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DRAWING A PARALLEL
Now, Beijing is eager to draw a parallel between its crackdown on political groups in Xinjiang and the broader war on terrorism. ?China too is a victim of terrorism and greatly understands and sympathizes with the disaster that Americans have suffered,? Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said while in Washington this month.
According to a report by China?s official Xinhua News Agency, Li described the East Turkestan Chinese, a group that has Uighur support, as ?a terrorist organization, trained and funded by Bin-Laden?s bases for many years.?
In return for its help, China is looking for backing from the West.
?It is clear that the Chinese are hoping that their support ? will be paid with U.S. turning a blind eye to what is happening in Xinjiang,? says Economy, of the Council on Foreign Relations. ?They are hoping the United States will cut them some slack.?
Broadly speaking, Beijing wants relief from badgering over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, where political dissidents are often meted out the same harsh treatment as terrorists.
Beijing also has been quietly pressuring the United States to turn over ethnic Uighurs from China who were detained fighting in Afghanistan.
So far, the United States has declined to commit to that, but there are reports that Uighurs held by Afghans were sent back to China, where they would face a harsh penal system, and very likely execution.
Xinjiang is a reminder of the tightrope Bush will be walking in China. Despite the much improved diplomatic climate, human rights groups will be watching to make sure the administration doesn?t retreat on rights issues, or indirectly fuel well-documented human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
?China has tried to justify its broad denial of basic freedoms in Xinjiang on counter-terrorism grounds,? Mike Jendrzejczck, Washington director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said in testimony to Congress this month. ?But Chinese authorities have failed to discriminate between peaceful and violent dissent in their fight against ?separatism? and ?religious extremism.?
? Learn more about each side's strategy and military forces.
Even prior to Sept. 11, China had mounted the ?Strike Hard? campaign to crush separatists. Within three months of its launch in April, Xinjiang police reported making nearly 10,000 arrests related to terrorism and separatism. Human Rights Watch said next came a spate of new executions, reports of torture and forced confessions, state ?re-education? for Muslim scholars to bring them into line and a purge of ?all who openly advocate separatism using the name of art.?
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