Plight of Uighurs in China

Updated 25 September 2014

Plight of Uighurs in China

Like their fellow-ideologues in the former Soviet Union, communist officials in Beijing have kept their promise: They will answer dissent with repression. In China today, if you’re the member of an ethnic minority with a complaint, that you are rash enough to air in public, expect to be dragged into “court” to face a life sentence.
That’s what happened to prominent Uighur intellectual Ilham Tohti last Tuesday. Tohti is widely respected abroad as a moderate voice within China’s eight million-strong Muslim Uighur community, who inhabit Xinjiang Province in the country’s far northwestern corner. The charges were advocating separatism, criticizing the government and “voicing support for terrorists.”
Tohti insisted during the two-day trial in Urumqi, the capital — during which lawyers were prevented from calling witnesses for the defense — that he has always opposed separatism and that he had spent his life as an economist, commentator and activist trying to promote better relations between Uighur and China’s Han majority — a majority that emerged in Xinjiang as a consequence of Beijing’s efforts in recent decades to turn the Uighur into a minority in their own homeland by encouraging Hans to settle in the province.
Probably what clinched it at the trial was the fact that Tohti had set up a website sharply critical of government policies toward Xinjiang, offering an alternative narrative to that of the government’s. (Seven students who worked for the website have been indicted and face trials.)
The verdict was so harsh that it shocked even critics of China’s dubious legal system, and highlighted the government’s brutal repression of of Uighur dissent. “There’s so thorough and transparent a miscarriage of justice as to take one’s breath away,” Elliot Spencer, an expert on China’s minorities at Indiana University, told the Washington Post. “By no stretch of the imagination — even the authoritarian imagination — could this be considered a fair trial. The severity of the sentence stands in inverse proportion to the substance of the charges.”
That’s not the first time China has cracked down on prominent Uighur intellectuals struggling for human rights in the face of communist domination of their community. In 1999, Rubiya Kadeer, the revered Uighur philanthropist and at one time high official in China’s National People’s Congress, was arrested, summarily tried and jailed for well over six years, two of which in solitary confinement in notoriously brutal conditions.
International pressure eventually brought about her release and exile to the United States, where she joined her husband, Sidik Rouzi, also an Uighur political dissident who had served eight years in a Chinese prison before the US granted him asylum. Two of their sons remained incarcerated back in China and a daughter under house arrest — presumably held as punishment for their parents’ activism.
When today you research the history of Xinjiang — as we all had to research the history of Chechnya in the mid-1990s — you stumble upon a land suffused with the stuff of legend. Along the ancient Silk Road where Europe, Asia and Russia converge, stands the ancient homeland of the Uighur, a nation with its own rich culture, Turkic language and yen for independence — or at least independence from communist intrusiveness into its way of life.
What propels the Chinese government, you ask, to launch this relentless campaign in Xinjiang against a people who had historically not evinced violence in their interaction with the outside world? Analysts appear to be convinced that the campaign is in part fueled by Beijing’s determination to wrest full control over the Uighur nation’s vast oil reserves.
That may very well be true. But let’s not overlook another important reason: The nature of the totalitarian impulse imbued in any communist system of government, an ideological system too scurrilous to produce those charities of the imagination which are essential to a sense of the humane in our humanity. Who has, for example, forgotten those savageries that the Soviet Union — and later in its incarnation as the Russian Federation — had in its time inflicted on minorities under its control, particularly in the 1990s in Chechnya?
One thing is plain: Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang will only exacerbate conflict there, and as the World Uighur Congress said in a statement following the dreadful Ilham Tohti verdict last Tuesday, it will “push more Uighur toward violence.”


Australian man survives croc attack by gouging its eye

Updated 16 November 2019

Australian man survives croc attack by gouging its eye

  • Wildlife ranger Craig Dickmann made a split-second decision to go fishing in a remote part of Northern Australia known as ‘croc country.’
  • ‘That noise will haunt me forever I think, the sound of the snap of its jaws’

CAIRNS, Australia: An Australian wildlife ranger has recounted his terrifying escape from the clutches of a “particularly cunning” crocodile, after wrestling with the reptile and sticking a finger in its eye.
Craig Dickmann, who made a split-second decision to go fishing last Sunday in a remote part of Northern Australia known as “croc country” last Sunday, said a 2.8-meter (nine-foot) crocodile came up from behind him as he was leaving the beach.
“As I’ve turned to go, the first thing I see is its head just come at me,” he told reporters on Friday from his hospital bed in the town of Cairns in Queensland state.
Dickmann said the animal latched on to his thigh.
“That noise will haunt me forever I think, the sound of the snap of its jaws,” he said.
The 54-year-old said he wrestled with the croc on the remote beach as it tried to drag him into the water.
Dickmann stuck his thumb into its eye, saying it was the only “soft spot” he found on the “bullet-proof” animal.
“Their eyes retract a fair way and when you go down far enough you can feel bone so I pushed as far as I possibly could and then it let go at that point,” Dickmann said.
After a few minutes, he said he managed to get on top of the croc and pin its jaws shut.
“And then, I think both the croc and I had a moment where we’re going, ‘well, what do we do now?’”
Dickmann said he then pushed the croc away from him and it slid back into the water.
The ranger had skin ripped from his hands and legs in the ordeal and drove more than 45 minutes back to his home before calling emergency services.
It was then another hour in the car to meet the Royal Flying Doctors Service who flew him to Cairns Hospital, where he is recovering from the ordeal.
“This croc was particularly cunning and particularly devious,” he said.
Queensland’s department of environment this week euthanized the animal.
“The area is known croc country and people in the area are reminded to always be crocwise,” the department said in a statement.
Saltwater crocodiles, which can grow up to seven meters long and weigh more than a ton, are common in the vast continent’s tropical north.
Their numbers have exploded since they were declared a protected species in the 1970s, with attacks on humans rare.
According to the state government, the last non-fatal attack was in January 2018 in the Torres Strait while the last death was in October 2017 in Port Douglas.