, and they liked him.

The post of President is largely ceremonial, as it is mainly used for diplomatic purposes. Xi, however, is determined to remake China in his own image.

President Xi has decided to straighten out the troublesome Uyghurs once and for all. Mosques have been demolished and massive re-education camps have been constructed to “teach the people new skills”. The scale of the re-education camps is unmatched since Stalin’s Great Terror.

Despite its small population, Xinjiang is a strategically important area. It borders Russia, Afghanistan and India, the ancient foe. Xinjiang also borders “the Stans”: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. China’s ally, Pakistan, also borders Xinjiang, as does Mongolia.

Within China, Xinjiang borders areas that are historically Tibetan: the Tibetan Autonomous Region, Gansu and Qinghai. Tibet is undergoing the same process of Sinicisation as Xinjiang. Tibet was once far larger than the area it is said to occupy today.

Xinjiang is economically important to China. Apart from minerals, it is a major producer of natural gas. Although Xinjiang is a semi-arid area, it is an important producer of crops such as grapes and livestock, apart from melons.

The Uyghurs are the most important ethnic group in Xinjiang today, apart from the ever-expanding Han Chinese. Other ethnic groups include Tibetans, Russians, Tartars, Mongols, Tajiks, Kyrgyz and Xibe. The ethnic diversity of Xinjiang means that, although the Uyghurs are the largest ethnic group, Beijing can pursue a strategy of “divide and rule”.

The Chinese policy of re-education is on such a scale that it cannot be concealed from the outside world. These days, satellites can reveal the demolition and rebuilding of even relatively small structures.

The situation in Xinjiang should be seen in the wider context of President Xi’s policy of stamping China’s imprint on areas such as Hong Kong and cemen­ting China’s authority on the islands it has created in the South China Sea. President Xi is leading China in a new era of assertive nationalism.

In the meantime, Uyghur expatiates have been trying to interest Western nations in the plight of their people, without much success.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm