China Aid Association
Published Today | Headlines
March 4, 2008
(BEIJING — March 4) China should grant its minority peoples the right to self determination at its annual meeting of parliament and also rename the far western region of Xinjiang as East Turkistan, an exiled group said on Tuesday.
“Self determination for ethnic groups is inextricably linked to human rights, and is the most democratic way to solve ethnic problems,” said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uighur Congress, in an emailed statement.
China has accused al Qaeda of links to groups operating in oil-rich Xinjiang, home to 8 million Uighurs, a Turkic, largely Islamic people who share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia.
Many resent the growing Han Chinese presence in Xinjiang, as well as government controls on religion and culture.
Rights groups also say Beijing is using its support for the U.S.-led war on terror to justify a crackdown on Uighurs.
Raxit said China’s parliament, which begins its annual session this week, should legislate to ensure the right to self determination — an act that seems unlikely, as parliament is mostly a rubber-stamp body that obeys the Communist Party.
“China should respect the charter of the United Nations as a permanent member of the Security Council, give Xinjiang’s Uighur people the right to self determination, and realise their Olympic promise of improving human rights,” he added.
“We also call on parliament to change Xinjiang’s name back to East Turkistan,” Raxit said.
Xinjiang was briefly run as the Republic of East Turkistan in the years prior to the Communist Party’s victory in China’s civil war with the Nationalists in 1949. It is now an “autonomous region”, as are Tibet and Inner Mongolia.
China last month said its police had shot dead two members of a “terrorist gang” and rounded up 15 others in a raid in January in Xinjiang. The arrests came just a few months before Beijing hosts the Olympic Games.
China has waged a heavy-handed campaign against what it calls violent separatist activities by Uighur Muslims agitating for an independent East Turkestan state in Xinjiang.
In January 2007, Chinese forces killed 18 people described as terrorists in a gun battle in Xinjiang. One policeman was killed and another wounded in the raid on a training camp in the mountains of the Pamirs plateau in southern Xinjiang. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Ken Wills)
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