Baku, May 7 – The people of Tibet have succeeded in using the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing to attract international attention to their plight and thereby to exert pressure on the Chinese government to begin talks with the Dalai Lama, but many of the 150 million Muslims in China who live in that country's western province of Xinjiang have not been so fortunate.
Instead of benefiting from the games in this way, “the Olympic torch has brought the Muslims [of that region, which they and many others call Eastern Turkestan] only misfortune,” with the Chinese regime using this occasion to step up its campaign of oppression against the Islamic nations there (www.islam.ru/world/2008-05-06/#21048).
And China’s ability to do so, without attracting the kind of support that the Tibetans have, should be a reminder to the Circassians and others in the North Caucasus who hope to use international attention to the Winter Games in Sochi in 2014 that they cannot count on getting the backing they seek unless they are able to cultivate elites abroad in the first place.
Indeed, with the exception of the French news agency AFP, the only groups beyond China experts that are now devoting much attention to the Beijing’s crackdown in Xinjiang are human rights groups like the Unrecognized Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and Muslim sites in the Russian Federation like Islam.ru, Islamua.net, and Islamonline.ru.
Two exiled leaders of the Uighurs, one of the Islamic nations in that region, told the French news agency that Beijing is using the upcoming Olympic Games and its plan for the Olympic torch to pass through Xinjiang June 25-27 as occasions for stepping up repression (afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gVmcDo7Dgwp1qpl33R6iYOCumsNw).
Rebiya Kadeer, who heads the Uighur American Association, said that “many Uighurs are being detained and arrested by the Chinese authorities to prevent their peaceful protests” when the torch passes “through East Turkestan. Consequently, she said, she opposes the passage of the torch if it entails “severe repression of the Uighur people.”
And Dolkun Isa, the secretary general of the World Uighur Congress, told the French news agency that “more than 10,000 people have been rounded up in Xinjiang over the past four to five months. “Everywhere,” he said, homes, hotels are searched. People are arrested,” often “simply because they look suspicious” to the Chinese.
In order to justify their tough actions, the Chinese have put out the story that there are “terror cells” in Xinjiang that are planning to “target” the Olympics – a story that the Uighur leaders say is “fabricated.” And in order to hide what they are doing, the Beijing authorities have thrown an even tighter blanket of secrecy over the region.
Kadeer summed up what is going on in the following way: "China is using the occasion to host the 2008 Olympics as an opportunity to further demonise the Uighur people's legitimate and peaceful struggle and [thus attempt to] justify its [longstanding and] heavy-handed repression in East Turkestan.”