The arrest and extradition of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou has caught the spotlight after it was announced on Wednesday. Ms Meng was arrested in Canada. She has requested, and been allowed, a publication ban regarding the case. It has been speculated that Ms Meng could be charged with violation of US sanction laws on Iran or with Bank Fraud.
The significance of the case is substantial. Setting aside the possible effects on the current trade war between the USA and China, the diplomatic effects could be large.
The business sector and state are tightly linked within China under a system of aggressive state-driven capitalism. Ms Meng is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei and a prominent Chinese businessman. Zhengfei is known to have connections with the Chinese military. A fact that has led certain countries to ban or consider banning the use of Huawei technology in government offices for fear of spying. Some of these countries include the USA, Australia and Japan.
This development comes just days after US President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China agreed to suspend the planned new tariffs from the ongoing trade war. This caused for market enthusiasm but the arrest of the CFO of one of China’s largest tech companies may affect the truce and market stability.
The USA is no stranger to undertaking actions that strain new deals, truces, pacts and treaties. The history of negotiations with North Korea has been characterized by American military displays around the border directly after periods of negotiations. North Korea has previously agreed to step down its nuclear and ballistics ambitions several times, only to “break” agreements in response to continuing displays of American might at its border.
China is, not surprisingly, demanding answers from Canada and the USA regarding its high-profile citizen. This would surely come with at least some degree of irony to the families of the victims of the many thousands, if not millions, of victims of Chinese government oppression. Since its inception in the 50s, China has shown brutality in its relationship with its citizens, kidnapping, reprogramming and outright slaughtering them.
Currently of world interest, though by no means the only current victims of Chinese oppression (see Falun Gong movement and the case of Tibet), are the Uighur people of Xinjiang province. The Uighur are a mostly Muslim ethnic minority that have been persecuted in various fashions since the inception of Communist China.
There are those among the Uighur that contend they are being occupied by China and have been since Mao’s 1949 rise to power. The Uighur inhabit Xinjiang province, an area in Northeast China that borders on Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Xinjiang has been renamed from the original title of East Turkestan (or Uyghurstan). The people of this area have historically included members of surrounding nations such as Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tatars and Taijiks and traditionally speaking Turkic. The Turkic language is derived from its people, an empire that once stretched from Modern day Mongolia to the Black Sea. Chinese sources indicated that there are 11 million Muslims in East Turkestan of these are 8.68 million Uyghurs; Uyghur sources estimate about 15 million Uyghurs inhabit this area.
The Uyghur people have a long, proud history and culture. They claim to have inhabited the area for 4000 years. The Chinese Manchu empire attacked and occupied East Turkestan in 1884, renaming it Xinjiang. The Manchu empire fell to the Nationalist uprising in 1911, and control of the region fell to the Nationalists. Two uprisings were staged against the nationalists one in 1933 and one in 1944, culminating in the establishment of the East Turkestan Republic. The region was invaded by the new Maoist government and occupied in 1949. The region was subsequently renamed Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The region is anything but autonomous, with close oversight being exercised generally by Han Chinese.
Ongoing Chinese suppression has generated resistance movements and independence movements of varying strength. These movements continue, which has lead to heavy instances of re-education and suppression. The territory of East Turkestan comprises 1/6th of the total land claimed under Chinese sovereignty. It also holds 1/3rd of it’s oil reserves and produces 60% of its cotton. It is not difficult to imagine why China would want to exercise its control over the region. Brittanica has more detail on the production and history of Xinjiang.
After months of denials the Chinese government has finally admitted to its abduction of Muslims in the region, citing reeducation necessity in order to prevent extremism. The government has stated that Muslims in Xinjiang (East Turkestan) need to be reeducated in order to prevent the region from becoming “China’s Syria” or “China’s Libya”.
An estimated 2 million Muslims in the region, mostly Uighurs have disappeared and are being forcibly reeducated at these camps. The stated government objective is clearly transparent as an effort to crush the Uighur identity to allow for more pliable rule of the people. The government maintains the camps anti-extremist purpose but the BBC has reported that the legislation allows for abduction of people for “expanding the concept of halal – which means permissible in Islam – to areas of life outside diet, refusing to watch state TV and listen to state radio and preventing children from receiving state education”.
The World Uyghur Congress has reported to the UN on the 6th and 10th of August that China’s ongoing human rights abuses include the maginalization of the Uighur language, unequal treatment of Uighur people under the law, instances of torture (against such high profile activists like Ilham Tohti and certainly against others), restrictions on movement, association & religion, restricted freedom of expression and a long list of other issues.
Uighurs have been disappearing from around the province, only to turn up in detention. Activists and escaped Uighurs have stated that they are being forced to eat pork and otherwise compromise their beliefs.
I don’t at all mean to state that China should not seek information on one of its citizens. Nor that Canada or the USA should withhold that information. But perhaps they should be more transparent with the detention of their own citizenry, before demanding the transparency of others.
By Nathan Booth
Here is a link to the full International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) meeting that took place between the 6th and 30th of August this year.
A current meeting of CERD is underway, though you may not have heard about it in the media. Information regarding this can be found here.
An interesting article on the abduction of activist Rushan Abbas’ family members was published by the Washington Post here.
A history of the Uighur people can be found here.