(Erkin Alptekin)

China’s leaders are continuing their age-old policy of deception, falsification and lies in order to mislead the international community about Uyghurs, their organizations and their leaders. The most recent example of this is China’s unfounded allegation against Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, the spiritual mother of the Uyghur people.

Immediately after the nomination of Ms. Rebiya Kadeer for the Nobel Peace Prize, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministery of Foreign Affairs accused Ms. Rebiya Kadeer of being a member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which has been listed by the U.S. and United Nations as a terrorist organization.

As the current president of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), I strongly condemn these unfounded allegations.

The truth is that Ms. Rebiya Kadeer was in a Chinese prison from 1999 to 2005, so she obviously could never have been a member of ETIM, and, in fact, she had never even heard of ETIM until she arrived in the United States last year.

In the recent past, China’s leaders have also tried to brand the Uyghurs, their officially-registered organizations and their leaders as  “Eastern Turkestan Terrorists”.

Their aim is very clear: To discredit the Uyghur people’s struggle for the restoration of their human rights, the promotion of democracy and the achievement of self-determination. Because China’s greatest fear is the internationalization of the question of Eastern Turkestan. Thus, in their view, this must be prevented by all means.

In a secret document of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, entitled “Defending the Stability of Xinjiang,” which was adopted in March 1996, it is briefly stated:

“…Through disinformation prevent, by all means, the separatist forces from making the so-called Eastern Turkestan problem international…”

As a result, through disinformation, deception, falsification, distortion and lies, the Chinese leaders are on a crusade to brand Uyghurs as “terrorist” in order to prevent the internationalization of the question of Eastern Turkestan.

Deception, falsification and the distortion of facts are deeply rooted in the conventions of China’s policy towards its neighbours. The following record, written by the great Chinese historian Pan Ku of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-200 AD), typifies China’s policy towards its neighbors:

“…Punish them when they intrude and guard them when they retreat. Receive them when they offer tribute as a sign of admiration for our righteousness. Restrain them continually; make it appear that all the blame is on their side. This is the proper policy of the sage rulers towards the barbarians…” (1)

Thus, in the last 56 years, the Chinese authorities have attempted to characterize the Uyghurs as “Agents of the American Paper Tigers”, “The puppets of the Soviet Hegemonists”, “Pan Turkists”, “Pan Islamists”, “Counter-revolutionaries”, “Splittists”, “Separatists”, “Fundamentalists”, “Islamic Militants”, and now “Terrorists”, depending on which slogan has suited Beijing’s political agenda at the time.

Wang Lequan, the First Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party of Xinjiang, said during a press conference held in Urumchi, Eastern Turkestan, on September 7, 2001, that: “There is no terrorism in Xinjiang”. However, after September 11, the Chinese leaders suddenly seemed to discover terrorism in Eastern Turkestan, and they staged a worldwide campaign to brand Uyghurs as “terrorists”. But they cannot explain the reason why there has not been a single instance of terrorist activity in Eastern Turkestan since September 11. Since they have not been able to find any “terrorists” in Eastern Turkestan, they are now out to create some “Uyghur terrorists” abroad.

In order to justify their claims, Chinese officials have blamed the Uyghurs for carrying out three bomb attacks that have taken place in Eastern Turkestan since 1992 and three attacks overseas in the last three years, and they have also claimed that there are several hundred Uyghurs in Afghanistan in training camps linked to Osama bin Laden.

Although no one has claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks in Eastern Turkestan, in such cases Chinese officials have always blamed the Uyghurs. The vast majority of Uyghurs believe that Chinese agents plant such bombs in order to discredit their just cause. According to a report issued by AFP on December 27, 2001, 318 ethnic Chinese terrorists had been captured by Chinese security forces in Eastern Turkestan. The report said that these ethnic Chinese terrorists were not only responsible for several bomb attacks in Eastern Turkestan, but also for bomb attacks in the internal parts of China. The arrests indicate that unrest in Eastern Turkestan blamed on Uyghurs was actually the work of ethnic Chinese.

Whether such acts have been committed by Uyghurs or by ethnic Chinese, the vast majority of Uyghurs living at home and abroad have always condemned such acts. Even if the bombings have been carried out by some Uyghurs, they should be looked upon as the spontaneous expression of widespread frustration and desperation in Eastern Turkestan. After all, it was the Chinese leaders who used terroristic methods by detonating 46 nuclear bombs in Eastern Turkestan from 1964 until 1996. This resulted in the deaths of thousands of Uyghurs as a result of radioactive fallout. (2)

Bomb attacks take place in manland China on a daily basis. In just the year 2001, almost 2,000 bomb attacks took place in the internal parts of China, resulting in the deaths of more than 200 people and the injuries of almost 1,000.  (3) But the Chinese officials treated these bomb attacks as ordinary criminal acts and not acts of terrorism. Events of a similar nature that take place in Eastern Turkestan are readily blamed on “Uyghur terrorists”, because the Uyghurs are Muslims and the label suits them better, from the viewpoint of the Chinese authorities.

Chinese officials have claimed that there are hundreds of Uyghurs in Afghanistan in the training camps linked to Osama bin Laden. Today, the war in Afghanistan against the international terrorists are being continued. Until now hundreds of terrorists have been killed and thousands captured, and some of them were taken to the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Among them were only 22 Uyghurs. After two years of interrogation, the Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo were declared as not a threat to United States interests. They were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In order to internationalize their accusations of so-called “Uyghur terrorism”, Chinese officials also accused Uyghurs of bombing the Chinese consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, murdering a Chinese official in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and killing two local Kazakh policemen in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Turkish officials have confirmed that there was no bomb attack on the Chinese consulate in Istanbul as the Chinese officials have claimed. The truth is that a fire broke out in the consulate building as a result of an electrical short-circuit. Kazakh and Kyrgyz officials have said that the other two above-mentioned incidents were ordinary crimes committed without any political motives.

Chinese officials have also claimed that the Uyghurs have received financial aid from Osama bin Laden. But up to the present, they have failed to present any evidence to back up this claim. However, there is adequate evidence to prove that China was extending economic and military aid to Osama bin Laden through the Taliban regime.

In an article published in the Washington Times on September 28, 2001, Bill Gertz wrote that China had been supporting the Taliban and Osama bin Laden since 1998. The official Iranian press wrote that China and the Taliban signed a secret defense agreement in 1998. On October 23, 2001, the Indian press quoted Taliban commander-in-chief Jalaluddin Haqqani as saying: “China is still helping the Taliban in their war against the United States”. On August 26, 2001, Gregg Walton wrote: “Before even the launching of the major U.S. military offensive in Afghanistan, China has sent thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan to fight alongside the ruling Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces.”  On August 25, 2002, Scott Baldauf quoted Afghanistan’s top military and intellegence officer, Engineer Ali, as saying that China was “supplying arms to Al-Qaeda.”

In August 2001, Osama bin Laden called for “good relations” between Afghanistan and China, saying this would be in China’s interests and would reduce U.S. military and economic influence in Asia.

Despite the UN embargo on Afghanistan, China was secretly aiding the Taliban regime through the so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Xinjiang Yearbook 2000 features an article on page 319, which says that the Xinjiang Regional Government had extended 40 million yuan in economic aid to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the year 1999 and would continue to help the Taliban in the future.

Central Asian officials believe that China, in the last few years, was using the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to destabilize Central Asian Republics such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan through “Islamic Terrorism”. The aim was to force the oil-, gold- and gas-rich Central Asian republics into compromises with China to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia, which still treats Central Asia as its own “backyard”. As a result of this policy Uzbekistan, when under the assault of Islamist forces in the year 2000, appealed to China and not to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) for emergency military aid. Only two months later, Kyrgyzstan followed in strengthening military relations with China, in reaction to Islamic terrorism and subversion originating from the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda organization.

Large amounts of Chinese weapons and ammunitions found in Al-Qaeda’s secret caves in the Tora Bora region provide the most compelling evidence that the Chinese were supporting Osama bin Laden with military assistance. Furthermore, recently, large amounts of Chinese weapons were also found in Iraq. This is further proof that China was supplying weapons to Saddam Hussein despite the UN embargo on Iraq. This all shows that China’s attempt to present itself as a “victim of terrorism” is a tremendous lie. Chinese leaders do not view the fight against international terrorism as a threat to global peace, stability and security. They see it as a useful tool to further their own national interests.

Chinese leaders might be able to fool themselves, but they cannot fool the international community with their disinformation, falsification, distortion and lies. As a result, China’s fierce propaganda campaign to portray Uyghurs as terrorists after September 11 has failed. President Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Lorne W. Craner, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Randall G. Schriver, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, counterterrorism official Ambassador Francis Taylor, and a wide variety of international organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Unrepreseted Nations and People’s Organization, and the Society for Threatened Peoples, etc. have condemned China for using the campaign against international terrorism to crack down on Uyghurs.

The Uyghurs are not separatists. They are not Islamic fundamentalists. Most of all, Uyghurs are not terrorists. Despite China’s continued oppression, cultural assimilation, economic exploitation, ecological destruction, racial discrimination, arbitrary arrests, torture and execution policies in Eastern Turkestan, the Uyghur people are determined to achieve their goals through peaceful means. The Uyghurs have learned a bitter lesson from their own history that violence leads to the destruction of peoples who would otherwise have been assisted. Thus, non-violence is the only way for Uyghurs to carry on with their just struggle without providing the Chinese authorities with a pretext for slaughter. The Uyghurs understand that the pursuit of their legal rights cannot be used to justify terrorism. It was in this spirit that the Uyghurs were among the founding members of the Allied Committee of the Peoples of East Turkestan, Tibet and Inner Mongolia and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization  (UNPO), which seeks to provide a voice for all such nations and peoples who deplore violence and terrorism.

1-     Pan Ku, The Acclunts of Hsing-nu, Han shu, No. 94, Sec. 2, p. 32

2-     Yengi Hayat, Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 21, 1995.