QUESTION: Compared to the bloodless coup in Honduras, the massive show of force by China's repressive forces in the province of Xinjiang has barely captured the attention of Western governments. Why has there been such a deafening silence by the international community?
BACKGROUND: This weekend's unrest in Xinjiang was perfectly encapsulated by The Australian newspaper:
"The violence and rioting in Urumqi, and other cities in the vast, desolate Western Chinese province of Xinjiang, constitute the greatest political loss of life in China since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989. They are also the most serious challenge to Chinese state authority. They demonstrate the failure of the Chinese development model for both Xinjiang and Tibet, and the crudity of Chinese rule in those two provinces.
They also demonstrate the danger of the nationalism and ethnic Han chauvinism (Han is the dominant ethnic group in China) encouraged as a key way of gaining legitimacy by the Chinese state. It also reveals a new approach to media management by Beijing. Hu Jintao had to drop out of the G8 meeting and rush back to China to take charge of the crisis. Although the heroic leader returning to the rescue is now standard in Beijing dealing with a crisis, it is nonetheless a very bad look and a serious loss of face. According to official Chinese figures, more than 150 people are dead, 800 injured, 220 buildings and 260 vehicles destroyed and more than 200 shops damaged. There have been well over 800 arrests.
The sequence of events is contested, but goes like this. In Shaoguan City in distant Guangdong province two Uighurs were accused of raping a Han Chinese girl. The Chinese authorities now say this accusation was baseless. However, it led to some kind of anti-Uighur pogrom and at least two Uighurs, and possibly a few more, were killed.
This led, the next day, to a demonstration against the general repression of Uighurs, China's biggest Muslim minority, in Xinjiang's capital city, Urumqi. The Uighurs have a lot of grievances. When the Chinese communists took control of Xinjiang in 1949, ethnic Han made up about 6 per cent of the population, with Uighurs the vast majority. Today, the Han make up about 50 per cent, with Uighurs a minority in their own homeland."
ANSWER: The international community doesn't want to risk the ire of the Chinese regime, and their lucrative business opportunities in China. Similar to Western silence during the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, it reminds us that the moment profit supersedes human rights in the scale of priorities, dissidents and ethnic minorities shift from being obstacles (to business) to becoming mere distractions.
This is exactly why we must always insist that business with Castro's Cuba is conditioned to the fundamental human, civil and political rights of the Cuban people. Courageous human rights and pro-democracy movements throughout the world's dictatorships deserve no less.
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