(社説)新疆のテロ 民族政策を見直す時だ

August 04, 2014
EDITORIAL: China's racial policy fuels cycle of violence in Xinjiang region
(社説)新疆のテロ 民族政策を見直す時だ

The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is an inland region in far western China that has a large population of Uighur Muslims.

The region has recently been hit by a series of violent attacks believed to have been perpetrated by terrorists. There are no signs of calming the wave of violence in the region.

It is necessary to take a firm stand against violence. But it is hard to deny that the approach the authorities have adopted to deal with the problems behind these attacks has only stirred up resentment among the local people.

China is a multiracial nation. Although Han Chinese form a great majority of the population, the vast country is home to various minority races with diverse values and lifestyles.

The chain of violence in the Xinjiang region indicates that the Chinese government’s racial policy has gone awry. Beijing needs to rethink its fundamental attitude toward ethnic minorities.

An incident of violence in the region’s Kashgar district in late July involved an exceptionally large group of attackers. Dozens of knife-wielding militants attacked the local government office and police station, killing and injuring many.

In May, bombs set off in a busy morning market in Urumqi, the capital of the region, left more than 100 people dead or injured.

After the May incident, President Xi Jinping ordered strict precautions against “a chain reaction.” The administration tightened its crackdown on “extremist religious groups.”

Chinese police have huge powers to maintain law and order. They are allowed to wiretap telephone lines and monitor private communications over the Internet.

Chinese leaders should ponder why the chain reaction of violence in the region has not stopped, despite the government’s enormous police power.

Recent news reports on the situation in Xinjiang suggest that the Chinese government has been tightening its control over the people in the region in ways that brutally ignore Islamic customs.

Officials in the region, for instance, compelled some Muslim restaurant owners to remain open during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Police detained Muslim women for wearing headscarves.

There have been reports that the attack in Kashgar was triggered by the crackdown on the wearing of scarves.

Violence is unpardonable. By seeking to ban even the daily customs of Muslims, however, the Chinese government has gone too far in its fight against violence. The government’s actions are not so much as efforts to prevent crimes as they are an oppression of an ethnic minority.

The authority’s iron-fisted policy toward the restive region has provoked the chain reaction of violence there.

Last week, in another disturbing move, the Chinese government indicted the outspoken, Beijing-based Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti on charges of “separatism.”

Tohti is known as a moderate who has been working for reconciliation between Uighurs and Han Chinese. His indictment has drawn strong criticism from both inside and outside China.

Chinese law-enforcement authorities have asserted that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which it describes as a foreign terrorist group, is inciting Uighurs to carry out terrorist attacks.

It is possible that the attackers may have been influenced by Muslim extremists.

But the government appears to be trying to shift responsibility for its policy failure by blaming the series of attacks in the region on a terrorist organization and others incited by the group.

According to China’s Constitution, all races are equal and their customs should be respected. People in China should also have religious freedom.

Leaders in Beijing should not forget that these are fundamental principles of the nation’s Constitution.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 3

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