Amnesty International is accusing China of carrying out an organized campaign of oppression against the Uighur minority group two years after riots rocked their homeland in the northwest corner of the nation. The Uighurs are an ethnically-distinct, Muslim minority group who have inhabited the remote region of Xinjiang for centuries. For a brief time in the 1940s their homeland was the independent nation of East Turkestan before an invasion by the People's Liberation Army brought them under Chinese control. Since then the Uighurs have accused the government in Beijing of trying to suppress their language and culture, while encouraging the migration of enough ethnic Han Chinese into the area to now make the Uighurs a minority in their own homeland – all in all a situation that sounds eerily familiar to the scenario being played out in Xinjiang's neighbor to the south, Tibet.
The most recent troubles began two years ago when two Uighur migrant workers were killed by a mob in southeast China after being falsely accused of raping a Han Chinese woman. This sparked a series of riots in Xinjiang's capital of Uighur-on-Han violence, that was then followed by a brutal crackdown by the PLA and mass arrests of Uighurs (but not of Hans); Beijing cut off Internet and most long-distance phone service to Xinjiang for months following the riots, ostensibly for “security” reasons.
Now, with the two-year anniversary of the riots approaching, Amnesty International is warning that China is stepping up security operations against Uighurs in Xinjiang, including the reported arrests of hundreds in the region, in what Amnesty is calling an attempt to “muzzle” the Uighurs. Perhaps the most disturbing element of China's current security operation is that it is not limited to their borders - last month Kazakhstan extradited a Uighur schoolteacher who had been granted refugee status by the United Nations back to China, despite protests that he would face probable arrest and possible torture if returned and that the charges against him were false. It is a sign of China's growing power over Central Asia, and the growing ambivalence of their neighbors, the countries known collectively as the 'Stans. It's worth noting that back in May Tajikistan agreed to give up a chunk of their nation to settle a long-simmering border dispute with China rather than risk some possible future conflict with their more powerful neighbor.
Meanwhile in Xinjiang, according to Reuters, Uighurs are trying to gather in groups of no more than three or four people to avoid drawing the scrutiny of State security officials and then their likely arrest. Beijing has allotted nearly a half a billion dollars for security measures in Xinjiang this year alone.