Harsh Chinese Crackdown Coming in Xinjiang
|Our Correspondent||Aug 15, 2008|
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.