Archive for ‘Xinjiang’


Uygurs in Xinjiang didn’t choose to be Muslims, China says in white paper

  • Islam was forced on ethnic group ‘by religious wars and the ruling class’, Beijing says in latest report defending its actions in far western region
  • Uygurs’ ancestors were enslaved by the Turks, document says
Beijing has issued a white paper seemingly designed to defend its actions in Xinjiang where as least 1 million Uygurs are being held in detention centres. Photo: AFP
Beijing has issued a white paper seemingly designed to defend its actions in Xinjiang where as least 1 million Uygurs are being held in detention centres. Photo: AFP
Uygurs became Muslims not by choice but by force, and Islam is not their only religion, Beijing said in a white paper published on Sunday, as it continued its propaganda campaign to justify its controversial policies in the far western province of



“The Uygur people adopted Islam not of their own volition … but had it forced upon them by religious wars and the ruling class,” according to the document released by the State Council Information Office.

Islamic beliefs were forced on the Uygurs during the expansion of Arabic states. This is a historical fact, the report said, though that did not undermine the Uygurs’ religious rights now.

The report said also that there are Uygurs who hold to faiths other than Islam, and others who do not practise any religion at all.

The paper also took aim at the Uygurs’s historic links with Turkey.

“Historically, the Uygurs’ ancestors were enslaved by the Turks,” it said, citing a history of conflicts between the two groups dating back to the 8th century.

China promotes Xinjiang as tourist idyll

The white paper was issued amid a campaign by Beijing to justify its policies in the restive region, which is home to more than 10 million Uygurs, most whom are Muslim.

Earlier this month, the ambassadors of 22 countries signed a letter calling on Beijing to halt its mass detention of Uygurs in Xinjiang, the first such joint move on the issue at the UN Human Rights Council.

The signatories included envoys from Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, Japan and Switzerland. The United States, which quit the forum a year ago, did not sign the letter.

China responded by issuing a letter signed by the ambassadors of 37 countries, including several Muslim majority states like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, backing its policies in the region.

Beijing said the show of support was “a powerful response to the groundless accusations made against China by a small number of Western countries”.

UN experts and activists say at least 1 million Uygurs and other Muslims are currently being held in detention centres in Xinjiang. China describes the facilities as training and education centres that aim to stamp out religious extremism and provide people with useful skills. It has never said how many people are being detained in them.

The United States has repeatedly criticised Beijing over its policies in Xinjiang.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump met victims of religious persecution from around the world, including Jewher Ilham, a Uygur woman whose father Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014 after being found guilty of promoting separatism.

“That’s tough stuff,” Trump said after hearing Ilham’s account of her father’s ordeal.

China describes the detention camps in Xinjiang as training and education centres. Photo: AFP
China describes the detention camps in Xinjiang as training and education centres. Photo: AFP
In January, US lawmakers nominated the imprisoned economist, writer and former professor at Minzu University in Beijing, for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize in a bid to pressure China to stop its crackdown on the minority group.
Sunday’s white paper is the latest in a string of similar documents published recently by Beijing as it seeks to defend the legitimacy of its policies in Xinjiang. In a document issued in March, it said that over the past five years it had arrested nearly 13,000 “terrorists” in the region.
Xinjiang camps defended at UN human rights forum
Neither the March report nor Sunday’s white paper mentioned Beijing’s other controversial policies in the region, such as the collection of DNA samples and extensive surveillance on local people.
“Xinjiang has borrowed from international experiences, combined them with local realities, and taken resolute measures against terrorism and extremism,” it said.
The measures have been effective, it said, though did not elaborate.
Over the past year, China has increased its efforts to defend the camps, including organising strictly controlled visits by selected diplomats and journalists to see the people who live in them.
State media has also released videos showing seemingly happy and healthy people inside the camps in a bid to counter accounts of harsh conditions and abuse published by the Western media.
Source: SCMP

China Muslims: Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families

China is deliberately separating Muslim children from their families, faith and language in its far western region of Xinjiang, according to new research.

At the same time as hundreds of thousands of adults are being detained in giant camps, a rapid, large-scale campaign to build boarding schools is under way.

Based on publicly available documents, and backed up by dozens of interviews with family members overseas, the BBC has gathered some of the most comprehensive evidence to date about what is happening to children in the region.

Records show that in one township alone more than 400 children have lost not just one but both parents to some form of internment, either in the camps or in prison.

Formal assessments are carried out to determine whether the children are in need of “centralised care”.

Alongside the efforts to transform the identity of Xinjiang’s adults, the evidence points to a parallel campaign to systematically remove children from their roots.

Hotan Kindness Kindergarten
Image caption The Hotan Kindness Kindergarten, like many others, is a high security facility

China’s tight surveillance and control in Xinjiang, where foreign journalists are followed 24 hours a day, make it impossible to gather testimony there. But it can be found in Turkey.

In a large hall in Istanbul, dozens of people queue to tell their stories, many of them clutching photographs of children, all now missing back home in Xinjiang.

“I don’t know who is looking after them,” one mother says, pointing to a picture of her three young daughters, “there is no contact at all.”

Another mother, holding a photo of three sons and a daughter, wipes away her tears. “I heard that they’ve been taken to an orphanage,” she says.

In 60 separate interviews, in wave after wave of anxious, grief-ridden testimony, parents and other relatives give details of the disappearance in Xinjiang of more than 100 children.

Missing in China; some of the family portraits handed to us in Turkey by Uighur parents looking for information about their children back home in Xinjiang

They are all Uighurs – members of Xinjiang’s largest, predominantly Muslim ethnic group that has long had ties of language and faith to Turkey. Thousands have come to study or to do business, to visit family, or to escape China’s birth control limits and the increasing religious repression.

But over the past three years, they have found themselves trapped after China began detaining hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities in giant camps.

The Chinese authorities say the Uighurs are being educated in “vocational training centres” in order to combat violent religious extremism. But evidence shows that many are being detained for simply expressing their faith – praying or wearing a veil – or for having overseas connections to places like Turkey.

For these Uighurs, going back means almost certain detention. Phone contact has been severed – even speaking to relatives overseas is now too dangerous for those in Xinjiang.

With his wife detained back home, one father tells me he fears some of his eight children may now be in the care of the Chinese state.

“I think they’ve been taken to child education camps,” he says.


New research commissioned by the BBC sheds light on what is really happening to these children and many thousands of others.

Dr Adrian Zenz is a German researcher widely credited with exposing the full extent of China’s mass detentions of adult Muslims in Xinjiang. Based on publicly available official documents, his report paints a picture of an unprecedented school expansion drive in Xinjiang.

Campuses have been enlarged, new dormitories built and capacity increased on a massive scale. Significantly, the state has been growing its ability to care full-time for large numbers of children at precisely the same time as it has been building the detention camps.

And it appears to be targeted at precisely the same ethnic groups.


In just one year, 2017, the total number of children enrolled in kindergartens in Xinjiang increased by more than half a million. And Uighur and other Muslim minority children, government figures show, made up more than 90% of that increase.

As a result, Xinjiang’s pre-school enrolment level has gone from below the national average to the highest in China by far.

In the south of Xinjiang alone, an area with the highest concentration of Uighur populations, the authorities have spent an eye watering $1.2bn on the building and upgrading of kindergartens.

Mr Zenz’s analysis suggests that this construction boom has included the addition of large amounts of dormitory space.

Xinhe County Youyi Kindergarten
Image caption Xinhe County Youyi Kindergarten has space for 700 children, 80% of whom are from Xinjiang’s minority groups

Xinjiang’s education expansion is driven, it appears, by the same ethos as underlies the mass incarceration of adults. And it is clearly affecting almost all Uighur and other minority children, whether their parents are in the camps or not.

In April last year, the county authorities relocated 2,000 children from the surrounding villages into yet another giant boarding middle school, Yecheng County Number 4.

INTERACTIVE Use the slider button to see how the school has developed

May 2019

Yechung County Number 11 and Number 10 Middle School

April 2018

Yechung County Number 11 and Number 10 Middle School

Yecheng County Middle Schools 10 and 11

The image above shows a site being prepared for two new boarding schools in Xinjiang’s southern city of Yecheng (or Kargilik in Uighur).

Dragging the slider reveals the pace of construction – the two middle schools, separated by a shared sports field, are each three times larger than the national average and were built in little more than a year.

Government propaganda extols the virtues of boarding schools as helping to “maintain social stability and peace” with the “school taking the place of the parents.” And Mr Zenz suggests there is a deeper purpose.

“Boarding schools provide the ideal context for a sustained cultural re-engineering of minority societies,” he argues.

Just as with the camps, his research shows that there is now a concerted drive to all but eliminate the use of Uighur and other local languages from school premises. Individual school regulations outline strict, points-based punishments for both students and teachers if they speak anything other than Chinese while in school.

And this aligns with other official statements claiming that Xinjiang has already achieved full Chinese language teaching in all of its schools.

Media caption The BBC visits the camps where China’s Muslims have their “thoughts transformed”

Speaking to the BBC, Xu Guixiang, a senior official with Xinjiang’s Propaganda Department, denies that the state is having to care for large numbers of children left parentless as a result.

“If all family members have been sent to vocational training then that family must have a severe problem,” he says, laughing. “I’ve never seen such a case.”

But perhaps the most significant part of Mr Zenz’s work is his evidence that shows that the children of detainees are indeed being channelled into the boarding school system in large numbers.

There are the detailed forms used by local authorities to log the situations of children with parents in vocational training or in prison, and to determine whether they need centralised care.

Mr Zenz found one government document that details various subsidies available to “needy groups”, including those families where “both a husband and a wife are in vocational training”. And a directive issued to education bureaus by the city of Kashgar that mandates them to look after the needs of students with parents in the camps as a matter of urgency.

Schools should “strengthen psychological counselling”, the directive says, and “strengthen students’ thought education” – a phrase that finds echoes in the camps holding their parents.

It is clear that the effect of the mass internments on children is now viewed as a significant societal issue, and that some effort is going into dealing with it, although it is not something the authorities are keen to publicise.

Media caption The BBC has found new evidence of the increasing control and suppression of Islam in China

Some of the relevant government documents appear to have been deliberately hidden from search engines by using obscure symbols in place of the term “vocational training”. That said, in some instances the adult detention camps have kindergartens built close by, and, when visiting, Chinese state media reporters have extolled their virtues.

These boarding schools, they say, allow minority children to learn “better life habits” and better personal hygiene than they would at home. Some children have begun referring to their teachers as “mummy”.

We telephoned a number of local Education Bureaus in Xinjiang to try to find out about the official policy in such cases. Most refused to speak to us, but some gave brief insights into the system.

We asked one official what happens to the children of those parents who have been taken to the camps.

“They’re in boarding schools,” she replied. “We provide accommodation, food and clothes… and we’ve been told by the senior level that we must look after them well.”

Hotan Sunshine Kindergarten
Image caption Hotan Sunshine Kindergarten, seen through a wire fence

In the hall in Istanbul, as the stories of broken families come tumbling out, there is raw despair and deep resentment too.

“Thousands of innocent children are being separated from their parents and we are giving our testimonies constantly,” one mother tells me. “Why does the world keep silent when knowing these facts?”

Back in Xinjiang, the research shows that all children now find themselves in schools that are secured with “hard isolation closed management measures.” Many of the schools bristle with full-coverage surveillance systems, perimeter alarms and 10,000 Volt electric fences, with some school security spending surpassing that of the camps.

The policy was issued in early 2017, at a time when the detentions began to be dramatically stepped up. Was the state, Mr Zenz wonders, seeking to pre-empt any possibility on the part of Uighur parents to forcibly recover their children?

“I think the evidence for systematically keeping parents and children apart is a clear indication that Xinjiang’s government is attempting to raise a new generation cut off from original roots, religious beliefs and their own language,” he tells me.

“I believe the evidence points to what we must call cultural genocide.”

Source: The BBC


Taliban delegation holds talks in China as part of peace push

BEIJING (Reuters) – China recently played host to a Taliban delegation as part of efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Representatives of the Taliban, who have been fighting for years to expel foreign forces and defeat the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, have been holding talks with U.S. diplomats for months.

The focus has been the Taliban demand for the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign forces, in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for militant attacks.

Taliban negotiators have also met senior Afghan politicians and civil society representatives, including in Moscow recently, as part of so-called intra-Afghan dialogue to discuss their country’s future.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing that Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban representative in Qatar, and some of his colleagues had recently visited China, though he did not say exactly when.

Chinese officials met them to discuss the Afghan peace process and counter-terror issues, Lu told the briefing, without saying who met the delegation.

“China pays great attention to the evolving situation in Afghanistan in recent years. We have always played a positive role in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process,” Lu said.
China supports Afghans resolving their problems themselves through talks, and this visit was an important part of China promoting such peace talks, he said.
“Both sides believe that this exchange was beneficial and agreed to keep in touch about and cooperate on continuing to seek a political resolution for Afghanistan and fighting terrorism.”
China’s far western Chinese region of Xinjiang shares a short border with Afghanistan.
China has long worried about links between militant groups and what it says are Islamist extremists operating in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur people, who speak a Turkic language.
China, a close ally of Pakistan, has been deepening its economic and political ties with Kabul and is also using its influence to try to bring the two uneasy neighbours closer.
The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, visited Kabul last December.
Source: Reuters

Beijing sees ‘broad consensus’ with UN on Xinjiang as human rights groups blast envoy’s visit

  • UN counterterrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov not expected to make statement after visiting region last week
  • Trip prompts calls for independent observation in Muslim-majority area where an estimated 1 million people are held in detention facilities
Residents go through a security checkpoint at the entrance to a bazaar in Hotan, Xinjiang. The UN’s counterterrorism chief visited the far western region last week. Photo: AP
Residents go through a security checkpoint at the entrance to a bazaar in Hotan, Xinjiang. The UN’s counterterrorism chief visited the far western region last week. Photo: AP
Human rights group Amnesty International has joined growing criticism of a top UN official’s visit to China’s 
Xinjiang region

, echoing calls for more independent investigations of detention facilities for ethnic Uygurs.

The invitation to the United Nations envoy to visit was Beijing’s latest attempt to show it has nothing to hide in what it calls “re-education facilities” that hold an estimated 1 million people in the Muslim-majority area in western China.
But critics have warned that state-led media tours and diplomatic visits lack the unfettered access needed to make a proper assessment of alleged rights abuses in the region.
UN counterterrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov 
visited Beijing and Xinjiang

from Thursday to Saturday and met Le Yucheng, the vice foreign minister, according to a statement from the foreign ministry on Sunday. The statement said the two sides had reached a “broad consensus”.

UN human rights chief ‘is welcome to visit Xinjiang’

Voronkov’s visit follows months of pressure to allow the UN to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. China has so far only allowed guided tours of the region for foreign journalists and diplomatic envoys.

Reuters reported on Saturday that Voronkov’s itinerary was planned by China and that his UN office did not expect to make any public statement about the trip, according to an email from Voronkov’s office seen by the news agency.

The United Nations said in August last year it had credible reports that detention facilities in Xinjiang held 1 million Uygurs and other Muslims. Beijing says the facilities are for “vocational training” and tied to deradicalisation and anti-terrorism efforts.

Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Amnesty International, said he was “very much concerned” about how the UN envoy’s visit had been arranged.

“From what we saw in the previous visits orchestrated by the Chinese government for diplomats, it’s very difficult for anyone to believe how this visit will be able to show any authentic situation on the ground,” Poon said.

“If the Chinese government is sincere, let independent UN experts, such as the special rapporteurs, have independent observation of what’s happening in Xinjiang.”

Xinjiang’s vanishing mosques highlight pressure on China’s Muslims
His remarks followed criticism of the trip from Human Rights Watch on Friday.
“The UN allowing its counterterrorism chief to go to Xinjiang risks confirming China’s false narrative that this is a counterterrorism issue, not a question of massive human rights abuses,” Human Rights Watch UN director Louis Charbonneau told Agence France-Presse.
Also on Friday, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan called UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to express “deep concerns” about Voronkov’s visit, according to the State Department website. Sullivan called for “unmonitored and unhindered access to all camps and detainees in Xinjiang by UN human rights officials”.
The United States has been increasingly vocal about China’s human rights abuses. Vice-President Mike Pence is due to give a speech on China’s “control and oppression” of citizens on June 24, but according to Bloomberg it could be postponed to avoid inflaming tensions with Beijing ahead of a possible meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 leaders summit in Japan on June 28-29. The speech was originally scheduled for June 4 but was delayed by Trump, Bloomberg reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Source: SCMP

Could Chinese scientists have found evidence of world’s first stoners in 2,500-year-old Xinjiang graveyard?

  • Findings support earliest record of cannabis use, written in 440BC
  • Researchers speculate psychoactive THC had role in grim funeral rites
Researchers say their findings at a burial site in Xinjiang about cannabis use 2,500 years ago back up a Greek record written around 440BC. Photo: Handout
Researchers say their findings at a burial site in Xinjiang about cannabis use 2,500 years ago back up a Greek record written around 440BC. Photo: Handout
Scientists say a burial site in mountainous northwestern China contains evidence that cannabis smoke was used there as far back as 2,500 years ago, corroborating the earliest record of the practice, written by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus.
They said the evidence was found in a wooden bowl containing blackened stones unearthed at a Scythian cemetery in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Chemical analysis showed traces of THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – the potent psychoactive component in cannabis.
Yang Yimin, lead author of a paper published in the journal Science Advances on Thursday, said the discovery at Jirzankal Cemetery, close to the border of Tajikistan, Pakistan and India, was “jaw-dropping”.

Scythians were horseback warriors who roamed from the Black Sea across central Asia and into western China more than 2,000 years ago. Herodotus wrote in The Histories around 440BC that they used marijuana, the earliest written record of the practice.

Scientists in Xinjiang found hemp had been burned on stones inside these wooden bowls 2,500 years ago. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute
Scientists in Xinjiang found hemp had been burned on stones inside these wooden bowls 2,500 years ago. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute

“The Scythians take the seed of this hemp and … they throw it on the red-hot stones. It smoulders and sends forth so much steam that no Greek vapour-bath could surpass it.

The Scythians howl in their joy at the vapour-bath,” Herodotus wrote.

Yang, who led an international team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and the University of Queensland, said that until now there was no evidence to back up the Greek historian’s account.

“There was never any archaeological proof to the claim. We thought – is this it?” Yang said.

The discovery posed a question for the research team: where would the plants have come from? While hemp was commonly found in many parts of the world and was used for fabric, cooking and medicine, most wild species contained only small amounts of THC.

Ruins of 2,000-year-old coin workshop found in central China’s Henan province

Yang and his colleagues speculated that the altitude, 3,000 metres (9,843 feet) above sea level, and strong ultraviolet radiation might have resulted in a potent plant strain with THC levels similar to those in marijuana today.

“From here it was selected, probably domesticated and then went to other parts of the world along ancient trade routes with the Scythian nomads, forming an enormous ring of culture that shared the ritual of smoking cannabis,” Yang said.

Archaeologists said the site, with its 40 circular mounds and marked by long strips of black and white stones, could have been a burial ground for tribal members, with human sacrifice and cannabis part of the last rites.

Researchers suspect a potent strain of cannabis grew close to the Xinjiang burial site. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute
Researchers suspect a potent strain of cannabis grew close to the Xinjiang burial site. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute

So the early pot party might not have been the kind of celebration Herodotus described, the study’s authors suggested.

While the Scythians might have been inhaling the smoke to try to communicate with the dead in the next world, evidence suggested that a sacrifice – perhaps a war captive or a slave – was struck repeatedly on the head with a sword and the body hacked to pieces nearby, the researchers said.

Source: SCMP


Huawei: ‘We stand naked in front of the world’

Huawei logoImage copyrightAFP

Huawei has denied that it has any links to the Chinese government.

Huawei’s cyber-security chief John Suffolk told MPs on Monday that the tech giant had never been asked by China or any other government to “do anything untoward”.

Mr Suffolk said Huawei welcomed outsiders to analyse its products and detect engineering or coding flaws.

“We stand naked in front of the world, but we would prefer to do that, because it enables us to improve our products.”

He added: “We want people to find things, whether they find one or one thousand, we don’t care. We are not embarrassed by what people find.”

Huawei was invited to the Technology and Science Select Committee to answer questions from MPs on the security of its equipment, and its links to the Chinese government.

The US has encouraged allies to block Huawei – the world’s largest maker of telecoms equipment – from their 5G networks, saying the Chinese government could use its products for surveillance.

Huawei cyber-security chief John SuffolkImage copyright PARLIAMENT TV
Image caption Huawei’s cyber-security chief John Suffolk said the tech giant has no access to mobile networks

“We’ve never had a request from the Chinese government to do anything untoward at all,” said Mr Suffolk.

“We have never been asked by the Chinese government or any other government, I might add, to do anything that would weaken the security of a product.”

MPs raised concerns about Chinese human rights abuses, such as reports that up to a million Muslims are in detention centres in Xinjiang province.

They asked whether Huawei was required to provide equipment to Xinjiang province, especially in light of the 2017 Chinese intelligence law, which requires individuals and associations to comply with Chinese intelligent agencies.

Mr Suffolk said: “We have had to go through a period of clarification with the Chinese government, that has come out and made it quite clear that that is not the requirement of any company.

“We’ve had that validated via our lawyers and revalidated by Clifford Chance…according to our legal advice, that does not require Huawei to undertake anything that weakens Huawei’s position in terms of security.”

Remote access

MPs asked whether Huawei would be able to remotely access the UK’s 5G mobile networks via its equipment.

A woman using 5G to access the internet on her smartphoneImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Huawei said it would have no access to any data on a 5G mobile network

In reply, Mr Suffolk stressed that Huawei is a provider of telecommunications equipment to mobile network operators.

“We don’t run networks, and because we don’t run the network, we have no access to any of the data that is running across that network,” he said.

He also explained that Huawei is only one of about 200 vendors who would be providing various different bits of equipment that would eventually make up a 5G network in the UK.

However, if an operator were to have a problem with Huawei equipment, a support centre based in Romania would be able to remotely access the equipment to fix the problem.

MPs wanted to know whether it would be possible for a 5G network to be used to track an individual user.

In response, Mr Suffolk explained that mobile phone technology requires the mobile operator to constantly track a user’s phone, in order to be able to connect them to the mobile network.

By that logic, the operator is constantly tracking all of its customers, all the time.

He also told MPs that only about 30% of the the components in Huawei products are actually made by the company – the rest of the components are obtained from a global supply chain that Huawei closely monitors in order to prevent security breaches.

Source: The BBC


African swine fever virus is now ‘endemic’ in China’s Tibet and Xinjiang regions, making its eradication harder, UN says

  • The virus that causes the African swine fever is now endemic in Tibet and Xinjiang, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organisation said
  • Diseases that are endemic, or generally present, are harder to stamp out
Piglets are kept in pens at a pig farm in Langfang in Hebei province on Monday, April 1, 2019. Photo: Bloomberg
Piglets are kept in pens at a pig farm in Langfang in Hebei province on Monday, April 1, 2019. Photo: Bloomberg
China’s attempts to control African swine fever have been insufficient to stem further spread of the disease, with the deadly pig contagion now endemic in two regions, a United Nations group said.
The virus that causes the disease is entrenched among pig populations in the autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome said in a report Thursday.
Diseases that are endemic, or generally present, are more difficult to stamp out by quarantining and culling diseased and vulnerable livestock.

About 20 per cent of China’s pig inventories may have been culled in the first few months of 2019 amid fears of African swine fever spreading more rapidly, according to the FAO, which is monitoring the disease in cooperation with local authorities and China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

China’s pig production will drop by 134 million heads, or 20 per cent, in 2019, the US Department of Agriculture said last month.

“While official sources confirm a rapid spread of the disease, both the speed and severity of the spread could prove more pronounced than currently assumed,” the FAO said in its report. A government investigation in seven provinces found “irrational culling of sows on breeding farms in February, reducing the sector’s core production capacity.”

Thailand launches crackdown to keep out African swine fever

Since the first cases were reported last August, 130 outbreaks have been detected in 32 provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and special administrative regions across the nation, which raises half the world’s pigs.

SCMP Graphics
SCMP Graphics

The FAO report found:

  • In Jilin province, swine inventory fell 28 per cent from the previous year, with some reports pointing to a larger drop In Shandong province, sow numbers fell 41 per cent from July 2018 to February 2019
  • In Guangdong province, hog inventories slumped 20 per cent from a year earlier and pig-feed sales fell 10 per cent to 50 per cent
  • Production of fresh and frozen meat by meatpackers plunged 17 per cent in January and February, compared with the same months in 2018
  • Source: SCMP

Xinjiang’s vanishing mosques highlight pressure on China’s Muslims as Ramadan ends with a whimper

  • Few signs of Eid celebrations after crackdown that has seen a reported million Uygurs and other minorities interned in camps
  • Muslims in far western Chinese region say they are now ‘too scared’ to practise their faith in public
Worshippers leave a mosque in Kasghar after prayers on Wednesday. Photo: AFP
Worshippers leave a mosque in Kasghar after prayers on Wednesday. Photo: AFP
The corner where Heyitkah mosque in China’s far western region of Xinjiang once hummed with life is now a car park where all traces of the tall, domed building have been erased.
While Muslims around the world celebrated the end of Ramadan with prayers and festivities this week, the recent destruction of dozens of mosques in Xinjiang highlights the increasing pressure Uygurs and other ethnic minorities face in the heavily policed region.
Behind the car park in the city of Hotan, the slogan “Educate the people for the party” is emblazoned in red on the wall of a primary school where students must scan their faces upon entering the razor-wired gates.
The mosque “was beautiful,” recalled a vendor at a nearby bazaar. “There were a lot of people there.”
Satellite images reviewed by AFP and visual analysis non-profit Earthrise Alliance show that 36 mosques and religious sites have been torn down or had their domes and corner spires removed since 2017.
Satellite images from 2014 (top) and March this year show the disappearance of the dome of the Karamay West Mosque in Xinjiang. Photo: AFP/ Distribution Airbus Defence and Space/ CNES 2019/ Produced By Earthrise
Satellite images from 2014 (top) and March this year show the disappearance of the dome of the Karamay West Mosque in Xinjiang. Photo: AFP/ Distribution Airbus Defence and Space/ CNES 2019/ Produced By Earthrise

In the mosques that are open, worshippers go through metal detectors while surveillance cameras monitor them inside.

“The situation here is very strict, it takes a toll on my heart,” said one Uygur, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals. “I don’t go any more,” he added, referring to mosques. “I’m scared.”

In the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, no longer does the sunrise call for prayer echo throughout the city – a ritual the manager of the city’s central mosque once proudly shared with touristsOn Wednesday, locals celebrating Eid al-Fitr quietly filed into the entrance of state-approved Idkah Mosque – one of the largest in China – as police and officials fenced off the wide square surrounding the building and plain clothes men monitored every person’s actions.

It was another low-key Ramadan for Muslims in Xinjiang, where restaurants were busy serving food to customers throughout the day, a time when practising Muslims fast.

In Hotan on Friday – a holy day for believers – the only mosque in the city was empty after sundown, an important prayer session when Muslim families typically break their daily Ramadan fast.

Earlier in the day, at least 100 people attended a midday session but the vast majority were elderly men.

Human Rights Watch decodes surveillance app used to classify people in China’s Xinjiang region

The ruling Communist Party “sees religion as this existential threat”, said James Leibold, an expert on ethnic relations and policy in China at La Trobe University.

Over the long term, the Chinese government wants to achieve “the secularisation of Chinese society,” he told AFP.

The Xinjiang government told AFP that it “protects religious freedoms” and citizens can celebrate Ramadan “within the scope permitted by law”, without elaborating.

The authorities have thrown a hi-tech security net across the region, installing cameras, mobile police stations and checkpoints in seemingly every street in response to a spate of deadly attacks blamed on Islamic extremists and separatists in recent years.

An estimated one million Uygurs and other Turkic-speaking ethnic groups are held in a vast network of internment camps.

After initially denying their existence, Chinese authorities last year acknowledged that they run “vocational education centres” aimed at steering people clear of religious extremism by teaching them Mandarin and China’s laws.

In those centres, it was a different Ramadan.

The Xinjiang government told AFP that people in the centres are not allowed to hold religious activities because Chinese law forbids it within education facilities, but they are free to do so “when they return home on weekends”.

Uygur men dance after Eid al-Fitr prayers in Kashgar. Photo: Greg Baker/ AFP
Uygur men dance after Eid al-Fitr prayers in Kashgar. Photo: Greg Baker/ AFP

In recent years, Chinese authorities have ramped up controls on public displays of religion and Islamic traditions in Xinjiang.

AFP reporters did not see any veiled women and few men sporting long beards during a week-long visit to the region. Former internment camp inmates have said they were incarcerated for these outward signs of their religion.

Places of worship too have become targets of Beijing’s draconian security measures.

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In the satellite images analysed by AFP and Earthrise Alliance, 30 religious sites were completely demolished while six had their domes and corner spires removed.

AFP reporters visited about half a dozen sites, and found that some mosques had been repurposed into public spaces.

Police officers blocked journalists from entering Artux, just north of Kashgar, where the town’s grand mosque and dozens of other community mosques were destroyed.

The area is some 22 kilometres (14 miles) away from an enormous complex believed to be a re-education centre. Visible from a nearby village, the facility has razor-wired walls, watchtowers and imposing block buildings.In Kashgar, two cameras perched on the columns of a former mosque point at its entrance. There is no minaret or dome – instead, a shop selling dresses lies to its right alongside houses.

A demolished mosque in Hotan has been converted into a garden, paved with concrete walkways and sparsely planted trees