Official Han Separatism in Xinjiang

Posted: 2012年03月26日 in Original Thoughts

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In the past six months, two social campaigns have directly targeted Uyghur Muslims and their Islamic religion in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). One is the “weakening religious consciousness” (淡化宗教意识) campaign started from Ghulja on December 25, 2011. The other is the March 14th signing of a “written promise not to participate in religious activities” between retired Uyghur teachers and school authorities in Korila (RFA, March 21, 2012).

The latter campaign is said to study the spirit (精神) of Zhang Chuxnian’s speech on maintaining stability and building a harmonious campus (更好地维护稳定,建设和谐校园). From limited Chinese sources, the signing activity seems to be conducted by the 9th elementary school of Korila city (市九小) and likely to be imitated by other schools in Korila and even beyond. Interestingly, the signing ceremony was unilaterally imposed on the Uyghur teachers by Han school authorities, which included principal Nie Lan (聂澜) and school party secretary Li Qunhui (李群慧). These two Han school authorities announced the signing of the so-called written promise, and the leader of workers’ union requested the teachers to sign the document on the spot.

Although the Chinese media did not indicate the consequences of refusing to sign such documents, it is clear, as Uyghur public intellectual Ilham Tohti clarifies, “if you go Hajj or go to Mosque, your salary [pension] would be terminated even if you are a retired teacher ”(,March 22, 2012).

This recent campaign singling out Uyghur teachers and targeting their religion seriously violates the Chinese constitution’s protection of freedom of religion. Article 36 of China’s Constitution clearly states that citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief: “No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.”

The 9th elementary school’s practice publicly violates China’s Constitution and their solo “legality” and “legitimacy” rests on the spirit of Zhang Chunxian’s speech on maintaining stability. To rule by one person’s spirit (and in this case, the new party sectary of XUAR), instead of law, characterizes the Cultural Revolution that had almost destroyed Chinese society from the 1960s to 1970s. As China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiaobao expressed on March 14, the wrongful, feudal impact of the Cultural Revolution has not been completely illuminated.

Although Wen Jiabao’s warning probably referred to Bo Xilai and his Chongqing cultural revolutionary campaign, his concern over the occurrence of the Cultural Revolution also can be applied to Xinjiang, where the “spirit” of a leader has lead to various campaigns against the Uyghur people. As the Kolira case indicates, even retired teachers are forced to sign unlawful documents to abandon their religion and culture. This is unthinkable in interior regions of China where both Han provincial governors and Han populace have fanatically revived their religious practices and large and luxurious religious rituals have been sponsored by the governments.

By denying basic rights granted and guaranteed by China’s Constitution in Xinjiang, various Han authorities in Xinjiang have formed a Han separatist mentality that Han party secretary, school principal, leader of workers’ union and the like collaboratively deprive the Uyghurs of their basic Chinese citizen rights and thus separate them from China. In other words, in talking about separatists and separatism in Xinjiang, Han official separatism is indispensable in understanding the continuous tension and conflict between the Han and Uyghurs.


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