Now with the trial and sentencing of Ilham Tohti over, the expected reverberations and shocks from Western Countries continues. It’s obvious Xinjiang officials and by implication central government in Beijing have decided on iron fist policy and no compromise. It remains to be seen whether it will work. Yet for me it is rather sad and with a sense of deja vu. For it very much reminds me of what’s happening in Israel today, iron fist and no compromise, and yes collective punishment. I always find it counterproductive and inhumane that Israeli’s demolishment of suspects’ family homes, and the confiscation of Mr. Tohti’s property affects his wife and children similarly. And the war in Gaza with civilian casualties, and the report that 40 rioters were killed, obviously orders were shoot to kill rather than wound.
When I was a child Xinjiang to me was a land shrouded in mystery, with beautiful women singing folk songs with angelic voices during national day celebrations. How did it come to pass after 65 years, instead of unity, we come to frequent killings on both sides? With the reaction from the West Chinese media provided video evidence of Mr. Tohti preaching separatism from his class room, yet why was him not fired from his teaching job in Minzo University in 2009? and why was not his web site removed then? I remember during the Democratic primary in 2004, Hillary Clinton was attacked by the liberals for voting yes on the Iraq War, while Obama had the luxury of not holding office and making one speech attacking the Iraq War. I tried to defend her by saying after 9/11, she being a senator from New York, she can’t afford not to vote yes, whatever her original intention. I think similar dynamic is at work here. After the massacre of innocents in Xinjiang, Mr. Tohti lost his protection in Beijing as no one can afford to appear weak in face of challenge.
During the early years of The People’s Republic there were frequent attempts by Mao to mold and change human nature, yet those movements were generally in China proper and bypassed Xinjiang. Due to military and border sensitivity, officials in Xinjiang preferred status quo. With official state religion as atheism, Islam was never challenged there. Large movement of people was forbidden and integration and intermarriage was discouraged. When there were disputes of Uighur peddlers with Han customers in major cities, authorities always have an appeasement policy of favoring Uighurs and paid them off and sent them away. It bred a sense of entitlements and resentments. With the oncoming of economic reform and capitalism of last 30 years, it’s inevitable the clash of cultures resulting violence. For capitalism with profit driven motive, acts as an universal solvent. Those isolated weak cultures crumbles under competition from dominant forces. Reaction in China is no different on push back from Jihadist Islam against modernity around the world. To Islam equal right for women is a threat totally unacceptable. The question is whether using Mr. Tohti as a sacrificial goat to paper over the failure and warning the monkeys will work. I suspect it will have no deterrent effects on the rabid hyena killers.