EASTERN TURKESTAN in the international press
Reopening the Old Silk Road
GROUP SAYS SITUATION IN CHINA WORSE
The New York based human rights group Asia Watch and the U S section of Amnesty International in two separate recent reports accused the Chinese authorities with' widespread human rights abuses, torture and degrading treatment of political prisoners.
According to Asia Watch, arrests, trials and torture have reached their highest level since the 1990 crackdown on the democracy movement at Tiananmen. The report said the Chinese leaders are confident that economic interests will outweigh human rights concerns.
"As a result, Beijing appears to have opted for a policy of conscious crackdown mixed with minimal, superficial concessions while at the same time intensifying and extending overall repression of dissent," the report said. In a press conference, William Schultze, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, said that the Chinese authorities' use of thumbscrews and electric prods against political prisoners was widespread in mainland China in general and in Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Eastern Turkestan in particular.
Both Asia Watch and Amnesty International reports cane as Washington was debating the renewal of China's Most Favored Nation trading status, which allows lower duties on imports and is granted to virtually all major U.S. trading partners.
CHINA ADMITS LAWLESSNESS IN COUNTRYSIDE
China has admitted to a serious breakdown of law and order in parts of its countryside, where 90 percent of China's population lives, with warlords, bandits and feuding clans running rampant as peasants try to get rich.
The Chinese official Legal Daily has advocated a harsh crackdown to restore order by saying We must tenaciously punish offenders. Our hands must not be soft. It must not be done badly...
In some areas, the article said, Village social order is out of control. Local officials are weak and lax and some already paralyzed. The paper placed much of the blame on China's bold economic reforms which have created a new class of wealthy city entrepreneurs, but left much of the countryside poor .The intense contrast between a rapid expansion of consumer consciousness and comparatively low economic incomes has caused some of the peasantry to lose their psychological balance and slide into crime, the paper said.
The countryside now has problems of theft, murder, explosions, rape, prostitution, and kidnapping of women and children, the daily added. Local strongmen take advantage of the breakdown in authority to become village warlords, landlords, waterlords and grain warlords monopolizing resources to the extent that they become Mafia-like black societies.
if this is the situation in mainland China, one can imagine how Chinese warlords are running occupied territories like Eastern Turkestan, Inner Mongolia and Tibet. It has also been reported that opposition against the Chinese leadership among dissidents, workers and the army is gradually growing.
SALINAS RESPONDS TO ALPTEKIN'S LETTER
In a letter Carlos Salinas de Gotari, President of Mexico, thanked Erkin Alptekin, chairman of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), for the offer of UNPO's assistance in mediation between the Mexican government and the Zapatistas to stop bloodshed and resolve the conflict through peaceful means. The offer was, however, declined by the Mexican President.
When conflict erupted between the Zapatistas and security forces in Chiapas, AIptekin wrote to President Salinas offering UNPO's good offices, experts and other appropriate services to all parties in the conflict to promote just, fair and lasting solutions, despite the fact that UNPO has no member nations or peoples in Mexico.
UNPO CONFERENCE ON "CONFLICT PREVENTION"
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization General Secretariat organized a special round table conference on "Conflict Prevention" in The Hague on April 18. Besides the Ambassadors of Italy, The United States, Switzerland, Austria, Mexico, Sweden, Russia, Algeria and India, the Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister, CSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, and UN Under Secretary for Political Affairs, representatives of various international human rights and conflict resolution organizations participated in the conference. Eastern Turkestan, a member of UNPO, was represented by Kamil Abbas, of the Eastern Turkestani Union in Europe. The aim of the conference was to review and explore present policies and activities in the field of conflict prevention and to seek ways to improve their effectiveness, particularly with respect to tensions and conflicts between states and population groups within those states.
Li Peng's visit to Central Asia evoked many articles in the Western press several of which included special reference to Eastern Turkestan. The U.S. publication Newsweek on May 2 reported on the Chinese Prime Minister's trip in an article entitled Reopening the Old Silk Road. Analyzing Beijing's efforts to woo neighboring Kazakhstan the weekly wrote: "But Kazakhstan's cooperation is far from certain. It is reluctant to antagonize its Uighur cousins - long feared in the region for their militancy - and doesn't want to alienate the 1 million Kazakhs living in China."
Aramco World, March-April, published a lengthy and well illustrated article entitles The Cradle Of the Turks much of which was devoted to the ancient Uighur's history, culture and civilization. The author, John Lawton, traveled through the newly independent republics of Western Turkestan as well as Mongolia and Eastern Turkestan where he visited ancient remnants of Turkic culture.
GEO, a German monthly magazine included a long and well photographed article, Through Wild Turkestan, in its February issue. The article by Andreas Altman explored the ancient trading routes crossing Eastern Turkestan.
Li travels an ancient route with a new goal
Newsweek May 2, 1994
I N A RUSTIC INN AT THE FOOT OF A
mountain road, Stephano Vayersky is downing shots of vodka with two friends. It's a typically Russian way to pass an evening-except the drink is Chinese-brewed and the tavern marks the entrance on the Chinese side to the hairpin Turogart Pass, connecting China's Xinjiang province with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. Vayersky and his friends are truck drivers, plying the same routes that marked the ancient Silk Road used by camel caravans carrying goods between East and West, With the breakup of the Soviet Union. Central Asia's cross-border traffic is again picking up speed, forging a new Silk Road. But this time, the traders' commodities of choice are TVs, VCRs and vodka. The new border trade works rather like it did in the old days. Transactions are mostly barter. Road conditions in the mountains are extremely hazardous. The black market and official graft are rice. Commerce is flourishing nevertheless. According to Chinese government figures, the country's Central Asian barter trade topped $3.9 billion last year, and this may be greatly underestimated. Beijing is eager to encourage this trade, in hopes that rising affluence will make its restive Muslim population in the northwest more docile. To enlist the Central Asian republics' support in the effort, Prime Minister Li Peng last week embarked on a 12 day, five-nation visit. In Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which share no border with China, he won quick backing for expanded economic ties. Saying, We want to build a new Silk Road, Li even trumpeted a transcontinental rail line stretching from Beijing to Istanbul.
The new trade is already booming in the Chinese city of Kashgar, which was also a major stop on the ancient Silk Road. In the loading area outside the Qinibat Hotel - strategically situated next to a customs post - traders from Kyrgyzstan busily fill trucks with Chinese vodka, VCRs. bicycles and clothes. The seedy hotel was once the site of the British Consulate but has now become a crowded crash pad for roving entrepreneurs. Many of them arrive from the west bearing truckloads of suitcases packed with old military watches, telescopes, cameras and coins from Imperial Russian times. The objects are either sold in the streets for local currency or brought to black-market money-changers to be traded for consumer goods that they stock like middlemen.
The trip back to the west takes trucks through terrain as daunting as it is beautiful. The 3,700 meter-high Turugart Pass, a few hours' drive north from Kashgar, snakes through the Tien Shan (Heavenly Mountain) chain: it's usually covered with snow and ice from October to April. On a typical day three or four overturned trucks can be seen in the deep gullies along the 13 kilometers of no man's land between China and Kyrgyzstan-which is not surprising, given the number of vodka-soaked drivers on the road.
At the border, all vehicles must transfer their contents to trucks licensed on the other side and the goods must clear customs. This involves a long negotiation over duties and other "fees" with Kyrgyz customs officials, who often succeed in poaching some of the traders' profits. Unloading and reloading in the freezing cold isn't easy. It can take up to eight hours, and as a result there is a perpetual traffic jam at the border crossing. Eventually the goods wind up in markets as hr away as Ashgabat.
Commerce along the new Silk Road isn't necessarily dampening ethnic passions, as the Chinese government had hoped. Greater trade also opens new outlets for nationalistic fervor. Roughly half of Xinjiang province's population of 15 million is made up of Uighurs, a Turkic people who are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese. Another half-million Uighurs live in Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Although Xinjiang has been designated an autonomous region for the Uighur, the provincial government is dominated by Han Chinese who regard the minorities as inferiors. Many Uighurs, in turn, hate the Chinese and would like to drive them out.
That's a favorite topic of conversation among some Kashgar money-changers. One 26-year-old man who calls himself Abdullah explains in his self taught English that he'd like to see China on the brink of war with the United States because it would allow the Uighur to secede and resurrect the independent nation that was overthrown by the Mongols in the 13th century.
Such visions aren't entirely fantasy. A radical Uighur group based in Kazakhstan, which calls itself the Committee for Eastern Turkestan, is believed to be behind a wave of bombings in Xinjiang cities last year "We have decided to stop wasting time and switch to a real struggle," its cochairman 'Taynutdin Basakov recently declared. To counter such sentiments, China has reportedly increased its troop deployment in the province and pressured Kazakhstan into signing an antiterrorism accord. In return, Beijing conceded some territorial claims along the border and vowed not to use nuclear weapons first.
But Kazakhstan's cooperation is far from certain. It is reluctant to antagonize its Uigur cousins -long feared in the region for their militancy - and doesn't want to alienate the 1 million Kazakhs living in China. Kazakhstan also wants the Chinese to stop nuclear testing near Lop Nor Lake, which is only 290 kilometers from Alma-Ata, its capital. Beijing so far hasn't obliged, but Li Peng's trip is partly designed to placate Kazakh leaders with promises of commercial prosperity. In a gesture more typical of American political leaders than of a communist ruler, Li brought along with him a group of private businessmen.
China's rulers have always believed that the best way to manage their barbarian neighbors is to co-opt them with the splendor of the Middle Kingdom's wealth and culture. That was the political purpose of the old Silk Road, and it's the goal of the new one. Central Asian nations eventually might play along with the scheme. For none of their leaders want militant Islam taking root on their soil. And they may conclude that the most threatening barbarians along the new Silk Road for the Chinese are their greatest enemies, too: the Russians.
CHARLES S. Lee with JAN ALEXANDER in Xinjiang, STEVE LEVINE in Alma-Ata and MATT FORNEY in Beijing.
The aim of the Eastern Turkestan Information Bulletin is to disseminate objective current information on the people, culture and civilization of Eastern Turkestan and to provide a forum for discussion on a wide range of topics and complex issues. ETIB is published bi-monthly by the Eastern Turkestani Union in Europe(ETUE), established January 11, 1991 in Munich, Germany. Neither ETIB nor ETUE claim or accept responsibility for views otherwise identified within our pages. We hope that those using information from our publication in published works will be courteous enough to cite its source. All inquiries and contributions should be addressed to Eastern Turkestan Information Bulletin, Asgar Can, Editor, St. Blasien Str. 2, D-80809 Munich, Germany.
EASTERN TURKESTAN in the international press
Reopening the Old Silk Road