Sultan M Hali
THE Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China has been a target of western propaganda far too long with baseless accusations. Now the Chinese Government has formally issued a White Paper, which is not only timely, but allays all doubts regarding the accusations against the Government of suppressing the Uighurs. The White Paper declares that China is a unified multi-ethnic country, and the various ethnic groups in Xinjiang have long been part of the Chinese nation. Throughout its long history, Xinjiang’s development has been closely related to that of China. However, in more recent times, hostile forces in and outside China, especially separatists, religious extremists and terrorists, have tried to split China and break it apart by distorting history and facts. They deny the fact that Xinjiang has been a part of China’s territory where various ethnic groups have lived together, many cultures have communicated with each other, and different religions have coexisted since ancient times. They call Xinjiang “East Turkistan” and clamour for independence. They attempt to separate ethnic groups in Xinjiang from the Chinese nation and ethnic cultures in the region from the diverse but integrated Chinese culture.
History cannot be tampered with and facts are indisputable. Xinjiang has long been an inseparable part of Chinese territory; never has it been the so-called East Turkistan. The Uighur ethnic group came into being through a long process of migration and integration; it is part of the Chinese nation. In Xinjiang, different cultures and religions coexist, and ethnic cultures have been fostered and developed in the embrace of the Chinese civilization. Islam is neither an indigenous nor the sole belief system of the Uygur people. It has taken root in the Chinese culture and developed soundly in China. In 1949, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded, and Xinjiang was liberated peacefully. In 1955, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region was established. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, all ethnic groups in Xinjiang united and worked with other groups across the country, opening a period of unprecedented prosperity for the region.
The ethnic cultures in Xinjiang always have their roots in the fertile soil of Chinese civilization and make up an inseparable part of Chinese culture. Well before Islamic culture spread into Xinjiang, all ethnic cultures in the region, including the Uighur culture, had prospered in the fertile soil of China’s civilization. It was not until the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries, when Islam spread into the region, that the Islamic culture of the Arab civilization – which dates back to the 7th century – began to exert an influence on ethnic cultures in Xinjiang. China has long been a multi-religious country. In addition to several major religions that are structured in accordance with strict religious norms, a variety of folk beliefs are also popular in China. Among these, Taoism and local folk beliefs are native to China, while all other religions were introduced from foreign countries. The history of Xinjiang shows that multiple religions have long coexisted there, with one or two predominant. The region’s religious structure is characterized by blending and coexistence.
Xinjiang now has multiple religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Protestantism, Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox Church. It has 24,800 venues for religious activities, including mosques, churches, Buddhist and Taoist temples, with 29,300 religious’ staff. Among these, there are 24,400 mosques, 59 Buddhist temples, 1 Taoist temple, 227 Protestant churches (or meeting grounds), 26 Catholic churches (or meeting grounds), and 3 Orthodox churches (or meeting grounds). Xinjiang fully respects and protects freedom of religious belief as stipulated in the Constitution of PRC and citizens’ freedom to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion. Xinjiang shows zero tolerance to any action that creates disputes between believers and non-believers, between believers of different religions, and between believers of different sects of a religion.
It should be noted that since the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in particular since the end of the Cold War, the surge in religious extremism around the world has caused a rise in religious extremism in Xinjiang. This has resulted in an increasing number of incidents of terror and violence that pose a serious danger to social stability and to the lives and property of people in the region. Under the guise of religion, religious extremism trumpets theocracy, religious supremacism, actions against “pagans”, and “holy wars”. It instigates terror and violence and incites hostility between different ethnic groups, running counter to the teachings concerning patriotism, peace, solidarity, the golden mean, tolerance and good works advocated by Islam and many other religions. Religious extremism, which constitutes the ideological base of ethnic separatism and terrorism, is by nature anti-human, anti-society, anti-civilization, and anti-religion. It is a betrayal of religion and should never be confused with religious matters or be glossed over or excused through religious rhetoric.
Drawing lessons from international experiences and in view of reality of the region, Xinjiang has taken resolute action to fight terrorism and extremism in accordance with the law, effectively clamp down on terrorism and violence and the spread of religious terrorism. Through these efforts Xinjiang has responded to the public’s expectation of security for all ethnic groups, protected the basic human rights and maintained social harmony and stability in the region. Xinjiang’s fight against terrorism and extremism is a battle for justice and civilization against evil and barbaric forces. The recent visit of a UN delegation led by Vladimir Voronkov the head of United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism to Xinjiang found irrefutable evidence that the accusations of human rights abuses by China are false. The recent visit ascertained Chinese claims of de-radicalizing and re-integrating the misled Uighurs. It is high time the western allegations against China cease.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.