In our June 17 blog entry, My Wonderful World addressed Palau’s acceptance of the Uighur Guantánamo Bay detainees. In recent days, international newspapers have been focusing on the bloody clash between the ethnic Han Chinese and the Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang Province, namely in its capitol city of Urumqi. The tension between the two groups in Xinjiang, where the majority Uighurs are ruled by the minority (but majority population of China) Han, is not new, but since the new wave erupted on June 30, at least 156 people have died.
This clash between ethnicities in Xinjiang can be traced back to the 18th century, when the Manchu Qing dynasty began conquest of the Uighur region. In this area, the inhabitants were of Turkic Muslim, not ethnic Han, descent,–like their neighbors in nearby Kazakstan, Kirghistan and Uzbekistan– and they did not speak the Chinese Language. In the 1940s, there was an independent Eastern Turkestan
Republic in part of Xinjiang, but in 1949, the entire region was
declared part of the newly formed People’s Chinese Republic.
Under Chinese rule, the Uighurs’ economic development has been
hindered. Since the 1970s, the Chinese government has been promoting
the migration of “more qualified” Han Chinese to the region, where many
people lack proficiency in the Chinese language. Many young Uighurs
are forced to leave Xinjiang for economic opportunities in other
regions to the East, including young women whose migration conflicts
with many of the protective values of Islam.
religion is strictly controlled by the State Administration for
Religious Affairs, but in Xinjiang, where 45% are Muslim Uighurs, the
control leads to resentment. Since 1949, the number of mosques has
decreased and children under the age of 18 are not allowed to attend.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been a new movement of
separatist groups in Xinjiang, including a series of large
demonstrations during the 1990s.
The new wave of violence this
month came about after a Uighur man, laid-off from his job at a toy
factory in Southern China, posted a fake message on the internet. The
message, claiming that two girls had been raped by six boys, initiated
a brawl between the Han and Uighur ethnic groups at the factory. In a
nearby city, a fight between the two groups left 118
people injured. The violence spread to Xinjiang’s capitol Urumqi. On
Sunday, violent clashes left 156 people dead and an additional 1000
people injured. Police encircled the demonstrators and arrested many
of the male participants. Later in the day, over 100 women began to
riot, some with infants in hand.
The conflict in Urumqi began
as a peaceful protest urging China to look into the dispute between the
Uighurs and Han at the Southern factory. Fighting spread, and by
Tuesday morning some 1,400 people had been detained and over 200 shops
burned in the capitol city. As in Iran, protests were coordinated using
the internet and messaging sites. Currently, the government is using
tightly controlled police forces to contain the demonstrators and make
At least one Han woman [who? Link to article quoting
this woman] believes that the government needs to be strict so that the
conflict ends as quickly as possible. Do you agree? Knowing the
history of the conflict, do you think that the U.S. is right not to
send the Guantánamo Bay detainees back to China?
Melissa for My Wonderful World