Thursday, July 30, 2009

Relations between the Han and Uighur in Xinjiang

On the night of June 25-6 at the Xuri Toy Factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province, a riot occurred between Han and Uighur Chinese over the alleged rape by a Uighur of a Han girl.

The deaths of two Uighur workers created tensions in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. Violence by Uighurs against Han, and by Han against Uighurs took place.

The Chinese government blamed Uighur separatists and particularly the Uighur World Congress led by Rebiya Kadeer for stirring up trouble.

Kadeer’s credibility suffered when she held up a poster-sized photo of police at the Shishou mass incident in Hubei Province and claimed that it showed overwhelming police force in the Xinjiang capital, Urumuqi. “How could our people cause the troubles against force like this,” she asked.

Other separatist Uighur activists around the world used similar sets of photographs of incidents outside of Xinjiang in an apparently orchestrated attempt to demonise the Chinese government.

(Above, a photo of a car accident in Hangzhou last May waved by a Uighur separatist in Turkey as "evidence" of Government suppression in Urumuqi.)

The Western media, also ever-keen to demonise China, grabbed isolated images unrelated to Xinjiang to misrepresent events.

(The English paper, above, removed the accompanying photo, which it said showed Uighur women who had been attacked by police. The photo actually showed Han women who had been attacked by Uighurs.)

(Above: The New York Times ran with this photo allegedly showing Uighur victims of the police in hospital before someone pointed out that the name of the patient on the wall, enlarged below, showed that he was a Han.)

Whilst it is hard from a distance to get some sense of objective facts, the interview below from the Hong Kong magazine Yazhou Zhoukan provides some interesting observations on the events, and in particular of possible fundamentalist Muslim involvement.

The interviewee, interestingly, refers to Mao Zedong’s criticism of great Han chauvinism. Mao was conscious that relations between the Han and the more than fifty national minorities amongst the people of China were one of what he called “ten major relationships” that had to be handled correctly by the ruling Communist Party.

The primary responsibility for that particular relationship, he said, lay with the Han. They had to treat minorities with respect, and accord them equal status with the Han.

The advent of the ideology of “to get rich is glorious” has undermined the ideological authority of the Party. The goal of communist equality is no longer the motivation force for Han or Uighur.

Together with mass incidents reflecting social polarisation, ethnic disturbances reflecting Han chauvinism and ethnic separatism will continue for the foreseeable future.


Heyrat Niyaz on the July 5 Riots in Urumchi
In its August 2 issue, the Hong Kong newsweekly Yazhou Zhoukan interviews Heyrat Niyaz , a Uyghur journalist, blogger and AIDS activist. In the interview, which another blogger has translated below, Heyrat tells of how he tried to warn officials that "blood would flow" in Urumchi on July 5 and gives his thoughts about the background to the ethnic rioting.
* * *
YZ: When did you feel that something could occur on July 5?

HN: After the incident in Shaoguan, Guangdong, I felt that something big would happen, that blood would flow. Before the Shaoguan incident, there were already seeds of a disturbance in Xinjiang. After the Shaoguan incident, I wrote a series of three blog posts analyzing the impact of the incident and, the more analysis I did, the more certain I felt about my prediction.

YZ: Do you believe the July 5 incident was organized and premeditated?

HN: Looking at it from today, it was certainly organized. As for premeditated, between June 26 and July 5, there was already plenty of time for that. But the most crucial thing was that the government did not take prompt measures to prevent deterioration of the situation. On July 4, I was continually listening to Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America. On that day, World Uyghur Congress President Rebiya [Kadeer] and others were truly a bit out of the ordinary on that day, with nearly all of the leaders going on the air to speak.

Around 8 p.m., I called a friend of mine in the government and said, "Something is going to happen tomorrow. You should take some measures." I gave him the URL of Rebiya's speech so that they could listen for themselves. They said they would report to their superiors.The next morning, I called again. At around 10 a.m., I went with a friend to see a high official in the regional government. I told him that as an ordinary person of conscience, I have an obligation to remind you that blood will certainly flow today. You should immediately take steps and mobilize emergency preparations. Then, I made three recommendations: First, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Chairman Nur Bekri must make a public speech before 12 noon. Second, notify Han merchants in predominantly ethnic neighborhoods to close shop early and go home. Third, mobilize as many troops as you can, cordon off ethnic neighborhoods and block and patrol crucial intersections. After the close of business, impose martial law.

At the time, the official said he would make a phone call to seek instructions. In the end, not a single one of these recommendations was taken. In fact, I was not even the first person to warn
the relevant government agencies on July 4. Just after 6 p.m. on July 4 another person had provided a warning.

YZ: You said that prior to the Shaoguan incident there were already seeds of a disturbance in Xinjiang. What do you mean by that?

HN: There are two direct reasons that led to something like what happened on July 5. First is the promotion of bilingual education, and the second is the government's arrangements to send Uyghurs away to work. These two policies were strongly opposed by many Uyghur cadres, but anyone who dared to say "no" was immediately punished.The first to bear the brunt of the bilingual education policy were teachers who had previously taught in ethnic languages. Tens of thousands of teachers faced being laid off because their Chinese was not up to standard, and this led to unstable popular feelings among grassroots educators.

As for sending Uyghurs away to work, in the eyes of [Uyghur] nationalists you can joke all you like, but don't joke about our women. Almost all of the workers initially organized to be sent out to work were 17- and 18-year-old girls. At the time, some elders said, "Sixty percent of these girls will wind up as prostitutes; the other forty percent will marry Han Chinese." This led to enormous disgust [among people]. In carrying out this policy, the government first failed to carry out proper education work and, second, failed to realize that such a small thing could have such major repercussions.

YZ: Before the promotion of these two policies, how were ethnic relations in Xinjiang?

HN: In the 1950s, even though Mao Zedong criticized "great Han chauvinism" in Xinjiang, contemporary ethnic policies in Xinjiang never led to a rupture. Ethnic relations in Xinjiang really became more tense over the past 20 years or so. After taking office, Party Secretary Wang Lequan adopted a high-handed posture that would not allow for any ethnic sentiment among minority populations. For example, if a ethnic cadre were to express the slightest complaint during a meeting, he would definitely not be promoted and might even be sacked. [Wang] overemphasized and exacerbated the anti-separatist issue. In fact, border provinces in any country that have cultural, linguistic, or ethnic ties with foreign countries are bound to have such tendencies. The current anti-separatist struggle in Xinjiang is not simply something [being carried out] by law enforcement agencies but has become something [carried out] in the whole society.

YZ: Have these tense ethnic relations led to increased thoughts of independence among Uyghurs?

HN: My father took part in the "Revolution of the Three Districts" [in which ethnic partisans revolted against Chinese rule in 1944 and established the second East Turkestan Republic] as a soldier. Logically, he should be a classic example of someone with thoughts of independence, but as far as I know not even someone like him is pro-independence—much less so someone like me.In fact, looking historically, the Uyghur people transformed early on from a desert-based [nomadic] people to an agricultural society and developed an extremely exquisite civilization. The nature of this people has become such that we don't spread or seek conflict. Even during its strongest point, this society was never expansionary. When the Khitan came, Uyghurs quickly surrendered. When the Mongols came, the Uyghurs basically surrendered without a fight. Historically speaking, Uyghurs don't like to fight and have no foundation for independence.

YZ: How do you view the issue of "East Turkestan"?

HN: This phrase "East Turkestan" is something invented by Europeans and not something that Uyghurs themselves came up with. However, it has been built up by the Turks and forcibly thrust upon us. We Uyghurs have no concept of "East Turkestan." From historic times to the presnt, Uyghurs have called Xinjiang "Land of the Uyghurs." No one has ever called it "Land of the Turks," much less "Eastern Land of the Turks."

YZ: If this is so, why do so many pro-independence types in Xinjiang make a fundamental claim for "East Turkestan"?

HN: At the time of the Silk Road, Uyghurs had opportunities to travel about in neighboring countries and their thinking was more open. Later, when maritime navigation became dominant, Uyghurs found themselves isolated and closed-off. In such a backwards circumstance, it's easy to think that "monks from outside can really chant the scripture" [i.e., outsiders have the answers]. It's just as when China first opened up, all sorts of ideas flowed in, both good and bad, and it wasn't clear which were good and which were bad. Moreover, over the past several decades local Uyghur elites suffered under the repression of the Communist Party's leftist policies and there were no opportunities to develop thought. The moment a few people shout "East Turkestan," many among our people have no idea what to think.

YZ: How do local Uyghur intellectuals view Rebiya [Kadeer]?

HN: They're not interested. Rebiya basically has no ideas.

YZ: For outside forces to be able to organize the July 5 incident, doesn't it mean that they have considerable influence inside China?

HN: Yes, definitely. I believe that the July 5 incident was organized by "Hizb-ut-Tahrir al-Islami" [ILP, Islamic Liberation Party], an illegal religious organization that has spread extremely quickly in southern Xinjiang. I've studied this group, which was founded by an Afghan. When the Afghan died, a Pakistani doctor among his followers carried out a reorganization and recruitment drive. Whether in China, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, the ILP is an underground movement. In 1997, when the ILP had just begun to appear in Xinjiang, there were probably only several hundred members. According to statistics made public last year by the relevant agencies, the organization may now have close to 10,000 members in Xinjiang.

On July 5, I was on Xinhua South Road watching as rioters smashed and looted. More than 100 people gathered and dispersed in an extremely organized manner, all of them wearing athletic shoes. Based on their accents, most were from the area around Kashgar and Hotan, but I did not see any of them carrying knives. I suspect they were from the ILP because of their slogans. The rioters were shouting "Han get out!" [and] "Kill the Han!" Other than these [slogans], there was also "We want to establish an Islamic country and strictly implement Islamic law." One of the main goals of the ILP is to restore the combined political and religious authority of the Islamic state and strictly implement Islamic law; it is a fundamentalist branch.This organization is extremely disciplined and its composition rather unusual. It attracts young men around the age of 20, mostly from rural areas. In fact, this organization is extremely backwards, so that even among Uyghurs without any basic social underpinning, those with even a bit of education don't have any interest [in the ILP]. The influence of groups like this that have infiltrated from abroad is ultimately quite small, because they bring nothing to the table. A serious attack from the organs of state power could totally wipe them out. There's no need for anti-terrorism measures throughout society in Xinjiang.

YZ: What do you think is the main problem for Xinjiang at the moment?

HN: I don't think the main problem for Xinjiang is ethnic separatism. The key problem for Xinjiang is still economic development. Actually, so-called ethnic conflict is really conflict over interests. Last year during the "two meetings," I watched video of President Hu Jintao's meeting with the Xinjiang delegation many times. President Hu said that Xinjiang should emphasize development and only at the end did he say anything about stability. Subsequently, I decided to write a series of articles clarifying my views on this.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Clayton “regulator” endangers workers as well as ecosystem

The so-called “regulator” over the Finniss River at Clayton should have been finished a fortnight ago.

However, unexpected problems with its construction have delayed completion and placed project workers in danger.

In the first place, workers are being made to start early and finish late without any more lighting than that supplied by truck headlights.

(Above, dusk at Clayton and only headlights provide any lighting out on the "regulator").

Given that they are driving heavy trucks on a soft-walled structure this should require an on-site OHSW presence even in broad daylight.

But it is more complicated than that.

They are not dumping sand (taken by the private contractors from excavations for the nearby Hindmarsh Island marina) onto a stable base of bedrock, Instead, they are dumping it on a soft muddy base that cannot take the weight of the “regulator”.

On 19 and 20 July, sections of the end of the “regulator” collapsed. On another occasion, a truck slid off the edge and had to be “rescued” by heavy equipment.

The throwing of mud by a resident at a government spokesperson during a public “consultation”, and the arrest a couple of days ago of two women who prevented work on the “regulator” by standing at its end with a banner, has brought some much-needed media attention to the issue.

ABC radio broadcast from the site this morning and was there, just before 10am, to witness another collapse at the end of the “regulator”.

Broadcaster Matthew Abraham was talking when he suddenly said “Now there’s a hole at the end of it. The dirt has just disappeared!”

The person whom he had been interviewing described it as “an incredibly dangerous place…What if trucks had been driving across the hole when it sank?”

The “regulator” was promoted by the SA government as a temporary measure to prevent further exposure of soils along the Finniss River and Currency Creek to the atmosphere. The exposure creates acid sulphates in the soil.

Government sources claim the “regulator” is a response to an acid sulphate “emergency”, but regular monitoring of the two river systems has only shown the existence of local “hot spots” that can be dealt with by bioremediation and lime release.

With good rains throughout July and water flowing past the incomplete “regulator” into Lake Alexandrina, a consensus is emerging that there is no “emergency” and that work on the regulator should stop.

This is certainly the view of the Ngarrindjeri, the traditional owners and custodians of the Lower Lakes and Coorong. A statement by the Ngarrindjeri on July 29 reads:


(Tom Trevorrow, left and Major Sumner, right, representing the Ngarrindjeri people at the opening of the Clayton Fresh Water Embassy in June).

The Ngarrindjeri people of the Lower Murray River and Coorong have told the State Government that the construction of regulators will seriously damage Aboriginal sites. Ngarrindjeri has informed the Government that it considers there has not been adequate justification for the construction of the regulators. The State Government has acknowledged the pain and loss to Ngarrindjeri, but determined to proceed regardless. Ngarrindjeri has been placed in a position where it must bear witness to the damage, disturbance and interference to its culture. The State Government, by proceeding with this work, is responsible for its own actions in the destruction of the area.

In recent times there have been important and significant rains in the area. The water the partly constructed Clayton regulator was designed to block has been released into Lake Alexandrina. In light of this, the State Government should review its plan and to this end immediately stop the construction of the regulators. There is no longer, if they ever was, any environmental advantage to the Goolwa Channel, the Currency Creek or the Finniss River of the construction of these regulators.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Does the PM need new specs?

(Above, Malcolm Turnbull, leader of the conservative Liberal Party which introduced laws removing the right to silence from construction workers, under threat of six months jail, nevertheless claimed the same right for himself, under parliamentary privilege, when investigated over fake emails in the "Utegate" affair. The new "Labor" government has kept intact these laws that victimise construction workers. The following article is cross-posted from the Ark's tribe website.)

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in welcoming and thanking those who attended the Community Cabinet meeting at Elizabeth High School last night, made a point of praising his own government's economic achievements over the past year.

Ironically, the meeting was held not far from the magistrates court at which Ark Tribe will be facing a sentence of six months jail in less than two weeks time.

Besides other things, the PM pointed out the infrastructure package he and his team had developed which has assisted small business and kept workers employed. He highlighted the Northern Expressway and the bridge his minister had just opened as a good example of what his government is building. Overheard from a worker in the audience was, "I can't remember seeing any of that lot up the front helping us on the job".

Ark Tribe was also observed at the meeting along with about 400 other citizens.

When the Prime Minister had finished his speech, he asked for questions from the good citizens.
Ark Tribe was standing up at the back of the hall with his hand up. All the audience in front of Ark was sitting down. Many questions were asked and each question was meticulously answered by the PM and/or the minister concerned. Ark Tribe remained standing, hand raised hopefully on each occasion.

The PM called for the last question and Ark Tribe, still standing with hand up and everyone seated in front of him, still couldn't be seen by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

One would have to conclude that the PM deliberately ignored Ark or he needs new glasses.

At the conclusion of the meeting I approached Ark Tribe and asked him what question he wanted the PM to answer. He replied with the following:

"Why is it, that as recently demonstrated by Mr. Turnbull, he like most other Australians can exercise their right to remain silent, yet I as an Australian Construction Worker who only demands the same right, find myself in a situation where your government is trying to imprison me for 6 months?”

“All I want, Mr. Prime Minister, is a fair suck of the sauce bottle mate."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stand Tall – for Ark Tribe

Come gather round and listen
To the thunder rolling in,
‘Cos the rich are trying to break us
And we’re not gonna let them win.

Well they tried it on the wharfies
With scabs and thugs and lost,
So how to break the building sites
Where the workers won’t be bossed?

“We own the law, we own the courts
And that’s the key to their defeat:
We’ll give the workers six months jail
For every time they meet!”

The workers met on safety
And Ark Tribe led the way,
So Gillard’s thugs decided
That he would have to pay.

“If your name it is Ark Tribe
Come to our interrogation –
You’ll have to dob your mates in:
That’s the way we run this nation!”

“Oh my name it is Ark Tribe
And I ain’t gonna talk to you.
My freedom flies with the Southern Cross
And there’s nothing you can do.”

“If there’s anything that I’ve done wrong
I’ll take your jail, that’s fine!
But killing fifty men a year
Is the bosses’ crime, not mine!”

“As for your Liberal and your Labor,
To me they look the same
With Howard’s rotten laws served up
In Julia Gillard’s name.”

“Well, I’d a-ridden with Ned Kelly
I’d a fought with bold Ben Hall,
‘Cos it was wild colonial boys like these
Who taught us to stand tall.”

Well, if Ark Tribe’s put in prison
By their “tough cop on the beat”,
The wild colonial boys and girls
Must get out in the street.

And we must ride like Edward Kelly,
We must fight like bold Ben Hall,
‘Cos it was wild colonial boys like these
Who taught us to stand tall!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Garrett's short Four Mile memory

Regardless of what one thinks of uranium mining, there can surely be no argument that the decision by Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett to approve the Four Mile uranium mine in the northern Flinders Ranges area proves that parliament is the graveyard of principle.

We often talk of this or that political party “getting in to power” when they win an election. Really, this betrays an illusion about the workings of bourgeois democracy.

It would be better to say that this or that party “gets in to office” because the real power is with the giant corporations and financial institutions that provide the backbone of the ruling class.

Peter Garrett is the former lead singer with rock band Midnight Oil. The Oils were famous for their advocacy of social justice, of land rights and of the environment. They were famous for their opposition to multinational corporations, to US military bases in Australia, and to nuclear arms and uranium mining.

When the campaign to prevent the Ranger uranium mine was at its height, the Oils staged a concert at the edge of the mine territory (below).

Garrett became President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, was on the international board of Greenpeace and a founder of the Nuclear Disarmament Party.

The Labor Party recognized Garrett’s popularity and decided to kill two birds with one stone. By offering him a safe Labor seat and a front bench portfolio, they could benefit in the wider community at voting time by having a high profile pro-environment candidate on their team. And by having him “inside the tent pissing out” rather than “outside the tent pissing in” they removed him as a threat and neutered him politically.

In a pathetic echo of his former self, Garrett said the approval was “a difficult decision”.

“I am a team player,” bleated the man who went to the 2007 ALP Convention to argue for no expansion of uranium mining, and lost. And how could he hope to win when Labor’s continued occupancy of the government benches is conditional on them not upsetting big business, when in fact the party he represents is completely unblushing in its acceptance of its embrace of the business community and their needs. This is a party that has leaned well the lessons of the constitutional coup that toppled the Whitlam government.

Garrett is now a despised figure. He is hated as a hypocrite by a wide section of the community, yet is still regarded with suspicion by many in the business community.

Such is the fate of those who think they can make a difference by working from within the capitalist Labor Party.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Marathon - really, really, really wrong in every direction

Two items of interest caught the blogger’s eye today.

Firstly, the trial is continuing in Queensland of former state Labor government minister Gordon Nuttall who has pleaded not guilty to 36 counts of receiving secret commissions from Mr Ken Talbot, then CEO of Macarthur Coal and mining executive and former senior public servant Harold Shand.

Talbot is alleged to have “loaned” some $300,000 to the Labor politician. There was apparently no requirement for repayment.

Nuttall is alleged to have received the first of 36 payments just one day before the Queensland Treasury signed off on a $28.7 million “assistance package” allowing Macarthur Coal to develop a road and rail corridor to enable the expansion of its Coppabella coal mine.

Talbot Holdings is the largest single shareholder in Marathon Resources.

Talbot has a very “hands on” approach to management of Marathon. Sacked former Marathon CEO Stuart Hall has alleged that Talbot had demanded Hall be sacked and replaced by a “Talbot man”, Denis Wood, or Talbot would withdraw his financial support for a rights issue of shares in the company.

Blackmail as well as bribery?

Hall had also alleged that Talbot and his company were unhappy about his opposition to the promotion (by Wood in his capacity as a Marathon director) of Leightons Contractors to manage the pre-feasibility study for Mount Gee without the contract being put to tender in circumstances where opposition by Hall was in the best interests of the company.

As events unfold in the Queensland courts this week, further light may be cast on the personality and methods of Ken Talbot, such that if an Independent Commission Against Corruption was ever established in South Australia, Marathon might be high on its agenda of companies to be investigated.

The second item was the release on the company website of a letter to Marathon shareholders from its new (“clean and green”) CEO Shad Lynley.

Lynely makes direct reference to their exploration finding that they have not yet established the limits of the deposit in three directions - it might be bigger in any one of those directions, or in any combination of them. This is simply a way of asserting that if you think what we've found so far is big, then understand this - there might be more in any of three directions. It might be really, really, really big (three “reallys”, one for each dimension).

But Lynley’s message is not just for shareholders. It is really for members of the SA Labor government, and is intended to talk up the need for more exploration in advance of a government review of the decision to suspend their exploration license pending the clean-up operations of their unlawful waste disposal within the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

That is what they are doing, and in so saying, they are hinting that if they don't get their license continued, then they'll be cut short in their prime of exploration, before they've had the chance to work out just how big it really, really, really is (three “reallys”, one for each dimension). And, who knows, it might be so big that they'd have other options for its development away from pristine eco-tourism areas, and if not, well maybe the question will not have to be answered until after the next state election(March 2010) while they look around in any of three directions.

The government would have to be pretty mean to deny them that, the chance to find out how really, really, really big it is, and to find a spot (not necessarily geographical, could be figurative) away from public gaze to work on it.

And shareholders will be wise to stump up some more cash for exploration, considering how big it is already, and how it might be really, really, really big, bigger than a rock wallaby or a wren. No, they haven't even found the limits in three directions, or perhaps in any direction for that matter.

Declaring that “the margins of the Mt Gee deposit are open in three directions” allows Lynley to avoid the hard asks - which are – “Where do they intend to mine?” (Answer, don't have to answer that just - don't know - still trying to find out how big this is) and “When will you mine?” – (Answer, same as before , plus saves us the trouble of asking the government in the lead up to the election, and we are still courting Spriggs. And we don't have the cash to mine anyway, and aren't game to ask, for the cash or permission, so better if we can drag things out some more, in three directions).

And when the state government doesn't just ban the mining – it will be “Because we don't know how really, really, really big (three “reallys”, one for each dimension) this mine’s contribution could be to the future of our state - we’d better let them keep finding out.”

Fair few directions possible when you think in three dimensions.

Let alone the fourth - do they have the cash? Or the fifth - do they have the permission? Or the sixth - can they get the permission, and the cash? Or the seventh - should they?

When you look at it like that they are really one-dimensional - buying time to avoid the seventh dimension.


Lynley has already blotted his copybook with the ASX, having to re-issue his letter to shareholders after omitting to point out the actual composition of the "current combined and indicated resource estimate of the Mt Gee deposit".

The new letter to shareholders admits that only 4m tonnes of U308 ore carry the "Indicated" status, while a massive 47m tonnes is still only "Inferred", ie yet to be verified.

And given that this is all very, very. very low grade, it hardly deserves the claim that it is the "fifth largest undeveloped uranium deposit in Australia".

While Lynley eats a public humble pie following the previous day's braggodocio, company secretary Sam Appleyard has revealed that Lynley's salary as CEO is a mere $100,000. Daily paper the Advertiser says this is one third less than the salary paid to his predecessor.

Also noted is former Labor Senator Chris Schacht's decision to sell off 12% of his investment in the company.

The good ship Marathon has not yet sunk, but it's listing badly.