More civil liberties eroded in Chinese district
Xinjiang is a large territory that borders on Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Tibet. This region is populated by 43% Uyghur people, who are a Turkic ethnic group, and 41% Han Chinese. During the 20th Century, there were several revolts and revolutions, with control of the region shifting from the Chinese to the Soviets, to an independent republic, then back to the Chinese. It is a region historically rife with turmoil. Xinjiang is currently an “Autonomous Region” in China home to over 21 million people, the majority of which are Muslim, many of which hold separatist sentiments. There have been many “terrorist” attacks carried out by Uyghur people in recent times, the most recent of which have been quite gruesome. In response to these attacks, and no doubt growing fear of groups like the Islamic State, the government has passed new legislation that severely limits the freedom of religion in the area. The laws include steep fines for people using the internet to undermine “national unity” or even “social stability”. Then there is very flowery language about prohibiting the support of jihad, followed by a very subtly thrown in “religious activities will have to take place in registered venues”. These new laws are not about combating jihad as much as they are about squashing separatist movements and killing any dissent. The incredibly vague ban on “wearing or forcing others to wear clothes or logos associated with religious extremism” leaves much to interpretation for police and other local authorities, and will lead to restrictions on very fundamental rights. It seems that the Uyghur people want separation from China, and whether these new laws will work as intended to kill dissent, or will do the opposite and galvanize the population to revolt is yet to be seen. I expect to see blowback from these laws, and I expect to see news from the region both of terrorist activities and legitimate political action. This seems to be a ticking time bomb for the Chinese authorities, and when it goes off, the government might find a fully blown separatist revolution on their hands.