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Global Viewpoint

Western China: The Internet is restored, but repression continues

The president of the World Uighur Congress calls on China's government to end policies of repression against Uighurs in Western China.

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A new approach

A genuine new approach to resolving the numerous economic, social, and political issues in East Turkestan involves meaningful dialogue and consultation with the Uighur people. This means all Uighurs – in exile and in East Turkestan, and conducted in an open atmosphere of equality without the fear of imprisonment for merely expressing a view. I doubt if the upcoming work forum will be held under such conditions.

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I believe the Chinese government should end its aggressive policy of monolingual education and give students and their parents a choice about their language of instruction. Chinese government policies ensuring equal employment opportunities for Uighurs should be put in place in which employment inside East Turkestan is available to Uighurs, instead of just sending them outside East Turkestan to work.

All Uighurs should be allowed to attend a mosque without fear of suspicion, and imams should be allowed to speak freely. The Chinese government should stop imprisoning peaceful dissenters and make them partners in a robust dialogue on the development of the region. Uighurs will welcome these policies, and they will help to reduce tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese.

If the Chinese government wants to make an immediate impact and demonstrate a sincere change in approach to build trust among the Uighur people, it could do no better than to release all those Uighurs bloggers and Web administrators it detained in the wake of the unrest. This includes Memet Turghun Abdulla, a photographer who published an article online about an attack on Uighur factory workers believed to have sparked the July 2009 unrest; Gheyret Niyaz, a journalist who was detained after talking to foreign media about the unrest; Dilshat Parhat, who cofounded the Uighur-run website Diyarim; Obulkasim, an employee of Diyarim; Nureli, who founded the Uighur website Selkin; and website supervisor Muhemmet. All of these individuals have disappeared into the murky depths of the Chinese criminal justice system. No one knows where they are being held or of their current condition.

The Internet is admired as a tool for freedom of speech and citizen participation the world over – in China, and particularly in East Turkestan, it is used to root out critics of government policies. Uighur participation and freedom of speech are fundamental, overarching conditions in achieving a resolution to the East Turkestan issue.

Without it the cycle of old policies of repression repackaged as new policies of repression will continue unabated.

Rebiya Kadeer is president of the World Uighur Congress.

© 2010 Global Viewpoint Network/ Tribune Media Services. Hosted online by The Christian Science Monitor.

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