Central Asia

China destruction of Uighur mosques claimed

Satellite imagery posted by activists appears to show that the Chinese government is systematically destroying landmark mosques in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region. The revelations come as human rights organizations step up their criticism of Beijing over its abuse of the Uighur people and internment of hundreds of thousands in so-called “reeducation camps.” Tweets by Uighur activists indicate that at least two landmark mosques in Xinjiang have been destroyed. Website Bellingcat confirmed the claims with before-and-after satellite imagery. Among the destroyed mosques is the historic Keriya Aitika Mosque in the city of Hotan, which was built in 1237 and inducted to the Chinese Architectural Heritage list in 2017. Unconfirmed reports claimed that the Kargilik Mosque was also razed by the Chinese government. (Photo: Wikipedia via UNPO)

Central Asia

Podcast: Tibet and the struggle for cyberspace

In Episode 28 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with trepidation Google’s plans to develop a censored search engine for China, and thereby be allowed back through the Great Firewall to access the world's largest market. But the next and more sinister step is imposing China's draconian standards for control of information on all Internet users, worldwide. Harbingers of this are already seen in Facebook's censorship of the Tibetan struggle, and of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey, as well as initiatives to suppress footage of Israeli war crimes. While protesting such moves is imperative, the potential for such abuses in inherent to the technology—and this, ultimately, is a deeper and more complex problem that also demands a thoroughgoing critique. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Students for a Free Tibet)

Central Asia

Regional reaction to mass detention of Uighurs

Amid the mass internment of ethnic Uighurs in China's western Xinjiang province, reaction within the greater region has been largely muted. Dolkun Isa, head of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, blasted the leaders of Muslim countries for being largely "silent" over the "ethnic cleansing" of the Uighurs, calling it the "shame of the Muslim world." Worse, both Pakistan and Egypt are accused of deporting Uighurs back to China—presumably to face detention. Demonstrations have been held in Kyrgyzstan against the persecution of the Uighurs and other Turkic peoples in China—but the Sinophobic ethno-nationalist posture of these protesters is clear. Ironically, among their demands is the deportation of any Chinese nationals living "illegally" in Kyrgyzstan. (Photo of Kyrgyz protesters in Bishkek via RFE/RL)

Central Asia

US companies profit from Uighur forced labor?

A top US sportswear company announced that it has dropped a Chinese supplier over concerns that its products were made by forced labor in detention camps in Xinjiang. Reports have mounted that the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs believed to be held in a fast-expanding system of detention camps are being put to forced labor for Chinese commercial interests. An Associated Press investigation tracked recent shipments from one such detention-camp factory, run by privately-owned Hetian Taida Apparel, to Badger Sportswear of North Carolina. After long denying that the camps exist, Chinese authorities now say they are "vocational training centers" aimed at reducing "extremism." (Photo via Bitter Winter)

Central Asia

China fast expanding detention camp system

With China accused of detaining hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims without trial in its western province of Xinjiang, a BBC investigation analyzed satellite data to determine that the detention camp system in the region is rapidly expanding. Reviewing images from the European Space Agency's Sentinel satellite service, the BBC finds at least 40 such facilities across Xinjiang, half built within last two years—with a big thrust of construction just in the past six months. Among the largest is a "massive, highly secure compound" still being built at Dabancheng, about an hour's drive from the provincial capital, Urumqi. It is enclosed within a two kilometer-long exterior wall punctuated by 16 guard towers. (Photo via UNPO)

Central Asia

Protest mass forced labor in Turkmenistan

Protesters gathered outside the United Nations headquarters in New York as the General Assembly met, to demand an end to forced labor in Turkmenistan's cotton industry. Each year the government of Turkmenistan forces tens of thousands of workers from both public and private sectors to pick cotton during the harvest season or else pay a bribe to supervisors to hire a replacement worker, according to protest organizer Cotton Campaign. This takes place under threat of punishment, including loss of wages from regular jobs, and termination of employment. The government treats refusal to contribute to the cotton harvest as insubordination, incitement to sabotage, and "contempt of the homeland." (Photo: AKI Press)

Central Asia

Podcast: Legacy of Kazakh-Shoshone solidarity

In Episode 18 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg looks back at the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement of the closing years of the Cold War, when the Western Shoshone people, whose traditional lands were being contaminated by the nuclear blasts at the US government's Nevada Test Site, made common cause with the Kazakh people of Central Asia who opposed Soviet nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk site. Kazakh activists travelled to Nevada to join protests at the Test Site, while Western Shoshone leaders travelled to Kazakhstan to join protests at Semipalatinsk. This initiative eventually evolved into the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons, which as recently as 2016 held an International Conference on Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World in Astana, Kazakhstan, again attended by Western Shoshone leaders. The Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement provides an inspiring example of indigenous peoples and their supporters building solidarity across hostile international borders and superpower influence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: National Digital History of Kazakhstan. Banner from protest at Semipalatinsk declares solidarity with anti-nuclear protesters in Nevada.)

Central Asia

China: anti-Islam police state —and Muslim protest

China is denying claims aired by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that up to a million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in "re-education camps" in Xinjiang region. But Beijing appears to be imposing harsh surveillance and restrictions on freedom of worship on Muslims throughout China, even requiring those making the pilgrimage to Mecca to be fitted with GPS tracking devices. Yet such methods almost always prove counter-productive, leading to resentment that only fuels the unrest that Chinese authorities are responding to. This week saw mass protests in Weizhou, Ningxia province, after authorities attempted to demolish a newly built mosque which they said had not received construction permits. After days of protest, authorities backed down and agreed to postpone the demolition. (Photo of protest at Weizhou Grand Mosque from Weibo via BBC News)

Central Asia

Podcast: The Tibetan uprising 10 years later

In Episode 15 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reports on the 10-year commemoration of the 2008 Tibetan uprising held by Students for a Free Tibet in Astoria, Queens, New York City. A decade after the uprising was put down, struggles for land recovery and language preservation continue in Tibet, as well as among the Mongols, Uighurs and other indigenous peoples of the territory that constitutes the People's Republic of China. Weinberg provides an overview of these ongoing struggles, and draws parallels to related struggles in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and elsewhere in the Americas—including the movement against the Dakota Access pipeline. These parallels point to the urgent need for grassroots-to-grassroots international solidarity across superpower infuence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Uprising Archive)

Central Asia

2008 Tibetan uprising remembered in Queens

Students for a Free Tibet held a 10-year commemoration of the 2008 Tibetan uprising at a hall n the Queens neighborhood of Astoria, New York City. The 2008 uprising, which began in Lhasa in March, continued for weeks and spread across the Tibetan plateau. It was put down at a cost of some 20 lives, by official Chinese figures. But Tibetan rights groups and the government-in-exile in Dharamshala, India, claim that hundreds were "disappeared" in a subsequent wave of repression, with some 200 presumed killed. Guest of honor at the commemoration was Dhondup Wangchen, producer of the 2008 documentary film Leaving Fear Behind, made in the prelude to the uprising, in which ordinary Tibetans spoke of their feelings about China hosting the Summer Olympics. Wangchen was subsequently arrested, convicted of "subversion," and served six years in prison. Upon his release, he fled Tibet and was granted asylum in the United States. He is shown here with his wife, Lhamo Tso, who waged a campaign for his release. (Photo: Rose Tang)

Central Asia

China: Mongol historian faces ‘separatism’ charges

Respected Mongol historian Lhamjab A. Borjigin was placed under house arrest in Inner Mongolia's Xilingol League to await trial on charges of "national separatism" and "sabotaging national unity." At issue is his self-published book that purports to document the deaths of 30,000 in a campaign of "genocide" against ethnic Mongols during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Although Lhamjab, 74, is the author of several books on the history of the region, all state-run publishing houses refused to publish this work, and he resorted to taking the risk of self-publishing through an "underground" press. The book became popular, distributed through informal networks in Inner Mongolia. It was also reprinted by a formal publishing house in Mongolia. Lhamjab potentially faces a lengthy prison term. (Photo of traditional Mongol herder via UNPO)

Central Asia

Tibetans clash with police in mine protest

Chinese police used tear-gas and baton charges to disperse Tibetan villagers protesting a mine project in Qinghai's Yulshul Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, following two months of demonstrations at the site. Rsidents said the project at a site called Upper Dechung was undertaken without informing the local inhabitants. Several were hospitalized following the police assault, including a 70-year-old man. There are also concerns for the whereabouts of a delegation of some 50 villagers who went to complain to provincial authorities about the mine, and have not been heard from since. The mine was seeminlgy initiated by private interests with little or no government oversight. "Local people suspect corruption is involved in connection with this joint venture," a source told Radio Free Asia. (Photo: AsiaNews)