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Ambassador Song Yumin's Op-ed about Xinjiang on Guardian
2019/08/10

On 9 August 2019, Ambassador Song Yumin's op-ed about Xinjiang was published by Guardian. Here is the full text of the article:

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) is situated in the border areas of northwest China. Forty-seven ethnic groups including Uyghur, Han, Kazak, Hui, Mongol, Tajik and Manchu are flourishing across this vast land of 1.66 million sq km. For thousands of years, Xinjiang has been home to various ethnic groups, where diverse cultures converge and different religions coexist. It was also the heartland of the famed Silk Road connecting ancient China with the rest of the world.

The Chinese government has always endeavored to discover, conserve and promote valuable traditional ethnic cultures in Xinjiang. Ethnicities influence, assimilate and integrate with each other in spoken and written languages, customs, arts and other aspects of social and cultural life. Each becomes more confident of its own cultural strength as it adapts to the ever-changing modern world.

The government promotes standard Chinese for the convenience of cross-ethnic communication and protects the individual's right to use ethnic spoken and written languages in accordance with the law. Ethnic minority languages are extensively used in the judiciary, administration, public affairs, education, publishing, media, and on the internet. Schools and other educational institutions enrolling ethnic minority students highlight the study and use of ethnic languages in curriculum and assessments. 

The Chinese government protects citizens' right to freedom of religious beliefs in accordance with the law. Various religions like Protestantism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Catholicism coexist in Xinjiang. The government supports lawful religious activities and fulfills reasonable religious needs of believers. There are 24,400 mosques in Xinjiang alone. To put it in another way, every 530 Muslims in Xinjiang share a mosque, an even higher proportion than that of some Islamic countries.

Xinjiang was once a terror-stricken place. Since the 1990s, especially after the September 11 attacks in the US, with rapidly shifting international landscape, terrorism and extremism have started to spread globally. The "three evil forces" of terrorism, extremism and separatism inside and outside China gradually emerged and ran rampant. Adversaries plotted and launched thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, killing large numbers of innocent civilians, trampling on human rights and endangering public security. The major actors"East Turkestan Islamic Movement"have long been recognized as an international terrorist organization by the United Nations and many countries.

Religious extremism is an important ideological foundation for violent and terrorist activities. In recent years, the local government in Xinjiang has been taking a strong stance on violence and terrorism, meanwhile exploring preventive counter-terrorism and de-radicalization approaches. One of the effective measures is educating and rehabilitating people guilty of minor crimes or law-breaking through vocational education and training centers, to help them reintegrate into local communities and prevent them from falling victims to terrorism and extremism.

As stated in the agreements between education and training centers and trainees, the centers adopt a boarding school management system and the curricula comprise free and career-oriented courses on standard Chinese language, law, vocational skills, and eradicating extremism. Basic rights of the trainees are guaranteed and their languages,beliefs and customs are fully respected. Ninety percent of the trainees who complete all programmes have found desirable jobs with adequate incomes. They are now a positive force for local communities.
  
The centers are open to visitors and so far have hosted thousands of journalists, members of foreign missions, scholars and religious leaders from all over the world. Seeing is believing. They all understand and support what the local government has been successfully doing. Unfounded claims like "the centers detain and abuse Uyghurs" made up by some few countries and media serve hidden agendas and do not hold any ground.

It is notable that, Xinjiang has not witnessed any violent terrorist incidents in the past three years or so. The security situation there has been greatly improved. Domestic and foreign tourists made more than 150 million trips to Xinjiang in 2018, up more than 40 percent year-on-year. Recently, fifty Ambassadors to the United Nations Office in Geneva sent a joint letter to the President of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to voice their support for China's position on issues related to Xinjiang.

Terrorism is the common enemy of humanity. The Chinese government firmly opposes any forms of terrorism and extremism. China will continue to work with the international community to crack down on violence and terrorism and ensure the rights to life, health and development of people of all ethnic groups.

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