Forced “resettling” of young UIGHUR Women in China

July 23, 2008 at 11:20 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Unnatural selection in China


Beijing is tearing hundreds of thousands of Uighur women from their homes, and yet the West’s leaders are passing silently over this new Chinese crime and attending the Olympic Games instead.




By Willy Fautré

Published in The European Voice (09.07.2008)
Nicolas Sarkozy, it now transpires, will attend the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing. Ordinary Europeans had, like Americans, protested in large numbers against China’s crackdown in Tibet when the Olympic torch passed through their streets earlier this year. Sarkozy had been one of the few national leaders to criticise China loudly, and one of the few to raise the possibility that he might boycott the Games. It seems his words will not be followed by action.




Sarkozy and other European leaders should now explain to the Tibetans how they can countenance attending games organised by a regime that is repressing their rights. But the Tibetans are not the only nationality that deserves an explanation: so too do the Uighurs, the Turkic Muslim population of Xinjiang.

The Uighurs are relatively little-known, but aspects of their history will be familiar to any European who knows something of Tibet. Seized by the Chinese communist government in 1949, after five years as an independent state (the East Turkestan Republic), Xinjiang has – like Tibet – in past decades been subject to a massive influx of Han Chinese, a deliberate attempt by Beijing to dilute the indigenous population, weaken the Uighurs’ distinctive culture, identity, religion and language and tie Xinjiang more tightly to the rest of China. As in Tibet, China’s sensitivity to separatism in Xinjiang is acute. Sixty-five Uighurs are about to be tried for “separatism” and face the death penalty. And, as in Tibet, the Chinese authorities took extreme care to ensure that the Olympic torch relay passed through Xinjiang with no public demonstrations.

An enforced exodus

But a new element, one not previously seen in China, is now adding to human-rights observers’ already deep worries: in a turn of events that is paradoxical given the influx of Han Chinese into Xinjiang, the state is spurring – to use the mildest word possible – an exodus of Uighurs from north-western China to work in factories in eastern China.

This is not an exodus of choice and nor is it a mass movement: it is coerced “transfer” – to use Beijing’s own term – and solely involves single, teenage Uighur women. Chinese authorities want “to resettle” around 400,000 Uighur girls and young women in this manner as part of their 11th Five-Year Plan. The policy began to be implemented in June 2006. By March 2007, according to the Xinjiang Daily, there had already been 240,000 transfers to China’s eastern provinces.

The Chinese government claims that the policy aims at “providing employment opportunities and generating income” for the poor farming families who live in Xinjiang, but there is no doubt that its agenda is political, its policy selective and its methods coercive.

The true nature of the plan – and an example of how Chinese official rhetoric moves seamlessly from faux paternalism to overt coercion – was demonstrated in a speech given by the head of the Communist Party in Kashgar, Shi Dagang, in April 2007: “Transferring the rural labour force is an all-inclusive and major policy, closely tied to the future development of our region. Allowing the Uighurs to work elsewhere through various means is an important step toward generating more income for the farmers and developing the Uighur people. Whoever obstructs the Uighur public from working in the exterior will become a criminal of Kashgar and a criminal of the Uighur people.” 

There is no doubt that the crime here is Chinese policy. In most instances, Uighur girls and their parents cannot refuse this transfer. In order to “facilitate” large-scale transfers, Chinese officials have admitted that they forced Uighurs to send their daughters to China’s eastern provinces because they would have been removed from their posts if they had refused. Village officials have threatened to confiscate farmers’ land and destroy their homes. Farmers’ daughters have been threatened with the confiscation of their resident registration cards and refusal to issue them marriage certificates. Once in eastern China, the girls are denied the right to return to their hometowns or to speak Uighur. (There working days are also long and their payments irregular.)

Crimes that demand a response

Such measures are human-rights abuses. We, at Human Rights Without Frontiers, believe that the policy as a whole amounts to genocide. The Chinese authorities are deliberately targeting Uighur women; no Han Chinese girls are ‘transferred’. The number of women affected – over 240,000 already and 400,000 expected – is massive in absolute terms and huge in relative terms: there are just nine million Uighurs in Xinjiang. Beijing is quite clearly trying to change the demographic make-up of Xinjiang by reducing the number of potential mothers in the local Uighur community. In one generation alone – basing our calculation on a continuation of the ‘one family, one child’ policy – there will be 400,000 fewer children of Uighur descent on both sides.

It is a moral duty of the West and its leaders to respond to the cultural and demographic genocide being perpetrated in the shadow of the Olympics. Instead, many leaders plan to grandstand in the boxes reserved for dignitaries at the opening of the Games. By doing so, they will be legitimising what they know to be a repressive political regime that does not respect human rights, denies freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief to its citizens. To that list of abuses they are ignoring, they should add China’s policies in Xinjiang.

For human-rights reasons, Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has refused to attend. In so doing, he has sent a clear message to the moral conscience of the world community: No ethics? No Olympics. Others, including Nicolas Sarkozy (and Belgium’s Prince Philippe), should heed that message – and heed the fate of the young women of Xinjiang.

Willy Fautré is the director of the Brussels office of Human Rights Without Frontiers.






1 Comment »

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  1. 1 “Xinjiang was an independent state for 5 years prior to 1949.” Do you know its status for the entire 500 years earlier? If you claim to work for human rights you are well advised to know some history of China.
    2 “Massive influx of Han Chinese, an attempt to dilute indigenous population”. Uighers are migrants to Xinjiang just like many other ethnic groups; so are the Europeans migrants in US, Canada, S America, S Africa, Australia, NZ… Do you consider these whites diluting the indigenous populations?
    3 Have you been to Xinjiang? I have. Xinjiang is populated not only by Uighers, but Kazakhs, Huis, Mongols, Tibetans, Tuwas, Hans, Russians and many other ethic groups. The Central Government has pumped in billions of dollars to build infrastructure, improve agriculture, education and healthcare. Compare that with the treatment meted out to the natives of America, the aborigines of Australia, the Africans…
    4 “Moral duty of the West”? How racist can you get? It was not so long ago that the West decimated the Incas, the American natives, and many other indigenous people; enslaved the whole continent of Africa; forced opium on a quarter of humanity; subjugated the whole of Indian subcontinent,..
    5 You don’t talk of human rights abuses when you have blood dripping from your hands.
    6 China may not be perfect. The present Government has been around for only 60 years. Its treatment of its 60 ethnic groups is never based on racial lines, and it has a far better record than the Europeans ever had.
    7 Prince Charles should stay home and spend his time to contemplate on what UK should do when he ascends the throne to address human right abuses that it committed over 200 years as a colonial power. Likewise France’s Sarkozy and Belgium’s Prince Philippe on crimes against humanity in their former colonies in Africa, in Congo, in Asia.
    8 Yes we should address human rights abuses: not only for the present, but also in the PAST. Should you not also address this issue: Europeans are sitting on mountains of wealth plundered from centuries of naked aggression and inhuman exploitation of former colonies.

    vjie, Singapore

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