China will not move away from what it calls its “very successful de-radicalization program” in Xinjiang. However, “over time, fewer people would go through the state education and training mechanism,” Shorat Zakir, governor of the region, said Sunday in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. This is reported by news agency Reuters, whose correspondent previously participated in a visit to a number of so-called vocational training centers as part of a small foreign press team. According to Western estimates, up to one million Uighurs are being interned in these facilities for reeducation.
During the visits of three such centers, inmates in the presence of the Chinese escorts declared that they were volunteering there to free themselves from extremist ideology. The facility visits and talks were held under constant supervision by representatives of the Chinese authorities.
Visit to Xinjiang like, but …
“Forcing China to do so requires international pressure to be felt,” said Maya Wang of Hong Kong’s Human Rights Watch. Shortly before the press event, China organized a similar trip for diplomats from twelve non-Western countries, including Russia, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Kazakhstan.
Finally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing said Monday that UN officials and all sides were welcome to visit Xinjiang – “provided that they observe the relevant travel regulations, do not interfere in internal affairs and maintain an objective and neutral attitude” , The German Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler was recently unable to penetrate her desire to visit Xinjiang.
Five-Year Plan on Islam Politics
While the Chinese leadership is trying to signal readiness for transparency in Xinjiang, it is also driving the so-called “Sinification of Islam” in China. According to the English-language party organ Global Times, a five-year plan was prepared for this goal, which was discussed in early January with representatives of Islam from eight provinces and regions at a working session in Beijing.
A member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Department of United Front Work said that 2019 was a crucial year for the implementation of its policies and that China’s Muslim community “needed to improve its political stance and entrust itself to Party leadership.”
Only a few days before this conference on Islam policy, the harder pace of the Chinese state against “unregulated” Islam was once again revealed: three “illegal” mosques in the southwestern province of Yunnan were closed during police raids. Policemen forcibly dragged members of the Muslim but centuries-old “Chineseized” Hui ethnic group away from the entrance of one of the affected mosques. It has been reported that several applications for the registration of mosques in Weishan County over the past ten years have been rejected.
Against “foreign Arabic” influences
The Muslim minority in Yunnan, a province bordering Laos and Myanmar, has so far remained relatively undisturbed by state repression. In other areas of Hui Chinese settlement, Ningxia and Gansu, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post has recently witnessed a series of anti-Muslim harassment including the closure of mosques and Arabic schools.
The US expert on Chinese minority politics, David Stroup, from the University of Oklahoma, sees in such measures as in the recent clashes a clear line of Chinese politics: this is directed not only against unregistered religious sites, but against too much ” foreign “buildings or building elements. These are to be banned from the public cityscape, so especially mosques in “Arab” style. Even signs in Arabic script should be increasingly rare.
Xinjang model for all Muslim areas of China?
Historian Haiyun Ma of Frostburg State University in Maryland also sees the elimination of foreign influence as the main motive behind the five-year plan to “Sinize Islam.” “Arab influences are considered cancerous and should be eradicated from the lives of Muslims in China,” Ma said DW. “In other words, Chinese Muslims’ cultural ties to Islamic countries are kept to a minimum or disrupted, and under the guise of globalization, China seeks to isolate its Muslim population.”
The Global Times reported in November that regions other than Xinjiang, with significant Muslim populations, would learn from their experiences. China expert Stroup believes that it is quite possible that the “Xinjiang model” will also be used in other parts of the country.