Flat White

Xinjiang: the road to terror

5 May 2021

4:00 AM

5 May 2021

4:00 AM

Xinjiang is where Communism sits naked, spread over the deserts and mountains, exposing its vicious desire to exploit people in service of the State. 

The West knows it as the home of China’s ethnic concentration camps, but if we are allowed to print books in the next hundred years, Xinjiang will be remembered as the pivotal piece in China’s war against democracy. Its Uyghur humanitarian crisis exists because strategic projects within the Belt and Road Initiative converge in the region. The annihilation of indigenous cultures will only get worse as China’s infrastructure unfurls across the map. 

Do not live under the delusion that the troubles in Xinjiang are a domestic problem for China. The Communist Party has already begun exporting them through its BRI, with local populations displaced in favour of Chinese workers, striking ethnic clashes in delicate third world nations. Lives are a cheap currency for the nation that sold its own people into slavery to make goods for the world, and Xi Jinping has no problem sanctioning murder behind the scenes to protect the project. 

Nearly eight trillion dollars has been invested in the BRI. It represents the bones of China’s dream to seat itself as the supreme global entity at the heart of international commerce. Through its Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, China has proposed the SCO Interbank Consortium to rival both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It intends to use the BRI’s chief financier, the China Development Bank, as the founding member to expand China’s role as chief lender to the unstable developing world. Terrified, Russia has so far refused to agree for fear it would cede control of global economics to Beijing. 

While Russia’s reluctance holds China back temporarily, internal violence poses the greatest threat to their expansionism. Xinjiang has been the victim of Islamic terror many times, but it also houses an ethnic civil war that has been going on for thousands of years. The most dangerous movement is not the handful of lunatics who imagine themselves murdering their way to paradise, it is the masses who long to have their sovereignty returned. Like Tibet, the people of Xinjiang are prisoners of the Chinese empire, categorised as ‘autonomous’ while living in one of the world’s harshest prison states. 

For China, separatist movements are not solely about the embarrassment of failure – they represent the loss of land, resources, and strategic military positions around which China has planned its future. A regime that engages in ‘debt trap’ politics to steal the resources of foreign nations is hardly going to allow one of their existing provinces to break away. 

When colonies of the British Empire decide to disband, it is all very polite and civilised. There is no such escape for Tibet and Xinjiang. China uses the United Nations to encourage the break-up of its geopolitical rivals, while silencing criticism of its empire building. 

Xi Jinping is not a stupid man. He knows that the display of love performed by his people for the benefit of the cameras is coerced through a campaign of terror. After all, Xi was smacked by the hand of authority when the Cultural Revolution purged his father. Exiled to a cave, the teenage Xi learned what it meant to exist outside Communist approval. 

The experience hardened him into a devout Communist leader, setting him beside Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Tibet and Xinjiang are problems that he has to solve if he wants to retain his position within the party. Xi has made too many enemies during his rise to sink into a quiet retirement. Leaders in his position are particularly ruthless because weakness is fatal. Crowning yourself ‘dictator for life’ means nothing in a system that justifies anything to protect itself. You have to be feared by everyone, including your successor. 

Re-education prisons have not popped up across the western edge of China preaching the worship of Xi Jinping because he feels unloved by the ethnic cultures living there. Communism is a machine with specific goals that does not get distracted by the latest click-bait or emotional whims of celebrities. If ethnic concentration camps were a permanent feature of a racist regime, they would be scattered through the culturally challenging territories of China. Instead, they are centred on Tibet and Xinjiang. 

These areas have been administered at different times by the same ex-military official Chen Quanguo, whose efforts have seen him promoted to membership of the Politburo, making him one of the twenty-five most powerful men in China. It is easier to see what China has done in Xinjiang by first looking at Tibet. The situation is almost a perfect copy without the added complication of Islamic terror, which obscures the world’s view of China’s regional atrocities. 

Tibet is the focus of China’s water politics and home to the largest BRI hydro schemes. These massive pieces of engineering serve two purposes: to provide a fundamental resource to the expanding Chinese nation, and to blackmail China’s most dangerous regional neighbours. In regards to a military situation, India and its Asian allies would be powerless to mobilise against China while Xi Jinping has the ability to cut off their water supply and kill hundreds of millions of people. Controlling Tibet’s water has been one of China’s highest priorities since Chairman Mao got serious about the region in the 1950s. 

Tibet’s fall into the clutches of Communism was best described by the Dalai Lama’s eldest brother, Thubten Jigme Norbu, who likened it to storm winds rustling red flags against the village. A lifetime before Xi Jinping, remote mountain villages heard rumours of the Red Army plundering monasteries and desecrating sacred treasures. Monks were interrogated by State officials until they divulged an inventory of sacred places which soldiers would later sack. Communism told the world that it came to Tibet as its liberator. Instead, freedom of movement was destroyed. Terrified people abandoned their fields, leaving remote populations to starve. Taxation was raised and with no monasteries to care for the poor, the streets became overwhelmed with theft and murder. 

They praised the totalitarian State, which, so they declared, was realising the idea of human equality; and in which, so they assured me, private property for the few was giving way to the joy of the many in the common ownership of the good things in life. In the future the State would take care of everything and everybody, and an egalitarian system of distribution would make the use of money unnecessary. Everyone would be drawn into the process of production, and women too would work with the rest, because henceforth they would have no housework to do and their children would be put into children’s homes from the time of their birth, and there they would be much better looked after than they could be in individual homes. 

Although by this time I had already heard this sort of thing often enough before, the thought of such a State never ceased to horrify me anew. It was a conception in crass opposition to everything we held dear; and as they described their paradise it sounded like hell on Earth to me; a life of grey, uniform dullness, without warmth, without individual human love and affection, a life not worth living and a world not worth living in.

Thubten Jigme Norbu 

This is the Tibet that modern Communism inherited. To secure this sensitive situation, Chen Quanguo was appointed to Party Secretary for the autonomous region of Tibet in 2011 and then promoted to First Secretary of the party committee in 2012. 

Upon arriving he immediately set about turning the populated areas into a police state through a major officer recruitment drive and the appointment of civilian helpers. The city was divided into a grid with over seven hundred ‘convenience police stations’ put on every corner to create checkpoints, while police operated in seamless patrols. Chen’s famous ‘double-linked household management system’ watched Tibetans from birth to death. More than three million people were now available to quash civil disobedience in the full Orwellian horror of neighbours spying on neighbours, policing each other on behalf of the State. 

Surveillance was not enough. As a deeply religious people, they were governed by a power higher than the Communist Party. The reality that the Dalai Lama held more influence over Tibet than the regime was an unacceptable risk for the government. 

Chen set about ‘re-educating’ the Tibetans by evicting thousands of nuns and monks before demolishing their places of worship. Homeless, they were bussed to facilities in Nyingtri, Sertar, Chamdo City, and Jomda County. Others registered ‘voluntarily’ for similar camps within their home towns. In these peaceful prisons, the nuns and monks were forced to sing and dance on stage knowing that they were banned from returning to their cherished places of worship. 

State-sanctioned mass migration programs were seen as a way to dilute the population and buffer separatist sentiments by outnumbering the Tibetans in their own country. Marriages between the two groups were strongly encouraged to force integration. The Han Chinese migrants brought with them a devout worship of Communist ideology. News channels were replaced with CCP propaganda, while all communication with the outside world was re-directed through the Party’s censors. 


Even United Nations green policy was hijacked, with Tibetans removed from their ancestral land citing ‘environmental reasons’. Afterwards, China carved open the landscape in badly managed mines that poisoned sacred rivers and killed livestock, wildlife, and people. Those who tried to protest simply disappeared. 

The Dalai Lama remains exiled in India, to China’s eternal shame. When he dies, so too does Tibet’s last link to their civilisation pre-China. Then, Tibet’s monastery bells will ring only at the behest of the Communist Party. Forget diversity, there is only one China, one God, and one leader; Xi Jinping. 

Chen’s ambition to erase Tibet’s religious and cultural identity in order to create ethnic unity between Tibetans and Han Chinese has been praised. All of his actions in Tibet were sanctioned by Xi Jinping – who is often mistaken by commentators in the West as a quiet, business-like man. In 2014 at the ‘Second Xinjiang Work Conference’ held before Chen was moved to the region, Xi laid out the principles he wished to enforce on Xinjiang. 

Abbreviated, these include (emphasis is mine): 

  • To strengthen education and poverty alleviation work in Xinjiang, so that all ethnic groups can establish a correct view of the country and nation
  • Become bilingual and actively guide religion to adapt to Socialist society. 
  • Firmly establish a correct outlook on the motherland and nationality. 
  • Social stability and long-term stability are the overall goals. We must prioritise cracking down on violent terrorist activities as the focus of the current struggle, insulate from terrorists, build vast networks, and strengthen international anti-terrorism cooperation. (Where ‘terrorist’ is used interchangeably with ethnic separatism.) 

Chen was transferred to Xinjiang to implement his ‘nets in the sky and traps on the ground’ policy in 2016 and make Xi Jinping’s promises to the Communist Party a reality. He was appointed as the Party Secretary, First Secretary, and First Commissar of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. 

What followed was an up-scaled repeat of Tibet. He immediately recruited thirty thousand police officers, put up seven thousand three hundred security checkpoints, built police stations on every street inside every town, and forced the locals to inform on their neighbours. New technology was used to create a comprehensive stalking system that tracked people’s mobile phones and computers. QR codes were added to people’s houses so that the government could monitor the movement of families. These measures were standard for all citizens. If a family failed an ideology test, their home was fitted with a camera. 

Even relics of the old world have been destroyed, including cemeteries in the hope that without their tombstones, Uyghurs will forget who they are. Today, the Communist Party is in the process of building a DNA profile for the entire population to trace crimes through genetic relationships leaving the people pursued not only by their phones, but also via their blood. 

Those who vanish off the street show up in re-education camps. These prisoners are subjected to more than just ideological torture. Women are sterilised with IUD, mandatory birth control, and forced abortions –  which China excitedly tweeted as a feminist victory. Women like Patem have been detained for ‘violating the family planning policy’ – in other words, having too many children. With so many men locked up, a generation will never be born. 

Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uyghur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines. They are more confident and independent.

Chinese Embassy in US (Twitter) 

The post was taken down after worldwide condemnation. 

Many prisoners have been sent out as forced labour for factories in Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangzi, and Zhejiang where virtuous Western companies, obsessed with their own ‘wokeism’, have been caught profiting from the back of real slavery. 

The firm rumour of a ‘kill-on-demand’ trade in live organ harvesting from these re-education camps continues to persist, with statistical evidence on organ wait times and statements from prisoners appearing to back up the violation of human rights. This horrific practice reportedly increased as an emergency measure to provide organs for China during the self-inflicted Covid pandemic. 

No one knows how many lives have been lost, but by the time Chen was finished, there was not a single square foot where a person could move without being watched. It was called, ‘The Great Wall of Steel’. 

Xi Jinping has demanded a, ‘Great Wall of Iron’ instead. 

He is determined to protect the BRI in Xinjiang with its six major overland transport routes. One of these is the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor which includes the infamous Iran-Pakistan Peace Pipeline with plans to connect the pipeline to the city of Kashgar in Xinjiang. Achieving this is a military priority for China, as it allows them to avoid the most likely response from the US Navy of cutting off oil supplies across the Malacca Strait. An overland oil and gas supply ensures China can thrive during a hot war scenario. The autonomous region is also home to China’s railway link to Europe via Russia for arms and supplies. 

Xinjiang is valuable in its own right. Rich in minerals, it is the largest producer of natural gas in China, a major supplier of oil, and produces 40% of China’s domestic coal. While China is happy to stir up civil war in its South-East regions, it does not tolerate any type of military conflict around its pipelines or mines. 

There is a history of violent ethnic clashes in Xinjiang, particularly between 1990 and 2016 in cities near BRI projects. Many of these incidents were kept secret from the world, with China reluctant to show internal weakness. 

In 1997, seven people were killed and one hundred and ninety-eight wounded in Yining’s Ghulja Massacre. It involved ethnic protests sparked both by the execution of thirty Uyghur activists and China’s attempt to curb Islamic cultural practices. This led to Uyghur separatists shouting, ‘Independence of Xinjiang!’ which brought the army down upon them. Activists say over one hundred died while one thousand six hundred were arrested on the charge of ‘splitting the motherland’. 

It was a similar story in Urumqi during the 2009 riots where one hundred and ninety-seven were killed and one thousand seven hundred wounded. Hundreds of Han Chinese clashed with Uyghurs. Most of the immediate victims were Han, but in the following days, Uyghurs disappeared from the streets. At least twenty-six death sentences were handed down over the incident which began with the murder of two Uyghurs. In the same year, a Uyghur protest in Guangdong against Han racism in the workforce turned violent with one hundred and fifty killed. Instead of changing their bad policy, Beijing engaged in a major series of military exercises in Kashgar, rounding up Uyghur nationalists. 

The Communist Party extended its mass migration policy of ‘move west’ to funnel Han Chinese into Xinjiang, deliberately displacing the Uyghur population. In 1945, 82.7% of Xinjiang was Uyghur with 6.2% Han. By 2008 those figures were 46.1% and 39.2% respectively. Finding reliable data closer to 2020 is difficult, with China waging a propaganda campaign to disguise its behaviour in the province. However, even the official Party documents admit that they have been addressing ‘out of policy’ births in Xinjiang, showing that the government has attempted to take over the reproductive rights of minorities. 

But what about unmistakable Islamic terrorism which China promotes to the world as its excuse for civil tyranny? 

Xinjiang suffers from a mix of homegrown extremism and imported radicalisation which walks over the many Western borders that Xinjiang shares with its terror-ridden neighbours, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The desolate hills are littered with hideouts frequented by terrorists who mingle with ethnic rebels like The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) founded by militant Uyghurs. In their case, separatism and terror are the same thing. 

The ETIM is an extreme group founded by Hasan Mahsum, who is a Uyghur from the Kashgar region. The Turkestan Islamic Party is another rival group, formed in 2006 by refugee Uyghurs who fled to Afghanistan and Pakistan during the 1990s. 

These extremists show an obsession with the martyrdom and paradise preached by Islamic groups. This is where the line between Uyghur ethnic unrest blurs with Islamic terror. 

China signed the Shanghai Treaty in 1996 with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan in an effort to stop these countries from encouraging and supporting refugee Uyghurs from Xinjiang. By signing, they agreed to extradite any Uyghur fleeing China. This treaty became the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as it expanded to cover a vast area of Asia and is frequently cited by Islamic nations as the reason they refuse to criticise China over its Uyghur concentration camps. In return, China promotes a strict policy of non-interference in domestic affairs, leaving each signatory nation protected from the world’s scorn when they engage in abuses of human rights. With China and Russia both holding veto positions on the United Nations, it essentially means that the worst abuses in the world are untouchable. 

In July of 2020 at the 42nd Session of the United Nations, forty-six (mostly Islamic) countries made positive statements regarding Chen and Xi Jinping’s practices in Xinjiang. One imagines this is because most of them are benefiting to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars from China’s BRI, where China buys their silence on human rights with infrastructure projects. 

China has caught itself in a Catch 22. In order to make the Belt and Road Initiative viable, it has to open massive trade routes with its signatory neighbours in the west. This is the only way to attain the vast quantities of natural resources that the Communist empire needs to continue growing and uphold its contractual promises. In doing so, China has to unlock the most volatile region in its nation, which in turn would allow the free passage of separatists and terrorists to pour into problematic regions. 

Right now, Xinjiang is operating on the same philosophy as Covid lockdowns. By keeping everyone locked up and closely tracked, outbreaks of anti-government sentiment can be dealt with. The system will not work when the floodgates of commerce are opened. Chen and Xi Jinping fear that they will lose control of the region – and they are probably right, because their solution is authoritative, not organic. 

The Communist Party is not only trying to solve the official 30 civil conflict between the Uyghurs and Han Chinese, they are picking at the threads of unrest that go back thousands of years. 

Originally the Turki, the Uyghurs were renamed by the Soviet Union in 1921 based upon the old Uyghur Khaganate (744-840 CE). It was a nomadic empire which stretched all the way from modern Xinjiang to the east coast of China, containing most of Mongolia. This period in Chinese history was tribal, warlike, and ethnically complicated where the collapse of these nomadic empires sparked the next saga of regional violence. In particular, the Uyghurs of the north were driven south into the Indo-Europeans native to Xinjiang, leaving two different ethnic people identifying as one. Starting from the tenth century, the Uyghurs adopted the Islamic faith as part of successful military incursions from their western borders. 

This matters because the Communist regime uses historic ethnicity to justify ownership of land – just as the German and Russian empires did before them. It panics when archaeological discoveries are made in the region that disprove its official narrative. The extent of this paranoia surfaced when extremely old mummies with red and blonde hair were found in the deserts of Xinjiang that matched ancient Chinese stories of tall blue and green-eyed people living in the Mongolian region. 

Ji Xianlin, a Communist Party historian commented, “However, within China a small group of ethnic separatists have taken advantage of this opportunity to stir up trouble and are acting like buffoons. Some have even styled themselves the descendants of these ancient ‘white people’ with the aim of dividing the motherland. But these perverse acts will not succeed.” 

‘Peace’ has never been a part of Xinjiang. All of its people have at one point been both the victims and perpetrators of genocide. Xi Jinping has been happy to exploit regional complexity to disguise crimes against humanity. 

Under the pretence of harmony, China has institutionalised terror. 

Kashgar, a famous oasis city and now an important stop on the Belt and Road Initiative, serves as a mirror for the entire Chinese nation. With a long history and deep scars, it has been weathered by the constant traffic of humanity. Inside its crumbling fortifications, there are conflicting cultures pressed up against each other, bound in perpetuity by dust and blood. Some of these civilisations are long gone, conquered and destroyed. They whisper from the language and customs practised by its surviving inhabitants. The cultures which remain, bustle together under the watch of their helicopter parent, the Chinese Communist Party. 

If the world wishes to fight for the human rights of Xinjiang’s inhabitants, it has to understand that the road to terror is just another path within the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Alexandra Marshall is an independent writer. If you would like to support her work, shout her a coffee over at Ko-Fi.

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