評論
樊志傑/被消失的新疆——我在中國見證的日常
有一個笑話說,第一個中國太空人登上月球時,竟然發現已經有維吾爾族人在那裡賣羊肉串了,由此可見維族人頗有做生意頭腦,以及足跡遍布整個中國甚至更廣。
但現在,要在我所生活的城市,吃到正宗新疆人烤的羊肉串,已經幾乎不可能。仔細回想,這樣的情況持續時間差不多已經有兩年。我個人的旅程和消息所及之處,狀況也是如此。
最近一段時間,全世界都關注到了新疆的「再教育營」,但幾乎所有討論都忽視了一個前提——如果維吾爾族人仍然可以在全中國的範圍內自由出行甚至自由出境,那麼無論多麼嚴苛的集中營,都不可能將他們「一網打盡」。
烤羊肉攤消失的原因,不僅僅是北京、上海等一線城市,以拆除違建的名義,驅趕「低端人口」——雖然在經濟上處於弱勢地位的少數民族,必定受到波及——各地政府對維吾爾族、哈薩克族等少數民族在當地的住宿都採取了嚴格的限制。
這一年多來,中國對於賓館的入住要求愈發嚴格,除了每一個入住者都需要查驗身分證之外,通常還要經過人臉識別系統的審核。但一個維吾爾族人,即便是拿著本人的身分證,想要隨意在外省的賓館住宿,也會被告知:「請前往指定接待的賓館。」如果工作人員「不慎」收下了維吾爾族客人,那員警很快就會出現在大堂,然後要求賓館每天安排人去派出所報告這位住客的動向。
那如果想要透過租房的方式長期留宿在外地呢?恐怕結果是,房東會聯絡維吾爾族租客說,自己的房屋有別的用處,願意提供一筆不錯的違約賠償,請他盡快搬離。當然,房東並不是真的要拿房子派什麼用處,只是接到了「有關部門」要求清退若干特定少數民族租客的通知。至於節外生枝產生的賠償,也只能由房東自己「買單」——以上這兩種狀況,目前並沒有流出的「紅頭文件」可以佐證,但確實都在我身邊的親友身上發生過。
於是乎,在中國各大城市,市民們已經很久沒看見戴著白色的帽子販售羊肉串或者切糕的「新疆人」了。

漢人社會對維族人權被剝奪無感

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一位前往清真寺早禱的維吾爾族人。(攝影/AFP PHOTO)
一位前往清真寺早禱的維吾爾族人。(攝影/AFP PHOTO)
2008年,我的一個朋友去北京看奧運會,收到入住的連鎖賓館發來簡訊,其中強調不歡迎新疆人、西藏人入住,朋友吐槽賓館怎麼可以發出如此「政治不正確」的內容。但總體而言,對於維吾爾族人被事實上剝奪了自由出行的權利這件事情,漢人社會是無感的,甚至有一部分是支持的。
在中國的大部分城市裡,生活環境幾乎完全是漢人的世界。對於長相、穿著、口音都和自己不同的維族人,漢人通常會想到兩個詞,一是能歌善舞,二是民風彪悍,雖然有刻板印象之嫌,但也不能說完全錯誤。
我的一位同學就曾說起,大學裡與她同班的維族女同學總是很不願意參加同鄉會的活動,因為去了常會被同族的男生霸凌,回寢室時,往往已經哭紅了雙眼。
很長一段時間裡,在中國很多城市,都存在維吾爾族的盜竊團夥(註)
為何中國許多發達城市曾經出現猖獗的維吾爾族人盜竊乃至持刀傷害、搶劫的情況?「世界維吾爾大會」議長熱比婭在接受作家董成瑜採訪時給出的說法或許值得參考:「1987年後,有2~3萬個5~15歲的維族孩子,在中國本土背著小偷的名義流浪、生活。是誰把他們從東土耳其斯坦(即新疆)帶到中國的?東土耳其斯很多維族家庭都失去了孩子,這些孩子都在哪兒呢?」
熱比婭的說法,令人想起澳洲早年「白澳政策」下,白人對原住民族孩子的搶奪。雖然其真實性目前很難找到相關的研究或報導進行佐證,但作為漢人,或許可以思考的是,維吾爾族犯罪團夥的猖獗,是否只是由於其「民族天性」或者經濟原因所造成的?
。漢人關於他們的說法是,「身上都帶著刀」、「偷得到就偷,偷不到就搶」。因為忌憚,人們即便看到新疆籍小偷行竊,大多也不敢「見義勇為」。我自己就遇到過,陪女友逛街,差點被維吾爾族女子盜竊的經歷,雖然碰巧發現,但對方幾個人嘻嘻哈哈全不在意,女友卻因為我「表現懦弱」,發了好大一通脾氣。
對於城市裡的治安問題,漢人們常常責怪警方處置不力,造成了這種恐懼的加深,這其中最為著名的例子是2012年的「天價切糕(維族人稱瑪仁糖的特色食品)」事件。2012年前,漢人中就流傳著維族人不誠實經營的說法,諸如買切糕之前,對方說×元人民幣一兩(50克),切完又改口說×元一克,不掏錢就可能被一群維吾爾族人暴力脅迫。
2012年12月3日,湖南省岳陽市公安局發布微博稱,「村民淩某在購買新疆人核桃仁糖果(指切糕)時,因語言溝通不暢造成誤會,雙方口角導致肢體衝突引發群體毆打事件」。最終,淩某需承擔的各項賠償總計為15.2萬元人民幣。在那個「圍觀改變中國」的年代,網民們相信,官方的消息證實了「天價切糕」這一傳說的存在。
不管當時是非曲直,現在無論你是想要吃地道的烏魯木齊羊肉串,還是對販售切糕的維吾爾族商販心存忌憚,他們似乎突然在漢人的日常生活中消失了。

「王鬍子」又回來了?

流散在全國各地的維吾爾族人無處可去,再加上他們不容易申請到護照出國,最終只可能有一個選擇——回到新疆。以今日的「後見之明」來看,中國政府應該早就規劃好了整盤棋——待他們悉數回家,進行「集中管理」,或者說「一網打盡」。
從2002年的中共「十六大」開始,新疆維吾爾自治區黨委書記和「五大山頭」(北京、天津、上海、重慶、廣東)的「一把手」一樣,位列權力最中心的中共中央政治局委員(現為25人,其中包括7名政治局常委),屬副國家級領導人。2016年8月,原自治區黨委書記的張春賢退出權力中心,之前主政西藏(圖博)的陳全國,調任新疆。
美國喬治城大學教授米華健(James A. Millward)曾撰文指出:「陳全國將檢查站、派出所、裝甲車和不間斷巡邏的網路系統帶到了新疆,這一套是他此前在西藏任職期間完善的,共產黨相信他在那裡使一個難以駕馭、對共產黨的統治感到不滿的族群平息了下來。陳全國在新疆上任的第一年,已經招募了數以萬計的新安保人員。」
幾年前仍是張春賢主政之時,我曾去過新疆。大巴車進入烏魯木齊時,全車人要下車接受安檢並檢查身分證,安檢的隊伍排得很長。但可以明顯感到,對漢人的檢查相對較鬆,通關速度要比少數民族快得多。
一位漢族的處級幹部曾跟我講起一件「趣事」:有一次自己隨南疆的一位地區行署專員
相當於地級市的市長,正局級。一般少數民族自治地區,作為「一把手」的黨委書記都由漢人出任,黨委副書記兼行政「一把手」由少數民族擔任,如自治區主席、地區行署專員、自治州州長、自治縣縣長等。
出差,在機場安檢時,屬下這些漢族官員都快速通過,但作為少數民族的專員則被留下仔細檢查,「雖然專員什麼都沒說,但他心裡肯定是不高興的。」
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在新疆維吾爾自治區巡邏的警察。(攝影/AFP PHOTO)
在新疆維吾爾自治區巡邏的警察。(攝影/AFP PHOTO)
如今再看,當初的那些安保措施,實屬「小兒科」。如今走在烏魯木齊的街頭,每隔幾百米就可能遇到盤查身分證的員警,不帶身分證出門很可能寸步難行;維吾爾族人購買的菜刀上,需要打上有身分信息的QR-Code;手機上則必須安裝政府所指定的監控軟體;街頭裝滿了監控攝影機,彷彿布下了天羅地網。在這些事情上,海外媒體的報導和我們在國內看到的新聞、聽說的「小道消息」是可以互相映證的。
被不少海外人士呼籲美國政府對其實施制裁的陳全國,讓很多人想起了綽號「王鬍子」的王震。王震是中共開國上將,1950年率部隊佔領新疆。作為鄧小平時代的「八大元老」之一,在天安門事件中,時任國家副主席的他屬主張武力鎮壓的強硬派。王震主政新疆時期,同樣以鐵腕著稱,以至於流傳著當地人用「王鬍子來了」,嚇唬不聽話小孩的說法。
一位出生在烏魯木齊的朋友,曾以懷念的口吻說,「王鬍子一拍桌子就喊殺,讓維族人沒脾氣。」一直以來,都有人認為在新疆應該延續王震的鐵腕政策。如今,很多人在陳全國的身上,依稀看到了「王鬍子」當年的影子。
但全國範圍這麼大的一盤棋,並不是陳全國一個人所能決定的。他也只不過是待中國各地將維吾爾族人驅趕回原籍全面完成之後,在新疆一地衝鋒陷陣的「馬前卒」而已。

各種軟硬兼施的政策,卻水土不服

新疆在清代再次併入中國版圖,乾隆特意為烏魯木齊取名「迪化」,意為「啟迪教化」。雖然期間有一段時間,新疆脫離中央政府控制,但掌握當地的軍閥如盛世才等,也並非維吾爾族人,大多是漢人,也有同為穆斯林的回人。中共關於統治新疆最初的想法,恐怕主要是擴大版圖(占全國總面積的六分之一),還不涉及後來常被提起的資源問題——塔里木油田的勘探和開發是1980年代後期才開始的,較早的克拉瑪依油田也是1955年才發現的。但將漢人移民到新疆以穩定邊境的政策,卻是貫穿始終的。如今在北疆,漢人已經從「少數民族」變成了「多數民族」,烏魯木齊的維吾爾族人口只有12%左右。
我曾詢問過一些人,新疆有沒有當地的漢語方言,得到的答案均是否定的,因為在新疆的漢人來自全國各地,至多只有一些當地特殊的表述方式,比如問路時,對方回答「一直往前走」,「直」字的發音長短,表示距離的長短。
這些年來,漢人堅持認為是自己幫助了新疆的發展(就我所見,當地的公路網確實修得不錯),但很多維吾爾族人則始終認為自己被漢人掠奪去的資源更多。各持己見的思維定式,讓兩個民族無法真正互相理解。
當然,中國各個少數民族之中,都不乏中共的鐵桿支持者。在我們這些外人看來,在南疆不同民族的官員相處得頗為和睦。有人問一位維族官員,你們維吾爾族人都是穆斯林嗎?他回答說:「我從10幾歲就開始當兵,有30幾年黨齡,你說我怎麼可能信那個?」但也有漢族官員私下說,雖然看起來彼此關係不錯,但民族不同所造成的隔閡始終存在,維吾爾族的共產黨員、幹部私下信教的情況也不少見。而當地醫院的心理醫師則透露,遇到過不少維吾爾族黨員幹部前來諮商,因為「被同族認為是『維奸』,心理壓力很大」,甚至擔心受到報復傷害。
在少數民族政策上,中國政府很長一段時間採取的是軟硬兼施的措施。一方面,在「非我族類其心必異」的觀念之下,漢人對於少數民族,尤其是藏族和維吾爾族從來沒有百分百的放心,始終暗中提防。另一方面,出於宣示「56個民族大團結」的需要,在高考(類似於台灣的學測)等方面,給予了少數民族以優待。此外,因為「民族宗教問題無小事」,所以以往對於諸如盜竊等刑事犯罪,打擊也並不十分嚴厲,以至於又招致漢人社會不滿。
回溯之前的軌跡可以看出,中國政府至少在4、5年前,仍然有某種「懷柔」的想法。
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新疆維吾爾自治區和田地區的中學校。(攝影/AFP PHOTO)
新疆維吾爾自治區和田地區的中學校。(攝影/AFP PHOTO)
2014年5月26日,習近平主持政治局會議,提出要「南疆全面實行高中階段免費教育」(即12年免費教育)。而在中國的其他地方,除了西藏以外,即便是經濟最發達的地區,義務教育也只覆蓋9年。
但是政府的政策,往往並沒有戳中維吾爾族人的痛點。以12年免費義務教育為例,其實很多維吾爾族家庭,子女較多,不太可能讓孩子念那麼久的書。
即便是旨在促進民族融合的學校裡,不同種族的同學可能會在同一個教室裡上課,但還是可以輕易地發現,漢族和維族學生,自然而然地形成了兩個不太往來的團體。而在同一所學校,漢族學生考試60分及格,維族學生只要30分就能及格。這樣的狀況,既讓漢族學生覺得不公平,也讓維族學生因自覺被歧視而不滿。
再比如,在全面開放二胎政策之前,政府就允許南疆的維吾爾族家庭生育3個子女。但是,「超生」的現象仍然十分普遍。對此,相應的「懲罰」措施是,超生的子女不允許上戶口、辦身分證,但這樣反而又造成了更加混亂的對人口失去控制的狀況。即便遇到官員前來查驗人口,在家的子女拿出其他兄弟姊妹的身分證,漢族官員通常也無法識別。

七五事件結下「血仇」

在陳全國之前,兩任主政新疆的官員王樂泉和張春賢,並沒有祭出太過激的手段。
2009年造成至少197人死亡的「七五事件」,發生在王樂泉的任上。1995年開始主政新疆的王樂泉是山東人,曾有與之長期接觸的人士對我說,王樂泉人很好,每次都是價格不菲的好酒好菜招待他們。
「七五事件」之前,廣東省韶關市發生一起鬥毆事件,起因是維族人騷擾漢人女子,有兩名維吾爾族人在鬥毆事件中喪命,這引發了維吾爾族人在烏魯木齊舉行街頭示威。但當地政府並未引起足夠重視,甚至在官員中流傳一個說法是,「『七五事件』發生時,王樂泉正在和他的山東老鄉喝酒」。他們認為,維漢間的殺戮和報復,造成了數百人的死亡,讓兩個民族之間結下了「血仇」,更讓新疆的情勢急劇惡化,王樂泉難辭其咎。
一位維語很好的漢族官員曾告訴我,自己出生在南疆,從小和維吾爾族孩子一起長大,很長一段時間裡,漢族人、維族人互相到對方家裡吃飯,都是很平常的事情,穆斯林也不會特別在意漢人家裡的伙食不夠「清真」。但在「七五事件」之後,一切都變了。雖然見面彼此還會寒暄,但是作為漢人和維吾爾人的自我認同變得十分強烈,到對方家中吃飯這種事變得無法想像。
2010年,張春賢從湖南調任新疆。我去新疆時,官員中對於他詬病最多的是2014年2月開始推行的「下基層」活動,要求20萬名機關幹部分成3批,到最基層蹲點,「一竿子插到底」,每批為期一年。
中低階的官員,對這樣一項「討好中央」的做法提出了不少批評。比如下鄉的初衷是希望幹部深入維吾爾族群眾,緩和矛盾,但很多漢族幹部不通維語,無法與維族群眾交流,蹲點毫無意義,甚至還要專門安排人保護纖弱的女性。
回頭來看,無論是王樂泉的不以為意,還是張春賢的形式主義,都未能使新疆擺脫民族宗教問題的泥潭。

以暴易暴的國家恐怖主義

在新疆推行12年義務教育,可以算是中國政府最後一項明顯的「懷柔政策」。
政策出台前一個月的4月27日至30日,習近平唯一一次以國家領導人身分到新疆考察、調研,並且深入維吾爾族人聚居的喀什地區。最後一天,他在烏魯木齊接見了勞動模範代表。也是在那一天,烏魯木齊火車南站發生了暴力襲擊事件,造成3人死亡、79人受傷,官方稱此案為「東突厥斯坦伊斯蘭運動」恐怖組織所為。
在那之後,我曾到過習近平在喀什下榻的賓館。它是被鐵絲網完整包裹著的,門口有荷槍實彈的武警24小時站崗守護。幾個省市的援疆指揮部也在這道鐵絲網內,較可以保障各地援疆官員的安全。
至於各級政府門前,擺設著防衝撞的金屬設施,更是司空見慣,儼然一個個隨時可能發生戰鬥的陣地。
一位漢族醫生曾經告訴我,他們有時會下鄉去維吾爾人的聚居村落巡診,「但是那時候常會覺得慚愧,我們去看病,老鄉載歌載舞歡迎我們,但我們身後就跟著端著槍的武警。」
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中國軍警2017年在新疆維吾爾自治區和田地區的反恐維穩誓師大會。(攝影/AFP PHOTO)
中國軍警2017年在新疆維吾爾自治區和田地區的反恐維穩誓師大會。(攝影/AFP PHOTO)
火車站的那場襲擊,難免讓人心有餘悸。我們無法揣測,在中國最高領導人的心中,是不是從那時開始,決定要在拋出12年義務教育的「胡蘿蔔」之後,不再手軟,用以暴制暴的國家恐怖主義,對付版圖內的異族。
中國政府將新疆所發生的暴力恐怖事件,歸結為「分裂主義、極端主義和恐怖主義」的三合一。一位主管民族宗教事務的地方官員曾私下表示,「藏獨」雖然有一定的國際影響,但實力有限;與之相比,「疆獨」則要有威脅得多。他甚至透露,1990年代,就曾有疆獨分子,襲擊過新疆境內的一處祕密軍事基地,導致該基地200餘名解放軍全部犧牲,但政府一直沒有對外公布此事。
但新疆的暴恐事件真的如中國政府所宣稱的(雖然最近兩年並未再公布恐襲事件的次數和造成的人員傷亡數)那樣多發嗎?也未必。當地官員舉例說,曾經有一次導致多人死傷的衝突事件,最初只是停車糾紛,雙方各自找了人幫忙械鬥,最終鬧出了人命。因為其中一方是維吾爾族人,當地官員便在向上級報告時宣稱彈壓了一起暴恐事件,以此增加政績。

有了再教育營,誰安心睡覺?

《紐約時報》(New York Times)中文網近日一篇報導稱,「文件顯示,在習近平訪問新疆後的一年(即2015年)中,中共開始建造『教育改造』營地,警告穆斯林少數民族宗教狂熱和民族分裂主義的危害。官員講話及報導顯示,當時拘禁營規模較小,許多被拘禁者僅被關押幾天或幾週。」
我們在國內聽到的消息與之基本相符,比如「再教育營」設立之初,「入住率」並不高,但如今已是住得滿滿當當。至於被投入其中的人,是否真的有百萬之眾,恐怕除了中國官方,外界很難判斷其準確與否。
而中國政府則只是宣稱,外界所說的「再教育中心」是為維吾爾族人提供就業培訓和法律教育的,其目的是「治病救人」,並在10月9日匆匆修改了新疆的一些地方性法規,對其進行「合法化」。
9月28日,在與美國前財長魯賓(Robert Rubin)對談時,中國外長王毅表示:「新疆有2千萬民眾。他們現在都非常贊成政府採取的做法,因為他們感到安全,他們晚上可以安心地睡覺。」王毅說,基地組織和IS滲透新疆,透過暴力影片吸引無業青年成為恐怖分子,讓新疆變得非常不安全;為了保護新疆人的生命財產,中國政府才依法採取行動,令這1、2年新疆都沒有恐怖事件。此外,政府也宣稱,因為情勢穩定,今年新疆的旅遊收入十分可觀。
按照學者杭廷頓(Samuel Huntington)的說法,民族與宗教所造成的矛盾是一種「文明的衝突」。而在中國政府看來,如果要在「維穩」和不侵犯人權之間做一個選擇,一定會果斷選擇前者——這恐怕也是與世界主流治理理念涇渭分明的一種「文明的衝突」。可是,在一個人並未實施乃至計畫進行犯罪之前,政府真的有權限制他的人身自由嗎?
9月27日,烏魯木齊旅遊局突然發布公告稱,因「旅客列車運行圖調整」需要,停售10月22日以後進出新疆的鐵路車票。外界推測,列車將被用作「再教育營」人員的祕密轉運。而從10月初開始,已有傳言說,路上出現了一些拉著黑色窗簾的大巴車,或駛向烏魯木齊,或去往甘肅等周邊省分。
沒有人知道,這些被送走的維吾爾族人,何時才能回到他們的故鄉。
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How The Uyghurs Vanished From Daily Life In China

There is a joke that goes: when the first Chinese astronaut lands on the Moon, he’ll be astonished to find Uyghurs there selling lamb skewers. This is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Uyghurs, and their ubiquity throughout China and beyond.
It is now virtually impossible to find authentic Xinjiang lamb skewers in the city where I live. Thinking back, this has been the situation for the past two years, even when I travel and consult my sources.
The world's attention was recently drawn to the re-education camps in Xinjiang, but almost all the discussion has overlooked one premise: if the Uyghurs still have freedom of movement within China's borders, and the freedom to travel abroad, even the harshest concentration camps would not be able to eliminate them.
Suffice it to say, the Uyghurs have all bust lost their freedom of movement. But the disappearance of lamb skewer stalls is not just due to first-tier cities like Beijing expelling their "low-end populations” (although their policies most certainly affect economically vulnerable ethnic minorities), it’s the various local governments imposing strict regulations on where Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other ethnic minorities can reside.
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A man walks to a mosque.
A man walks to a mosque.
Over the past year or more, the check-in procedures at hotels have tightened considerably. Other than checking identification documents, every guest also has to be verified by a facial recognition system. Even if a Uyghur individual is carrying valid identification documents, he will still be instructed to head to a "designated accommodation". If the hotel staff accidentally checks in a Uyghur guest, the police will swiftly appear at the lobby and request the staff go to the police station to report on the Uyghur guest's daily movements.
What if a Uyghur decides to rent a room and stay for a longer duration? The landlord would suddenly inform the Uyghur renter that the residence will need to be used for other purposes; he is willing to pay a decent sum to compensate for the early termination, but the renter has to move out immediately. The landlord does not actually have any other use for the room, of course, they just receive requests from the relevant authorities to evict renters of particular ethnic minorities. In the future, in order to avoid being on the hook for such compensation, the landlord simply will not rent to ethnic minorities in the first place.
The above-mentioned scenarios are currently not corroborated by any official "red letterhead" directive, but my friends have encountered such situations.
This is why Uyghurs in their iconic white caps selling lamb skewers or sweet walnut cakes have been absent from China's cities for some time now.

China's ethnic Han society is indifferent to their human rights

When I went to Beijing with a friend to watch the 2008 Olympics, I received a text message from the chain hotel I was staying at. The message emphasized that people from Xinjiang and Tibet were not welcome.
On this occasion, my friend criticized the hotel for being so politically incorrect, but China’s ethnic Han majority are largely indifferent to the restrictions on Uyghurs' freedom of movement, and some even support such measures.
Most cities in China are almost exclusively the realm of Han Chinese. When they see an Uyghur with their different appearance, clothing, and speech, they normally see the Uyghurs as talented singers and dancers, or as fierce and audacious. These are of course stereotypes, but such perceptions are not completely off the mark.
A classmate of mine once said that her female Uyghur college classmate was always reluctant to attend hometown gatherings at their school because she would get bullied by the Uyghur boys. After such gatherings, she would return to her room with her eyes red from crying.
For a very long time, many cities in China had Uyghur pickpocket gangs. Han Chinese said that these Uyghurs carried knives wherever they went, stealing what they could and robbing what they could not steal. Fearing for their safety, most people did not dare to intervene when a theft was being committed by a Xinjiang native.
I recall getting pick-pocketed by a Uyghur girl while shopping with my girlfriend. I caught the thief in the act, but she and her peers just laughed it off; my girlfriend threw a tantrum because she thought I looked weak.
Han Chinese often blamed police incompetence for the deterioration of public order and the deepening climate of fear in the cities. The most iconic example was the 2012 "cut cake scam" (cut cake, also known as maren candy, is a Uyghur delicacy).
Before that time, rumours circulated among ethnic Han Chinese about Uyghurs' dishonest business practices. For instance, it was said that an Uyghur cut cake seller would initially agree to a certain price for 50 grams of cake, but later insist that the price was actually for one gram only. If the customer refused to pay, a group of Uyghurs would supposedly resort to violent means to compel payment.
On December 3rd, 2012, the public security agency of Yueyang City, Hunan Province, announced on Weibo, "When a villager, Mr Ling, was buying Xinjiang walnut cake (i.e. cut cake) a misunderstanding occurred due to the language barrier, and an argument between the two parties escalated into a group brawl.”
Mr Ling eventually had to pay damages totaling 152,000 Chinese yuan. During that era, when people still believed in the power of crowdsourced citizen journalism, netizens saw the official announcement as proof that the "cut cake scam" really existed.
Whatever the reality was, you can no longer savour authentic Urumqi lamb skewers, or raise your suspicions about the Uyghurs selling cut cake — both have disappeared from the daily lives of Han Chinese.

Has "Bearded Wang" returned?

With no other place to go, and no permission to travel overseas, the Uyghurs scattered across China have but one choice left: return to Xinjiang.With the benefit of hindsight, the Chinese government could have planned this more meticulously. They could have waited for all the Uyghurs to return before putting their "collective management" into action - or should we call it "complete elimination"?The government’s top decision-making body, the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) Central Committee, is made up of 25 members, and features the party secretaries of the five most important territories — Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Guangdong. But beginning in 2002 at the 16th Party Congress, the party secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region joined alongside them.In August 2016, Xinjiang’s party secretary Zhang Chunxian (張春賢) stepped aside, making way for Chen Quanguo (陳全國), who previously administered Tibet.Georgetown University professor James A. Millward had this to say about Chen:
“Chen Quanguo brought his network of inspection checkpoints, security posts, armoured vehicles and constant patrolling to Xinjiang. This system was perfected during his term in Tibet, and the CCP believes he would be able to pacify a stubborn populace dissatisfied with party rule. In his first year administering Xinjiang, Chen has already hired upwards of ten thousand new security personnel.”
I visited the province a few years ago, when Zhang Chunxian was still Xinjiang’s party secretary. When the bus entered Urumqi, everyone had to disembark for a security check and to verify their identities; the queue for inspection was very long. The attitude towards Han Chinese was markedly more relaxed, and they passed through much more quickly than the ethnic minorities.
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Police officers walk in the street in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
Police officers walk in the street in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
A Han Chinese county-level manager recounted an “interesting” incident: he once travelled with a municipal commissioner from southern Xinjiang. At the airport security inspection, the Han Chinese officials were quickly waved through, but the commissioners who were ethnic minorities were thoroughly inspected. “Even though he did not say a thing, he was definitely unhappy about it.”
Looking back, these security measures now seem like child’s play. Walking through the streets of Urumqi today, there are policemen checking your identification every few hundred metres, and one would be hard-pressed to go anywhere without valid identification.
Kitchen knives bought by Uyghurs have to be tagged with QR codes containing their personal information; handphones must have official spyware software installed; and the streets are full of security cameras. Simply put, there is no escaping the authorities’ notice. These measures can be verified through overseas reporting, domestic news and local hearsay.
This is the work of Chen Quanguo, and it’s the reason why some have called on the United States government to impose sanctions on him. Chen may have even reached a level of notoriety equal to Wang Zhen (王震), a pioneering general in the CCP who occupied the region in 1950. He was sometimes known as “Bearded Wang”, a nickname given to him by Mao Zedong (毛澤東).
In the 80’s and 90’s, Wang was one of the eight most senior cadres in the Party, alongside Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平). During the Tiananmen Square Incident, he was a hardliner who advocated for military force to suppress the protests.
During Wang’s rule over Xinjiang, his approach was equally heavy-handed, leading locals to invoke “Bearded Wang” when they want to frighten their disobedient children.
A friend of mine born in Urumqi once wistfully said, “Bearded Wang could demand executions for even the slightest provocation, so the Uyghurs had to lay low.” Even today, there are people who believe that Wang Zhen’s heavy-handed policies should be continued. Many now see the shadow of “Bearded Wang” in party secretary Chen Quanguo.
Chen alone, however, cannot alter the course of an entire country. He is merely a pawn engaged at the front-lines of Xinjiang, who now has to deal with the formerly scattered Uyghurs, all herded back to their homeland.

Carrot and stick approaches do not work

When Xinjiang was annexed by China during the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Qianlong (乾隆) named Urumqi “Dihua”, an abbreviation for the Chinese phrase meaning “correction and enlightenment”. Although Xinjiang broke free from centralized government control for a time, the warlords controlling the territory, like Sheng Shicai (盛世才), were not Uyghurs, but ethnic Han or ethnic Hui (another Muslim minority group in China).
Territorial expansion was probably the CCP’s foremost concern when they initially claimed Xinjiang (the province accounts for one-sixth of the country’s landmass), since natural resource considerations had not emerged yet. The Tarim oil fields were only explored and developed in the late 1980s, while the Karamay oil fields were discovered in 1955.
Regardless of motive, resettling ethnic Han in Xinjiang to stabilize the border region has always been government policy. Today, ethnic Han comprise the majority in northern Xinjiang and Uyghur people only make up around 12 percent of the population.
I once asked a few people whether Xinjiang has a local Chinese dialect and they all told me there wasn’t one, because ethnic Han in Xinjiang originate from various parts of China. At most, there are only a few local colloquialisms: for instance, when giving directions, locals may alter how long they stretch the word “straight” to emphasize how far one should walk.
In recent years, Han Chinese have insisted that they contributed to Xinjiang’s development (I personally think that the roads in the province are quite well-maintained), but many Uyghurs think that however much the Han Chinese have contributed, they have plundered even more. The two ethnic groups hold irreconcilable views and are unable to reach a common understanding.
To be sure, there will be some members of every minority group who unwaveringly support the CCP. From our outsider’s perspective, government officials in northern Xinjiang get along well regardless of ethnicity. Someone once asked an Uyghur official whether all Uyghurs are Muslim, and the official replied, “I have been serving in the military since my teenage years, and have been loyal to the party for over three decades. How can I believe in that?”
There are ethnic Han officials, however, who privately say that despite the appearance of harmony, ethnic barriers still exist, and it is not uncommon for Uyghur party members and cadres to practice their faith in private.
A psychologist in a local hospital revealed that quite a few Uyghur party members and cadres have come for consultations because they “feel stressed that their compatriots view them as ‘race traitors’”, and even fear getting hurt by reprisals.
For a long time, the Chinese government adopted a carrot-and-stick approach towards ethnic minorities. On one hand, although everyone assumes that their will be differences between ethnicities, Han Chinese have never been completely at ease with minority groups in China, and have always been on their guard with Tibetans and Uyghurs. On the other hand, to proclaim the unity of the nation’s 56 ethnic groups, minority peoples are given preference in the gaokao national examination — China’s standardized college testing — and in other policy areas.
Furthermore, to minimize the possibility of inflaming ethnic and religious tensions, the government is often more lenient in its enforcement of theft and other crimes committed by minority ethnic groups, incurring the displeasure of Han Chinese society. Even in the past four to five years, the government’s “soft” approach towards minority ethnic groups was still evident.
On May 26th 2014, Xi Jinping announced at a Politburo meeting his intention to provide free senior high school education to students in southern Xinjiang (thus providing free education for 12 years). Meanwhile, in the rest of China (with the exception of Tibet) even the most prosperous regions only receive 9 years of state-funded education.
These policies do not address the Uyghurs’ pain points. Uyghur families often have more children, and cannot afford to keep them in school for 12 years even if education is state-funded.
Even in schools, where the stated objective is to promote ethnic integration, it is easy to notice how Han and Uyghur children attend the same classes in the same classrooms, but form separate groups that do not interact with each other. For example, the passing score is 60 points for Han students, but for Uyghur students, a passing score is only 30 points. Han students find this situation unfair, while Uyghur students are disgruntled about the discrimination they face.
The government’s family planning policy is also worthy of note, even before the one-child policy was loosened nationwide to allow families to have 2 children, Uyghur families were still allowed to have 3 children.
Uyghur families often had more children than they were allowed. The punishment for exceeding the birth quotas was to bar the “surplus” children from being registered and to not process their identification documents, but this only created more chaos and further hindered the government from controlling the population. When officials conduct spot checks to verify population figures, the undocumented children simply used their siblings’ identification documents, and the Han officials are usually unable to tell the difference.

A blood feud arises from the July 2009 Urumqi riots

Chen Quanguo’s predecessors, Wang Lequan (王樂泉) and Zhang Chunxian, did not implement as many extreme measures in Xinjiang.
Wang administered Xinjiang from 1994 to 2010. A Source close to Wang once told me that he was good person, and generously received guests with meals and drinks.
The July 2009 Urumqi riots that resulted in 197 deaths happened under Wang’s watch.
Before the riots, a huge brawl had erupted between Han and Uyghurs in Shaoguan city, Guangdong province. Two Uyghurs lost their lives in the skirmish, sparking off protests by Uyghurs in Urumqi.
Initially, the protests did not draw sufficient attention from the authorities, and a rumour spread among government officials that Wang was “drinking at his hometown in Shandong when the Urumqi riots broke out.” These officials believe that the killings and reprisals between Hans and Uyghurs, which lead to the death of nearly two hundred people, gave rise to a blood feud between the two ethnic groups, and that Wang cannot evade responsibility for the incident.
A Han official fluent in the Uyghur language told me that he was born in northern Xinjiang and grew up with Uyghur children; for a long time, it was very normal for Hans and Uyghurs to go to each other’s houses for meals, and Muslims would not particularly mind that Han dishes were not “halal” enough.
The Urumqi riots changed everything. Hans and Uyghurs still greet each other, but there is a much stronger sense of ethnic self-identification, and it is now unimaginable for them to have meals in each other’s homes.
In 2010, Zhang Chunxian was transferred from Hunan to Xinjiang. When I went to Xinjiang, the most common complaint about his administration was the “grassroots” policy he introduced in February 2014. He split 200,000 cadres into three batches, and each batch took turns being stationed for a year at the grassroots-level in order to be thoroughly immersed in the local community.
Middle and lower-level officials had many criticisms of this policy which they believed was aimed at appeasing the central government. For instance, the intention of this policy was to allow cadres to work closely with Uyghur communities and resolve their differences, but the Han Chinese cadres could not speak Uyghur with the locals, rendering the policy useless. Additional security even had to be dispatched to protect vulnerable female cadres.
In retrospect, neither Wang Lequan’s indifference nor Zhang Chunxian’s superficial policies could resolve the ethnic and religious tensions in Xinjiang.
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Students read in class in one high school in the the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Students read in class in one high school in the the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Under the doctrine of state terrorism, violence begets violence

It can be said that the extension of state-funded education to 12 years was the last significant policy under the government’s “soft” approach.
A month before that policy was announced, Xi Jinping made his first and only trip to Xinjiang in his capacity of head of state. While there, he inspected, investigated and immersed himself in the Uyghurs’ Kashgar region.
On the last day, he received a model workers’ representative in Urumqi. This is the same day an attack occurred at Urumqi’s south railway station that led to three dead and 79 injured. Officials said the attack was carried out by a terrorist group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
After that incident, I went to the hotel that Xi Jinping was staying at in Kashgar. It was completely surrounded by metal fencing, with an armed military guard stationed around the clock at the entrance. There were also military command centres from several cities and provinces within the fenced compound, to guarantee the officials’ safety.
It was common to find the entrances of government offices equipped with metal anti-vehicle barriers, prepared for the possibility of armed conflict.
A Han doctor once told me that they sometimes make the rounds in rural Uyghur villages, “but at those times we would be ashamed; we treat their illnesses, and the villages welcomed us with song and dance, but following right behind us were the armed military police.”
The attack at the train station was without doubt, a chilling incident. Happening so shortly after the announcement for 12 years of free education, we can only guess whether this was the turning point that led China’s leadership to violently suppress other ethnicities under a policy of state terrorism.
The Chinese government blames all terrorist incidents on a combination of “separatism, extremism and terrorism”. A local official overseeing ethnic and religious matters privately expressed that although the Tibetan independence movement has some international support, its capacity is limited, and the Xinjiang independence movement is a much graver threat.
He even revealed that Xinjiang separatists once assaulted a secret military base within the province in the 1990s, and none of the 200-plus soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army survived. To date the government has not publicly acknowledged this.
Although the number of terrorist incidents and casualty counts for the past two years has not been disclosed, are there really as many terrorist incidents in Xinjiang as the government claims?
Not necessarily. A local official raised an example, recalling a confrontation that led to many deaths. It started as a parking argument but escalated when each party called on others for help. Because one of the parties in the initial argument was Uyghur, local officials reported it as a terrorist incident to burnish their political track record.

Who can sleep peacefully with the knowledge of re-education camps?

The Chinese edition of the New York Times recently reported:
“Following Xi Jinping’s visit to Xinjiang in 2015, Beijing started to build ‘camp compounds’ in order to warn Muslim minorities about the dangers of religious extremism and ethnic separatism. Official speeches and reports show that the scale of these internment camps was relatively small, and many detainees were only detained for a few days or weeks”.
The news we receive in China basically corresponds with the article; for instance, the “occupancy” of the camps were quite low when they were established, but they are now filled to the brim. As for whether millions are being detained in these camps, only the Chinese government knows the actual figures, and the outside world cannot accurately determine the exact numbers.
The Chinese government has only announced that the “re-education centres” are meant to provide job training and legal education, with the aim of “treating illness and saving lives”. On October 9, they also hastily altered local regulations, “legalizing” the camps.
On September 28, during a dialogue with former US Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) said, “Xinjiang has a population of 20 million; they greatly approve of the government’s methods, because it makes them feel safe, and lets them sleep peacefully at night.”
Wang said that fundamentalist groups and ISIS are infiltrating Xinjiang, recruiting unemployed youth into their ranks with violent videos and making Xinjiang a very unsafe place; to protect the lives and property of the people of Xinjiang, the Chinese government took action; as a result, there have been no terrorist incidents in the past one to two years in Xinjiang. Moreover, the government has also announced that, due to the stable situation, tourism revenues for Xinjiang this year are quite sizeable.
According to scholar Samuel Huntington, ethnic and religious contradictions are a manifestation of the “clash of civilizations”. From the Chinese government’s perspective, if they have to choose between maintaining stability and not violating human rights, they will not hesitate to opt for the former – unfortunately, this is one way in which the Chinese government’s ideology clashes with global mainstream theories of governance.
But if someone has not implemented or even planned a crime, does the state have the authority to restrict their personal freedoms?
On September 27, Urumqi’s tourism ministry suddenly announced that, due to “adjustments in the tourist rail route map”, ticket sales for rail travel in and out of Xinjiang will cease after October 22. Foreign media speculated that the trains will be secretly diverted for the re-education camps.
There were also stories from the start of October that there are large buses with black blinds pulled across the windows headed to Urumqi, or to Gansu or the surrounding provinces.
Nobody knows when these Uyghurs will return to their hometowns.
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