Xinjiang Authorities Announce Heightened Security Threat, Strengthen Security Capacity, and Continue Propaganda Campaigns

June 24, 2009

Authorities throughout the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have continued in late 2008 and early 2009 to implement harsh security controls and widespread propaganda campaigns in the name of preserving stability, while a top official in the region said in March 2009 that the XUAR will face a more serious security terrain in the coming year.

Official: More Serious Security Issues for XUAR in 2009

Speaking at a press conference on March 6, XUAR government chairperson Nur Bekri said that the region's battle against separatism would be "more severe, the task more strenuous, and the conditions for battle more intense," according to a March 6 Xinhua article and March 7 Tianshan Net report. Nur Bekri attributed security threats to "Western hostile forces" and to the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism, which he said would continue to carry out activities to "divide" and "sabotage" the region, according to the Tianshan Net report. He said all threats to the region would meet with "hard strikes" and "firm opposition" from the people. In January 2009, a national White Paper on China's national defense (via the Chinese government Web site) included supporters of "East Turkistan independence"--a reference to perceived separatist movements directed toward the XUAR--as one of three threats to "China's unity and security." As described in the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) 2007 and 2008 Annual Reports, authorities have used security campaigns in the XUAR as a pretext for squelching peaceful dissent and controlling expressions of ethnic and religious identity, especially among the ethnic Uyghur population.

Nur Bekri's remarks come during a period of heightened security controls within the region. Authorities increased controls in 2008 amid preparations for the Olympic Games, intensified anti-terrorism campaigns in the region, and in response to protests among Uyghurs and Tibetans in China. (See the CECC 2008 Annual Report for more information.) In the aftermath of these events, authorities continued throughout fall 2008 to enforce harsh security measures and widespread ideological campaigns, efforts which have continued into late 2008 and 2009. Recently reported measures include:

Increased Capacity by Security Forces

The central and XUAR governments reported on measures in recent months to bolster overall security capacity throughout the region, according to reports from late 2008 and 2009. At a region-wide meeting held on March 5 and 6, XUAR public security officials pledged to strengthen stability measures, according to a March 6 report from the Xinjiang Daily. While the measures address the central government's general directive to "protect growth, the people's livelihood, and stability" throughout China (see, e.g., a March 4 China News Net article and February 14 Xinhua article), the meeting also singled out strengthened security measures in order to defeat the threat of the "three forces" within the XUAR. The Xinjiang Daily report also described police measures in January to root out "illegal" religious instruction classes, which led to over 20 detentions. The news follows the Central Military Commission's upgrade of the status of the Xinjiang people's armed police force in November in a measure described as increasing the force's capacity to respond to threats to stability, as reported in a November 27, 2008, Tianshan Net report (via NetEase), November 28 Xinhua article, and January 12, 2009, Tianshan Net article.

Local governments within the XUAR also reported on strengthening security measures. In March, authorities in Poskam (Zepu) county, Kashgar district, described measures to strengthen security work through measures that include mobilization of public security, procuratorate, court, and justice department staff to conduct nightly patrols, and a rapid response system to summon the public security bureau, people's armed police, and people's militia, according to a March 12 report from the Kashgar district government Web site. A month earlier, an official from the Aqsu district government outlined four broad measures for ensuring stability that included calls for a strengthening of intelligence networks, stepped-up controls over religious activity, and an increase in ideological propaganda, according to a February 23 report from the Aqsu District Environment Protection Bureau (via the XUAR Environmental Protection Bureau). The official also called for building off the successful experiences in Olympics security arrangements to tighten the district's "prevention and control" system within society.

Continued Ideological Campaigns

Authorities continue to implement widespread ideological campaigns targeting various communities within the XUAR. The educational campaigns as described in some reports have included sharp rhetoric against peaceful human rights activities.

Wide-scale Campaigns Target Students, Other Groups. Government Reports High Participation Rate

Authorities in Kashgar city, Kashgar district, outlined work on anti-separatism reeducation that has divided the education into three phases, extending through April 2009, according to a December 22 report from the Kashgar district government Web site. The three phases will include a period of study, a period of "exposing and criticizing," and a period of "self-examination and rectification," according to the report. The report described plans to form teams of cadres and religious personnel to bring anti-separatism education to groups including religious adherents, workers, youth, students and teachers, and migrants. Describing anti-separatism education for students as a "long-term and arduous job," an official in Ghulja (Yining) city, Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, outlined plans to strengthen anti-separatism education in schools, including through mandatory classes on patriotism and ethnic unity that exceed national requirements and through oversight measures implemented for the winter vacation, according to a February 5 report on the Ili News Net. The measures include arranging for teachers to visit students in their homes during vacation, requiring students to visit campus twice a month, and requiring students to do assignments seen as promoting ethnic unity, according to the report. During a three-month period of anti-separatism reeducation starting in October, authorities in Hoten district reported that 300,000 people directly received anti-separatism education and that in total, propaganda efforts reached more than 95 percent of the population, according to a February 8 report from the Xinjiang Daily. In addition to educating the public on stability threats, the activities also spread information on Communist Party policies in areas including religion, population planning, and "bilingual" education, according to the report.

Anti-Separatist Campaigns Target Rebiya Kadeer and Overseas Organizations

Two reports from the Qizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture (Qizilsu KAP) described anti-separatist propaganda campaigns that included harsh attacks against Rebiya Kadeer and groups including an organization that promotes human rights for Uyghurs. Rebiya Kadeer, a former political prisoner in China, is a U.S.-based civic leader and activist who has advocated for human rights for Uyghurs. Since Rebiya Kadeer's release from prison in 2005, authorities have harassed her family members remaining in the XUAR, culminating in prison sentences given to two of her sons in 2006 and 2007.

According to a report from the Qizilsu Anti-Separatism Office posted December 19 on the Xinjiang Peace Net, officials from the Qizilsu KAP traveled to an impoverished area to deliver anti-separatism propaganda education to 6 impoverished households and over 30 cadres. The report said that the education clarified the "reactionary fallacies" spread by the likes of Rebiya Kadeer and the "three forces." The report also singled out groups including the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), a Germany-based organization headed by Rebiya Kadeer that promotes human rights and democracy for the Uyghur people. A village cadre said officials would strengthen anti-separatism education and focus especially on religious figures, women, and youth, according to the report. In a prefecture-wide effort to focus on specific populations during anti-separatism propaganda education activities launched throughout the Qizilsu KAP, the Communist Party-led Qizilsu Women's Association issued a "Letter to Women of the Prefecture" to mobilize them to participate in anti-separatist propaganda education activities, according to a report from the Qizilsu Anti-Separatism Office posted December 19 on the Xinjiang Peace Net. According to the report, the letter educated women in seeing that Rebiya Kadeer was a "running dog" for anti-China sentiment in the West and a common enemy of the people, as well as a "bad woman" unable to "even properly educate her own children." The letter also denounced groups including the "three forces," the WUC, and "Tibet Independence." The letter called on women to be good wives, mothers, and daughters, and expose the "true evil intent" behind Rebiya Kadeer's calls for human rights and democracy. (For additional information on anti-separatism campaigns, including in the Qizilsu KAP, see a March 5 report on the Xinjiang Peace Net, providing more information on the scope and content of anti-separatism education in the Qizilsu KAP, as well as a December 15 report from the Xinjiang Legal Daily describing anti-separatist education activities among officials. For a detailed example of the content of anti-separatism propaganda education, see a question-and-answer sheet used in anti-separatism reeducation, dated November 12 from the Kelpin (Keping) county, Aqsu district, government Web site, available as a cached page.)

Controls Over Religion

Authorities have tightened control over religious activity as part of heightened security measures. See a related CECC analysis for information on measures recently reported by local governments, including carrying out a campaign aimed at "weakening religious consciousness," implementing rules to expel religious leaders for missing political study classes, monitoring students' activities during school vacations, and holding open trials to punish "illegal religious activity" and demonstrate its consequences to the public.

For more information on conditions in the XUAR, see Section IV--Xinjiang, in the CECC 2008 Annual Report.