Saturday, April 05, 2008
The art of protest
While in the Guardian author Charles Cumming makes an important point about China's Turkic-Muslim minority - The British media's obsession with Buddhist Tibet says a great deal about western attitudes to Xinjiang and to its predominantly Turkic-Muslim population. It may be that people remain ignorant of Xinjiang because it has no Dalai Lama, no Richard Gere, to bring its cause to the world's attention. If it did, then we would know more about the barbaric treatment meted out to Uighurs on a day-to-day basis.
So paranoid is the Chinese government about the threat of a separatist movement in Xinjiang that it will incarcerate innocent civilians on the flimsiest pretexts. Uighurs have been jailed for reading newspapers sympathetic to the cause of independence. Others have been detained merely for listening to Radio Free Asia, an English-language station funded by the US Congress. Even to discuss separatism in public is to risk a lengthy jail sentence, with no prospect of habeas corpus, effective legal representation or a fair trial. About 100 Uighurs were arrested in Khotan recently after several hundred demonstrated in the marketplace of the town, which lies on the Silk Road.
And what happens to these innocent Uighur men and women once they land up in one of Xinjiang's notorious "black prisons"? Amnesty International has reported numerous incidents of torture, from cigarette burns on the skin to submersion in water or raw sewage. Prisoners have had toenails extracted by pliers, been attacked by dogs and burned with electric batons, even cattle prods.
Listen to samples of the music of the Turkic-Muslim people, not of China but of Azerbaijan here, and more art of protest here.
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