Categoria: Press release

For Xinjiang’s Uyghurs, ‘Hashar’ by Any Other Name Still Means Forced Labor

While Chinese officials in the Xinjiang region insist that they no longer compel Uyghurs to supply free labor for public works projects, in reality they have only changed the name of the practice, RFA’s Uyghur Service has learned.

“The hashar is abolished, and the farmers are being informed about it in village after village,” a Chinese official in Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture’s Guma county’s civil affairs office told RFA in a recent interview.

Hashar is the Uyghur term for compulsory labor in fields and roads, and Uyghur and other human rights activists view the practice as a means to repress the Muslim Uyghurs.

“The new policy will be in effect from the end of January,” added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It’s unclear why Chinese officials in the region needed to announce a new ban on the hashar as China’s ruling Communist Party claims to have formally banned it in Xinjiang decades ago.

Still, the announcement was met with joy among Uyghurs, according to the Chinese official.

“The farmers were really happy. Some were happy from the bottom of their hearts,” the official told RFA. “Some of them even teared up upon hearing this news, and they said: ‘The party is good, and government is good.’”

But that good will dried up after Uyghur farmers in the region discovered that they would still have to do hashar-like labor.

“They informed us that the hashar is abolished,” a Uyghur farmer told RFA on condition of anonymity. “But they also told us that they will gather us for flood management and tree planting activities during the tree-planting festivals.”

While the Chinese insist that they have ended the policy, the Uyghurs say that the hashar lives on.

“When they announced the hashar is abolished, we believed them,” the farmer said. “But we will have floods this coming June, and they will make us go and work for 10 to 15 days.”

State control

Zubeyre Shemshidin, a researcher for the Uyghur Human Rights Project, told RFA the Chinese use the hashar to keep Uyghur farmers under the state’s thumb.

“They use this unjust policy as way to keep Uyghur farmers poor, and to increase their control over them by separating them from their land and wealth,” Shemshidin said.

She told RFA that she doubts Beijing’s sincerity.

“The Chinese government’s announcement abolishing the policy looks like a duplicitous act,” she said. “Forcing Uyghur farmers to do this or that type of work is likely to continue in different forms.”

The Guma county official told RFA that Uyghurs will still be required to work during floods “under the forced labor and charitable labor category.”

“If anybody fails to enforce the new policy, they will be held accountable,” the official said, but he insisted that the hashar policy has changed.

“They made the policy change to make farmers’ burden lighter and increase their income,” he added.

Radio Free Asia,2017-02-16

Tibetan Protester Detained, Missing in Serthar

A young Tibetan protester detained last month in southwestern China’s Sichuan province is still missing after more than 40 days in custody, Tibetan sources say.

Sonam Tashi, 20, was seized by police in Sichuan’s Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county on Jan. 5 after staging a solitary protest in the county town, former political prisoner Golog Jigme told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking from Switzerland and citing sources in Serthar.

“As he marched, he threw leaflets in the air and called out for freedom for Tibet and the long life of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama,” Jigme said, adding, “Chinese police quickly overpowered him and took him away.”

“He has been held incommunicado ever since,” Jigme said.

News of Tashi’s detention was briefly delayed from reaching outside media contacts due to a communications clampdown imposed by Chinese authorities in the area.

Fearing possible outbreaks of unrest during the Chinese Lunar New Year, Chinese authorities had deployed large numbers of police to Serthar in the period leading up to the holiday, with most still stationed in the area, Jigme said.

“And in this atmosphere of heightened security, local Tibetans’ movements are being closely watched,” he said.

Tashi, a native of Serthar’s Serkhok township, has now disappeared in custody, Jigme said.

“[Tashi’s] family members have asked the relevant Chinese authorities about his present condition and whereabouts, but no details have been made available,” he said.

“Where he is being held remains unknown.”

A continuing campaign of destruction of monastic dwellings at Serthar’s Larung Gar Buddhist Academy by Chinese authorities has raised tensions and resentment among Tibetans living in the county, sources say.

Thousands of Tibetan and Han Chinese monks and nuns, along with a few Western students, have already been expelled from Larung Gar as authorities seek to reduce the center’s population by about half to a maximum level of 5,000 this year.

Radio Free Asia, 2017-02-16

The Uyghur Human Rights Project,is seeking an experienced senior level NGO manager to fill the position of director.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project, a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization that promotes human rights and democracy for the Uyghur people, is seeking an experienced senior level NGO manager to fill the position of director. UHRP is a small and dynamic NGO whose mission is to provide credible information on the situation of the Uyghur people through reporting and advocacy and seeks to engage both English and Chinese speakers.

China Bars Taiwan Tourists From Tibet Amid Ongoing Row With Trump

Tourists from Taiwan are being refused entry into Tibet amid worsening tensions with mainland China following a phone call between the island’s president and Donald Trump, they told RFA on Thursday.

Several Taiwan travel agencies said that their customers are no longer being issued with the necessary entry permits into the Himalayan region.

“In order to enter Tibet, visitors from Taiwan must apply for a permission letter to enter Tibet,” an employee at one of the travel agencies said.

“We have sent two tour groups there this month, but neither has been approved for the letter,” the employee said.

“They haven’t given us a direct response regarding the reason for this, but we can’t take any more bookings now.”

She said Hong Kong residents, who are Chinese citizens, are able to visit Tibet without the letter, if they have a permit to cross the internal immigration border to mainland China.

“I think you can get into most other places with a Taiwan Compatriot Card without any problems,” she said, referring to the Permit for Taiwan Residents Visiting the Mainland that is issued to Taiwan tourists via their travel agencies.

An employee at a second travel agency said their groups had run into similar difficulties.

“We have been affected by this too,” the employee said. “We aren’t taking tour groups to Tibet any more.”

“The mainland has suddenly refused to accept our applications any more,” she said. “They don’t always give us a clear reason.”

“It’s the same whether you go with a tour group or as an individual traveler,” she said.

Permission letter required

An employee who answered the phone at a hotel in Tibet said nobody is allowed into the region without an additional permit, known as the “permission letter to enter Tibet.”

“If you don’t have that letter, then I’m afraid we can’t accept your booking,” the employee said.

And a Tibetan travel agency employee confirmed that the situation has changed.

“It’s not just our company; and it certainly wasn’t our company’s decision,” the employee said. “But we have received notification to this effect.”

Taiwan’s 23 million people have never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, but they travel to mainland China under special permits that describe the democratic island as a province of China.

The barring of travel by Taiwanese tour groups to Tibet comes soon after the island’s president Tsai Ing-wen made a congratulatory phone call to U.S. president-elect Trump, riling Beijing, which is warning that bilateral ties with Washington could be jeopardized.

Trump also questioned the one-China policy, which forbids China’s diplomatic partners from maintaining diplomatic ties with Taipei, saying it could potentially be used as a bargaining counter on trade issues.

‘One China’ or nothing

His comments came after four decades of consensus between Beijing and Washington that Taiwan, where the defeated Kuomintang nationalist government fled after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists in 1949, is part of a single, Chinese territory, but currently under a different government.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warned that countries that don’t exclude Taiwan can’t have diplomatic links with Beijing.

“Adhering to the one-China policy is the prerequisite and basis on which China develops relations of friendly cooperation with any countries in the world,” Geng told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

“There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is a part of China, and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government that represents China,” he said.

Ties with Taiwan have soured since Tsai’s election victory earlier this year after she failed to endorse a 1992 agreement recognizing that Taiwan is merely a part of China currently being ruled by a different government.

Her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which swept to power earlier this year amid fears of growing Chinese influence over Taiwan under her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou, still has a staunchly pro-independence wing, in spite of repeated warnings of military intervention from Beijing.

Hu Ping, the New York-based editor of the Chinese-language monthly Beijing Spring, said Trump’s phone call with Tsai and his subsequent comments on the one-China policy has provoked a “strong reaction” in Chinese political circles.

“Trump’s phone call with Tsai Ing-wen changed a long-term precedent in the U.S.-China relationship,” he said. “I think we will continue to see further developments on this issue.”

“It’s likely that a hard-line policy on Trump’s part will leave [Chinese president] Xi Jinping at a loss,” Hu said.

RFA,2016-12-15

Uyghur Farmers Sent to School in China ‘Anti-Extremism’ Drive

Uyghur farmers in northwestern China’s troubled Xinjiang region are being forced to attend evening classes in a new drive aimed at bringing them in line with official views on religion and government policy, sources in the mostly-Muslim ethnic area say.

The plan aims to educate farmers and herdsmen, many of them already elderly, in poverty eradication and China’s “benevolent policies” in the region, official sources say. But many who attend the classes say they are being instructed instead in topics meant to counter religious extremism.

Two course tracks are offered, one presenting general information and the other aimed primarily at Uyghur families with relatives in jail, a farmer in western Xinjiang’s Aksu (in Chinese, Akesu) prefecture told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

“Yes, the courses have already begun, and four or five people from our family are taking part,” the woman said, adding that though she and her husband are both already over 60 years of age, they are being made to participate along with her son and daughter-in-law.

“There is another course for people who have family members in jail, and my name is on that list, so I have to go to that one too,” she said.

“We study how to watch our children carefully, so that they don’t get involved in extremism. We also learn about politics,” the woman said.

“Before each class begins, we raise the Chinese flag,” she said.

“We now understand what extremism means and what is right and wrong,” another Aksu farmer said. “All of this has been poured into our brains.”

“We know now that it is wrong to send our children to religious schools,” he said.

“They also told us that we can no longer pray outside in the fields. We can only pray in government-designated mosques.”

Heavy-handed rule

Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, including violent police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people.

China regularly vows to crack down on what it calls the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism in Xinjiang.

But experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from Uyghur separatists, and that domestic policies  are responsible for an upsurge in violence that has left hundreds dead since 2012.

Speaking to RFA, Munich-based World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit described China’s new political education drive in Xinjiang as an effort to “put the farmers under full control and monitor their daily lives.”

“This will only increase tensions in the region,” he said.

“[Farmers] should have their own lives after they have finished their day’s work in the fields,” Raxit said. “There will be an adverse effect if things continue like this.”

Radio Free Asia,2016-12-13

Tibetan Woman Freed From Prison in Poor Health After Serving Three-Year Term

A Tibetan woman jailed in Sichuan for attempting to rescue a self-immolation protester from police has been released in poor health after serving a three-year term, sources say.

Drolma Tso, who had been held in Mianyang prison near Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu, was freed on Dec. 4 and returned to her home in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county’s Meruma township at about 9:00 p.m. the same day, a relative living in Australia told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“More than 200 local residents had gathered there to welcome her back,” RFA’s source, named Miu Kunjam, said, citing contacts in the region.

Tso was beaten and tortured during the first 11 months of her confinement and is now in poor health, Kunjam said.

“She is suffering from lack of proper sleep, weak health, giddiness, and mood swings, among other problems,” Kunjam said. “Her family members are deeply worried and concerned about her condition.”

Tso, a member of Meruma’s Getsang family, has a 14-year-old daughter named Tsultrim Drolma. Her father’s name is Gerik, and her mother’s name is Donkho, Kunjam said.

In December 2015, Tso’s family received two letters from prison authorities informing them that Tso would have to undergo surgery, but when family members asked to see her so that they could see her condition for themselves, they were not allowed to meet with her, Kunjam said.

“But Tso managed to call them from the prison and tell them she was being forced to undergo a procedure she had declined, and warning them not to give their approval.”

It was not immediately clear what surgery officials were insisting on performing or whether the procedure was ever performed.

Clashed with police

Tso was among a group of Ngaba residents who had clashed with police in December 2013 as they tried to stop security forces from taking a severely burned self-immolation protester, Konchog Tseten, away from the site of his protest, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Tseten, a 30-year-old herdsman and father of two, later died on his way to a hospital, and authorities secretly cremated his remains, returning his ashes to his family without explanation.

On Nov. 3, 2014, Tso was convicted on a charge of homicide and was handed a three-year-term, with credit given for the time already spent in custody after being detained on Dec. 3 the year before.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Ngaba and in other Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

A total of 145 Tibetans living in China have now set themselves ablaze in self-immolations since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009, with most protests featuring calls for Tibetan freedom and the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.

Radio Free Asia,2016-12-05

In Cina e Asia – Protesta contro WalMart multinazionale statunitense

I lavoratori cinesi di WalMart si organizzano e protestano. Negli ultimi mesi il movimento si sta facendo sempre più attivo e numeroso. I dipendenti si muovono in modo autonomo, senza cercare il sostegno del sindacato ufficiale, legato al Partito comunista cinese che controlla e cura gli interessi del partito .