Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dalai Lama Takes Up Uyghur Cause

The Dalai Lama used an address to mark his 51st year since fleeing into exile from Tibet to take up the cause of another minority group within China, the Uyghurs of northwestern Xinjiang Province. The Dalai Lama called on his followers to remember the Uyghurs “who have experienced great difficulties and increased oppression,” and said that he would “like to express my solidarity and stand firmly with them.” Last summer the Chinese government cracked down forcefully on the Uyghurs after a protest in the provincial capital, Urumqi, turned violent. Officially, more than 1,000 Uyghurs were arrested, though Uyghur groups claim that thousands more, mostly young men, disappeared following the crackdown.

And in a move that further angered the Chinese government, the Dalai Lama used the name “East Turkestan” when referring to northwest China. East Turkestan was the name of the short-lived independent Uyghur nation in Central Asia in the 1940s, which was overrun by the People’s Liberation Army and absorbed into China. As you would expect the Chinese government was not pleased by the Dalai Lama’s remarks.

The state-run Xinhua news agency called the Dalai Lama’s comments “resentful, yet unsurprising,” and full of “angry rhetoric.” They went on to say that: “(the) Dalai Lama's request for 'genuine autonomy' on one quarter of the Chinese territory is anything but acceptable for the central government.” It is an odd statement for the central government to make though since the official name of Xinjiang is the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In reality the Uyghurs have little actual autonomy in their own “autonomous region”, thanks in part to aggressive immigration policies, which have encouraged ethnic Han Chinese to settle in Xinjiang in large numbers, making the Uyghurs a minority within their own homeland. Beijing has also leveled much of the historic old city of Kashgar – long regarded as the cultural and spiritual capital of the Uyghur people, and a candidate for registry as a UNESCO World Heritage site – under the banner of “earthquake safety” measures.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this informative, and accurate piece!