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«MUN GENERAL ASSEMBLY Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (新 疆维吾尔自治区) This region is situated in the northwest China, its 1.66 million ...»

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Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (新


This region is situated in the northwest China, its

1.66 million sq kms represent about one-sixth of the

total territory, hence being it the vastest

autonomous region in PR China as well as having

the largest provinces and municipalities. Xinjiang

shares 5,600 km of frontier with no fewer than eight

countries, which are Mongolia, then

Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and finally Afghanistan, Pakistan and India respectively in the northeast, west and southwest. The region comprehends 14 administrative prefectures, autonomous prefectures and cities, which, considered all together, compose a total of 85 counties and cities under their jurisdiction. Statistics estimate that the population living in Xinjiang amount of 20 millions people approximately.

Xinjiang region has indeed had a central role even in the ancient times, because, as it can be imagined while looking at the numerous borders: it was, and still is, the corridor between Central- and East-Asia, between the Russian region and the Pacific one, that makes it still a land bridge; it is furthermore the previous location where the Silk Road passed through.

This fact implies two aspects: the first one regards the cultural and ethnic diversity, the second one the political-geographical importance of the aforementioned region.

Regarding to the first aspect, even in the past times it was a “ethnical melting-pot”: we now find, indeed, many different people coming from the Uyghur, Kazak, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Sibe, Mongol, Hui, and Han ethnic groups. All these people are deeply rooted in the territory and also have a rich culture and traditions. Moreover, they profess different religions among them as well as in contrast with the generally accepted policy about religion of the PR China. These people are concerned about their traditions, religion and, in general, identity as a population, they may feel threatened and this may result into tensions and/or clashes; in particular, the Uyghur are the people who have a rowdy relation with the State, more than all the other ethnic groups: they are mainly Islamic people and this has been, still is and will probably be a real cause of tensions and clashes between the people and the government, both the regional and the national, until the point when they reached the form of terroristic attacks.

Passing on the second point, which is to say the strategic importance of the region, this question must be analyzed on two levels: political and economical.

Talking about the political side, we must take into account the independent ambitions of the Uyghurs, who want to become independent from PR China as they feel their culture, traditions, religion are different and, moreover, they claim independence and address China as an oppressive country, that lack of freedom, democracy and moreover that privilege Han people, thus discriminating the Uyghur population. In the case ofindependence, other countries would certainly be affected. In fact, China is largely known as a rampant, powerful country in economical and political matters and it is perceived as an obstacle for other rival countries, such as the USA, that were the first and only ruling power in economy and politic all over the world; this said, the possibility of independence for the Uyghurs will damage China and the aforementioned rival countries will be definitely satisfied with this.

Not only China would lose a portion of its territory, but also there would be an economical damage:

this lead to the economical side of our analysis. In fact, Xinjiang is a major resource of income for China: past statistics revealed that he region has about 70 million hectares of land suitable for farming, forestry or grazing. Of this some 4 million hectares are in cultivation, while a further 9 million hectares still remain available for upgrading to farming, moreover 48 million hectares of natural grasslands and 666,700 hectares of manmade pasture are used for grazing and nearly 5 million hectares are available for forestry, with huge reserves of timber. Furthermore, the industry of carpets as well as the culture of grapes and melons are a valid resource and source of income.

Tourism is also a massive matter: the large variety of different landscapes, combined with the interesting customs and colorful habits of the people in the region, attracts a great number of foreign visitors, majorly western. But, above all, Xinjiang is rich in mineral resources: it has massive reserves of oil, natural gas, coal, salts, building materials and, finally, rare metals and minerals such as (but not limited to) Gold, Copper, Chromium, Nickel, that play a very determinant role in nowadays industry as well as in technology, among the 138 minerals found in the region, 5 of them represent the largest reserves of that mineral existing nationwide. Estimated at some 21 billion tons, the region's oil reserves represent 30 percent of China's land deposits, while 1,030 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves account for 34 percent, and, finally, the region also has 40 percent of the country's total coal reserves. Hence, due to the important amount of resources, the case of independence would result to be catastrophic for China, which would lose a great part of its resources, thus having to resize its economy, and would lose the income coming from the trade of these resources; moreover, China’s rival countries may benefit from the independence as the new state could decide to trade with them.

The relation between China and Islam Chinese people have a deeply rooted tradition with religions/philosophies such as Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism (known as the Three Teachings) which affect their everyday lifestyle due to festivities and customs related to such religions. Nevertheless, monotheistic religions, including Islam, are not as much popular in China as they are in Western and Middle-Eastern countries; furthermore religion in general has been widely repressed during the Communist period.

Nowadays, five religions are institutionally recognized: Buddhism, Taoism, Protestantism, Catholicism and Islam.

First chronicles about Islam in China date back to the 7th Century a.D. From that time until the coming of Communism, Islam and Islamic people played quite an important role in the society as well as in the State. Nonetheless, during Maoist rule and even more during the Cultural Revolution, mosques, which are present in quite a high number, were often defaced, destroyed or closed and copies of the Quran were destroyed by the Red Guards.

Although the strong repression of the past decades, today Islam is experiencing an Islamic revival, e.g. many nation-wide Islamic associations have organized to co-ordinate inter-ethnic activities among Muslims. Muslims are found in every province in China and are estimated to be the 1,5% of the total population, even though precise statistics are extremely hard to find. But it is only in Xinjiang that they constitute a majority.

Historically, Islam has provided the framework community cohesion through the centuries and now, perhaps, Islam may become the spine of the independent movement. But, moreover, Chinese government accuses separatists to use terrorism in pursuit of their goals and says that terrorists are probably linked to worldwide islamic terroristic groups, such as Al-Qaeda, or however claims that Islam may be that cause of social clashes between Uyghur and Han people; consequently, during the last years, if on one hand struggle for independence and thus terrorism have become significant, on the other, the attempts of repression have become stronger, in response of the terrorist attacks, such as those that have taken place at a train station in Kunming or at the bomb made explode in Urumqi market place.

For instance, in 2009, following nearly a week of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations in which over 1000 people were injured and more than 150 killed police blocked worshippers’ access to mosques in Urumqi, the capital of the region, but eventually opened them.

The Chinese government places significant restrictions on religious life, even if in accordance with the law: people under the age of 18, nor women, any members of the ruling Communist party are not permitted to participate even in officially allowed religious activities organized by state organs, such as the Islamic Association of China. Students, moreover, are especially banned from practicing in universities. More recently, the bans have extended to people customs: long beard and veils are the main targets and laws regarding this aspects may be put into force soon, thus fueling people’s anger and violence.

In conclusion, China bans some Islamic expressions due to the fact that, in the government’s opinion, Islam may become (or already is) a mean through which separatism and even terrorism will spread, on the contrary, Islamic/Uyghur activists say that violence and anger come from governmental repression.

What is the East Turkestan Islamic Movement?

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is a group founded by the Uighurs, members of the islamic majority in northwest China’s Xinjiang province. The group and its ties to muslim fundamentalism caused an increasing Chinese concern about the rising threat of terrorism within the country, but in particular in the Xinjiang province. Basically, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement seeks the creation of an independent state called “East Turkestan”, actually covering an area which would include parts of Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XUAR).

Many experts consider ETIM just an umbrella organization for many other radical groups, including ones that operate in Pakistan and Central Asia in general. Others are not convinced. China’s communist regime fears that the country would splinter if regional separatist movements gain ground. China deeply controls the information about ETIM’s activities, which has been blame by the Chinese government for more than two hundred terrorist incidents in Xinjiang between 1900 and 2001 Who are the Uighurs?

The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) accounts for one-sixth of China's land and is home to about 20 million people from thirteen major ethnic groups. The largest of these groups is the Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim community with ties to Central Asia. Since the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, Xinjiang has enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy. In October 1933 the Turkic rebels in Xinjiang declared independence, founding the Islamic Republic of East Turkestan (also known as the Republic of Uighuristan or the First East Turkistan Republic). The following year the Republic of China reabsorbed the region. With the help of the Soviet Union, in 1944, factions within Xinjiang declared independence creating the Second East Turkistan Republic. Eventually, in October 1955 Xinjiang became classified as an “autonomous region” of the People’s Republic of China.

Most of the Uighurs practice Sufi Islam (mystical islamic belief and practice). While some Uighurs seek a separate and independent state, others prefer to maintain a cultural distinction and autonomous rapport with China. Some others are even in favor of integration into Chinese system. Moreover, ETIM has never served as the sole representative of Uighur separatism: in fact many other separatist political organizations among the million-strong Uighur émigré community are not radical, nor do they advocate violence.

In 1996 China signed the Shanghai Treaty with Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, using the accord to pressure Central Asian states to deter their ethnic Uighur minorities from supporting separatism in Xinjiang.

A general sense of hostility grew between China’s ethnic Han majority and Uighurs, which led to sporadic hostilities. In July 2009, a fight erupted in a factory in the southern province of Guangdong when Uighurs accused Han Chinese coworkers of racial violence. A recent spate of knife attacks has heightened concerns.

An assault outside a railroad station in Guangzhou in May 2014 marked the third of its kind since March, when a group of Uighurs killed twenty-nine people at a railway station in Kunming, Yunnan province. In late April, a bomb and knife assault left three people dead outside a train station in Urumqi, Xinjiang.

President Xi Jinping ordered Xinjiang authorities to take "resolute measures" and crush "violent terrorists" after the attack.

Ethnic tension is mainly caused by economic disparity: the Han tend to be wealthier than the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Some scholars say the wage gap is the result of discriminations in the hiring practices. A recent report carried out by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China stated that in 2006, the XPCC (Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps) reserved approximately 800 of 940 civil servant job openings for Han. Local officials say they would like to hire Uighurs, but have trouble finding qualified candidates.

Han applicants tend in fact to have better professional networks because they are more often "influential, children of elite Party members and government leaders.

Does the ETIM have ties to al-Qaeda?

Al-Qaeda’s biggest success has been its ability to inspire and influence local Muslim groups in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and to imbibe its ideology of global jihad. By providing finance, training, weapons and ideology, Al-Qaeda has been able to empower local Muslim groups to fight their governments and the nonMuslim populace.

Since the ‘90s China has publicly linked ETIM to al-Qaeda, as well as the Taliban. A recent Chinese government study reported that ETIM received money, weapons and support from the terrorist organization.

According to this report, militants were trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and crossed back into Xinjiang.

ETIM leader Mahsum denied this, claiming the group had no organizational links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

The United States also believes there is a link between ETIM and al-Qaeda as stated by the State Department, who said ETIM has received “training and funding” from al-Qaeda and has fought against the U.S. troops during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

What kinds of attacks has the group launched?

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