Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Free Huseyin Celil

OTTAWA--The federal government says it is using "all possible diplomatic avenues" to press for the release of Canadian Islamic religious leader Huseyin Celil from jail in Uzbekistan, where he faces deportation to China and possible execution.

Celil's pregnant wife, Kamila Telendibaeva, held an emotional news conference along with Amnesty International at the House of Commons today, where she read a statement pleading for help.

The human rights group and 12 other non-governmental organizations have written Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him to intervene personally to help Celil, a political dissident who fled China in the mid-1990s before coming to Canada as a refugee and getting citizenship.

Harper's parliamentary secretary, Jason Kenney, says Ottawa is "preoccupied" with Celil's release and has dedicated a full-time consular official out of Moscow to the case.

Supporters want Canada to ensure legal counsel to the prisoner and to recruit other countries to help pressure the Uzbek government into freeing Celil, who has championed the cause of the Uygur people, an ethnic Muslim minority in China's Xinjiang province.

Celil was arrested in the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan on March 27 when he tried to renew his visa while the couple and their children were visiting Telendibaeva's family; no charges have been laid.

Telendibaeva returned to Canada last weekend after she was repeatedly denied visits to see her husband in jail. He was apparently arrested on a warrant from China and a ruling ordering his execution.

Amnesty International fears Celil, who escaped prison in China once, will be sent back because of close ties between the two countries and mutual extradition treaties.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Uighur Youth With No Future In Xinjiang

The young men studying at the Islam College in Urumqi, near China's western border, sit ramrod straight listening intently to their teacher.
Most hope one day to become imams in the many mosques of the Muslim-dominated Chinese region of Xinjiang.
"I believe in Islam, I came here to deepen my faith, to learn more," said 24-year-old, Bolo Alashankur.
"I learnt about Islam at home, from my family, but now I've come to the college for formal training," he said.

But learning about Islam is difficult here. Almost 2,000 miles from the capital, Beijing, the curriculum of the Islam College must be approved by the ruling Communist Party. Imams must attend political education camps - the authorities even dictate which version of the Koran should be used.


Ethnically Turkic Muslims, mainly in Xinjiang
Made bid for independent state in 1940s
Sporadic violence in Xinjiang since 1991
Uighurs worried about Chinese immigration and erosion of traditional culture

Human rights groups accuse China of conducting a campaign of repression against its Muslim minority, especially in Xinjiang. Despite a promise of religious freedom guaranteed in the constitution, in practical terms, few are at liberty to practise their faith as they would like.

China's war on terror is concentrated on Xinjiang. The province borders eight separate countries. Foreign fighters, including members of the Taliban, have been captured here.

At a press conference, Communist Party boss Wang Lequan warned that the province was under attack.

"In Xinjiang the separatists, religious extremists and violent terrorists are all around us - they're very active. We deal with these criminals using the law. In China, endangering national security is the number one crime. We have to crack down on it severely," he said.


But others have accused China of muddying the waters between religious extremism and religious freedom. The authorities are just as worried about the threat from within as from outside.

"Fear is definitely pervasive in Xinjiang," said Nicolas Becquelin of pressure group Human Rights in China.

"People from the Uighur community are very much at risk of being arrested, detained, tortured or sentenced to labour camps for anything the government equates to separatist feelings, or for holding religious activities," he said.

Uighurs are doing anything they can to make a living - there's no alternative

Anonymous Uighur
At the central mosque in Urumqi, the sights and sounds are not entirely Muslim. The old mosque was knocked down a few years ago and replaced by a handsome brick building. But when it was rebuilt, it came with the addition of a shopping mall. Now the faithful pray above a KFC and next to a Carrefour supermarket.
Those around the mosque are afraid to speak. Uighur men and women have been imprisoned for simply speaking to foreign journalists.
The BBC was monitored by undercover policemen for most of our time in Xinjiang. We slipped away briefly and spoke to a Uighur who was unhappy about the redevelopment.
"It really isn't appropriate," he said. "We come here to worship - but sometimes we can't hear our prayers because of the music and singing from the bazaar."
Life is difficult for Muslims in Xinjiang, he said, warning that he could get into trouble for speaking to the BBC.
"It's getting more and more difficult for us to earn money now. Uighurs are doing anything they can to make a living - there's no alternative," he said.
China wants to focus on the smiles
Northern Xinjiang is rich and fertile, and it has oil. But Uighurs enjoy little of its riches, especially since China has flooded the province with Han Chinese. In 1950 Uighurs were 94% of the population - they are now less than half.
This ethic dilution is denied by officials such as Yahfu Wumar, director of Urumqi's Religious and Ethnics Affairs Committee.
"There's very little difference in the ethnic balance between now and the early 1950s," he said.
"The central government established the "Go West" policy to bridge the economic gap between east and west China. It has brought entrepreneurs here - but it certainly isn't an issue of moving Han people to Xinjiang," he said.
One of the few places where Uighur culture is celebrated in Urumqi is at a folk performance for tourists. But it is another fabrication - the gaudy costumes include glittering cowboy hats and most of the songs are sung in Chinese, not Uighur.
Beijing says its priority is to stop religious extremism and terrorism in this far-off province.
But critics say it is criminalizing an entire race of people, and that this repression will only radicalize those who want the freedom to pray and the chance to share in China's new-found riches.
source BBC

Monday, April 24, 2006

More oil strike in Xinjiang

BEIJING - Sinopec, China's largest refiner and second-largest oil and gas producer, may reinforce its upstream production with the recent discovery in Xinjiang of an oilfield that may be of comparable importance to Daqing, the country's largest oilfield, which has been producing more than 40 million tons per year of crude for three decades.
Sinopec is currently conducting a drill-stem test on the Tashen 1 wildcat well, located in its Tahe oilfield in Xinjiang . Historically, almost every drill-stem test has yielded a big discovery. Daqing, for example, is a result of a drill-stem test conducted on the Songji 3 well in 1959. A drill-stem test on the Tazhong 1 well in 1988 resulted in the discovery of Tarim oilfield.

Sinopec workers hit a strong oil and gas current when drilling reached 7,300 meters at Tashen 1.

Experts estimate that Tashen may have a reserve comparable to Daqing, but the answer may still take time and effort to check. If the discovery fulfills its potential, it will make the Tahe field's output, currently at 3.85 million tons per year, exceed the goal of 10 million tons per year Sinopec plans for 2010.

Not only that, if the oilfield does have a comparable size to Daqing as has been speculated, Sinopec may actually surpass PetroChina to become China's largest oil producer.
source here.
(Asia Pulse/XIC)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Biography of Mao Zedong translated into Uighur

A biography of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, "Mao: A life" by famous English biographer Philip Short, has been translated into the Uygur language and will be published in June.

This is the first Uygur edition of books on Mao's biography, which will satisfy the interests of Uygur readers to know more about Mao, who was the founder and leader of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China, said Abdurahman Abay, director of the Xinjiang People's Publishing House.

The Uygur edition of the biographies of other former Chinese leaders, such as Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zeming and Hu Yaobang, will also be published with that of Mao, according to Abay.

The English edition of "Mao: a life" was first published in Britain, and its Chinese edition was published in 2004.

Home to 47 ethic groups, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region boasts a population of nearly nine million with the Uygur ethnic minority, accounting for 45 percent of the region's total.
source here

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Xinjiang: Taklimakan Desert Rally

Exciting news from Xinjiang. Details of the Taklimakan Desert Rally are coming through.
This is an update written to all the teams froM Team captain " Max Gordon Oidtmann". He lives in Urumqi China and is arranging all the details for the race for us, we all start to fly into Urumqi from the 24th April.

The happy news here in Urumqi is many fold.

First I was awakened from bed this morning with a phone call from Manager Wang, of Qingqi-Suzuki, telling me that the all the motorbikes had finally arrived from Shangdong

So Jonathan, Tian Jian and I all trooped out to the Urumqi suburb of Changji,where, in a dusty filthy lot, stood two massive blue Dong Feng trucks from Inner Mongolia stacked high with our motorcycles in big steel crates.

The bikes were trucked in pell-mell all the way across China in an amazing three days - each truck had a team of three drivers so they drove non-stop. The storage lot's offloaded was broken, so there was no unloading today.

All I know is that our team now possesses eight brand new GREEN motorcycles, which are still in a semi disassembled state. That and they are all covered in about 10 sandstorms worth of dust.

Last week I took a trip to Karamay, the glorious oil city of northern Xinjiang.

I was invited up to survey the operations of the "An Tai Head Engineering and Consulting Company" (their translation, not mine). I was feted with crabs and baijiu, and put up in a lovely hotel right in the middle of an oil refinery (it felt very Syriana-like).

Anyhow this company has decided to endorse our team to the tune of about RMB 30,000, which will be handled by Tian Jian, and is also giving us the free use of a Nissan X-terra for the course of the race.

Of course this all comes with a catch: This engineering company is opening up a four-star hotel in Urumqi. It ain't open yet, but our uniforms will have their name on it

Currently Tian Jian and I are having uniforms made, basically a motorcycling jacket and pants set. This stuff fell out the "back door" of the same factory as the BMW motorcycling clothing, so it is really hot shit- nice durable all-weather fabric.

Our intention is that this is stuff you can wear around camp and during the larger group road rides leading up to rally sections. It could also double as an outer layer during race sections, 'cause it is really great material. Our outfits will be black, with gold and silver reflective patches for our sponsors.

We've currently got two mechanics/helpers coming along to provide support: DuTao has confirmed that he will be coming out from Lanzhou, and Tian Jian has arranged another mechanic from Urumqi.

Also, after long negotiations with the race company, your original race entree fees now also include something like 400,000 RMB worth of medical treatment in Xinjiang's hospitals for any injuries sustained during the race.

Jonathan of New Zealand has been busy too: He got us an endorsement from the
international distributor of Hoegardens Beer (belgium) and Boddington's Pub Ale
(England). So we're going to have crates of this stuff to get liquored up on during the race, as well as some t-shirts.

So we've got a sweet set of outer-wear for everyone on the team. It is warming up nicely in Urumqi and Xinjiang in general, so I will revise my advice to bring warm clothing. Expect daytime temps to be hot. Aside from perhaps one day, the racing will all be in low-mid elevation desert- no glacier crossings.

Considering that we've got several sets of jackets made for you all here, leave your extra sweaters behind. Please pack as light as possible.
Official team name: Jinhua Business Hotel- Talkimakan Rally Team
That's the news from Urumqi.
Good luck with final preparations.
We'll be sending pictures of the bikes as soon as possible.

source here


It has been organized for the May holiday break. It’s called the “Around Taklimakan Desert Race”

It’s a 10 day, staged rally across the Taklimakan Desert, covering 4000Km

The race will have approximately 60 motorbike riders and about 100 4wd, vehicles racing plus TV and support crews.


2006 Zhongkun Auto\Motor Rally Race around the Taklimakan Desert does challenge the unique natural physiognomy in XJ; it is also a rigorous test for the driver and their cars. Meanwhile, the profound cultural connotation and atmosphere of XJ also catch the eye of the competitors. During the rally race, we witness the unique Yadan physiognomy, vast Gobi desert and various kinds of rivers. While, the cultural relics really attract the attention of us, such as the magnificent Kizil Thousand-Buddha Cave, elaborately designed old residential district, respected Apahoja Tomb and mysterious Kuqu Grand Canyon. All these relics will surely add more charm to the rally race.

source here

Kazakh pipeline reaches Alashanko, Xinjiang

Kazakh crude flowing through a landmark pipeline opened four months ago is set to reach China in a week, helping the world's number two oil consumer cut back on imports, a Chinese industry official said.

The pipeline will ultimately supply 4.5 million tonnes this year, equivalent to about 4 per cent of China's total oil imports last year, part of Beijing's move to boost supply security with more long-term contracts from key suppliers.

"It will start feeding the refineries in May," said an official from state-run China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) from Beijing, referring to plants in Xinjiang and Lanzhou run by its listed subsidiary PetroChina.

PetroChina, Asia's big-gest oil and gas producer, operates refineries mostly in the country's north and supplies 40 per cent of the Chinese fuel market. The supply rate matches industry estimates that the $800 million, 600-mile (965 kilometres) pipeline would be running at half its designed capacity of 10 million tonnes a year (200,000 barrels per day) in 2006 and operate at full tilt by end-2007.

On a daily basis, the pipe-line will carry 137,000 barrels of oil to Chinese refineries from May, or about 2.3 per cent of China's current total refinery production.

The Atasu-Alashanko pipeline is China's first international crude line. China has been lobbying Moscow for over a decade to build an oil pipeline from East Siberia of Russia, the world's second-largest exporter after Saudi Arabia.

Until now China has imported Kazakh crude oil by train, taking 26,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2005, customs data show.

The CNPC official said crude supply via rail will continue even after the flow via pipeline is underway, but he declined to give further details.

Most of the new oil will be pumped from CNPC-operated oilfields in its Central Asian neighbour, including the Aktobe field in the northwest and the Kumkol fields that CNPC recently acquired when it bought Canada's Petro-Kazakhstan.

The Kazakh-China pipe-line ends at the Chinese border town of Alashanko in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, from where CNPC has laid a 153-mile pipeline to carry oil to its Dushanzi refinery.

PetroChina's refineries in Xinjiang as well as Lan-zhou, the fuel supply hub in the vast, remote western China region, are expected to raise crude throughout this year to process the increased supply of Kazakh oil.
source GulfNews

More on Dushanzi refinery in Xinjiang

Most of crude oil fed into the Dushanzi factory will be imported through a 1,200- kilometre cross-border pipeline.

This links Atasu in Kazakhstan to Dushanzi, and is China's first major land oil import route.

continues here

Read more on Kazakh-China pipeline(s)

Despite some suggestions, there is virtually no market for imported oil in Xinjiang, which is an oil exporting region with a population of only about 19mn. China’s major consuming markets are all far to the east. China expects to invest $1.2bn in two pipelines running east, with construction set to start simultaneously with the Kazakh project. The first line for crude would stretch some 1,500km from Shanshan in Xinjiang to a refining center in Lanzhou, in north central Gansu province. A second 1,800km line would run from Urumqi to Lanzhou, carrying what officials are calling "finished oil." Each line could handle 10mn tons annually, suggesting that they could be used for later volume increases from Kazakhstan or for Xinjiang’s own product shipments. Plans call for linking the lines to petrochemical complexes in eastern and southwestern China, although no timeframe has been given.

continues here

Friday, April 21, 2006

News from Xinjiang

Jinchuan Group Increases its Equity Interest to 13.5% in GobiMin
GobiMin Inc. (the "Company" or "GobiMin")(TSX VENTURE:GMN) and Jinchuan Group Ltd. ("Jinchuan") of the People's Republic of China are pleased to report that Jinchuan has increased its shareholding in the Company to 7,650,000 common shares ("Common Shares"), representing approximately 13.5% of the total outstanding Common Shares of GobiMin.
Read more here

Aid for China Orphans Lacking
12-year-old Xiao Ming lifted his dirty quilt to uncover a half-filled bag of flour. "Look, I still have food," he said with a smile to a reporter from China Youth Daily. According to the paper's report on April 17, Xiao Ming has lived mostly alone since his parents died three years ago. His two elder brothers have left home to work. Relatives who live about 100 kilometers away visit once in a while. They brought some pies for him on their last visit, but the pies have since gone moldy. The boy gets most of his meals from neighbors.
source here

Unit 731 command center to become ruins park
Harin decides to protect the Unit 731 ruins and build it into a world-famous ruins park of the World War II.

During the World War II, the Japanese Army set up Unit 731, and the Unit 731 ruins was a witness of the largest biological warfare research through human experimentation in world wartime history and the remains of the largest biological warfare command center in world history.
This year, Harbin will focus on renovation of the neighboring regions of the Unit 731 ruins and strive to recover their original appearance in history to enable people to see the ferocious acts of Japanese invaders in China.
The National Development and Reform Commission has allotted 30 million yuan for dismantling two residential buildings on one side of Xinjiang Street, where the Unit 731 ruins is located.
source here

Scientist raises questions over identity of skeleton
A former colleague of Chinese scientist Peng Jiamu says uncertainties still exist about the identity of a skeleton found in Lop Nur Desert where Peng disappeared 26 years ago.
Although the remains revealed many similarities to Peng, a noted biochemist, many questions remained to be answered, said Xia Xuncheng, a former colleague of Peng.
"We can tell from the skeleton's lower jaw that the man had many false teeth, but we're not sure whether Peng had any," said Xia, who is also a Urumqi-based ecologist and geographer with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
source here

Muslim Xinjiang

Throughout China's vast Xinjiang (Sinkiang) region, the muezzin's call to prayer echoes in such desert oases as Kashi (Kashgar), Aksu, Kuga (Kucha), Hami, Turpan and Hotan (Khoton). Mosques too are well filled in the cities of the Gansu Corridor, (Kansu), once vital links in the old Silk Road between China and the West, while, in the walled city of Xian, Chinese guides respectfully detain tourists at the main gate of the much-visited Great Mosque until the numerous faithful finish one of the five daily prayer sessions.

Imam Dawud Shi Kunbin also says that "more and more" people - over 1,000 in 1983 - are making the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah, despite normally severe restrictions on overseas travel for individual Chinese. He also reports a new influx of young men into the Islamic studies. At the Lanzhou madrasa, last summer, for example, all 20 places were filled, and at an Islamic college attached to Beijing's Dong Si mosque another 17 high school graduates were studying to be imams.

Muslims have also gained a measure of toleration from other religious practices. In areas where Muslims are a majority, the breeding of pigs by non-Muslims is forbidden in deference to Islamic beliefs. Muslim communities are allowed separate cemeteries; Muslim couples may have their marriage consecrated by an imam; and Muslim workers are permitted holidays during major religious festivals.

Recently, even the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party took up the cudgel on behalf of Muslims. Prompted by complaints from Muslim visitors, Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) urged the authorities to solve the problem of "getting a Muslim meal" in Beijing, where, it said, the 240 Muslim restaurants were no longer enough because "more non-Muslim residents are switching from a diet of pork to beef and mutton." The highlight, in fact, of a recent visit by one normally-chopstick-wielding Chinese to the Alpine-like Tian Shan (Celestial Mountains), was a hand-eaten mutton meal shared with Muslim herdsmen.

As well as religious gains, Muslims have also won significant secular concessions from China's Communist rulers; they are, for example, playing an increasingly important role in regional and local administration. In the Xinjiang region, which covers 16 percent of the total land area of China, Muslims now hold a majority of government posts; four of the seven members of the regional government and 26 of the 37 members of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of Xinjiang are members of national minorities who mostly practice Islam. In the capital, Imam Dawud Shi Kunbin serves as a member of the Standing Committee of Beijing's Municipal People's Political Consultative Conference, and says "Muslims head all administrations in the street" where mosques are located.

Muslims, most of whom are farmers or herdsmen, seem to be prospering economically too since the Chinese government introduced more liberal agricultural policies and stepped up industrial investment in the under-developed - and relatively autonomous - outlying areas where they live. Capital investment by the central government in such autonomous regions - including the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang region - has totaled about $9.2 billion since 1978, and in 1983, when agricultural production peaked in China, farmers in the autonomous regions produced 39.7 million tons of grain and 180 million head of livestock.

The result of this increased prosperity was clearly visible last summer at Turpan, where Muslim farmers said they earned far more than the average city dweller and the sight of motorcycles parked in the vine shaded courtyards of their walled, mud-brick homes wrung looks of envy from visitors from Beijing.

Culturally too, Muslims seem to have gained more freedom. Newspapers and books, television programs and films are being printed and produced in their own languages; the Xinjiang Daily, for example, is published in Uighur and Kazakh as well as in Chinese. Minority students are able to go to school in their mother tongue and are also allowed to take university entrance examinations in their own language. At the same time, the government is taking special pains to preserve and promote the colorful folk dances and songs of the Muslim minorities of Xinjiang.

Most of these already-practiced privileges were recently confirmed in the "Law of Regional Autonomy for Minority-Nationalities" adopted by the Sixth National People's Congress. The law stipulates that the administrative head of an autonomous region, prefecture or county -previously a member of the majority Han Chinese - should be picked from one of the nationalities exercising regional autonomy in the area.

The newly enacted legislation also, allows autonomous areas to develop their economies independently - within the framework of state plans, of course - and formulate their own laws according to the characteristics and needs of their locality. It also gives all minorities the freedom to use their own spoken and written languages, develop their own culture and education, and practice their own religion.

Such policies represent a dramatic reversal since the days of the "Great Leap Forward" and the Cultural Revolution, when, for example, the government attempted to dilute the Muslim population of Xinjiang by settling masses of Han Chinese there, and by replacing Muslim leaders.

This turnaround in policies probably reflects a more realistic attitude by China's government towards minorities who may make up no more than 10 percent of the population, but who occupy over 60 percent of the land of China - much of it strategically important and rich in natural resources. Predominantly Muslim Xinjiang, for example, borders the Soviet Union, Mongolia, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan and is rich in minerals, including oil. While Yunnan on the southwest frontier, which has a substantial Muslim population, borders Burma, Laos and Vietnam and has some of China's largest timber reserves. For the government it may seem wiser to keep minorities there happily within the Chinese fold.

This, to be sure, may be a kind of tug-of-war for the hearts and minds of the Muslim minorities, but it cannot be denied that the Chinese Muslims are benefiting; whatever the motives, the new political realism translates into official tolerance. Those who lived through the repressive days of the Cultural Revolution are understandably skeptical about the future. But for the moment, at least, Islam is very much alive among peoples who have managed to practice their faith, sometimes against great odds, since the seventh century.

This article appeared on pages 4-9 of the July/August 1985 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.
source here

News from Xinjiang

Motor Rally.
Plans are underway for a motor rally from Urumqi to Lahore to be held in September this year, according to Hashim Khan, managing director of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation.
Read more here

Many dead in R.T.A. in Aksu Prefecture
A traffic accident has killed seven people and seriously injured another two Thursday afternoon in the Aksu Prefecture of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, local traffic authorities said on Friday.
The accident took place at about 1 p.m. on a highway in Aksu, when three motor vehicles collided each other, killing four people on the spot.

Another three people died on the way to a local hospital. The collision also left two passengers seriously injured, according to local traffic authorities.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.
source here

China wants the Uighurs of Guantanamo

The Chinese foreign ministry has called on the US government to repatriate Uighur prisoners held in its Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

"We hope the American side would repatriate the terrorists of the Chinese citizens,"
said Qin Qang, a foreign ministry spokesman, on Thursday.

"Terrorism is the enemy of humankind. East Turkestan is a part of the international terrorist force and casts a serious threat to international societies including China and the US."

US officials say they cannot send Uighur prisoners back to China because it is likely they will be tortured or killed.
source here

Cross your fingers if you’re an Uighur
Joseph K. in The Trial could not have found himself in a more terrifyingly ludicrous situation. But while the protagonist in Kafka’s novel never gets to know why he was picked up one day by mysterious officials and arrested, Abu Bakker Qassim and A’del al-Hakim at least know why they have been held captive since June 2002: they were mistaken to be enemy combatants on Pakistan. Muslim names, picked up from the Pakistan-Afghan border and mistaken for enemy combatants? Now, how far can the US War Against Terror be from this story? Not far, considering the two hapless Uighurs — ethnically Turkic Muslims mainly from China’s Xinjiang province — are stuck between a rock and a hard place in a spot called Guantanamo Bay.

Mistaking Uighurs roaming around in Pakistan with ‘suspicious’ names is not half as bad as not letting them go despite there being no charges against them. The bizarre climax is that the US administration can’t let them return to Xinjiang because they are touchingly ‘fearful’ that the two will (also) be persecuted by Chinese authorities — who incidentally like ‘funny sounding’ names even less than the Americans.

So what about letting them stay on in the land of milk and honey? No siree, no can do for security/immigration reasons (read: ‘funny sounding’ names from that part of the world). So any takers for Mr Qassim and Mr al-Hakim, two men waiting in limbo who can neither go back home nor ‘legally’ be held in the happy home-halfway house that is Guantanamo Bay? Surely, some sense of camaraderie and courtesy is forthcoming from their Muslim brethren from any of the many Islamic States? Did someone say the blighted Uighurs had been picked up from Pakistan? Hmm...
source here

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Danwei TV 6: a film about Uighurs

Danwei TV 6 is a short film about Uighurs in Beijing.

The Uighurs, (pronounced Wee-ger and sometimes spelled Uyghur) are a Muslim ethnic group from Xinjiang, Chinese central Asia.

In this show, Danwei TV interviews several Uighurs in Beijing selling lamb kebabs (yang rou chuan'r) and Uighur candy, and shows their working conditions.

Interviews were conducted in Mandarin, which is not the Uighur's native tongue: they speak their own language, which is related to Turkish.

Shot and edited by Luke Mines, this film is presented by Jeremy Goldkorn, with original music by Fernando Fidanza. For inspiration, thanks to Richard Robinson (one of whose many projects is Chopschticks, which organizes performances by U.S. stand up comedians in China).

There is some untranslated Uighur dialogue in the video. A translation would be highly appreciated if there are any Uighur speakers out there who can translate to English or Chinese. Send to jeremy at danwei dot org.

click to watch video here

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

News from Xinjiang

click pic to enlarge

19.4.2006 Four people were found dead and two others were injured in a vehicle emission poisoning accident on Tuesday in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

According to local government sources, the city's emergency treatment center received reports of the accident at 9:00 a.m. andrushed to the site at a repair plant of audio and video products. Four people were found dead and the other two were unconscious.

The victims were workers at the plant. They stayed overnight onMonday inside the workshop after completing work. The generated engine of a vehicle was used as a source of heat due to the low temperatures early Tuesday morning.

The carbon monoxide from the emission killed them, the sources said.


Today on Xinjiang TV

click pic to enlarge

19.4.2006 Policemen and road workers offer help to people whose vehicles are stranded along the Qinling section of the 210 National Highway due to heavy snow yesterday. Some 1,000 vehicles in the same area came to a halt after their fuel tanks froze following the sudden drop in temperature.
Affected by the cold air current moving southward from western Siberia, a rare strong sandstorm hit Shaanxi, Gansu, Shanxi provinces and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The Water Crisis in Xinjiang

China 's efforts to “Develop the West” are likely to strain Xinjiang's water resources and necessitate conservation measures, Dr. Stanley Toops, Associate Professor of Geography and International Studies, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, said at the March 28 W.P. Carey Forum.

Toops, Associate Professor of Geography and International Studies at Miami University in Oxford , Ohio , spoke on “The Water Crisis in Xinjiang.” An expert on Xinjiang, Toops was a contributor to the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute's recent volume, “Xinjiang: China 's Muslim Borderland,” edited by S. Frederick Starr, chairman of the institute.

The region's heavily agricultural economy depends on water, but water resources have been strained by extensive in-migration, economic development and the legacy of communist irrigation techniques.

Stoops said that the level of water usage per-capita is growing, residential use is increasing, industrial use is increasing, and construction projects and oil use are requiring more and more water. The local population has always dealt with water scarcity, but “I think it's kind of stretching the capabilities” of the region, Toops said.
“The big push is to develop the West, not to make the West an ecological paradise,” he said.

Toops outlined Xinjiang's regional divisions. The province has three major geographical regions — south, center and north — each with its own distinctive ecological character.

The southern region, comprising about half of Xinjiang's total area, surrounds the Tarim River Basin . The northern boundary of this region is the Tian Shan, or “ Heavenly Mountains .” The region is extremely dry. Its economy includes little industry, focusing mostly on agriculture in oases such as Kashgar and Hotan. Rivers and runoff coming from the mountains enable these regions to support fruits and vegetables, as well as cotton at Kashgar. Cotton production is very water-intensive.

Xinjiang's center region lies in a fork of the Tian Shan range. As in the southern region, runoff from the mountains supports oases such as Turpan and Hami, with their grape and cotton crops. For thousands of years, irrigation has consisted of the karez system of underground canals linking the oases and the mountains. Today, agricultural producers must dig deep wells to reach the underlying aquifer.

The northern region comprises the Zungharian Basin and the Ili River valley, surrounded by the Altay Shan mountains and the Tian Shan . The Gurbantangut Desert is cold and dry year-round, but the Ili River valley is well-watered and drains into the Seven River region of Kazakhstan .

In the Tarim Basin , the rail link from Turpan west to Kashgar was completed in 1999. In his academic work, Toops has shown that population movements in Xinjiang have followed expanded transport routes. However, more than a decade before this rail link to the west was completed, the Tarim River , known in Uyghur history as the mother river, had ceased to flow from Kashgar east to Lop Nur .

This area has seen a large push for agricultural expansion. More and more people have moved to the area, but there are no new sources of water. Water has been taken from Bagrash Lake , but that will only last for so long, Toops said. “There are limits to the amount of people the area can support,” he said.

In modern times, the Tarim River has been over-utilized for irrigation. As a result, water has been wasted and more land has become salinized. During the 20 th century, according to studies, humans were more important than climate in the degradation of the Tarim Basin oases.

The cities of Urumqi and Turpan, in the central region, have different characteristics from the southern region.

In contrast with Kashgar, which is heavily agricultural, Urumqi has the largest urban concentration in Xinjiang and is the focus of the province's heavy and light industry, petrochemicals, iron, steel and textiles. As such, water usage is high. Toops compared Urumqi to Phoenix , saying both are sizable cities in arid environments. Urumqi gets its water from the Tian Shan , including a large glacier.

Turpan, meanwhile, has no rivers and so must rely on tube wells and karez. But as the karez have been replaced by motor-pumped tube wells, the water levels have fallen, and many of the karez have dried up.

Toops said a moderate-sized aquifer in Turpan and a large one in Tarim have supplied those wells and allowed the region to delay the day of water reckoning.

“If there were no aquifers, it would be quite problematic indeed,” he said. There is no way to tell, Toops said, whether those aquifers will last for 30, 50 or perhaps 100 more years.

Oil also makes the region an important focus of concern. Last year China opened a gas pipeline from the Tarim Basin to Shanghai and has plans to extend it to Kazakhstan .

In response to a question, Toops said he did not believe desalinization would be an effective solution because that process is expensive and Xinjiang is poor.

Toops acknowledged that solutions are difficult to come by. He said Xinjiang will probably have to focus on conservation, possibly imposing water usage controls.

One European proposal was to charge for water from the Tarim, but that is a difficult sell for the people of Xinjiang, who are loath to pay for water from the “mother river.”

In the meantime, Toops said, the migration into Xinjiang is not likely to slow down. The result, he wrote in a paper distributed at the forum, is that Xinjiang will be “the locus of a collision between local forces and national policies.”
source here

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Water Diversion In Xinjiang

pic from

On April 17th, at Xinjiang Sub-venue of 6th China Environment Protection Conference, Smayi Tieliwardy, deputy secretary of CPC Xinjiang Committee, chairman of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region emphasized that Xinjiang should put all efforts in the comprehensive harness of Tarim River Valley, Aby Lake River Valley and other key river valleys.

The 1,321 kilometre Tarim River runs west to east along the northern edge of the Taklimakan Desert, China's largest, and flows into Taitema Lake.

The river is the most important source of water in semi-arid Xinjiang, with more than 8 million people living in oases clustered along its banks and in an alluvial plain downstream.

Yet, due to the increasing population, excessive water use for irrigation, and random land reclamation upstream, lake Taitema has been drying up for three decades.

To prevent further deterioration of the ecosystem , the central government launched a five-year emergency water diversion programme in 2000 with 10.7 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion) earmarked for the reclamation of the river and Taitema Lake.

The latest water diversion started in late March this year and water is now flowing into the river at a maximum speed of 50 cubic metres per second. Some 300 million cubic metres are expected to be diverted.

To date, a green corridor along the river between the 410,000-square-kilometre Taklimakan Desert on the east and Kuluke Desert on the west, is being revived thanks to the diverted water.

A stretch of 800 square kilometers of poplar (called huyang in Chinese), which locals believe has a legendary vitality for 1,000 years, has been rejuvenated along the river with the rising groundwater level, which so far has climbed by seven metres.

This water diversion programme is the most expensive environment restoration project ever taking place in Xinjiang.
source here and here

Innocent Uighurs still at Guantanamo

The Supreme Court yesterday declined to expedite the case of two Uighurs, who have been held for four years at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, despite being cleared of ties to terrorism.

Lawyers for the ethnic Uighurs had hoped to skirt lower courts and go directly to the Supreme Court with their argument that the U.S. government has been improperly depriving the men of their freedom. The military has determined that the men are not enemy combatants, but officials have been unable to find a country that will accept them after their release.

Sabin Willett, a lawyer for the Uighurs, said he was expecting the decision because it is extremely rare for the Supreme Court to hear such a case before an appeals court issues its ruling.
"We thought this case was so unusual and so important that they would hear the case, and we're disappointed they haven't,"
Willett said.
"But we're not surprised they didn't reach out and hear it now."

Uighurs have been agitating against the Chinese government and want to establish their own nation in Xinjiang province, which they call East Turkistan. The prisoners, considered terrorists by China, do not want to return to their homeland, where they would be likely to be imprisoned and tortured.

Justice Department lawyers have told federal courts that the government is working on a number of potential diplomatic solutions, asking countries around the world to accept the two men at the center of the case, Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu al-Hakim, and their Uighur compatriots and grant them asylum. Qassim and Hakim were captured by Pakistani security forces in late 2001 or early 2002 and held in Afghanistan for six months before their transfer to Guantanamo Bay in mid-2002.

The United States has been unwilling to give the men refuge despite guarantees from the Uighur community in the Washington area to take them in. Several countries have declined to accept the Uighurs for fear of drawing Beijing's ire.

"It is rather disappointing because it is an important issue,"
said Nury Turkel, president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association.
"We're hopeful some good results will come from the appeals court and these men will be freed. The lack of progress is causing them a lot of frustration."

A federal court judge in Washington ruled in December that the continued detention of Qassim and Hakim is unlawful but that he had no authority to order their release.

Turkel said yesterday that Scandinavian countries might be willing to offer asylum to more than a dozen Uighurs from Guantanamo Bay. There are serious efforts underway as well to persuade the German government to accept the men, he said.

Germany has welcomed Uighur refugees, who have settled in the Munich area, forming one of the world's largest Uighur communities outside China. Turkel said the Uighur leadership in Germany offered last month to help with resettlement and has been asking the nation's government for help.

Die Welt, a German newspaper, reported over the weekend that the U.S. government has approached Berlin with a request to facilitate a transfer of the detainees to Germany.
source The Washington Post

Monday, April 17, 2006

Hu Jintao in Washington. Dare we mention "Xinjiang"?

When Chinese President Hu Jintao arrives in Washington this week, will there be anyone with enough courage to remind him that the international community does not ignore the plight of the Uighurs of Xinjiang?

More than four years after nearly two dozen Uighurs from the western Chinese province of Xinjiang were mistakenly picked up in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and later deemed to pose no threat to the United States, the administration (rightly) refuses to hand them over to China because, according to the Associated Press, "they likely will be tortured or killed" there for their efforts to fight religious persecution in China (Uighurs are largely Muslim). Washington is trying to find a country to provide the Uighurs refuge, but after nearly two dozen attempts, no one will accept them for fear of offending the Chinese.


Despite a savage landscape and climate, Xinjiang has a rich past: sand-buried cities, painted cave shrines, rare creatures, and wonderfully preserved mummies of European appearance. Their descendants, the Uighurs, still farm the tranquil oases that ring the dreaded Taklamakan, the world's second largest sand desert, and the Kazakh and Kirghiz herdsmen still roam the mountains. The region's history, however, has been punctuated by violence, usually provoked by ambitious outsiders-nomad chieftains from the north, Muslim emirs from Central Asia, Russian generals, or warlords from inner China.

The Chinese regard the far west as a barbarian land. Only in the 1760s did they subdue it, and even then their rule was repeatedly broken. Compared with the Russians' conquest of Siberia, or the Americans' trek west, China's colonization of Xinjiang has been late and difficult. The Communists have done most to develop it, as a penal colony, as a buffer against invasion, and as a supplier of raw materials and living space for an overpopulated country. But what China sees as its property, the Uighurs regard as theft by an alien occupier. Tension has led to violence and savage reprisals.

According to human rights groups, more than 190 Uighurs have received the death penalty since 1995, and the total could be far higher.
source here

Xinjiang's Underground Great Wall

Only a few days ago, I posted an article on the "Underground Great Wall" of China, a network of wells and subterranean irrigation tunnels which extends for more than 5,000 kms in and around the city of Turpan, in Xinjiang.
The area's specialty is grapes, and many farms have drying towers for turning them into raisins. Turpan's greenery owes its existence to the underground karezes. These underground tunnels rate as one of Asia's more intriguing and historic public works activities. Uyghur and Chinese versions of karez technology date back over 2,000 years ago.
The karezes are a net of subterranean tunnels that lead the water coming from the Flaming Mountains across the desert into the fields around Turpan, and make possible the miracle of this fertile oasis in the middle of the desert. It is considered one of the most amazing ancient engineering works in China after the Great Wall.

Now the good news is that Xinjiang is to invest heavily in saving Kaner well (karezes).

A recent article from ChinaNews states that
" the most ancient way for local people to get water and with a history of 2,000 years, the underground irrigation project is viewed by local residents as the most important project in their daily life.

However, in recent years, as the underground water capacity decreases year by year in Xinjiang and there is an over-exploitation of the underground water, many parts of the Kaner well become dry gradually. The number of Kaner wells that contain water reduces from 1,800 at most to the present 600.

According to historical record, the Kaner well used to extend as much as 5,000 kilometers, and was one of the three outstanding ancient projects in China together with the Great Wall and the Great Canal.

Since the 1960s, the number of Kaner wells decreased drastically, with some 20 wells disappearing every year on average. Statistics show that fifty years ago, there were about 1,700-1,800 Kaner wells in Xinjiang which could supply some 700 million cubic meters of water every year and irrigate 360,000 mu of farmlands. Among all those dried wells at present, only 200 of them can be restored with human effort.

The Xinjiang local authority plans to invest a total of 250 million yuan over the next nine years to the protection and restoration work of the Kaner well. Some 20 million yuan are already put to use this year. Meanwhile, the Xinjiang Kaner Well Protection and Utilization Program Report has been approved by government, in which some 391 Kaner wells will be put under protection at first stage, with 276 of them being solidified and a hundred of others being maintained.

As to the saying that the Kaner well will disappear 20 years later, experts say it is only a prediction. By the nature law of "survival of the fittest," the existing Kaner wells have survived the most severe natural conditions."

source ChinaNews
Don't forget to visit wwliu's Travel Pages at wwliu for some really stunning photos on China!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Urumqi, Capital of Xinjiang

Urumqi, Xinjiang, China - The city looks like lower Manhattan, with skyscrapers rising almost in front of one's eyes. But, surprise! This is Urumqi [ooroomCHI], capital of China's western Xinjiang [shinJANG] autonomous region.

The city, a century ago a major stop on the Silk Road, is flourishing again with economic activity doubling every year. The city is becoming the mercantile trade capital of all of Central Asia, and there is not an American in sight. In fact, aside from a few intrepid German tourists, there are no westerners to be seen anywhere. Unlike with other out of the way corners of the world, however, America's lack of knowledge about this region may prove disadvantageous in the immediate future.

From January to June 2005, Urumqi measured imports and exports at 5.44 million tons, an increase of 25% over the same period last year. This represented $3.368 billion of trade for the six-month period. Trade for June 2005 alone was double that of June 2004.

The city is clean and bustling 24 hours a day. It is clearly a shopper's paradise, with huge bazaars everywhere. One "bazaar" is nothing but a four-storey building full of small offices representing every possible Chinese manufacturer or distributor of consumer goods - from cashmere shawls to computer chips. Of US companies, only Nike is present. All the signs in the complex are in Chinese, Russian and Uighur, a member of the Turkic family and the official language of Xinjiang.

Outside, trucks create perpetual traffic jams as they pull up and are loaded full, speeding off to Novosibirsk, Almaty, Bishkek and Dushanbe. Dozens of buses full of shoppers from other Central Asian capitals are also loading up with floods of televisions, DVD players and satellite dishes. One young fellow headed for Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, struggles under the weight of a case of cell phones. Some buses head for the Urumqi International Airport, which now carries more cargo than people.

Here Shahrom, a young Tajik entrepreneur, has settled in, transporting goods to Dushanbe and Afghanistan. Now that the first road ever is open into land-locked Tajikistan, huge amounts of goods are transported every day for the six months of the year that the route is open before winter snows fall. Shahrom gets orders by cell phone, the payment is made through bank transfer, and the goods are sent. It costs less than $200 to transport a whole truckload of goods from Urumqi to Dushanbe. Shahrom already knew Russian, Tajik and Uzbek, which is close enough to Uighur for communication to be easy. After six months, he is almost fluent in Mandarin.

There are some small pleasures in this merchant paradise. I spent a day with friends in a beautiful city park where we climbed a big hill to several pagodas on the top, had our pictures taken with a snake and a monkey, and drank chilled fruit juices while looking over the cityscape with its looming buildings rising from the Xinjiang steppe. The Urumqi international bazaar, a huge caravanserai complex with a giant minaret in the middle, is another pleasure palace awash in tourists - primarily Chinese from Beijing. Every cuisine in the world is common fare, and meals of Russian pelmeni (dumplings), Indian-inspired samosas (meat filled pastries), and Uighur hand-pulled noodles are common.

All is not well in this mercantile paradise, however. The ethnic Chinese from the great Eastern capitals have moved into the city in a big way, appropriating land and dominating the commercial markets. The native Uighurs, who are Muslim, view them as unwelcome colonists. Opposition to the Chinese through groups such as The Uighur Liberation Organization, and the Xinjiang Liberation Organization predates al-Qaeda by decades. These groups have staged periodic attacks on Chinese government facilities in the region with tacit public support.

Osman, a Uighur college student, told me that although he had to study in Mandarin Chinese at the Xinjiang State University, he tried never to speak Chinese outside of class. "It is not my language," he said, spitting meaningfully.

The United States has backed into this controversy by detaining some two dozen Uighurs captured in Afghanistan at Guantánamo Bay. Too late, Washington realized that although the members of these groups are Muslims, Islamic ideology has little to do with their opposition to the Chinese government. Although Washington would like to release these prisoners since they had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks, no country will take them. The Chinese view them as potential terrorists, and they are unwelcome in any other neighboring Central Asian country. Since Washington wants good relations with China, it is utterly unclear what to do with these detainees.

The Uighur situation shows the extraordinary paradoxes in the Central Asian region - a booming economy operating outside of Western influence, combined with ethnic tensions that are already proving explosive. The US Central Command claims that its sphere of influence extends to the Chinese border, but Xinjiang, Urumqi and the Uighurs may prove the limits of American power - both military and economic.
source here

U.S. Pressures Germany To Accept Uighurs

BERLIN, April 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. government wants to deport a group of Chinese Muslims held at the Guantanamo prison camp to Germany and is pressuring Chancellor Angela Merkel to take in the ethnic Uighurs, a newspaper reported on Friday.

The German daily Die Welt quoted diplomatic sources saying Merkel's government has resisted the U.S. pressure to accept the 15 Uighurs from the restive, predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang in China's northwest.

The German government has resisted the U.S. pressure so far, the daily said, because it does not want to put strains on its relations with China and fears accepting the Uighurs would be seen in Beijing as a hostile act.

Despite the Bush administration's subsequent admission in 2004 that it got it wrong and that the men are no threat to national security, the Uygurs remain trapped at Guantanamo with nowhere to go.

Washington has acknowledged that China cannot be trusted to handle them humanely if they return there.
"The US has made it clear that it does not expel, return or extradite individuals to other countries where it believes that it is 'more likely than not' that they will be tortured or subject to persecution,"
says the Pentagon.

In December, U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled that the men's continued detention was illegal since they were no longer considered enemy combatants.

Read the story of one of these Uighurs, which was reported by the South China Morning Post on 12/3/2006

The unluckiest of the unlucky

"Abu Bakkar Qassim and his friends are given bottled water to drink at Camp Iguana, but the brand name could not be more inappropriate, given the circumstances. It is called Freedom Springs.

Hemmed in by military guards and razor-wire fences, freedom is frustratingly elusive for Qassim and the four other Uygur men detained with him. Ironically, it was a quest for liberty and independence that caused them to flee their Chinese homeland in the first place, but after more than four years on US territory they still have neither.

"We heard a lot of good things about the US in the past, about democracy and human rights. Now they treat us differently and I don't understand that," Qassim told his US military interrogators, according to newly released Pentagon transcripts.

Captured by bounty hunters in Pakistan in 2001 and sold to US forces as alleged associates of al-Qaeda or the Taleban, they ended up at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, on the southern tip of Cuba, with more than 500 other alleged "enemy combatants".

Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall University Law School, New Jersey, who has studied their plight, has a different description: "The unluckiest of the unlucky."

Despite the Bush administration's subsequent admission in 2004 that it got it wrong and that the men are no threat to national security, the Uygurs remain trapped at Guantanamo with nowhere to go.

Washington has acknowledged that China cannot be trusted to handle them humanely if they return there. "The US has made it clear that it does not expel, return or extradite individuals to other countries where it believes that it is 'more likely than not' that they will be tortured or subject to persecution," says the Pentagon.

But it has refused to transfer them to the US mainland, where they could apply for asylum, and blames the delay in releasing them on other countries' failure to give them status instead.

"The Uygurs really are in the ultimate Catch-22," said Jumana Musa, an advocacy director with Amnesty USA.

For Qassim, the saga began early in 2000, when he left his home in Xinjiang province to sell leather goods at a market in Kyrgyzstan and learn the Koran. "If people try to teach the Koran [in China], they are executed by the Chinese government," he told his interrogators.

Still struggling to make ends meet after 18 months there, he heard about a Uygur-run leather factory in Turkey and, keen for more lucrative work, decided to head there. He went first to Pakistan to apply for a Turkish visa, but could not afford to stay while the paperwork was processed.

So he journeyed to Afghanistan where he had been told there was a Uygur-run "training camp" where he would get free bed and board and lessons on the Koran. In a development that proved key to his downfall, the camp also provided weapons training, with the Uygurs' separatist struggle in mind.

"I never trained at the camp to fight the US or coalition ... we Uygurs have more than 1 billion enemies, that is enough for us," said Qassim. "I trained against the Chinese government. I want to be free because 100,000 people are being used like slaves in prison in my country."
He added: "Is it a crime to want to save people from torture? Over the last 50 years, we've been suffering at Chinese hands like animals."
Adel Abdu Hakim, another of the Uygurs, said: "We didn't want to go right back to China after training to fight them. I was trying to go to Turkey to do my business. If something were to happen, then I would go back with other young Uygur men to fight the Chinese government, but I'm hoping that my country will be liberated peacefully. That would be great."

When the US bombed Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Qassim, Hakim and 16 other Uygurs fled through snow and fog to the border region with Pakistan. They were given sanctuary by local tribespeople, but not for long.

"Get wealth and power beyond your dreams. You can receive millions of dollars for helping the anti-Taleban force catch al-Qaeda and Taleban murderers," read the leaflets that rained on the region from US aircraft, printed to look like bank notes worth around US$4,200. "This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life, pay for livestock and doctors and schoolbooks and housing for all your people," the flyers urged.

The Uygurs were turned over to US forces in exchange for wads of cash and arrived at Guantanamo in January 2002, where they have remained ever since.

In a study of US Department of Defence records relating to 517 detainees there, Professor Denbeaux has established that just 5 per cent were actually captured by US forces. Only 8 per cent have been characterised in the US records as al-Qaeda fighters. Fifty-five per cent are deemed not to have committed any hostile act against the US or its allies.

Some were seized on the basis that they owned a Kalashnikov - as most people in Afghanistan did at the time, Professor Denbeaux's report found - or because they stayed at guesthouses, sported Casio watches or wore drab olive clothing - deemed by the US to be potential hallmarks of Taleban or al-Qaeda affiliation.

When Sabin Willett, a Boston-based lawyer who is acting pro bono for Qassim and Hakim, first met his clients at Guantanamo, they were in chains held down by a heavy iron bolt on the floor. Now they are at Camp Iguana, a separate part of the Guantanamo complex, where they live together in a wooden hut.

The Department of Defence says they are free to roam the area and have access to an "exercise/recreation yard, their own bunk house, activity room, television set with VCR and DVD capability, a stereo system, recreational items [such as soccer, volleyball, table tennis], unlimited access to a shower facility, air-conditioning, special food items and library materials."

Disturbingly, said Mr Willett, the US allowed a delegation from the Chinese government access to interrogate the men in late 2002 or early 2003. "They called us bastards and all this stuff," the transcripts quote an unidentified Uygur as saying.

Mr Willett said: "I think there was a period when the US needed Chinese support for the Iraq adventure and this was part of the deal. Isn't it interesting? The military won't permit media to go and talk to our guys, but they allow representatives of the PRC [People's Republic of China] to come in and yell at them."

The US will not explain why it is unwilling to give the men asylum, though reports have suggested that it does not wish to provoke Beijing and the fact that the men admitted they took weapons training does not sit comfortably with Washington's anti-terrorist agenda.

Nury Turkel, president of the Uygur Association of America, said: "It's very frustrating, it's very confusing. We are still hoping that some country will open up their doors to provide humanitarian assistance, but we know there's not much progress being made.
"I hate to use this term, but they will be turned into organ donors if they are sent home, that's how bad the situation is. Their fate will be unspeakable."

source here and here

Xinjiang Uighur to be executed

Ismail Semed, an ethnic Uighur from Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwest China, is at risk of imminent execution after being sentenced to death on political charges.

Ismail Semed was convicted by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court on 31 October 2005 for "attempting to split the motherland" and other charges related to possession of firearms and explosives. According to Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), a Washington DC-based human rights organization, there are unconfirmed reports that his appeal was heard in a closed session. If his appeal has already been rejected, he might have been executed. Execution in China normally takes place soon after the appeal hearing has concluded. However, given the political nature of the charges brought against Ismail Semed, his death sentence should be reviewed by China’s Supreme People’s Court.

According to UHRP, Ismail Semed first confessed to the charges during interrogations but then denied them during the trial. It is possible that the initial confession was extorted through torture.

The possession of firearms charges against Ismail Semed appear to have been based on old testimonies taken from other Uighurs, some of whom were reportedly executed in 1999. It is possible that their testimonies may have been extracted through torture. The charge of "splittism" was based on second-hand testimony which stated that Ismail Semed was a member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and attended one ETIM meeting in 1997 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. His alleged membership of ETIM and attendance at that meeting have reportedly been disputed by people who were present at the meeting. China has highlighted ETIM as one of the "East Turkestan terrorist organizations". In 2002, after repeated lobbying from China, the United States and the United Nations classified ETIM as a "terrorist" organisation. The grounds for this decision have not been substantiated with any credible evidence.

In the 1990s, Ismail Semed reportedly served two prison terms for participating in demonstrations in the XUAR (Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region). He fled China for Pakistan following a demonstration in February 1997 in Gulja (Yining). According to local sources, the peaceful demonstration was sparked by growing levels of repression of Uighur culture and religion in and around Gulja and was brutally broken up by Chinese security sources, killing and seriously injuring dozens. Hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people died or were seriously injured in the unrest that occurred the following day when thousands of people reportedly took to the streets to protest. Extra police were brought into the city and reportedly went through the streets arresting and beating people, including children. In some areas, protesters reportedly attacked police or Chinese residents and shops and set fire to some vehicles, while the security forces reportedly opened fire on protesters and bystanders. The exact number of people who died remains unknown, and an unknown number of people remain in prison in connection with these events. Ismail Semed was deported from Pakistan to China in 2003.


The political crackdown on the so-called "three evil forces" of "separatist, terrorist and religious extremists" in the XUAR is continuing to result in serious and widespread human rights violations directed against the region’s Uighur community, prompting many of them to flee the country. The crackdown has only intensified since the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA, as China uses the international "war on terror" as a pretext to justify its policies of repression in the region.
Over recent years, Amnesty International has monitored growing numbers of forced returns of Uighurs to China from several of its neighbouring countries, including Pakistan. There is evidence that China has been pressuring these countries to forcibly return Uighurs, and in some cases, the Chinese authorities appear to have been actively involved in effecting such returns. In some recent cases, returnees are reported to have been subjected to serious human rights violations, including torture, unfair trials and even execution.

The death penalty continues to be used extensively and arbitrarily in China. Amnesty International estimated that in 2004, over 3,000 people were executed and 6,000 sentenced to death. The true figures, which are classified as a "state secret", are believed to be much higher. A Chinese legal expert was recently quoted as stating the true figure for executions at approximately 8,000 per year. Except for one death penalty sentence for political crimes that was given outside of XUAR, XUAR is the only place in China where people have been sentenced to death for political crimes in recent years.

RECOMMENDED ACTION : Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English, Chinese or your own language :

urging the authorities to stop the execution of Ismael Semed ;

urging the authorities to commute the death sentence passed on Ismael Semed ;

calling on the authorities to re-try Ismael Semed in full accordance with the international fair trial standards ;

expressing concern at reports of extensive human rights violations in the XUAR ;

urging the authorities to remove the death penalty as a punishment for non-violent offences, make public full national statistics on death sentences and executions, and introduce a moratorium on executions as immediate steps towards full abolition of the death penalty in law.


President of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional High People’s Court
MAIMAITI Rouzi Yuanzhang
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu Gaoji Renmin Fayuan
81 Dongfenglu
Xinjiang Weiwuer Zizhiqu
People’s Republic of China
Salutation : Dear President

President of the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China : XIAO Yang Yuanzhang
Supreme People’s Court
27 Dongjiao Minxiang
Beijingshi 100006
People’s Republic of China
Fax : +86 10 65292345 (c/o Ministry of Communication)
Salutation : Dear President

Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China : WEN Jiabao Guojia Zongli
The State Council
9 Xihuangcheng Genbeijie
Beijingshi 100032
People’s Republic of China
Fax : +86 10 65292345 (c/o Ministry of Communication)
Email :

source UHRP

Miracle in Xinjiang: Turpan

Grapes are one of the best known products of Turpan. The grape trellises run for hundreds of meters.
Photo courtesy of:

URUMQI, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Yasin Nuyos and his co-workers crouch in a tunnel three or four meters underground shifting silt in the dim light of a lamp. Sweat flows freely even though the daytime temperature in early spring still hovers below freezing.

The team, largely consisting of Uygurs in Turpan, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, are preserving a 2,000-year-old network of more than 600 "karezes", or subterranean irrigation canals, that channels water from the snow-covered Tianshan Mountains to cropland and solve the drinking water shortages in the arid region.

The locals owe a lot to the karezes that help the arid Turpan Basin find fame as China's leading grower of grapes and sweet melons.

The network of wells and underground irrigation tunnels extends more than 5,000 kms and are found mainly in Turpan, Hami and Hotan. Dubbed "the subterranean Great Wall", it is one of the three landmark projects left by Chinese forefathers - the other two being the Great Wall and the Grand Canal linking Beijing and Hangzhou.

The oasis at Turpan, located in the desert expanse of northwestern China (PRC), owes it surprisingly lush green environment to the karez (a.k.a. qanat) system of water supply. The basin surrounding Turpan has been the long-time haunt of the Uyghurs (a mixed Turki-Mongol ethnic group that is the majority in Xinjiang Province). The Turpan area is historically significant because nearby Gaochang (now a ruin) was once the Uyghur capital and an important staging area on the Silk Road.

Turpan lies in the second deepest inland depression in the world, with more than 4,000 sq. kilometers of land situated below sea level. Anciently called, 'Land of Fire,' it has recorded some of the hottest summer days in China, with temperatures as high as 130 degrees F.

Mildred Cable and Francesca French, two intrepid missionaries who spent many months in the region during the 1920s and '30s, describe the oasis vividly in their book The Gobi Desert (1942) as quoted in Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, p. 113:

. . . Turfan lies like a green island in a sandy wilderness, its shores lapped by grit and gravel instead of ocean waters, for the division between arid desert and fertile land is as definite as that between shore and ocean. Its fertility is amazing, and the effect on the traveller, when he steps from the sterility and desiccation into the luxuriance of Turfan is overwhelming.

The area's specialty is grapes, and many farms have drying towers for turning them into raisins. Turpan's greenery owes its existence to the underground karezes. These underground tunnels rate as one of Asia's more intriguing and historic public works activities. Uyghur and Chinese versions of karez technology date back over 2,000 years ago.

A karez is a horizontal underground gallery that conveys water from aquifers in pre-mountainous alluvial fans, to lower-elevation farmlands. The water for the karez is provided by the mother well(s), which is sunk into the groundwater recharge zone. A karez transports water underground, usually surfacing in cultivated areas. Putting the majority of the channel underground reduces water loss from seepage and evaporation. A karez is fed entirely by gravity, thus eliminating the need for pumps.

(1) Infiltration Part of the Tunnel
(2) Water Conveyance Part of the Tunnel
(3) The Open Channel
(4) Vertical Shafts
(5) Small Storage Pond
(6) The Irrigation Area
(7) Sand and Gravel
(8) Layers of Soil
(9) Groundwater Surface

Several theories have been made concerning the origins of Turpan's karez technology. It was: (1) imported from Persia; (2) locally developed and refined through long-term experience; and (3) developed elsewhere in China and then imported (ie. Longshouqu Canal project). Some combination of 1 and 2 seem the most probable. In seems likely that the karez concept moved north and east from Persia along the Silk Road.

In 1845, Lin Zexu was banished to the Turpan area. He was deeply impressed by the karez technology and encouraged its spread to other areas. Under his leadership more than 100 karezes were constructed. Statistics for 1944 show that there were 379 karezes in the Turpan area. By 1952, there were 800, with a total length of 2,500 km, equivalent to the length of the Grand Canal. Today there are over 1000 karezes in the Turpan area.

Uighur facing torture and execution in China

An ethnic Uyghur who once fled China and now has Canadian citizenship, Huseyn Jalil, has been arrested in Uzbekistan.

The man's wife, Komila Telindiyeva, said her husband was arrested March 27 in Tashkent on the basis of Kyrgyz and Chinese Interpol warrants.

Sarvar Usmon, a relative, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that Jalil was once an imam in China's western Xinjiang region. He now faces possible extradition to China.

"I have spoken to his wife recently. As far as I know, officials in Tashkent are now waiting for some document from Beijing. And only after they get that document will his fate be decided. Primarily, Huseyn Jalil was an imam in East Turkestan. Soon after, he started an ideological fight for the independence of East Turkestan."

Some Muslim Uyghurs -- the majority in Xinjiang region -- are seeking an independent state they call "East Turkestan."

An official from the Canadian Embassy in Moscow said officials are working on the matter.

The man's relatives are concerned he faces possible torture and execution if he's extradited to China.

The Chinese authorities continue to pressure other countries to prevent political activities by Uighur asylum-seekers and refugees, and to return them to China. If forcibly returned to China those who are suspected of involvement in “separatist, terrorist or illegal religious activities” are at risk of serious human rights violations.

The fate of Muhammed Tohti Metrozi remains unknown.

Muhammed Tohti Metrozi fled the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of northwest China to seek refuge in Pakistan. A pro-independence activist and a member of the Uighur ethnic minority, he had spent two months in detention in China on suspicion of “separatist” activity. While in detention, he reported, he was beaten with wooden sticks.

Muhammed was accepted as a refugee by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR, and was awaiting resettlement to Sweden in July 2003 when he reportedly went to meet a Pakistani government official.

He has not been seen since.

Reportedly, Muhammed was forcibly returned to China, where he was detained. According to some reports, he was tried on charges relating to his application for refugee status and his work helping Uighur refugees in Pakistan.

Muhammed’s case is typical of several Uighurs thought to have been forcibly returned to China from neighbouring countries in recent years.

The Chinese government appears to be using the international “war on terror” as a pretext to gain international support for its policies of repression of the mainly Muslim Uighur minority.

Any Uighur suspected of involvement in “separatist” activity and returned to China is at risk of serious human rights violation, including arbitrary detention, unfair trials, torture, and even execution.

The Chinese government uses "separatism, terrorism or religious extremism" (the three evils) to refer to a broad range of activities, which are often no more than peaceful opposition or dissent, or the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of religion.

China's three evils: Xinjiang, Xinjiang, Xinjiang

China's fight against the "three evils" of separatism, extremism and terrorism continues unabated!

After meeting Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov last week (here) , it is now the turn of Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev, who is in Beijing for a three-day official visit as guest of Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing. (here)

As the Turkmen leader Niyazov and Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged a few days ago, so did the Kazakh Foreign Minister: their countries will work together to root out what they called the "three evils": terrorism, separatism, and extremism.
The primary target of this pledge is clear, in that the only grouping specifically named in the joint declaration is the "East Turkestan" separatist movement, which seeks independence for China's 19 million Muslim Uyghurs in the western Xinjiang Province.

It goes without saying that the continous meetings with high echelons of neighbouring countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan has only one common feature: fight the Uighurs' struggle for independence.

"The Chinese state councilor spoke highly of the firm support Kazakhstan offered over the years on the Taiwan issue and China's fight against the "three forces" of separatism, extremism and terrorism.

China will continue to firmly support Kazakhstan's efforts in maintaining national independence, sovereignty and developing the national economy,"
Tang said.

Suppressing Dissent: the Uighurs of Xinjiang

click pic to enlarge
courtesy of

"We are a Turkic nation. And the Chinese are different from Uyghurs culturally and in faith. We don't share anything in common. We don't want to live under China."

Many Turkic-speaking Uighur people dream of establishing an independent state in the Xinjiang region, which they would call East Turkestan. But Beijing is making sure that this will never happen.
China would like to ensure that all the Muslim countries of Central Asia prevent the Uyghurs from undertaking any free political activities.

Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov is ending a six-day visit to China that has seen the signing of a number of economic and security agreements with Chinese leaders. One of those agreements calls for the two countries to combine forces to combat "terrorism in all its forms," including a grouping calling itself the "East Turkestan" movement. That movement seeks greater autonomy or independence for the Uyghur Muslim minority in Western China.

In a declaration, Turkmen leader Niyazov and Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged their countries will work together to root out what they called the "three evils":terrorism, separatism, and extremism.

They agreed to strengthen cooperation of their law-enforcement agencies and security services against extremism "in all its forms."

But the primary target of this pledge is clear, in that the only grouping specifically named in the declaration is the "East Turkestan" separatist movement, which seeks independence for China's 19 million Muslim Uyghurs in the western Xinjiang Province.

The representative in Sweden of the East Turkestan Information Center, Dilxadi Rexiti, told RFE/RL that Beijing is working to get the movement squeezed out of Central Asia.

"China would like to ensure that not only Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, but all Central Asian countries, not help us," he says. "Turkmenistan is a Muslim country and a Turkic-speaking nation, like the Uyghurs. And China would like to ensure that all the Muslim countries of Central Asia prevent the Uyghurs from undertaking any free political activities."

London-based expert on Chinese security issues, Christian LeMiere of Jane's military information group, agrees with that assessment. He says Beijing wants to prevent the separatists from undertaking any kind of military training, building a recruitment system, or even having military bases in Central Asia.

"One of China's primary policies in its Western frontier area is to make sure that none of the Central Asian countries, particularly since the end of the Cold War, will offer any financial or logistical support for possible Uyghur separatists, and in order to accomplish this policy it has for approximately a decade now drawn links between the Uyghurs and what it sees as Islamic terrorism,"
he says.

LeMiere says China's determination to label the radical "East Turkestan Islamic Movement" a terror organization has been strengthened by the U.S. decision in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington to freeze the U.S. assets of this group.

Over the years there have been scores of bomb explosions attributed to Uyghur separatists, as well as deaths of local officials. In turn, Chinese authorities are accused of torturing detained activists.

China and Turkmenistan understand each other well, because they are both authoritarian, and both "fear a revolution in their own countries."
source: RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty

Xinjiang News

(click to enlarge. Courtesy of MSN Maps)

China Southern Airlines to resume flights to Moscow

"URUMQI, March 31 (Xinhua) -- China Southern Airlines will resume its flights to Moscow as of April 10 in an effort to boost Asian-European air traffic service.
The airlines' branch in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Northwest China announced Friday that Boeing 737 passenger planes will fly from Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, to Moscow every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The return flights will be on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays."
from Xinhua

Asia's longest land tunnel railway in operation

LANZHOU, March 30 (Xinhua) -- The Wushaoling tunnel railway, the longest of its kind in Asia, opened to traffic on Thursday in China's northwestern Gansu Province.

The 21.05-kilometer-long tunnel railway, which is more than 2,400 meters above sea level, is a key project for the Asia-EuropeL and Bridge's 3,651-km-long section from Lianyungang in East Chinato Urumqi in Northwest China.

China, Pakistan to open 4 new road links

URUMQI, March 23 (Xinhua) -- China and Pakistan will open four new passenger and cargo road links in the first half of the year.

Two of the four roads are for cargo transportation and the other two are for passengers and they will be opened on May 1 and June 1 respectively, according to an agreement signed Wednesday between the transport ministries of the two countries in Urumqi, capital of northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

from Xinhua

China may share intelligence on Kashmir

China has agreed to look at sharing intelligence with India on terrorism in Kashmir and insurgency in the northeast, highly placed government sources said.

According to sources, China has an impressive data base on extremist activity, especially on India's northeast provinces. It is keen on acquiring information on the cross- border unrest by ethnic Uighurs in its western Xinjiang province.

China is seeking more information on Uighur extremists to ensure that its Xinjiang province that is vital for promoting its long-term developmental plans remains stable.

Keen on tapping the Central Asian and domestic oil and gas reserves in the region, China sees Xinjiang as the vital transport corridor to transfer oil and gas to its economic hub of Shanghai through a network of pipelines. The main pipeline from west to east, according to the energy plan revealed in last year's National People's Congress, will run a distance of 4,200 km.

from The Hindu

Opening borders and expanding economic cooperation with neighbouring nations is the Chinese way of globalising Xinjiang and Tibet. Trade with neighbours and prosperity through globalisation, Beijing hopes, will douse the separatist sentiment in these two provinces.

fromThe Hindu

New highway traversing Taklimakan Desert to be completed

URUMQI, March 19 (Xinhua) -- The highway being constructed to span the Taklimakan Desert, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, will be completed and put into use half a year ahead of schedule.

from Xinhua