Friday, August 5, 2016

Orville Schell - Crackdown in China: Worse and Worse / From China to Jihad? by Richard Bernstein

What is most striking about these new tactics is their boldness and unrepentant tone. Instead of denying or apologizing for them, the CCP seems to proudly proclaim them as part of a new Chinese model of development, albeit one that has no use for liberal values from the West. In the new world of resurgent Chinese wealth and power, what is valued is strong leadership, short-term stability, and immediate economic growth.

“As a liberal, I no longer feel I have a future in China,” a prominent Chinese think tank head in the process of moving abroad recently lamented in private. Such refrains are all too familiar these days as educated Chinese professionals express growing alarm over their country’s future. Indeed, not since the 1970s when Mao still reigned and the Cultural Revolution still raged has the Chinese leadership been so possessed by Maoist nostalgia and Leninist-style leadership.

As different leaders have come and gone, China specialists overseas have become accustomed to reading Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tea leaves as oscillating cycles of political “relaxation” and “tightening.” China has long been a one-party Leninist state with extensive censorship and perhaps the largest secret police establishment in the world. But what has been happening lately in Beijing under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping is no such simple fluctuation. It is a fundamental shift in ideological and organizational direction that is beginning to influence both China’s reform agenda and its foreign relations.

At the center of this retrograde trend is Xi’s enormously ambitious initiative to purge the Chinese Communist Party of what he calls “tigers and flies,” namely corrupt officials and businessmen both high and low. Since it began in 2012, the campaign has already netted more than 160 “tigers” whose rank is above or equivalent to that of the deputy provincial or deputy ministerial level, and more than 1,400 “flies,” all lower-level officials. But it has also morphed from an anticorruption drive into a broader neo-Maoist-style mass purge aimed at political rivals and others with differing ideological or political views.

To carry out this mass movement, the Party has mobilized its unique and extensive network of surveillance, security, and secret police in ways that have affected many areas of Chinese life. Media organizations dealing with news and information have been hit particularly hard. Pressured to conform to old Maoist models requiring them to serve as megaphones for the Party, editors and reporters have found themselves increasingly constrained by Central Propaganda Department diktats. Told what they can and cannot over, they find that the limited freedom they had to report on events has been drastically curtailed.

The consequences of running afoul of government orders have become ever more grave. Last August, for instance, a financial journalist for the weekly business magazine Caijing was detained after reporting on government manipulation of China’s stock markets and forced to denounce his own coverage in a humiliating self-confession on China Central Television (CCTV). And more recently media outlets were reminded in the most explicit way not to stray from the Party line when Xi himself dropped by the New China News Agency, the People’s Daily, and CCTV.

“All news media run by the Party [which includes every major media outlet in China] must work to speak for the Party’s will and its propositions, and protect the Party’s authority and unity,” Xi warned. In front of a banner declaring “CCTV’s family name is ‘the Party,’” Xi urged people who work in the media to “enhance their awareness to align their ideology, political thinking, and deeds to those of the CCP Central Committee.” Then, only days later the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced new regulations banning all foreign-invested media companies from publishing online in China without government approval.

But the crackdown has hardly been limited to the media. Hundreds of crosses have been ripped from the steeples of Christian churches, entire churches have been demolished, pastors arrested, and their defense lawyers detained and forced to make public confessions. And even as civil society has grown over the past few decades, a constraining new civil society law is now being drafted that promises to put NGOs on notice against collaborating with foreign counterparts or challenging the government.

At the same time, independent-minded researchers at think tanks and outspoken professors at universities worry about the “chilling effect” of Xi’s policies on academic life in both China and Hong Kong. Feminist activists demonstrating against sexual harassment have been arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” while human rights lawyers have been swept up in a mass wave of arrests for “creating public disorder,” and even for “subverting state power.”.. read more:

From China to Jihad? by Richard Bernstein
Among the many recent stories concerning foreigners setting out to fight in Syria, the allegations about the Uighurs arrested in Songkhla stand out. In fact, these people, along with another couple hundred recent Uighur escapees from China, most of them seized near the Thai-Cambodia border, signal something new in the movement of refugees around the world. China’s Uighurs, who now number some ten million and are concentrated in western China, are a mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking people that has been increasingly restive under Chinese rule.

The signs are that more and more of them, escorted by well-paid people smugglers, are making the long, arduous journey south, escaping what they say is harsh Chinese repression in Xinjiang. They are like other refugees in this sense, but with one major difference. The Uighurs arriving in southeast Asia have triggered a tense, mostly behind-the-scenes tug of war between China, which is pressuring Thailand to send the Uighurs back, and the West, including the United States, which has entreated the Thais to reject China’s demand, arguing that giving in to it would subject the Uighurs to savage mistreatment.

Most of the Uighurs who were detained in March are being held at a center run by Thailand’s Immigration Police near Songkhla, where they have been cordoned off from the rest of the world. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has not been able to register them. Early on, Chinese officials got permission to visit some of them, but the detainees reportedly refused to talk, claiming that they were not Uighurs but Turks. My own requests to the Thai government to interview some of them, which I made during a trip to Thailand in July, went unanswered.

Xinjiang, the traditional Uighur homeland, making up one-sixth of China’s total area, has emerged as a kind of Muslim Tibet, an unstable territory in China’s deep interior. To Chinese leaders, Xinjiang may be even more worrisome than Tibet, since they clearly believe that its large Muslim population is susceptible to Islamic extremism that they claim is seeping in from neighboring Central Asia. And there has been serious violence. Since last fall about one hundred people are known to have died in Uighur-related violence, which China blames on what it refers to as “the three evils” of separatism, extremism, and terrorism. In March, eight knife-wielding Uighur men and women attacked commuters in the Kunming train station, far from Xinjiang, killing twenty-nine people. And in May, a group of Uighurs killed forty-three people in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi when they drove explosives-laden SUVs into a morning market.

Amid such violence, the Chinese police have stepped up repressive measures. Last year, the heads of Xinjiang’s universities announced that only “politically qualified” students would be allowed to graduate, and instructed education authorities to exercise closer supervision of their students, including monitoring them during their vacations and making sure they don’t wear “religious clothing.” Meanwhile, numerous alleged troublemakers have been jailed. In May, for example, Xinjiang public security officials arrested 232 people for “dissemination of violent or terrorist videos.” China has also been enforcing its strict birth-control policies on Uighurs, who, if they live in cities, are subject to forced abortions if they try to have more than two children. At the same time, large-scale ethnic Han migration to Xinjiang has turned the Uighurs into minorities in many places.

Following the arrests of the Uighurs who turned up in Thailand, some Thai newspapers, citing Thai police officials, reported that they were jihadists seeking to go to Syria. No evidence has been presented to support this claim, which seems flimsy given that a substantial majority of the Uighurs are women and children, including a number of toddlers. Far more plausibly, they are families who were following the example of thousands of other Uighurs who have left Xinjiang in recent years.

The charge that they are Syria-bound terrorists comes straight from China’s Ministry of Propaganda. Several years ago, Chinese newspapers began reporting that some one hundred Uighurs had gone to Syria to join the jihadist rebellion there. This claim is dubious, given that hardly any Uighurs have been reported captured or killed or even observed in Syria, not even by the Syrian government... 
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