It would be nice to think that the eyes of much of the free world are currently focused on China’s truly appalling human rights record as a result of protests surrounding the travels of the Olympic Torch, yet Western leaders who are desperately anxious to chase Chinese markets, are largely turning a blind eye to the scale of Chinese repression.
There were some very disturbing parallels between the 2008 Olympic Games and the 1936 Olympic Games, but there was one crystal clear difference, no one today can blind themselves to the repressive nature of the Chinese state towards its own citizens and towards ethnic and religious minorities under its control in Tibet, East Turkestan and elsewhere in the People Republic of China.
It has always been utterly farcical to suggest, for some apologist Western leaders to suggest, that relative economic liberalism and the free market will lead to a more tolerant, open, free and democratic China. The real self-evident risk, if not self-fulfilling prophecy is that Beijing has been quietly using the revenue and monies generated by economic growth and trade with the rest of the world to merely to retool and rearm its forces of oppression.
A combination of the run-up to the games and China’s desire to trade with the rest of the world meant that an organised diplomatic and political boycott of the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony could have been used as an opportunity for the rest of the world to let China know how it feels human rights violations in China.
At a minimal level, an organised political and diplomatic boycott of the opening ceremony would have sent a powerful message that even the Chinese Government in the short-term would have found difficult to ignore; that repressive conduct and human rights violations in Tibet and East Turkestan and its own people are entirely unacceptable.
The clashes in China’s far west, in East Turkestan or Xinjiang depending whether or not you believe in self determination and democracy or not have briefly caught the attention of the media in the West. It is worth remembering that The PRC has ever since the 911 attacks on the USA made efforts to portray Uighur People, who are seeking independence and an end to Chinese colonisation of their land as allies of al-Qaeda.
The PRC has repeatedly accused the Uighur activists receiving training and indoctrination from Islamist militants in nearby Afghanistan. Yet the PRC has produced very little public evidence has been produced in support of these claims and none of it appears to have had any impact on the US Government. The US Military in the chaos following the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan captured more than 20 Uighurs after the invasion.
Although some of them were detained at Guantanamo Bay for six years, none were charged with any offence and the US Authorities went to great lengths to make sure they were not returned to China where they might had faced harsh punishment. Five settled in Albania in 2006, Bermuda took 4 in June, 2009, and the Pacific island nation of Palau has agreed to help the others.
Last century the Uighurs were able to briefly declared independence, but, the region was brought under communist control in 1949 following the communist victory in the civil war. Xinjiang as it is named by the PRC is referred to as an autonomous region, as is neighbouring Tibet. Efforts in recent years by the Uighurs to gain greater freedom have been repeatedly quashed.
In recent years the PRC has been accused of cracking down on the Uighurs – there were street demonstrations and protests in the 1990s - and a further crackdown during the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. In the last ten years a number of prominent Uighurs have been imprisoned or been forced to seek asylum abroad after being accused of terrorism. Outside observers have noted that Uighurs complain of religious, commercial and cultural activities restrictions imposed by the PRC.
The PRC has pursued a policy of attempting to reduce Uighur numbers in Xinjiang by encouraging immigration of Han Chinese (who are the PRC’s majority ethnic group) to settle in the West, encouraged by economic inducements and other benefits. The Uighur are on the way to becoming a minority in their own country, as Han Chinese make up approximately 40% of Xinjiang's population, with 45% being ethnic Uighurs.