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China slammed for muslim suppression

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    China slammed for muslim suppression

    BEIJING, China -- Human rights group Amnesty International has accused China of stepping up repression and executions of separatist Muslim Uighurs by invoking the "war on terrorism."

    China has carried out sweeping arrests since the September 11 attacks on America -- possibly numbering in the thousands -- as it cracks down on opponents of its rule in the restive northwestern region of Xinjiang, the London-based organization said in a report.

    Many Uighurs have been charged under China's revised criminal law, toughened last December to "punish terrorist crimes and ensure national security," the report said. The changes enlarge the scope for the death penalty, it said.

    Small numbers of poorly organized activists have in recent years waged a low-level campaign of bombings, assassinations and other attacks against Chinese rule in Xinjiang.

    The region's largest ethnic group -- Turkic-speaking Uighurs -- are linguistically and culturally unrelated to China's Han ethnic majority and had their own republic before China's communists took power in 1949.

    China has responded with a security clampdown that officials say has stabilized the region. Xinjiang Governor Abulahat Abdurixit said this month that no attacks occurred last year and that social stability was "very good."

    Yet since the terror attacks in the United States, Beijing has repeatedly claimed that supporters of Xinjiang independence received funding and other help from Osama bin Laden's terror network.

    Rights monitors, including U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, have already expressed concern about increased rights abuses in Xinjiang following September 11.

    Some claim China used the attacks as a pretext to crush peaceful dissent in Xinjiang.

    'Fabricated information'
    While a Chinese government spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue, would not comment on specific cases cited by Amnesty, she has accused the London-based rights group of using "fabricated information to accuse China on a groundless basis."

    "The accusations have always been groundless," she said at a Foreign Ministry briefing in advance of the report's official release.

    China has backed the U.S.-led war on terrorism but wants international support for its campaign against Muslim Uighur activists in Xinjiang. The militants are seeking an independent state of East Turkestan.

    But Amnesty said that Muslim clerics have been detained for teaching the Koran, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan banned. They have called on the international community to urge Chinese authorities "not to justify human rights violations in the name of the 'war against terrorism'."

    The United States delegation to the Commission, which traditionally presents a resolution expressing concern on China, has only observer status after being voted off a year ago.

    Diplomats say none of the 53 member states is prepared to present a resolution on China's record despite persistent concerns about alleged religious and political persecution.

    America stands for religious freedom. China does not. Terrorists can commit criminal acts. China can respond to these crimes in an overbearing manner. When one looks at policies and actions of governments in the world, one needs to see the whole picture, in all it's complexity. It requires scrutiny of the highest order to stay on the path of righteousness and truth. Every angle must be calculated if progress is to be made towards a better world.