Harsh Chinese Crackdown Coming in Xinjiang

Chinese Communist Party and

military authorities are set to launch an all-out, life-and-death struggle

against underground, “splittist” elements in Xinjiang, whose three

attacks against security personnel this month resulted in the death

of 20 police and officers of the People’s Armed Police.

Diplomatic sources in the Chinese

capital said the enhanced military action would begin immediately after

the Olympics end on the 24th, when the world’s attention

will no longer be focused on China’s human rights record, including

its shabby treatment of the Uighur minorities in the Xinjiang Autonomous


The political fortunes of President

Hu Jintao’s faction are at stake. Since disturbances began to intensify

in Tibet and Xinjiang early this year, Hu cronies running western China,

including the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Party Secretary Wang Liqun

and Tibet Party Secretary Zhang Qingli, have come in for criticism by

other CCP factions for failing to do a good job in maintaining stability

in the two flashpoint regions.

In the Chinese tradition, cadres

under fire for failing to maintain law and order will normally opt for

hawkish and draconian measures so as to demonstrate their toughness

as well as “political resoluteness.” Given that Wang’s and Zhang’s

jobs are on the line, they would seem to have ample reason to use whatever

firepower they could muster to obliterate bitter foes among the ethnic


The call to arms was issued

August 13 by Politburo member and Xinjiang region secretary

Wang, Hu’s protégé. In language that recalls the excesses of the

Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Wang said in a meeting with local cadres

and military officials that the CCP’s war against the “three evil

forces” – or groups advocating terrorism, separatism and religious

extremism – would be “a struggle unto death… that will remain

long-term, severe and convoluted.”

Wang also hinted that there

was no room for compromise or for a non-military settlement of the differences

between Beijing and these “enemy forces.” The Politburo stalwart

told his comrades that military and police forces must “seize the

initiative in attacking, hit them [the enemies] wherever they show up,

and undertake pre-emptive strikes” so as to deny the three evil forces

opportunities to re-group.

Recent party documents on the

“next stage of struggle” against the “three evil forces” have

underscored the significance of a kind of responsibility system for

PLA, PAP and ordinary police officers. This means that military and

police officers must ensure that areas under their jurisdiction be free

of underground separatist or extremist bases. And if trouble or quasi-terrorist

activities occur in a certain city, town or county, responsible cadres

or officers are to be fired or demoted immediately.

As Wang said Wednesday: “Every

official must man his command post well. Officials must have a high

sense of responsibility toward safeguarding areas [under their jurisdiction].”

Beijing sources knowledgeable

about Beijing’s policies toward ethnic minorities – especially Uighurs

– say that President Hu has totally abandoned the policy of flexibility

and appeasement advocated by his patron, former party chief Hu Yaobang,

in the 1980s.

The sources have pinpointed

two new thrusts in Beijing’s long-standing efforts to tame Xinjiang.

Firstly, more troops – and

hardware such as jet fighters – are to be moved to the Lanzhou Military

Region (MR), which is responsible for western provinces including Gansu,

Ningxia and Xinjiang. Reinforcements have come, for example, from divisions

that were originally responsible for guarding the border with Russia

and for a possible military confrontation with Taiwan.

With relations across the

Strait having been stabilized in the wake of the triumph of the Kuomintang

at presidential polls last March, several units from the Nanjing Military

Region (which is responsible for Taiwan) have been deployed in the Lanzhou

MR for the time being.

Secondly, Xinjiang public security

departments will revive the surveillance and “spying” functions

of neighborhood committees in various cities in the autonomous regions.

XAR authorities have allocated additional funds to hire “part-time

informants” that are attached to neighborhood committees. These informants,

who include both Han Chinese and Uighurs, are tasked with telling police

about suspicious-looking people who have newly moved into the neighborhood.

At least as of now, President

Hu is confident that iron-clad tactics against Uighur “rebels” would

not lead to serious international repercussions. The US has in the past

few years toned down criticism of Beijing’s XAR policy partly in return

for China’s help in Washington’s global anti-terrorism gambit. And

President George W Bush’s appearance at the opening ceremony of the

Games has convinced Beijing that whatever it does in Xinjiang or Tibet

will not lead to a deterioration of Sino-U.S. ties.

Moreover, even if the PLA and

PAP were to play hardball with “underground gangs” in the XAR, such

actions would pale beside the recent incursion of Russian groups into

Georgia. The Western world’s lukewarm response to the Georgian crisis

reinforces the CCP leadership’s belief that it can get away with even

the most repressive policies in Tibet and Xinjiang.