Reports emerging from China’s Xinjiang region reveal that more than 200 Muslim Uighurs have been arrested over the past six weeks. The 232 total detainees have been brought up on charges ranging from possessing and disseminating material classified as “violent or terrorist,” or merely receiving such content. It is unclear whether or not all individuals detained on terror charges have been charged or sentenced for any alleged offenses. Xinjiang’s regional government, perceived largely as a voice piece for the national government, has reacted swiftly with increasingly harsh measures that have criminalized downloading, disseminating or spreading ambiguously labeled, “terror-related” material.
A growing number of arrests and the exacerbation of already poor regional relations have been attributed to what has been described by Chinese officials as acts of violence fueled by Islamic extremism on one hand, and by others as an expression of extreme discontent derived from oppressive Chinese policies on the other. In March, more than 200 were either killed or wounded in a knife attack carried out by separatists in the southwestern city of Kunming that led to unprecedented security crack downs yet failed to prevent a similar attack in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, and the first attack perpetrated by suicide bombers on a busy Xinjiang train station. Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged authorities to take decisive action against “terrorist forces,” and has advocated preventive, first-strike policies against Uighur separatists.
Many of those who lobby for Uighur rights will point to mounting frustration, poor development and education support, and exclusionary policies as the cause for increasing violence. Leading Uighurs have been jailed or forced to live under house arrest, while others have been denied the ability to leave the country to ply for support outside of China. As growing numbers of Chinese Han continue to relocate to Western China, dissent is expected to rise as many within the Uighur community feel that they are being forced out of their historic home, and relegated to the margins of Chinese society. Uighur separatists have already promised further attacks on targets throughout China in general and Xinjiang in particular, and, if recent reports are any indication, will drive an even greater wedge between the two sides.
- US Vice President Joe Biden’s son has been appointed to board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company, in one of the more overtly political moves in the ongoing diplomatic game of tit-for-tat being played between the West and Russia. Burisma’s website stated that Biden will provide support “among international organizations.” One of the largest concerns borne out by the Ukrainian crisis has been the disruption of gas supplies to eastern Europe, particularly Germany.
- French Prime Minister Francois Hollande has concluded his visit to the Caucasus region, which included visiting Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. The visit was planned to develop relations with the EU among the Caucasus states, which hope to establish plans for a lucrative submarine pipeline from natural gas sources offshore in the Caspian Sea to Turkey, bypassing the usual intermediaries Iran and Russia. France also hopes to build a coalition of Russia’s neighbors against the referendum in Ukraine, which has largely proved to be successful with Georgia rejecting the recent May 11 referendums.
- The Iranian military, in a statement released yesterday, claims to have cloned a crashed US stealth drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel captured in Iran back in 2011. Outside observers have balked at this, claiming that it is part of a mock-up design for a movie set. Little is known of the Sentinel’s operational capabilities or role on the battlefield, but he drone, designed by Lockheed Martin, appears to be designed specifically for reconnaissance and surveillance operations.
- Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has inched closer to victory this week, with an endorsement from his formal rival Zalmay Rassoul, who dropped out of the race when he received a meager portion of the vote, coming in a distant third overall. Gul Agha Sherzai, a candidate strong in Pashtun support out of Kandahar, ha also come out in support of Abdullah. This all comes as bad news to Ashraf Ghani, whose power comes from his support among Pashtuns and alliance with Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord known for being extremely fickle.
- On Wednesday, Ukraine announced a national dialogue of political stakeholders across the country, but excluded the de facto separatist zones of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Slovyansk. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov commented, saying “Ukraine is close to civil war,” despite the existence of the European backed dialogue. Interim president Oleksandr Turchynov said explicitly that the government was ready to hand more power to the regions and to hold negotiations with all parties except “for those who with weapon in their hand try to wage war with their own country.”