“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.
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.