Xinjiang’s efforts to replace extremism with opportunity are not like the Guantanamo Bay tactics the West imagines

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/20 19:30:35

Chinese netizens called the recent move of 15 ambassadors' sending letters to the top regional official of Xinjiang on extremism elimination policies "farce"

The spreading of extremism in Xinjiang, especially in its southern part, severely hindered local development

Local governments in Xinjiang are making combined efforts to boost development, including launching vocational education centers and poverty alleviation work

Female residents from a village in Shule county in Northwest China's Uyghur Autonomous Region make embroidery products in a satellite factory on November 15. Poor residents in the area were relocated to the village and are encouraged to work in the factory. Photo: VCG

The regional government and people in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are working hard on extremism elimination and poverty alleviation in the hope of creating a better life for residents.

However, whether out of political intentions or a lack of knowledge of the situation in Xinjiang, some Western media are continuously criticizing the regional and local governments over "human rights."

Although many media in China have released a series of reports on Xinjiang's ongoing efforts to eliminate extremism, including launching vocational education and training programs for residents who have been influenced by extremism, some countries' representatives to the UN Human Rights Council in early November kept saying that the Uyghur group in Xinjiang was badly treated.

The United Nations' Human Rights Council finally gave China a passing grade in its last review of China's human rights development in early November.

However, the criticism of the Chinese government has never ended. The latest move for those who kept hyping the extremism elimination policies in Xinjiang was a group of 15 Western ambassadors in China, spearheaded by Canada, who are seeking a meeting with the top regional official in Xinjiang, Reuters reported on November 15.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying called the move "rude and unacceptable," and she said, "I would like to reiterate that Xinjiang as an open region welcomes those who go there with goodwill. Anyone harboring malicious intentions and prejudice and seeking to interfere in China's internal affairs will be firmly rejected."

Many Chinese netizens called the move of these ambassadors a "farce," saying that some countries could not maintain calm when the situation in Xinjiang is getting better and better.

Li Wei, a Beijing-based anti-terrorism expert, told the Global Times, "At a time when the safety of their own people is threatened by terrorism and extremism, some Western countries are still criticizing China's extremism elimination efforts and using their influence on the international mainstream media to pressure China."

These countries would never admit the effectiveness of the ongoing extremism elimination efforts in Xinjiang, as well as the Chinese government's efforts on protecting human rights, Li said, noting that "for them, a stable Xinjiang is the last thing they want to see."

Herdsmen and farmers in Hami in Xinjiang get free televisions from the local government in January 2008. Photo: VCG

Severe lingering problems

"Xinjiang, especially its southern part, has been plagued with extremism. Residents who have been influenced by extremism reject modern and realistic life. Terrorist attacks once happened a lot, which hindered economic and cultural development in the area," Xu Jianying, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography, told the Global Times.

The Global Times learned from local authorities in Hotan and Kashi in southern Xinjiang that 22 months ago, terrorist attacks plotted by local residents who have been severely influenced by extremism took place all the time, and victims included both Han and Uyghur people and even senior religious leaders.

Extremists advocate violence and terrorism under the name of religion. For example, they require followers to live under distorted doctrines and undertake jihad in order to "go to heaven."

The governments at different levels in Xinjiang have put lots of manpower and material resources into helping those who have been influenced by extremism, including launching the vocational education and training program, and these policies have achieved positive effects, said experts who have visited some training centers in Xinjiang.

"Trainees who used to be influenced by extremism were narrow-minded and had nothing but hatred in their hearts. Now they have changed a lot. They have learned the national laws and regulations as well as some vocational skills. Instead of being fettered by religious extremism, they have experienced ideological emancipation and embraced hope for the future," Li said.

The experience of Eli Metusun, a resident in Yutian county in Hotan, reflects Li's remarks.

Eli was born in a religious family and after being forced to drop out of school at an early age, he was asked to learn distorted religious doctrines, which were against national laws.

According to Eli, the distorted doctrines showed no respect to women and advocated that non-Muslims are heretic.

"If I were continuously influenced by extremism, I would go astray further and become a terrorist… if I were told to kill those heretics, I might do as required," Eli told the Global Times.

Eli joined the vocational education and training center in Yutian one year ago and said that his life has changed.

"I have learned that it is people's right to believe in some religion or have no religious belief at all. We are all Chinese citizens and should live in harmony despite our religion," he said.

"I now have a good health habit - brushing my teeth every day," Eli said with a shy smile. He also noted that he wanted to learn more vocational skills in the center and started his own business in the future. "I want my parents, who I had showed little appreciation, to live a better life," he said.

The ongoing extremism elimination policies in Xinjiang have also brought social stability and residents' happiness.

There have been no violent and terrorist incidents in Xinjiang for 22 months, which has ensured the social stability and safety of people's lives, according to the Xinjiang regional government.

This Global Times reporter visited a night market in Kashi, where local residents and visitors shared tables, tasted local specialties and enjoyed dancing and musical performances.

A woman named Aygul who owned a food stall in the night market said that she now felt safer and she hopes more visitors would come to Xinjiang.


Combined measures

Aside from launching vocational education and training centers, Xinjiang is also making efforts on poverty alleviation work.

Influenced by extremism and limited by a barren natural environment, many places in Xinjiang, especially in southern Xinjiang, have suffered poverty and some places have been identified as "extremely poor," Xu said.

The poverty alleviation work in Xinjiang is a systemic all-round effort, including having extremism elimination education, enhancing education levels, promoting national laws and regulations and offering vocational skills, Li said, noting that poverty alleviation work could also help root out the spread of extremism.

Xinjiang has taken various measures on poverty alleviation. For example, the four prefectures in southern Xinjiang, that were plagued with extremism and extreme poverty have helped lift 82,000 people out of poverty from January to October this year.

According to a report from the Xinjiang Daily, thousands of residents in southern Xinjiang are now working in satellite factories set up close to villages, State-owned companies or commercial companies. Some residents have started their own small businesses, restaurants, and barber shops. Their income has increased and their minds have changed. They have more hope for the future, the report said.

This Global Times reporter saw that many economic and technological zones and more factories for making clothing and shoes, agricultural products and logistics and storage are under construction in Xinjiang.

An official in Kashi, who asked for anonymity, told the Global Times that an economic and technological park in Kashi can have 3,000 workers living and working there. There are schools, hospitals and other infrastructure around it.

Factories launched by companies from many places, including Guangdong, Shanghai and Shandong, enjoy favorable policies. The factories are close to the source of raw materials and a relatively low-cost labor force.

The official said that workers in factories could earn from 1,500 to 4,000 yuan ($216 to $576) a month while the average salary in Kashi is about 1,500 to 2,000 yuan. "These workers will earn more in three years with a better economic situation," said the official.

Chinese approach

"The ongoing extremism elimination policies and poverty alleviation work in Xinjiang are timely and necessary, and match the situation on the ground in Xinjiang," Xu said, "and we will carry on the current policies to maintain the positive effects."

Xu noted that some countries in the Mideast have also taken measures on residents who have been identified as severely influenced by extremism, including separating them from other residents, giving psychological intervention and helping them return back to society.

"Eliminating extremism is also a big problem for many Western countries and those which have suffered from terrorist attacks. But many of the governments lack resolve and effective methods," Li said.

He noted that the US has a terrorist watch list and those who are on the list will be arrested or shot to death when they engage in terrorist activities. France assesses people who have been influenced by extremism and detains those who are identified as dangerous.

"These measures have not stopped those who have been influenced by extremism. People who were influenced by extremism would become more radical and usually end up engaging in terrorist attacks," Li said.

"China's extremism elimination efforts are, on one hand, ensuring most people's safety, which is protecting human rights to the greatest extent; and on the other, pulling those who have been influenced by extremism back from the cliff before they undertake the sacrifice of terrorism,"  Li said.

In response to some Western media's criticism of Xinjiang's policies, Li said that some Western media have limited knowledge of the real situation in Xinjiang. They imagine the government training programs in Xinjiang operate like Guantanamo Bay.

But this is not the way it is. The current extremism elimination efforts in Xinjiang have been made on the basis of respecting human rights, Li said.

Li also noted that China's extremism elimination policies may offer some lessons to other countries.

"We believe that all countries should develop their own methods, suited to the country's specific situation," Li said.

"Only when all countries have taken effective measures on eliminating extremism can we get rid of terrorism," Li said, "and China's continuous extremism elimination efforts could not succeed without the support of international community."



Newspaper headline: Fighting terror at the root

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