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International Law

China and the SEA in the Asia’s Troubled waters

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Coastal State’s claim over the ocean has been accommodated by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC)  though a quid pro quo arrangement, that is something for something. While Coastal States are given certain degree of sovereignty over their surrounding oceans, yet other states interests should also be respected, which include rights of navigation as well as ocean resources usage rights. While such arrangement can be seen as a ‘package-deals’  offered by the LOSC, however, in practice things would never be as easy as it could be. Complication arising from LOSC’s arrangement varies from geographical condition of both the coastal state and the ocean itself, to broader interests of other states, in this case user maritime states. In addition to this, the problem of maritime delimitation between adjacent states poses another problem.

A never-ended problem related to maritime delimitation as well as access to ocean resources, has been the issue of South-China Sea (SCS). The SCS is a semi-enclosed sea which is surrounded by at least eight States; China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan. Such geographic location has made SCS surrounded by the land territory of many states and thus the sovereignty as well as sovereign rights of the surrounding states upon the SCS became complicated. In addition to this, the SCS area consists of four islands, which include Pratas, Macclesfield Bank, Paracels and Spratlys.  Upon such geographical complexion, China declared its claim upon the SCS based on its map known as the nine-dashed lines which encircle almost the entire SCS and within which China claims are China’s historical waters over which it has sovereignty. On the other hand, other littoral states are also claiming sovereignty over small islands in the SCS, namely, Vietnam claims the Spartly Island, while the Philippines and Brunei claims the Kalayan Island Group (KIG).

While the overlapping claims remain, in May 2009 China submit a claim before the United Nations, claiming several islands, which include Spartly, Scarborough Soal, Paracel and others to be included within its territory based on the nine-dashed lines map, combined with occasional references to “historic waters.” In April 2012, the Philippines Navy caught eight Chinas’ fishing vessels in Scarborough Soal waters, that is 220 km off-shore Philippines. Is should be bear in mind that the Scarborough Soal is claimed by several states, namely China, the Philippines and Taiwan. In January 2013 the Philippines submit its objection to the China’s nine-dashed lines to the Permanent Court of Arbitration demanding the cancelation of the nine-dashed line map proposed by China. Permanent Court Arbitration (PCA) resulted on the illegitimate China’s claim, China has asserted that they will not participate on the proceeding and neither obeys the final award of the PCA.

This paper seeks to analyze legal implications upon China’s refusal on PCA’s award to Indonesia’s border security over the waters around Natuna Islands. It further proposed what should be done by Indonesia in anticipating both legal as well as political consequences of such assertive reaction taken by China.

The Philippines vs. China before the Permanent Court of International Arbitration

While conflict between affected littoral states over the South-China Se remains, in 2013 the Philippines brought the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The disputes concerned was on the legal basis of maritime rights and entitlements in the South-China Sea, the status of certain geographic features in the South-China Sea and the lawfulness of certain actions taken by China in the South-China Sea. In brief, basically there are 4 (four) claim submitted by the Philippines before the PCA.[1] Firstly, the Philippines seek advice from the PCA to solve existing disputes over the SCS regarding the rights to occupy the SCS. More specifically, asking PCA to declare that the rights to occupy the SCS should be based on the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) rather than based on ‘historic rights’. Secondly, the Philippines seek advice from PCA to solve maritime delimitation disputes over the Scarborough Shoal and certain resources in Spratly Islands, which has been claimed by both Philippines and China. Thirdly, the Philippines asking the PCA to solve matter related to the validity of China’s claim over the SCS. The Philippines required PCA to deliver award that China has conducted wrong doing upon their actions, as follows:

a.Intervening Philippines’ rights in accordance with the LOSC with regard to fishing, navigation and other natural resources exploration and exploitation as well as the establishment of artificial islands;

b.Has failed to save ocean environment by giving support to China’s fishermen, who has caught the endangered species as well as the use of non-environmental friendly fishing method which lead to the destruction of coral reef ecosystem in the SCS; and

c.Causing the damage on marine environment by the establishment of artificial islands as well as reclamation in the area of seven coral reef areas in Spratly Islands.

Fourth, that China has worsened the dispute by limiting Philippines’ access to Marine Detachment in Second Thomas Shoal.

The SCS case between the Philippines and China, in fact involves various legal aspect. However, crucial aspect that worth to be discussed is the concept of ‘historical rights’ which has been used as legal basis by China in claiming its sovereignty over the SCS. As this turn out, PCA only used the LOSC as valid legal basis in deciding the case. PCA further stated that:

“This arbitration concerned the role of historic rights and the Sumber of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, the status of certain maritime features and the maritime entitlements they are capable of generating, and the lawfulness of certain actions by China that were alleged by the Philippines to violate the Convention. In light of limitations on compulsory dispute settlement under the Convention, the Tribunal has emphasized that it does not rule on any question of sovereignty over land territory and does not delimit any boundary between the Parties”. [2]

In its decision, PCA was unanimously giving award to the Philippines and declared that “the Tribunal concluded that, to the extent China had historic rights to reSumbers in the waters of the South China Sea, such rights were extinguished to the extent they were incompatible with the exclusive economic zones provided for in the Convention. While the award clearly stated that ‘historical rights’ were incompatible with LOSC, it is interesting to find out the origin of ‘historic claim’ as well as analyzing whether the term ‘historic rights’ and ‘historic waters’ ever exist within both LOSC and other customary international law of the sea.

Figure 1: China’s nine-dashed lines covering vast majority of the SCS areas

Legal Implication on China’s refusal upon PCA Award

Upon PCA award, Chinese Government insists on the position that it will not obey PCA Award due its absence during the trial. This position was stated clearly by China through diplomatic notes titled “Position Paper of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Republic of Philippines”  dated 7th December submitted before the court and Netherlands Government. In sum, the diplomatic notes declared as follows:

“It is the view of China that the Arbitral Tribunal manifestly has no jurisdiction over this arbitration, unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, with regard to disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Firstly, the essence of the subject-matter of the arbitration is the territorial sovereignty over the relevant maritime features in the South China Sea, which is beyond the scope of the Convention and is consequently not concerned with the interpretation or application of the Convention.

Secondly, there is an agreement between China and the Philippines to settle their disputes in the South China Sea by negotiations, as embodied in bilateral instruments and the DOC. Thus the unilateral initiation of the present arbitration by the Philippines has clearly violated international law.

Thirdly, even assuming that the subject-matter of the arbitration did concern the interpretation or application of the Convention, it has been excluded by the 2006 declaration filed by China under Article 298 of the Convention, due to its being an integral part of the dispute of maritime delimitation between the two States.

Fourthly, China has never accepted any compulsory procedures of the Convention with regard to the Philippines’ claims for arbitration. The Arbitral Tribunal shall fully respect the right of the States Parties to the Convention to choose the means of dispute settlement of their own accord, and exercise its competence to decide on its jurisdiction within the confines of the Convention. The initiation of the present arbitration by the Philippines is an abuse of the compulsory dispute settlement procedures under the Convention. There is a solid basis in international law for China’s rejection of and non-participation in the present arbitration.

Furthermore, China added more statement “[t]his shall by no means be interpreted as China’s participation in the arbitral proceeding in any form.”  Upon such situation, Article 288 of the LOSC and Article 9 of LOSC’s Annex VII provide:

a.Article 288 of the Convention provides that “In the event of a dispute as to whether a court or tribunal has jurisdiction, the matter shall be settled by decision of that court or tribunal.

b.Article 9 of Annex VII to the Convention provides that “If one of the parties to the dispute does not appear before the arbitral tribunal or fails to defend its case, the other party may request the tribunal to continue the proceedings and to make its award. Absence of a party or failure of a party to defend its case shall not constitute a bar to the proceedings. Before making its award, the arbitral tribunal must satisfy itself not only that it has jurisdiction over the dispute but also that the claim is well founded in fact and law.”

It is clearly stated that in the situation whether the arbitral have competence in deciding certain case, the authority to decide is the arbitral itself and not the parties. In addition to this, in the absence of one party in the dispute, another party have the right to ask the arbitral to continue the proceeding. Thus, it is submitted that the absence of one party cannot prevent the proceeding to be continued.             On the awards on jurisdiction, PCA considered the application of Article 281 and 282 of the LOSC, which allow a state to apply other dispute resolution method outside the LOSC, if the parties agreed to. Article 281 and 282 of the LOSC read:

“If the States Parties which are parties to a dispute concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention have agreed to seek settlement of the dispute by a peaceful means of their own choice, the procedures provided for in this Part apply only where no settlement has been reached by recourse to such means and the agreement between the parties does not exclude any further procedure.

If the States Parties which are parties to a dispute concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention have agreed, through a general, regional or bilateral agreement or otherwise, that such dispute shall, at the request of any party to the dispute, be submitted to a procedure that entails a binding decision, that procedure shall apply in lieu of the procedures provided for in this Part, unless the parties to the dispute otherwise agree.”

PCA considered the application of Article 281 dan 282 upon the following documents to find out whether both parties have agreed on other dispute resolution method; (a) the 2002 China–ASEAN Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (the “DOC”), (b) a series of joint statements issued by the Philippines and China referring to the resolution of disputes through negotiations, (c) the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and (d) the Convention on Biological Diversity (the “CBD”) .

Nevertheless, PCA refused China’s argument which stated that the Document of Conduct (DOC) agreed between ASEAN and China was a political agreement and did not intended to be a binding agreement which is applicable in disputes resolution method.  Since the DOC is silent on the binding settlement mechanism,  and does not exclude any other dispute resolution method,  it is argued that PCA can decide based on Article 281 and 282 of the LOSC. PCA also finds out the same conclusion relating to Joint Statement mentioned in China Diplomatic Notes.  In relation to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and the CBD, PCA declared that while both agreements bind parties in the disputes resolution chosen by the parties, there is no binding mechanism within the agreement whatsoever.  To conclude, there is nowhere in those agreements prevent the Philippines to bring the case before the PCA.

As this turn out, PCA reward the Philippines and declared that China’s Claim over the SCS with its nine-dashed lines as illegal and found China to be guilty of conducting illegal maritime activities inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Upon such award, as stated, China refused to apply the award in any cases. Furthermore, instead of moving away from the disputed area, Chinese military and non-military vessels have regularly undertaken activities to strengthen their de facto control of the area. China seems to undertaken the passive assertiveness over the area and avoiding assertive action which could lead to incident, while also expanding its movement in the SCS.  This condition brings several legal implications to the neighboring adjacent states surrounding the SCS, especially to ASEAN’s member states. This includes an increase of China’s maritime power within the South Asia region, which also effect the South-East Region.

In addition to this, it is assumes that China will strengthen its domestic law in claiming several areas in the SCS. This way, a potent disputes may arise between China and other claimant states, in particular ASEAN’s member states. China aggressive response to the PCA’s award might also bring further legal implication for less affected state like Indonesia. While the SCS dispute does not directly affected Indonesia at the moment, however, it might affected in the near future. As an archipelagic state, Indonesia is entitled to draw archipelagic baselines connecting the outermost point of its outermost islands.  Despite the fact that Indonesia does not claim any of the disputed islands located in the SCS, Indonesian has an outer island group, the Natuna Islands, which are adjacent to the SCS.  These Islands are used as Indonesian basepoints. Due to Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Natuna Islands, consequently Indonesia has the rights over certain areas of waters measures from Natuna’s baselines in accordance with international law. From this baselines Indonesia also entitles various maritime zones established by the LOSC.

This results in the fact that Indonesia has to share such ocean with neighboring states which are also claimant states in the SCS dispute, namely Malaysia and Vietnam.  While agreement has been reached over delineating the continental shelf between states, Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) delimitation remains unsolved. If China strengthen its nine-dashed line claim and keep asserting its military power within the area, it is possible that China and Indonesia involve in a disagreement on maritime delimitation around Natuna Islands.

Conclusion

Prior to the PCA’s award, Indonesian President, Mr. Joko Widodo, commented on the matter of the SCS disputes saying that while Indonesia is located considerably near to the SCS, yet Indonesia does not have a direct interest in the SCS. However, recent development shows different position. During President Jokowi’s visit to Natuna Islands recently, it was reminded that in 1996 China has recognized Natuna’s waters as Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

This paper argued that while the SCS disputes so far does not have direct impact on Indonesia, yet, some areas of Indonesia’s EEZ in Natuna Islands overlap with the China’s nine-dash line. Since China has declared to refuse the award of PCA, Indonesia should make further legal and policy framework in implementing its sovereign rights over its EEZ in Natuna Islands. In addition to this strong political assertion should also be taken in anticipating china’s movement in the SCS through its nine-dash line claim.

  • [1] Read further Kristiyanto, Kristiyanto, Puspitawati, Dhianadan Ardhiansyah, Agis, Konsep Historical Rights dalam SengketaLaut Tiongkok Selatan berdasarkan Putusan PCA Case Number 2013-19 in the Matter of the South China Sea Arbitration between the Philippines and China, Final Essay, Law Faculty, Brawijaya University, 2017
  • [2] Press Release Permanent Court of Arbitration tertanggal 12 July 2016 which giving unanimous award to the Philippines over the SCS disputes.

International Law

A Threat Assessment of South China Sea

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Authors: Areeja Syed and Muhammad Rizwan*

In the international arena, rapidly evolving economic power, China has emerged as a colossal threat to the U.S and her hegemonic powers. 21st century is witnessing both U.S and Asia to bridge their gulfs and draw closer to each other. During the cold wartimes, the United States was more inclined to decrease the power and its influence of Soviet Union in Asia but with the massive alteration in the international political and economic scenario, upsurge of china and its regional dominion has become the main trepidation for the U.S. Many tactics have been adopted by U.S to contain china but many tensions keep arising between these states, like trade war, south china conflict, Taiwan issue.

It’s a well-established fact that The Pacific Ocean is one of the major and important Oceans in the world. The word pacific means peace and serenity. It was named Pacific in 1520 by a voyager Ferdinand Magellan when he sailed through it. The Pacific Ocean stretches from California to china covering 60 million square miles and spreads tens of thousands of feet under the outward of the ocean in many regions. Contrary to its name, The Pacific is, a violent and humongous water body. Most of its part is still unexplored and undiscovered yet this half-discovered ocean is contributing considerably in changing humans’ lifestyle through deep-sea excavating, industrialized harpooning and fossil-fuel fiery. This extensive ocean is replete with plenty of earth’s most idiosyncratic kinds of life. South China Sea is a part of Pacific Ocean and is a bone of contention between ASEAN states and China. The United States of America while having cordial relation with ASEAN state is trying act as balance in South China Sea. While running his presidential campaign, in 2018,Donald Trump viciously badgered Barack Obama for being bungling of averting China from escalating its influence in the South China Sea. Trump blamed Chinese Navy for being aggressive to the US in the undecided sea area. China has clashes with the US owing to the regional incongruities in the South China Sea. Also, China has disagreements with Japan in the East China Sea. Both the disputed regions are probable to be rich in oil reserves and several other natural resources and can enhance the international trade. China retains its claim, claiming almost the entire South China Sea.

It is a row over land and veracity over ocean areas, and the two island chains Parcels and the Spartlys, demanded by an assortment of nations in whole or in share. These chains include hundreds of sharp cliffs, minor islands, shorelines, and aquatic life, like the Scarborough lagoon, adjacent to one another. The ocean itself is a chief trading path and abode to fisheries on which the people living alongside the region depend for their wellbeing. China has always made extensive claims in South China Sea that whole sea belongs to it. It specifies the two clusters of islands sliding inside their limits entirely. Philippines is the other noteworthy plaintiff in the region and as a part of grouping considers its physical nearness to the spratly island as the foundation and primer. The other island chain, Scarborough Shoal well-known as Hengyang island in China was claimed by both the Philippines and China just over 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines and 500 miles from Chinese territory. Other states like Malaysia and Brunei also approve their avowal to region in the South China as declared in The United Nations convention on the Maritime law, as described by UNCLOS. Burnei does not hold any of the disputed islands, but Malaysia has control over a quite minuscule number of Spratly islands.

The US navy claims that it is safeguarding and watching the South China Sea to guarantee the freedom of navigation in that region predominantly where China has seized many islands and reefs into its control. This disputed region is the route of trillions of dollars of trade travels annually which is at stake due to the conflict and belligerence in the South China Sea can also threaten and berate the safety of a region. This region cannot afford any armed skirmish that would have possibly far-ranging and callous repercussions. This war is the exact portrayal of China-U.S supremacy scuffle. The problem is for influence and military dominance in the region between China and US. It is becoming a same cold war like situation in which both countries are trying their best to dominate a particular region. But the problem is, during the course of these events even a miscalculation or small incident can escalate in to full fledge which will be very difficult to control even for belligerent parties.

*Muhammad Rizwan is pursuing M.phil in International Relations from COMSATS University Islamabad.

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International Law

National Interest surpassing human rights: Case study of Kashmir

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Authors: Rizwan Malik and Areeja Syed

The Indian government revoked the exceptional status accorded to Indian-occupied Kashmir in Indian constitution. This sudden development is the most sweeping political move on the disputed region in seventy years. A presidential pronouncement issued on August 5 revoked Article 370 of Indian constitution that ascertained the special rights to the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir, including the rights to have her own constitution and autonomy to make laws on all affairs apart from communication, defence, and foreign policies. This shocking move literally shook Kashmir and Pakistan at their cores. Now It has been more than one month now since Indian forces started a lock down in Indian administered Kashmir. Due to continuous threat of mass protests against this illegal action, additional troops were deployed in already heavy militarized valley. Crippling curfew was imposed and Internet services were suspended. Indian security forces have also arrested all the political leadership of the valley. Different International media outlets have published news regarding the brutal suppression of local Kashmiri people by Indian forces.

With the evolution of United Nation and other international institutions, rights violation and other disputed issue that could undermine peace and stability are paid umpteen attentions by the international community. Time to time we have witnessed intervention on humanitarian bases by International Community .Even force was used in many states to stop oppressive regimes from committing atrocities.

India claims herself to be the largest democracy in the world and champion of human rights protection. But this is absolutely contrary and devious to the ground realities. Especially since BJP came into power in 2014 with an expansionist agenda, it is actively involved in different crimes and often violated the sovereignty of many states. BJP government has conducted military operation in Myanmar in 2015 without taking into confidence the local government. Later, Pakistan was targeted in February 2019 though it resulted in shooting down of one of Indian fighter jets. This shift has deteriorated the already-heightened tensions with neighboring Pakistan, which relegated its diplomatic relations with India.

Kashmir has been a bone of contention and a disputed region between Indian and Pakistan since 1947. Pakistan and India claim Kashmir in full but rule it partially. The nuclear-armed neighbors remain at daggers drawn over this issue and have fought three wars over this territory but Kashmir issue is still unresolved. A rebellion in Indian-administered Kashmir has been continuing for past 30 years. United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions on Kashmir and has given Kashmir citizens the right of self-determination .UN instructed both India and Pakistan to withdraw their troops from disputed region and to organize plebiscite there. Though India did not agree to these demands and never held a plebiscite but a special status was granted to Indian occupied Kashmir which made it a semi-autonomous region. Different round of talks were arranged between India and Pakistan to solve this dispute which means that India recognized Kashmir as international dispute.

But on August 05, 2015 BJPs government removed this special status of Kashmir and directly imposed the rule of central  India.BJP has established a stance that Kashmir is integral part of India and vowed to attack even Pakistani administered Kashmir.

This illegal move of Indian authorities is accompanied by the brutal use of force in the valley. International community which asserts it as the protector of International law and human rights round the globe has basically done nothing against this inhuman/illegal occupation of Kashmir. Reason is that international community is following real politik .According to realist school of thought , International relations states only protect their own national interests. They do not have much appetite for human rights and International Law. This is best depicted in response of international community on Indian moves in Kashmir. If we analyze the international reactions to this recent development one by one we can see that these great powers have their own vested interest in India that is why they are not willing to take any concrete step. For example due to changing geopolitical situation in Asia-Pacific region United States considers India as its strategic ally against the regional power of China. According to US, Indian will contain expanding Chinese influence in south Asia and will act as balancing forces. Moreover Indian with its huge population and large economy is very good trading partner of United States .That is why US will not take any concrete steps against Indian aggression. Countries like France and Russia are huge arms exporters to India so they will not try to lose a client by taking any concrete steps against India. States like Saudi Arabia and UAE which have influence on India because to their oil exports and other trade relation will not take any action .Reason they have very strong trade ties which they do not want to threaten .Secondly they themselves are oppressing regimes so promoting human right in any other region will jeopardize their own position as international actor.

With this realpolitik prevailing at international politics Pakistan is left with pauce options. Pakistan has very strong religious and cultural bonding with Kashmir people and she considers it her legal and moral responsibility to help Kashmir people who are facing wrath of Indian forces. it is the responsibility of the International community to speak for the human rights violations in Kashmir instead on just focusing on their own vast national interests.

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International Law

A bird’s eye view of Asia: A continental landscape of minorities in peril

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Many in Asia look at the Middle East with a mixture of expectation of stable energy supplies, hope for economic opportunity and concern about a potential fallout of the region’s multiple violent conflicts that are often cloaked in ethnic, religious and sectarian terms.

Yet, a host of Asian nations led by men and women, who redefine identity as concepts of exclusionary civilization, ethnicity, and religious primacy rather than inclusive pluralism and multiculturalism, risk sowing the seeds of radicalization rooted in the despair of population groups that are increasingly persecuted, disenfranchised and marginalized.

Leaders like China’s Xi Jingping, India’s Narendra Modi, and Myanmar’s Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi, alongside nationalist and supremacist religious figures ignore the fact that crisis in the Middle East is rooted in autocratic and authoritarian survival strategies that rely on debilitating manipulation of national identity on the basis of sectarianism, ethnicity and faith-based nationalism.

A bird’s eye view of Asia produces a picture of a continental landscape strewn with minorities on the defensive whose positioning as full-fledged members of society with equal rights and opportunities is either being eroded or severely curtailed.

It also highlights a pattern of responses by governments and regional associations that opt for a focus on pre-emptive security, kicking the can down the road and/or silent acquiescence rather than addressing a wound head-on that can only fester, making cures ever more difficult.

To be sure, multiple Asian states, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India have at various times opened their doors to refugees.

Similarly, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) disaster management unit has focused on facilitating and streamlining repatriation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

But a leaked report by the unit, AHA Centre, in advance of last June’s ASEAN summit was criticized for evading a discussion on creating an environment in which Rohingya would be willing to return.

The criticism went to the core of the problem: Civilizationalist policies, including cultural genocide, isolating communities from the outside world, and discrimination will at best produce simmering anger, frustration and despair and at worst mass migration, militancy and/or political violence.

A Uyghur member of the Communist Party for 30 years who did not practice his religion, Ainiwa Niyazi, would seem to be the picture-perfect model of a Chinese citizen hailing from the north-western province of Xinjiang.

Yet, Mr Niyazi was targeted in April of last year for re-education, one of at least a million Turkic Muslims interned in detention facilities where they are forced to internalize Xi Jinping thought and repudiate religious norms and practices in what constitutes the most frontal assault on a faith in recent history.

If past efforts, including an attempt to turn Kurds into Turks by banning use of Kurdish as a language that sparked a still ongoing low level insurgency, is anything to go by, China’s ability to achieve a similar goal with greater brutality is questionable.

“Most Uyghur young men my age are psychologically damaged. When I was in elementary school surrounded by other Uyghurs, I was very outgoing and active. Now I feel like I have been broken… Quality of life is now about feeling safe,” said Alim, a young Uyghur, describing to Adam Hunerven, a writer who focuses on the Uyghurs, arrests of his friends and people trekking south to evade the repression in Xinjiang cities.

Travelling in the region in 2014, an era in which China was cracking down on Uyghurs but that predated the institutionalization of the re-education camps, Mr. Hunerven saw that “the trauma people experienced in the rural Uyghur homeland was acute. It followed them into the city, hung over their heads and affected the comportment of their bodies. It made people tentative, looking over their shoulders, keeping their heads down. It made them tremble and cry.”

There is little reason to assume that anything has since changed for the better. On the contrary, not only has the crackdown intensified, fear and uncertainty has spread to those lucky enough to live beyond the borders of China. Increasingly, they risk being targeted by the long arm of the Chinese state that has pressured their host countries to repatriate them.

Born and raised in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, Rahima Akter, one of the few women to get an education among the hundreds of thousands who fled what the United Nations described as ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, saw her dreams and potential as a role model smashed when she was this month expelled from university after recounting her story publicly.

Ms. Akter gained admission to Cox’s Bazar International University (CBIU) on the strength of graduating from a Bangladeshi high school, a feat she could only achieve by sneaking past the camp’s checkpoints, hiding her Rohingya identity, speaking only Bengali, dressing like a Bangladeshi, and bribing Bangladeshi public school officials for a placement.

Ms Akter was determined to escape the dire warnings of UNICEF, the United Nations’ children agency, that Rohingya refugee children risked becoming “a lost generation.”

Ms. Akter’s case is not an isolated incident but part of a refugee policy in an environment of mounting anti-refugee sentiment that threatens to deprive Rohingya refugees who refuse to return to Myanmar unless they are guaranteed full citizenship of any prospects.

In a move that is likely to deepen a widespread sense of abandonment and despair, Bangladeshi authorities, citing security reasons, this month ordered the shutting down of mobile services and a halt to the sale of SIM cards in Rohingya refugee camps and restricted Internet access. The measures significantly add to the isolation of a population that is barred from travelling outside the camps.

Not without reason, Bangladeshi foreign minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen, has blamed the international community for not putting enough pressure on Myanmar to take the Rohingyas back.

The UN “should go to Myanmar, especially to Rakhine state, to create conditions that could help these refugees to go back to their country. The UN is not doing the job that we expect them to do,” Mr. Abdul Momen said.

The harsh measures are unlikely to quell increased violence in the camps and continuous attempts by refugees to flee in search of better pastures.

Suspected Rohingya gunmen last month killed a youth wing official of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League party. Two refugees were killed in a subsequent shootout with police.

The plight of the Uyghurs and the Rohingya repeats itself in countries like India with its stepped up number of mob killings that particularly target Muslims, threatened stripping of citizenship of close to two million people in the state of Assam, and unilateral cancellation of self-rule in Kashmir.

Shiite Muslims bear the brunt of violent sectarian attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Malaysia, Shiites, who are a miniscule minority, face continued religious discrimination.

The Islamic Religious Department in Selangor, Malaysia’s richest state, this week issued a sermon that amounts to a mandatory guideline for sermons in mosques warning against “the spread of Shia deviant teachings in this nation… The Muslim ummah (community of the faithful) must become the eyes and the ears for the religious authorities when stumbling upon activities that are suspicious, disguising under the pretext of Islam,” the sermon said.

Malaysia, one state where discriminatory policies are unlikely to spark turmoil and political violence, may be the exception that confirms the rule.

Ethnic and religious supremacism in major Asian states threatens to create breeding grounds for violence and extremism. The absence of effective attempts to lessen victims’ suffering by ensuring that they can rebuild their lives and safeguard their identities in a safe and secure environment, allows wounds to fester.

Permitting Ms. Akter, the Rohingya university student, to pursue her dream, would have been a low-cost, low risk way of offering Rohingya youth an alternative prospect and at the very least a reason to look for constructive ways of reversing what is a future with little hope.

Bangladeshi efforts to cut off opportunities in the hope that Rohingya will opt for repatriation have so far backfired. And repatriation under circumstances that do not safeguard their rights is little else than kicking the can down the road.

Said human rights advocate Ewelina U. Ochab: “It is easy to turn a blind eye when the atrocities do not happen under our nose. However, we cannot forget that religious persecution anywhere in the world is a security threat to everyone, everywhere.”

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