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World Uyghur Congress: Our position

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he World Uyghur Congress (WUC) would like to address some serious mischaracterizations of our organization in recent days, namely in an article by Giancarlo Elia Valori that appeared in Modern Diplomacy – an online news and commentary website. We wish to confront a number of the claims made by the author considering that we have encountered disingenuous allegations in the past and we find it necessary to respond clearly and openly in what follows.

The piece begins with the author’s assessment of what the four primary geopolitical goals of what he refers to broadly as the “Uyghur political movement in Europe” – as well as in Latin America, Europe, Australia, United States. Despite referring to an ostensible movement in Europe and elsewhere, the piece quickly draws its focus squarely on the WUC and attributes each of these goals to the organization itself.

Valori suggests that the first goal has been to “’cover up’ and distort the intelligence signals of the Chinese anti-jihadist network”, a suggestion that warrants little attention given its absurdity. The WUC has neither the means nor the desire to play any kind of role in these affairs and has been consistent in its condemnation of violence in all forms.

Secondly, the author argues that a further goal has been to, “isolate and separate the People’s Republic of China from the Western world”. On the contrary, the WUC believes that a more-integrated China would lead to progress in terms of the protection of human rights. Integration and participation with the rest of the world through channels like the UN Human Rights system in particular have proven to lead to positive outcomes for all concerned.

What is more, the author goes on to suggest that a third priority has been to, “raise funds for the Uyghur internal and external terrorism in Xinjiang” – a further outrageous claim that contradicts all of the work centred on peace and non-violence performed by the WUC since its inception.

Similarly, the author then suggests that the WUC works to create favourable media coverage to “creat[e] positive climate and feelings – as freedom fighters – for the Uyghur jihadists operating in China” – another claim that would be amusing if it were not so serious.

The article also makes problematic assertions about the General Secretary of the WUC, Mr. Dolkun Isa, and raises questions about his work in Europe. Mr. Isa now works from Munich, Germany and has been a German citizen since 2006, but was forced to leave China because of political persecution following his work as a student democracy leader.

With regards to the INTERPOL red notice that is also raised by Valori, many states have been known to take advantage of the system for their own ends, as was demonstrated in a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists[1]. Isa has, however, lived in Germany since 1996, demonstrating the clear reluctance of democratic states to take China’s claims seriously.

Mr. Isa continues to travel freely to states that respect human rights and are not burdened by undue influence from China – political influence that led to his visa refusal to India earlier this year (after initial approval) and his brief arrest in South Korea in 2009. Political pressure has been felt by countless human rights activists and bears no resemblance to any legitimate legal proscription.

Furthermore, the author also asserts that WUC president, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, was imprisoned because she was convicted of selling military secrets to the United States. Kadeer, however, was initially arrested in 1999 while on her way to meet with the Congressional Research Service in Urumqi for speaking more openly about the deteriorating human rights conditions in East Turkestan.

Within the body of the article, the author also makes further claims regarding funding and relationships between the WUC and other actors. Perhaps the most incredible claim suggests that the WUC receives funding, “totalling $340 million US dollars a year” from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – an assertion that has absolutely no basis in reality. Although the WUC has been funded by the NED since 2006, the dollar comes nowhere close to the number stated by the author, considering the NED received just over $100 million for FY 2016.[2] Grants from 2015 for the WUC can also be found here.[3]

With regards to budget considerations, the NED funds specific programs operated by the WUC each year, rather than merely providing blanket funding. Furthermore, the WUC does not simply ‘accept’ money from the NED, rather, each year our organization goes through a rigorous grant application process that is meticulously assessed by the NED’s Board of Directors. The NED explicitly and transparently supports only those organizations which espouse values embracing non-violence, democracy and human rights – an approach that demonstrates the consistent support since 2006.

Pivoting towards WUC’s own ostensible support for Uyghur groups in China, the author then goes on to suggest that funding for the WUC stands as a basis for, “ […] future operations of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)” – a group that has been found to be either non-existent or operating nowhere near the capacity that is suggested by the Chinese government.[4]

Towards the end of the article, the author then goes on to conflate the work of the WUC and violent groups, a truly serious claim that we wholly condemn. The WUC has made it clear time and again of our support for non-violent resistance to the conflict in East Turkestan. At no point in our history as an organization has the use of violence or intimidation factored into to any of our work around the world.

It is truly concerning that the author has taken clear steps to distort or otherwise prevaricate on the genuine work performed by the WUC. What is more, the claims made by the author do not hold up to even mild scrutiny. Any close observer would recognize the valuable work that the WUC continues to conduct as a means to promote democracy and human rights for the Uyghur people and to peacefully resolve the Uyghur conflict. Likewise, any serious writer would communicate first with the organization in which one is making such baseless claims.

Despite the tendency of our organization to ignore such outlandish assertions that have arisen in the past, the WUC feels it necessary to make clear our position and to anticipate articles that may be published in the future on similarly baseless grounds. Truth will inevitably win out in cases that require careful consideration.


[1] Lewis, L. (2011, July 20). Interpol’s Red Notices used by some to pursue political dissenters, opponents, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Available at: https://www.icij.org/project/interpols-red-flag

[2] US Department of State (2015). Congressional Budget Justification: Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. Available at: https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/9276/FY16CBJStateFORP.pdf

[3] National Endowment for Democracy (2016). China (Xinjiang/East Turkistan) 2015. Available at: http://www.ned.org/region/asia/china-xinjiangeast-turkistan-2015/

[4] Roberts, S. (2012). Imaginary terrorism? The global war on terror and the narrative of the Uyghur terrorist threat (PONARS Eurasia Working Paper). Retrieved from: http://www.gwu.edu/~ieresgwu/assets/docs/ponars/RobertsWP.pdf

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East Asia

Freedom, Sovereign Debt, Generational Accounting and other Myths

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“How to draw the line between the recent and still unsettled EU/EURO crisis and Asia’s success story? Well, it might be easier than it seems: Neither Europe nor Asia has any alternative. The difference is that Europe well knows there is no alternative – and therefore is multilateral. Asia thinks it has an alternative – and therefore is strikingly bilateral, while stubbornly residing enveloped in economic egoisms. No wonder that Europe is/will be able to manage its decline, while Asia is (still) unable to capitalize its successes. Asia clearly does not accept any more the lead of the post-industrial and post-Christian Europe, but is not ready for the post-West world.” – professor Anis H. Bajrektarevic diagnosed in his well-read ‘No Asian century’ policy paper. Sino-Indian rift is not new. It only takes new forms in Asia, which – in absence of a true multilateralism – is entrenched in confrontational competition and amplifying antagonisms.  The following lines are referencing one such a rift.

At the end of 2017, Brahma Chellaney, a professor with the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, wrote an article titled “China’s Creditor Imperialism” in which he accused China of creating a “debt trap” from Argentina, to Namibia and Laos, mentioning its acquisition of, or investment in the construction of several port hubs, including Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Piraeus in Greece, Djibouti, and Mombasa in Kenya in recent years.

These countries are forced to avoid default by painfully choosing to let China control their resources and thus have forfeited their sovereignty, he wrote. The article described China as a “new imperial giant” with a velvet glove hiding iron fists with which it was pressing small countries. The Belt and Road Initiative, he concluded, is essentially an ambitious plan to realize “Chinese imperialism”. The article was later widely quoted by newspapers, websites and think tanks around the world.

When then United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Africa in March, he also said that although Chinese investment may help improve Africa’s infrastructure, it would lead to increased debt on the continent, without creating many jobs.

It is no accident that this idea of China’s creditor imperialism theory originates from India. New Delhi has openly opposed China’s Belt and Road Initiative, especially the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as it runs through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which India regards as an integral part of its territory. India is also worried that the construction of China’s Maritime Silk Road will challenge its dominance in South Asia and the Indian Ocean. Based on such a judgment, the Indian government has worked out its own regional cooperation initiatives, and taken moves, such as the declaration of cooperation with Vietnam in oil exploration in the South China Sea and its investment in the renovation of Chabahar port in Iran, as countermeasures against the Chinese initiative.

Since January, India, the United States, Japan and Australia have actively built a “quasi-alliance system” for a “free and open Indo-Pacific order” as an alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative. In April, a senior Indian official attending the fifth China-India Strategic Economic Dialogue reiterated the Indian government’s refusal to participate in the initiative.

The “creditor imperialism” fallacy is in essence a deliberate attempt by India and Western countries to denigrate the Belt and Road Initiative, which exhibits their envy of the initial fruits the initiative has produced. Such an argument stems from their own experiences of colonialism and imperialism. It is exactly the US-led Western countries that attached their political and strategic interests to the debt relationship with debtor countries and forced them to sign unequal treaties. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is proposed and implemented in the context of national equality, globalization and deepening international interdependence, and based on voluntary participation from relevant countries, which is totally different from the mandatory debt relationship of the West’s colonialism.

It is an important “Chinese experience” to use foreign debts to solve its transportation and energy bottlenecks that restrict its economic and social development at the time of its accelerated industrialization and urbanization. By making use of borrowed foreign debts, China once built thousands of large and medium-sized projects, greatly easing the transportation and energy “bottlenecks” that long restrained its social and economic development. Such an experience is of reference significance for other developing countries in their initial stage of industrialization and urbanization along the Belt and Road routes.

In the early stage of China’s reform and opening-up, US dollar-denominated foreign debt accounted for nearly 50 percent of China’s total foreign debts, and Japanese yen close to 30 percent. Why didn’t Western countries think the US and Japan were pushing their “creditor imperialism” on China?

Some foreign media have repeatedly mentioned that Sri Lanka is trapped in a “debt trap” due to its excessive money borrowing from China. But the fact is that there are multiple reasons for Sri Lanka’s heavy foreign debt and its debt predicament should not be attributed to China. For most of the years since 1985, foreign debt has remained above 70 percent of its GDP due to its continuous fiscal deficits caused by low tax revenues and massive welfare spending. As of 2017, Sri Lanka owed China $2.87 billion, accounting for only 10 percent of its total foreign debt, compared with $3.44 billion it owed to Japan, 12 percent of its total foreign debt. Japan has been Sri Lanka’s largest creditor since 2006, but why does no foreign media disseminate the idea of “Japan’s creditor imperialism”?

In response to the accusation that China is pursuing creditor imperialism made by India and some Western countries, even former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa wrote an article in July using data to refute it.

Most of the time, the overseas large-scale infrastructure construction projects related to the Belt and Road Initiative are the ones operated by the Chinese government and Chinese enterprises under the request of the governments of involved countries along the Belt and Road routes or the ones undertaken by Chinese enterprises through bidding.

It is expected that with the construction of large-scale infrastructure projects and industrial parks under the Chinese initiative, which will cause the host country’s self-development and debt repayment ability to constantly increase, the China’s creditor imperialism nonsense will collapse.

An early version of this text appeared in China Daily

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Arrogance of force and hostages in US-China trade war

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Even before the ink on the comments made by those who (just like the author of these lines) saw the recent meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires as a sign of a temporary truce in the trade war between the two countries had time to dry, something like a hostage-taking and the opening of a second front happened. The recent arrest in Canada under US pressure of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of China’s telecommunications giant Huawei, is unfolding into a full-blown international scandal with far-reaching consequences.

Meng Wanzhou faces extradition to the United States where she is suspected of violating US sanctions against Iran, namely by making payments to Tehran via the UK branch of the US bank HSBC. The question is, however, how come someone is trying to indict a Chinese citizen according to the norms of American law, and not even on US territory to boot?

China’s reaction was extremely tough with Deputy Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoning the Canadian and US ambassadors in Beijing and demanding the immediate release of the detainee, calling her detention “an extremely bad act.” First of all, because this is yet another arrogant attempt at extraterritorial use of American laws.

Other countries, above all Russia, have already experienced this arrogance more than once; suffice it to mention the cases of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, or of the alleged “Russian hackers,” who, by hook or crook, were taken out to the United States to face US “justice”.

Enough is enough, as they say. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is usually careful in his choice of words, said that while Russia is not involved in the US-China trade war, it still regards Meng’s arrest as “another manifestation of the line that inspires a rejection among the overwhelming majority of normal countries, normal people, the line of extraterritorial application of their [US] national laws.”

“This is a very arrogant great-power policy that no one accepts, it already causes rejection even among the closest allies of the US,” Lavrov said. “It is necessary to put an end to it,” he added.

One couldn’t agree with this more. But first, I would like to know who really is behind this provocation, even though China’s reaction would have been much anticipated. The arrest of Meng Wanzhou sent US markets into a tailspin and scared investors, who now expect an escalation of the trade war between the United States and China.

The point here, of course, is Washington’s displeasure about Huawei’s activities, with The Wall Street Journal reporting that the US Justice Department has long been conducting a probe into the Chinese company’s alleged violation of US sanctions against Iran.

There is more to this whole story than just sanctions though. The US accuses Huawei (as it earlier did the Chinese ZTE) of the potential threats the company’s attempts to use tracking devices could pose to the security of America’s telecommunications networks. The United States has demanded that its closest allies (primarily Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, with whom it has set up a system for jointly collecting and using Five Eyes intelligence) exclude 5G Huawei products from their state procurement tenders.

I still believe, however, that the true reason for this is not so much security concerns as it is a desire to beat a competitor. Huawei has become a world-renowned leader in the development and application of 5G communications technology, which looks to the future (“Internet of Things”, “Smart Cities”, unmanned vehicles and much more.)

Since technology and equipment are supplied along with standards for their use, there is a behind-the-scenes struggle going on to phase out the 5G standard developed by Huawei from global markets.

As for the need “to put an end to this,” the big question is how. Formally, detainees are extradited to the United States in line with national legislation, but at Washington’s request (which often comes with boorish and humiliating pressure from the US authorities and is usually never mentioned in public).

Add to this the US Congress’ longstanding practice of changing, unilaterally and at its own discretion, already signed international treaties and agreements as they are being ratified – another example of “arrogance of power” as mentioned before.

The question could well be raised at the UN Security Council, but its discussion is most likely to be blocked by the US representative. However, there is also a moral side to the assessment of any political practice the work on international legal norms usually starts with.

If China and Russia, as well as other countries equally fed up with the “arrogance of power” submit a draft resolution “On the inadmissibility of attempts at extraterritorial use of national legislation by UN member states” to the UN General Assembly, it would most likely enjoy the overwhelming support by most of the countries of the UNGA, maybe save for just a dozen or so of the most diehard advocates of Washington’s policy…

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Will China Save the Planet? Book Review

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Barbara Finamore has been involved in environmental policy in China for decades.  Her new book, Will China Save the Planet?,is a succinct report (120 pg.) on the short, yet promising history of China’s actions to address climate change and pollution.

Chapter 1 is about the recent global leadership role that China has taken in the fight against climate change.  At first, the PRC was hesitant to commit to specific pollution-reduction benchmarks.  After experiencing increasingly devastating bouts of industrial smog in the 1990s however, China began to take its environmental commitments more seriously.  It has set out to become the de facto leader in combatting climate change through ambitious domestic action and sponsoring international conferences.  The Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement has only furthered China’s dominance.

Chapters 2-4 give in-depth analysis on China’s efforts to wean itself off of coal, develop its renewable energy capacity and become a global leader in electric vehicle production.  China has long used coal to fuel its unprecedented rate of industrialization.  In recent years, it has pledged to wean itself off of coal dependency by enforcing coal plant efficiency standards, enacting a cap-and-trade program, managing grid output, promoting local politicians based on their success in implementing green policies and supporting green energy developments.  China is now home to many of the world’s top manufacturers of solar panels, wind turbines and commercial & private electric vehicles.

There is much to applaud China for in its efforts.  Finamore writes that, “After growing by an average of 10% annually from 2002-2012, China’s coal consumption leveled off in 2013 & decreased in each of the following three years… Largely because of the dip in China’s coal consumption, global CO2 emissions growth was basically flat between 2014-2016.”  By moving away from coal, China has been able to, “Every hour… erects a new wind turbine & installs enough solar panels to cover a soccer field.” As of last year, “Chinese solar manufacturers accounted for about 68% of global solar cell production & more than 70% of the world’s production of solar panels.”

Chapter 5 focuses on China’s mission to export its green initiatives around the world, particularly through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  The BRI is shaping up to be the largest international infrastructure plan in history, investing trillions of dollars in 65 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.  China thus has a golden chance to help much of the developing world to adopt clean energy goals and foster economic growth.  The Chinese government is encouraging its citizens to invest in renewable energy initiatives in the BRI countries by implementing a “green finance” system.  Through its pivotal role in the G20, China can also help to lead the developed world by spearheading reports and policies among the 20 member nations.

Barbara Finamore has written a highly readable and informative overview of China’s role in the global climate change battle.  She lists the Chinese government policies that have led the world’s largest nation to meet and exceed many of the green benchmarks that it set for itself.  It would have been helpful if Finamore had written more about China’s water instability and how that ties to the Tibetan occupation, as access to drinking water is one of the top environmental issues in the world today.  As a whole, Will China Save the Planet?is a good primer for environmental policy analysts and anyone else interested in studying feasible solutions to climate change, humanity’s greatest threat.

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