The Chinese and terrorism: A question of "proper candor"

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The moral problem that arises out of state run propaganda does so, not as a result of the target audience believing in the veracity of the propaganda, but, when members of that audience do not believe, however choose to act as if they do in furtherance of their own agendas.

A practical problem that arises out of the running of state propaganda, and one that the Nazis had managed effectively, is that for propaganda to be effective the propagandist must be consistent in the untruths and misinformation he propagates. Holes in a boat will eventually sink it.

The People’s Republic of China has, within it’s borders, a relatively little known ethnic minority the Uygur , who live predominantly in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in China’s north west border area.

The Uygur are Caucasian, mostly Muslim and speak a Turkic language. The inclusion of the name “Uygur” in the regions title is reflective of the situation in 1955 when the Uygur were by far the largest ethnic group in the region. They currently number some 8.5 million and up until the early 1960’s lived a fairly insular and relatively politically free existence as a result of Xinjiang’s geographical remoteness and it’s then apparent economic bareness. That situation had existed, despite the fact that they had been nominally ruled by successive Chinese regimes, since 1876. Going back in time the Uygur had been in the 9th CE, rulers a great empire in Central Asia and in the 1940’s had established a short lived independent state of Eastern Turkestan..

Since the early 1960’s, however, things have changed dramatically in Xinjiang. The discovery of rich reserves of natural resources and the increasing strategic importance of the area brought about a PRC policy to populate the region with a resultant inpouring of Han “migrants”.

The Uygur in a relatively short period of time therefore, have gone from a position of hegemony in 1949 to one of near tenuity now. Their traditional economy has largely been supplanted and their environment has been irrevocably changed.

But the Uygur, to date, has demonstrated a remarkable resilience to these changes. They have refused to be assimilated since the communist takeover as they had refused to be totally subjugated by the Chinese since their first recorded meeting in 63 BCE. They stand out like a sore thumb on the hand of Chinese homogeneity.

From their earliest history the Chinese have pursued an active policy of expansion and assimilation as they moved outwards from the East and the last 53 years under communist rule has been no different. From the early Mao period the PRC has followed an undeclared policy of assimilation of ethnic groups, the Uygur, however, have been less than totally acquiescent to this policy. And, this, the PRC does not like one iota.

Initially, the policies implemented to achieve the PRC’s goal were fairly benign in nature, almost paternal, but, with the failure of the Uygur to comply, the methods have become more overt and much more direct. They have escalated from the novel such as “intermarriage bonuses”, through attempts at religious re-education, to more multi-targeted and concerted plans.

Prior to the riots in Gulja (Yinning) in 1997 the Chinese policies had gone fairly much unnoticed by the outside world but with this event the situation altered considerably.

It is not just coincidence then, that subsequent to the riots in Gulja and the severe government recriminations that followed and the world attention ensuant, that the word “Terrorist” began to increasingly replace the century old terminology “Separatist” and “Splittist” to describe those seeking independence from China. The term “Separatist” not having quite the same evil connotations that the term “terrorist” does.

The propaganda machine had been kicked over.

It was put very much into high gear with the events of “9/11”. Within a month of that date, and before the dust of the Twin Towers had settled, the PRC had commenced an orchestrated propaganda and lobby programme in an attempt to couch their policies within the terms of the “War on Terror”. In doing so they hoped to mask the actions they deemed necessary to finish the task of breaking the collective will of the Uygur people.

For propaganda to be successful, however, it must be universally believed and, to be believed, it must be themed, it must be constant and it must be consistent in the misinformation it provides. To this end the PRC has almost failed miserably.

If it were not for the fact that the PRC’s propaganda is meant to mask serious human rights violations including mass detentions and executions it would be almost comical similar in the vein to the “Keystone Cops”. The PRC has contradicted itself over their facts more times than can be touched on here. These contradictions are not minor, nor are they so deeply hidden that it would require minute investigate analysis to reveal. These are contradictions of purported facts that an average person, with half a day to spare, a computer, access to the Internet and either the CNN’s, BBC’s or People’s Daily archives would easily be able to uncover. Some examples are:

In 1999 it was reported that the head of the XUAR, Abdul’ahat Abdurxit, had stated that terrorist incidents had died down and had consisted of several bombing and one or two politically motivated assassinations in the previous ten years. Then we have post “9/11” statements from the PRC claiming over 200 hundred terrorist incidents since 1987 perpetrated by 15 Uygur terrorist organisations and resulting in 163 deaths and 440 injuries.

As recently as December 2003 we had an extraordinary series of events. On the 15th December the PRC, through it’s news organ the People’s Daily, released an item naming for the “first time publicly” Uygur terrorists organisations and their leaders and openly called upon the rest of the world to assist in their capture. One of those named was the alleged leader of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, (ETIM) the only internationally proscribed Uygur terrorist group and considered by the Chinese, supposedly as one would think, public enemy number one.

On the 23rd of the same month the PRC had to provide a statement saying that this Uygur “Bin Laden” had actually been killed in a raid by the Pakistanis on a rag tag bunch of Al Qaeda suspects two months prior. To add insult to injury the Pakistanis claimed that the PRC had aided in his bodies’ identification at the time. Is this the tenor of a nation so in fear of it’s supposed terrorist threat?

The disturbing thing in all this, however, is that despite these and many more glaring anomalies; despite the various Uygur diaspora organisations tearing apart every Chinese Communique for accuracy; despite the remonstrations of several Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International ; despite the warnings of the UN Human Rights Commission and, despite the analysis of academic experts, that the world’s leaders continue to appear so “blind” to the propaganda.

When the US State department supported China in the listing of ETIM as a proscribed organisation by the United Nations it released a statement which said, in part, that it had done so based on the facts provided by the PRC and some nebulous news articles printed by Hong Kong and a Russian Newsagencies. Not only was this fairly weak “evidence” but it came less than a year after a US special envoy on counter terrorism stating that the US did not consider Uygur independence organisations terrorists.

One simple “wink wink, nudge nudge, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ for whatever reasons, in the name of whatever “greater good”, had validated and provided endorsement to the PRC’s policy of enforced Sinofication and effectively allowed the PRC greater scope and freedom to complete the task at hand. Without over dramatisation had we not seen this all before in diplomatic relations with pre War Nazi Germany?

Much harm has been caused, human rights have and continue to be to be severely violated, executions have not stopped all with nary a word of reproach from the “Free World”. The time has come, some two and a half years after the “War on Terrorism” was declared, for the world to step back and re-identify it’s real enemies and then to strike them hard and relentlessly. The war on genuine terror must be pursued vigorously and ultimately be successful. But, it is also now time to identify those regimes that are using the “War” to mask the furtherance of their ethnic, religious and political agendas and strike them , metaphorically speaking, equally as hard.

It has to be remembered that a terrorist is not only the person on a crowded bus with a bomb. Terrorist states have far greater power and projection than any supposed terrorist generalissimo whose end is dying in the mud of some Pakistani backwater town.

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