Uyghur unrest threatens China’s relations with Muslim world
14 – 07 – 2009
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s condemed violence in China’s Xinjiang province as “genocide“, amongst other notes of solidarity and outrage across the Muslim world sparked by recent events in Urumqi. Erdogan’s remarks drew harsh criticism from Chinese media, and Chinese diplomats have demanded a formal apology. Any hope that China could quickly pacify the region, salvaging its international prestige, were dashed in Urumqi yesterday where two Uyghur men who were allegedly calling for jihad were shot by Chinese security forces, large numbers of whom are still in deployment across the city.
The toD verdict: In terms more familiarly directed against western accusations of human rights abuses, the Chinese state condemned Turkey’s “interference in Chinese internal affairs” but there is little hope that the wider Muslim world will turn a blind eye to the treatment of the Uyghur population and China’s reputation, and even security abroad may suffer.
Perhaps most significantly, al-Qaeda issued a call for vengeance against Chinese workers in Muslim regions, signalling the first direct threat by the terrorist group against Chinese interests. Hamas warned of the dangers of damaging Chinese relations with Muslim people but did not signal any direct threat. In an apparent nod to the risks China’s domestic situation now poses abroad, the Chinese foreign minister announced extra precautions would be taken to guard Chinese interests.
Like Turkey, Indonesia bore witness to anti-Chinese riots, where, as in much of South East Asia, Chinese and Muslim populations live alongside. Whether such popular outrage will substantially damage China’s close economic and diplomatic relations with much of the Muslim world remains to be seen.