China to 'strike hard' in Xinjiang

China launches crackdown in Xinjiang region. Iran urged to accept nuclear proposals. Karadzic attends trial for first time. Fiji lashes out at Australia and New Zealand. All this and more in today's update.
Geraint Rees
3 November 2009

Security forces have launched a campaign to wipe out ‘lawlessness and terrorism' in China's Xinjiang region following bloody ethnic rioting in July. Chinese state media reported that police forces in the area had begun a ‘strike hard and punish' campaign which aims to root out crime and ‘change the face' of the public security situation in the country's restive western province.

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State officials say the campaign, which will run until the end of the year, will pursue suspects in the riots and ‘keep a close eye on clues and cases involving terrorism and explosions'. Some human rights groups and Uighur activists have accused Beijing of exaggerating the threat in the region in order to justify harsh controls on the minority population.

The ToD Verdict: The violence in Xinjiang erupted on 5 July after a clash between Uighur and Han workers in a factory resulted in the death of two Uighurs. Subsequent riots in the provincial capital, Urumqi, left at least 197 people dead and another 1,700 injured. Vengeful Han then attacked Uighurs during the next few days as security forces struggled to restore order. Xinjiang's regional government has called on Beijing to take tougher action to bring stability back to the region.

Xinjiang is an oil-rich province in north-western China which is home to around eight million Uighurs, an ethnic Turkic people who are by tradition Muslim and who are linguistically and culturally distinct from China's majority Han. Despite Beijing spending billions on developing the strategic province, a contingent of the Uighur population feel more kinship with the peoples of Central Asia and have long complained of religious, political and cultural oppression by Chinese authorities. An Uighur separatist group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, formed in 1991 with the aim of creating an independent sate of ‘East Turkestan' and have been accused by Beijing of a series of bombings, attacks and riots in the Xinjiang region.

Beijing has pointed to Uighur separatists as the source of July's violence and the rhetoric of the crackdown is seen as a method of regaining the support of Urumqi's Han population which has demanded that those responsible for the violence be brought to justice. The term ‘Strike Hard' refers back to a countrywide anti-crime campaign launched in 1996, which saw a high-intensity series of police actions to clear out criminals. The campaign later came under fierce criticism by legal experts in China who claimed it ignored suspects' rights and set targets for arrests that encouraged abuses. The criticism caused the campaigns to be dropped, although a low-intensity operation has continued to target political and pro-independence activists in Xinjiang province.

Human rights groups and Uighur activists fear that the revival of the ‘strike hard' campaign will be used by Beijing to justify harsh measures being taken against the Uighur minority, and Human Rights Watch has documented at least 43 Uighurs, including children, who remain unaccounted for after earlier round-ups by security forces following the clashes, although the real number could be much higher.

Iran urged to accept nuclear proposals as US refuses to adjust deal

Iran has come under further pressure to accept a deal under which it would export uranium abroad for enrichment. The UN brokered plan requires Iran to send 70% of its low-enriched uranium to Russia for processing. Subsequently, France would convert the uranium into fuel rods for use in a reactor in Tehran.

Many foreign observers are suspicious of Iran's nuclear intentions and the suggested plan is designed to restrain Iran's potential for building nuclear weapons while addressing Iran's need for enriched uranium for energy production. Iran has not responded officially to the plan, and on Monday asked for a technical review of the proposals citing technical and economic considerations. Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh indicated interest in purchasing ready-made uranium from abroad, but had concerns over ‘the assurance and guarantee of the supply'. Alluding to supply deals that fell through after the Islamic Revolution, Soltanieh pointed to Iran's ‘confidence deficit where we did not receive the fuel we had paid for'.

Iran's request was later rebuffed by the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who urged Iran to accept the unmoderated draft proposals. Referring to the plan, Clinton vowed ‘We are not changing it' and went on to say that this was ‘pivotal moment' for Iran to make its nuclear work more transparent. The U.S. and other powers have stated that they will not tolerate further delays from Iran and that new sanctions could be authorised early next year unless the nuclear issue is resolved.

Karadzic attends trial to request more time

Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader implicated in genocide during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, appeared in court today after a three-day boycott of his trial. Karadzic, who is conducting his own defence, refused to attend the opening of the proceedings of the U.N. war crimes trial, claiming that he had not been granted sufficient time to prepare his defence. He appeared briefly today to insist again that he needed more time to prepare and to state that the court had violated his ‘fundamental rights' by beginning the trial without him.

Karadzic was taken to the International Criminal Tribunal last year, after thirteen years in hiding. He faces eleven charges, two counts of genocide and nine other crimes against humanity and war crimes. He has refused to enter pleas, but insists he is innocent of all charges.

Fiji expels New Zealand and Australian envoys

Fiji has ordered New Zealand and Australian envoys to return home within 24 hours, accusing them of interfering in its internal affairs. Fiji's two biggest neighbours have been at the forefront of condemnation of the country's military leader Voreqe Bainimarama, after he toppled Fiji's elected government in a 2006 coup. The latest dispute stems from Bainimarama's attempt to hire Sri Lankan judges to replace the local judiciary, which he sacked in April following a ruling which declared his regime illegal. Both New Zealand and Australia have issued travel bans on people associated with the military regime, and Bainimarama has accused the two countries of ‘a consolidated effort to attack Fiji's independent judiciary' after some of the hand picked Sri-Lankan judges had been told they would not be able to travel through Australia to take up their new jobs.

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