China

China's Ethnic Minorities Are Targeted After Tiananmen Crash


“Strike hard against the reactionary propaganda” and “ensure that the voice and image of the party is heard and seen over the vast expanses” of China’s Tibetan regions, says a new commentary published Nov. 2 on the website of Qiushi, an influential Communist Party journal.

To help block outside reporting on Tibet and spread party propaganda better, authorities should restrict the use of unregistered satellite dishes and step up monitoring of Internet and phone communications. Party members should be hired as “Internet police” and as commentators, writes Chen Quanguo, the party secretary of Tibet, in Qiushi. We must ensure “that the voice and image of the enemy forces and the Dalai clique are neither seen nor heard,” the commentary said, referring to the Dalai Lama, the 78-year-old exiled religious leader.

China’s restive ethnic minorities are once again in Beijing’s crosshairs after last week’s fiery jeep crash saw five die and 40 injured in Tiananmen Square, just below the giant portrait of Mao Zedong.

Chinese authorities have called the incident a terrorist act carried out by religious extremists. Five alleged co-conspirators arrested in Beijing, as well as the vehicle’s three passengers who died in the crash, were reportedly all Uighurs, the Muslim minority hailing from China’s far western region of Xinjiang. “Police have also found knives and at least one ‘jihad’ flag in the temporary residence of the five detained suspects,” reported the Xinhua News Agency on Oct. 30.

“This violent terrorist attack that happened in Beijing is an organized, premeditated activity,” said China’s security chief Meng Jianzhu in an interview with Phoenix TV on Oct. 31 in Uzbekistan, reported Bloomberg News. “The instigator behind the scenes is the East Turkestan Islamic Movement terrorist,” he said, referring to a Uighur militant group based in Central Asia.

Now there are growing concerns that Beijing is responding with draconian security measures that may affect the lives of broad numbers of China’s Uighur and Tibetan minorities.

“Rather than open up the Tiananmen incident to independent investigation, Chinese authorities are issuing sinister threats against the Uyghur people and making damaging accusations no one can check,” said Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, a Uighur exile group based in Munich, Germany, in a Nov. 1 press release. “Any intensification of repressive measures will hasten the Chinese government’s goal of confining the Uyghur people to the history books.”

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities in a Tibetan region of Sichuan province “are urging ‘vigilance’ in defending against similar attacks by Tibetans challenging Chinese rule in their own region,” Radio Free Asia reported on Oct. 30, citing a Tibetan source from the region. Village chiefs have been ordered to provide information on all registered vehicles in their districts and told that road checks will be set up. “They were warned that anyone found giving ‘information about China’ to outside sources will be dealt with according to law and regulations,” the RFA source said.

Dexter_roberts
Roberts is Bloomberg Businessweek's Asia News Editor and China bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter @dtiffroberts.

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