Square incident may prompt prejudice

By Turgunjan Tursun Source:Global Times Published: 2013-10-31 22:43:01

I learned of the jeep crash in Tiananmen Square on Monday afternoon through social networks, and then heard later that Xinjiang had begun to implement emergency controls in parts of the autonomous region. This made me concerned that people from Xinjiang might have been involved in the incident.

An authoritative conclusion from the central government was issued on Wednesday.

The crash incident, which could be viewed as China's 9/11, will have a serious impact on the attitude of the inland people toward Uyghurs and the social position of Uyghurs.

Nowadays, frenzied attacks on ethnic minorities could spread online when violence erupts between minority groups and the mainstream society.

What's worse, some even attack the government's ethnic and religious policies. When ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, verbally strike back online, there is vicious mutual abuse that can create confrontations in reality.

I am worried that the Square incident may have a long-term negative impact on Uyghur society.

For one thing, a new round of isolating Uyghurs will likely be initiated across the nation.

Given a series of previous violent cases in Xinjiang, Uyghurs have been branded with infamy and placed in relatively difficult circumstances.

Some local governments issued strict regulations over Uyghur residence, employment and traveling, despite the central government opposing such measures.

The Square incident may fuel this trend. Being worried that Uyghurs, who dared to create trouble in the Tiananmen Square, may cause problems in their administrative region, a few local governments may restrict the migration of Uyghurs or even push current Uyghur residents out, which will further worsen the conditions of Uyghurs in inland areas.

The recent fourth national working conference on Xinjiang reconstruction-assistance proposed Uyghurs be given strong backing in order to increase their employment in the inland regions.

However, such favorable propositions may meet a chill welcome in the wake of the Square incident. Employers may be reluctant to offer job opportunities to Uyghurs. The prospects seem depressing.

Due to the lack of population mobility in the past, Uyghurs and Han had limited understanding of each other, easily triggering misunderstanding and prejudice.

But in recent years, despite some conflicts generated in the process, a growing number of Uyghurs have been working in the inland regions, which has intensified communication and enhanced mutual understanding.

Therefore, encouraging more Uyghurs to seek job opportunities in the inland regions is not only a solution to the Uyghur employment problem, but also helps consolidate national identity and strengthen a sense of belonging to the country among Uyghurs.

Under the shadow of the Square incident, if the inland regions, from local governments to the grass roots, begin to reject the Uyghur people, Uyghurs will sense this prejudice and hostility, which in return will sow growing resentment toward the Han people among Uyghurs.

This is the last thing that Uyghur people want to see. It's very risky for the long-term stability and development of Xinjiang and the country as a whole.

As one Uyghur put it online, "I have been working hard and longing for respect for my performance, but the Tiananmen crash incident may throw my efforts away. All Uyghurs are forced to pay the price of an extremely small group of violent terrorists."

The incident may have a big effect on Chinese society, but I believe the central government won't change its Xinjiang policy. Instead, it will take precaution against potential attempts at isolating Uyghurs.

The author is an associate research fellow of the Sociology Institute with the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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