The current situation of security, development and human rights in Xinjiang

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Muhammad Muzamil Zia

TERRORISM and extremism are the common enemies of humanity, and the fight against terrorism and extremism is the shared responsibility of the international community. It is a fundamental task of any responsible government, acting on basic principles, to remove the malignant tumour of terrorism and extremism that threatens people’s lives and security, to safeguard people’s dignity and value, to protect their rights to life, health and development, and to ensure they enjoy a peaceful and harmonious social environment.
The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is situated in northwest China and in the hinterland of the Eurasian Continent. It borders eight countries: Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. It was a place where the famed Silk Road connected ancient China with the rest of the world and where diverse cultures gathered. Xinjiang is a home of multiple religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. It has 24,800 venues for religious activities, 24,400 mosques, 59 Buddhist temples, 1 Taoist temple, 227 Protestant churches, 26 Catholic churches and 3 Orthodox churches.
Terrorism and extremism have a long history in Xinjiang. From the early 20th century to the late 1940s, separatist and extremist forces, attempted to create a theocratic state they called “East Turkistan” in Xinjiang. In an attempt to split China, such forces advocated and carried out a series of terrorist activities. Between 1990 and the end of 2016, separatists, extremists and terrorists plotted and carried out several thousand acts of terrorism such as bombings, assassinations, poisoning, arson, assaults, and riots in Xinjiang. Many innocent people were killed, and several hundred police officers died in the line of duty whereas property losses incurred were enormous.
Faced with this severe and complex problem, Xinjiang has upheld the principle of addressing both the symptoms and root causes in its fight against terrorism and extremism, by striking at serious terrorist crimes and by educating and rehabilitating people influenced by extremism and involved in minor violations of the law. In accordance with the law, it has established a group of vocational centers to offer systematic education and training in response to a set of urgent needs: to curb frequent terrorist incidents, to eradicate the breeding ground for extremism, to help trainees acquire a better education and vocational skills, find employment, and increase their incomes, and most of all, to safeguard social stability and long-term peace in Xinjiang.
These centers are education and training institutions in nature. To meet the needs of fighting terrorism and extremism, these centers deliver a curriculum that includes standard spoken and written Chinese, understanding of the law, vocational skills, and deradicalization.
To alleviate their lack of proficiency in spoken and written Chinese, tailored language programs are provided to trainees. Improving the trainees’ command of standard spoken and written Chinese helps them to learn about science and technology, acquire vocational skills, seek work in other locations, communicate with other ethnic groups, and adapt better life in modern society, subject to the condition that their right to use their own ethnic spoken and written languages is respected. There is no intention to deprive or limit the trainees right to use and develop their own ethnic languages. To remedy a lack of understanding of the law, the education and training centers present legal courses, which is taken as the key link to strengthen national, civic and legal awareness. Judges, procurators and lawyers are invited to give lectures on laws and regulations
To remedy lack of occupational skills and employment difficulties, vocational skills training programs are provided. The education and training centers regard vocational skills as an important channel to improve the trainee’s employability. Based on local demand and employment opportunities, the courses they present include garment making, food processing, assembly of electronic products, e-commerce, auto maintenance and repair, interior design and decoration, livestock breeding, , handicrafts, rug weaving, painting, and the performing arts such as music and dance. Eligible trainees who are willing to learn are offered training in more than one skill to ensure they are employable in the jobs market upon completing their study at the centers. The education and training centers combine course learning with practical training to improve the trainee’s operational skills. Practical training is conducted in classes rather than through employment in factories or enterprises, or obligatory labour.
Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core, with the strong support of the people across the country, and through the joint effort of all the ethnic groups of Xinjiang, China has made significant progress in its counterterrorism and de-radicalization efforts in Xinjiang. In 2018, tourism in Xinjiang grew rapidly: Tourists from inside and outside China totalled over 150 million, a year-on-year increase of 40 percent; foreign tourists numbered 2.6 million, a year-on-year increase of nearly 12 percent. From January to June 2019, nearly 76 million tourists visited Xinjiang, an increase of 46 percent over the same period in 2018.
Xinjiang is enjoying sustained economic development, social stability, a better standard of living, unprecedented cultural prosperity, a harmonious coexistence of all religions, and solidarity among all ethnic groups. The region is experiencing its most auspicious period of development and prosperity. No terrorist incidents have occurred in Xinjiang for nearly three years since the education and training started. As the infiltration of extremism has been curbed, public order and security have returned to society, where equality, solidarity and harmony among ethnic groups and religions have prevailed, and people are enjoying peace and stability.
—The writer is Head of policy, CEO CPEC, Islamabad.