The Uighur Muslim minority has been under a clampdown by Chinese authorities under claims of fighting terrorism.

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2005 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – The Bush administration has turned a blind eye to China’s crackdown on its Muslim Uighur minority in return for Beijing’s cooperation in Washington’s so-called war on terror, many Uighur activists have complained.

They cite US support for designating the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) a terrorist organization, allowing China to broadly brand Uighurs as potentially dangerous, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Sunday, May 8.

Nury Turkel, president of the Uighur American Association that claims 1,000 members across the United States, insists Washington cut a deal on the ETIM to win Beijing’s acquiescence in the Iraq war.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the Muslim minority in the oil- and mineral-rich Uighur Autonomous Region in north-west China has been under a clampdown by the Chinese authorities under claims of fighting terrorism in the region.

Last month, Human Rights Watch accused China of directing “a crushing campaign of religious repression” against the Uighur Muslim minority, threatening to wipe out their religion, culture and way of life.

In a 114-page report, entitled “Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang,” the watchdog said the Chinese were using the anti-terror war as cover to tighten surveillance and controls on the Uighur Muslims.

The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking minority of eight million living in the rugged mountains and deserts of landlocked Xinjiang Province, historically known as East Turkestan.

Dilemma

Many American politicians recognize them as a beleaguered population caught in the crunch between Washington’s vaunted worldwide drive for democracy and the realpolitik of its war on terror.

“This is one of the pre-eminent fights for freedom on the planet,” Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher told a congressional hearing here last week.

American officials, however, deny turning a blind eye to the persecution of Uighur Muslims.

They argued that Washington has issued public and private warnings to China against using the war on terror to settle domestic scores with its minorities.

In its latest human rights review, the US State Department acknowledged that the authorities in Xinjiang “continued to restrict political, civil and religious freedoms.”

Democratic Representative Tom Lantos, co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, also rejected charges on cutting a deal with Beijing on blacklisting the ETIM.

He, however, acknowledged the strains on the Bush administration as they try to balance the human rights issues with the security concerns that have marked his presidency.

“It’s one of the most intrinsic, inherent, inescapable dilemmas of US foreign policy.”

Not Enough

Kadeer urged the Bush administration for a clear policy on the Uighur issue”.

Chinese activists, meanwhile, urged the Bush administration to do more efforts to push China to end its persecution policies against the Uighur Muslim minority.

“We are pleased that the attention and the effort is on the rise but it’s not enough yet,” Rebiya Kadeer, a businesswoman-activist, told AFP.

She stressed that “having a clear policy on the Uighur issue would be helpful”.

Kadeer was released from a Chinese jail last March on medical parole after six years’ imprisonment and deported to the US.

Some Uighurs also accused the US of paying only sporadic attention to their cause.

They expressed concerns that Washington has been dragging its feet on asylum requests since 9-11 attacks.

One exiled Uighur has spent nearly four years trying to bring over his wife and a son, now seven.

He has seen the boy only once in his life when they converse by telephone, the child speaks Chinese not Uighur.