Uighurs pour scorn on China Tiananmen ‘terrorist’ claim

Updated 13 November 2013
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Uighurs pour scorn on China Tiananmen ‘terrorist’ claim

BEIJING: Members of China’s mostly Muslim Uighur minority and overseas groups on Thursday dismissed China’s account of a Tiananmen Square “terrorist attack” as a dubious pretext for repression, amid signs of stepped-up security.
Beijing police said on Wednesday that Usmen Hasan — in an SUV carrying his mother and wife, jihadist banners and machetes — sped onto the pavement, crashed in front of a giant portrait of Mao Zedong and set the car alight.
The incident in the symbolic heart of the Chinese state killed two tourists, with 40 other people injured, and all three in the car died, police said.
Five other suspects with Uighur-sounding names were captured within 10 hours, although police only announced their detention two days later.
The Uighur minority is concentrated in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang, where ethnic tensions and discontent with the government periodically burst out into violence.
Beijing regularly calls such incidents “terrorism,” but Uighur organizations dismiss that as an excuse to justify religious and security restrictions. Information in the area is tightly controlled.
“I don’t think there are any Uighur terrorist organizations, but China gives us a terrorist hat,” said a Uighur at a university campus in the capital, who asked not to be named.
“I love this country but I’m afraid that people won’t understand me,” he added. “It’s possible that some would take this kind of extreme measure, but because... they had a very sad experience.”
He and other Uighurs around the capital described discrimination they had encountered. A chef in a Xinjiang restaurant declined to talk about terrorism for fear he would come “under pressure.”
Alim Seytoff, a US-based spokesman for the overseas World Uyghur Congress (WUC), called the official narrative of the Tiananmen event full of holes and discriminatory.
“The Chinese claim is in a way very unbelievable, to some extent outrageous,” he told AFP.
“The only reason this is labelled as a terrorist incident is because the passengers happened to be Uighurs.”
Seytoff questioned why an attacker would kill his own family, and how religious material could survive in a car engulfed in flames.
“Why would he bring his mother and his wife?” Seytoff said.
“The car was burned almost to the ground, the three people were burned to death, and the flag wasn’t burned — in the car?“
Seytoff said there was a pattern of authorities labelling Uighurs as terrorists based on “thin evidence.”
He dismissed claims of organized resistance in Xinjiang, describing incidents instead as “sporadic, individualistic, out of desperation.”
According to Chinese state-run media a “terrorist attack” in the Turpan area in Xinjiang left 35 people dead in June, and 139 people have been arrested in recent months for propagating jihadist ideology.
Ethnic tensions have risen in Xinjiang since millions of members of China’s Han majority moved to the resource-rich region, where they largely control the economy.




Rioting in the capital Urumqi involving both ethnic groups in 2009 left 200 people dead.
Seytoff warned Uighurs could face tighter repression after Monday’s incident, particularly in the capital, where the WUC said 93 people have been rounded up.
In Xinjiang residents of Turpan said security had been ramped up, as it was after the June violence.
A restaurant manager surnamed Wang said police had alerted them to “prepare against attacks.”
State-run media warned Thursday Uighurs would be the “biggest victims” of the Tiananmen incident.
Police had refrained from stating the attackers’ ethnicity but the Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist party and often strikes a nationalist tone, said that all those involved were Uighurs.
“People from Xinjiang, especially the Uighurs, will be the biggest victims,” it said. “The ordinary work and study of Xinjiang people” in other parts of China “may be affected,” it added, urging people in Xinjiang to “understand the negative effects and overcome them by cooperating.”
It also exhorted Han Chinese to “make the Uighurs feel our sincerity.”
Beijing’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying condemned the Tiananmen incident Thursday as “an action against humanity, society and civilians.”
It was “extremely wrong” to link the actions of “a small group of extremists with Chinese policy on ethnic groups and religion,” she added.


Pakistan police seek to unravel networks trafficking women

Updated 37 min 54 sec ago
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Pakistan police seek to unravel networks trafficking women

  • At least two dozen Chinese nationals and dozens of their Pakistani partners have been arrested in recent weeks in raids by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency
  • Pakistan became a focus of Chinese marriage brokers last year, and activists say that since then as many as 1,000 women and girls have been married off to Chinese men

FAISALABAD, Pakistan: With waves of arrests, Pakistani investigators are trying to unravel trafficking networks that convince impoverished Pakistanis to marry off their daughters to Chinese men for cash, and they say evidence is growing that many of the women and girls are sold into prostitution once in China.
At least two dozen Chinese nationals and dozens of their Pakistani partners have been arrested in recent weeks in raids by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. Pakistani government officials, however, have ordered police to remain quiet about the extent of the networks, fearing it could hurt increasingly close economic ties with Beijing, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.
“We are interested only in stopping the trafficking. Make no mistake, this is trafficking,” said one of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the government order. “We think the majority are sold as prostitutes,” he said of the women married in the trafficking schemes.
The AP spoke to seven girls who had been forced to marry Chinese men, four of them still in China. Each described how their new husbands handed them over to paying clients to be raped.
“I was living in hell-like conditions, silently weeping, silently praying for help,” said 20-year-old Natasha Masih. She told of how her husband locked her in a hotel in the remote northwest Chinese city of Urumqi and forced her into prostitution. The AP does not name rape victims, but Masih agreed to her name being used and now after her escape works to help other victims speak out.
Pakistan became a focus of Chinese marriage brokers last year, and activists say that since then as many as 1,000 women and girls have been married off to Chinese men. Most of the women are from Pakistan’s small Christian community, who are among the country’s most desperately poor. Brokers offer families cash to give their daughters as brides, promising them well-off Chinese husbands who would give them a good life. The business is fueled by demand in China, where men outnumber women.
In Pakistan, some Christian pastors are paid to help brokers lure members of their flock into marriages, and the girls — married against their will — become isolated in China, vulnerable to abusive husbands, previous AP reporting found .
China’s ambassador to Pakistan, speaking on local television, denied girls are trafficked to China and sold into prostitution. Trafficking was not discussed during a visit to Pakistan this month by China’s vice president, Wang Qishan. In comments carried in the Pakistani press, Wang denied trafficking was taking place.
“China is denying it is happening, but we are showing the proof,” said Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist who has helped bring girls back from China.
The two law enforcement officials said one of the trafficking networks raided by police, based in the city of Lahore, had been operating for at least a year. It was protected by corrupt policemen, and the son of a former senior police official served as the lynchpin between the Chinese and Pakistani operatives, the officials said.
One woman, Sumaira, told the AP how her brothers were paid by brokers and forced her into such a marriage in July last year. The 30-year-old said her husband took her first to a house in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, and there she was raped each night by Chinese men for a week.
Before they were to leave for China, she convinced her husband to allow her to go home to say farewell to her sisters. There, she refused to return to the husband and screamed at her brothers, “Why did you sell me? How much money did you get for me?’” she said. The brothers beat her, but she managed to escape to the home of an uncle.
Before her marriage, Sumaira had run a beauty salon in a poor, mostly Christian neighborhood of the Punjab town of Gujranwala. “I was a very different person than what you see now,” she said. “Then I had hope. I believed in my future. Now I don’t know.”
Masih told the AP she was married off in November and soon after left her home in Faisalabad, flying to China with her husband. He took her to the northwest of the country, to a small house in a forested area. Three male and two female friends of her husband shared the house.
Her husband forced her to have sex with the men. Then he took her to the Urumqi hotel, where he confined her to a room and sold her into prostitution.
“I bought you in Pakistan,” she said her husband told her. “You belong to me. You are my property.”
Natasha made furtive calls to her parents on her mobile phone, and her mother turned to her church for help. One parishioner, Farooq Masih, formed a group of men from the congregation to try to recue Natasha. One of the men had a younger brother who was a student in China, said Masih, who is not related to Natasha. The brother agreed to pose as a client and pay him to sleep with Natasha.
Instead, when the student went to the hotel in a taxi, he called Natasha and told her to slip out to meet him.
“I saw him and quickly I took my clothes and got into his taxi,” she said. “I didn’t ask his name. I didn’t ask anything, I just said, ‘Brother, thank you.’” Soon she was on a plane to Pakistan.
Farooq Masih and the men from the church have since dedicated hours to unearthing trafficking networks. They recently conducted their own sting operation in Faisalabad, orchestrating a fake marriage that led the Federal Investigation Agency to the brokers and the pastor who solemnized the unions for a fee.
“I am lucky,” Natasha said. “Many girls who were taken there by their husbands are still living a terrible life. ... Now I know what is freedom and what is slavery. In China, I was treated as a slave by my husband.”