Full text: The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang

White Paper
The State Council Information Office on Monday issued a white paper on the fight against terrorism and extremism and human rights protection in Xinjiang.

China SCIOUpdated: March 19, 2019

I. Xinjiang Has Long Been an Inseparable Part of Chinese Territory

Xinjiang is situated in northwest China and the hinterland of the Eurasian Continent, covering an area of 1.66 million sq km. It borders eight countries: Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Since ancient times, Xinjiang has been home to various ethnic groups, and different cultures and religions coexist. It has also been an important channel for communication between civilizations of the East and the West, and was an important section of the famed Silk Road which linked ancient China with the rest of the world. In the long historical process, these ethnic groups have communicated and merged with each other, while living, studying, working and developing together in harmony.

Xinjiang has long been an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The vast areas both north and south of the Tianshan Mountains, called the Western Regions in ancient times, were in close contact with the Central Plains as early as the pre-Qin period (c. 2100-221 BC). With the establishment of the unified feudal dynasties Qin (221-206 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD 220), multi-ethnic unification has been the norm in China's historical development, and therefore Xinjiang has always been part of a unitary multi-ethnic China. In 60 BC, government of the Western Han Dynasty established the Western Regions Frontier Command in Xinjiang, officially making Xinjiang a part of Chinese territory.

In 123, during the Eastern Han Dynasty, the Western Regions Frontier Command was replaced by the Western Regions Garrison Command, which continued exercising administration over the Western Regions. The Kingdom of Wei (220-265) of the Three Kingdoms Period adopted the Han system, stationing a garrison commander to rule the Western Regions. The Western Jin Dynasty (265-316) stationed a garrison commander and a governor to exercise military and political administration over the Western Regions. The Sui Dynasty (581-618) ended the long-term division of the Central Plains, and expanded the areas in the Western Regions that adopted the system of prefectures and counties. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the central government strengthened its rule over the Western Regions by establishing the Grand Anxi Frontier Command and the Grand Beiting Frontier Command to administer the Western Regions. The ruling clan of the Kingdom of Yutian asserted it was related by blood to the Tang Dynasty and changed its surname to Li, the surname of the Tang ruling house. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), local regimes of the Western Regions paid tribute to the central authorities. The king of one of the regimes, the Gaochang Uygur Kingdom, honored the imperial Song court as "Uncle" and called himself "Nephew in the Western Regions"; while the Karahan Kingdom sent envoys many times to pay tribute to the Song court. In the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), the central government strengthened administration over the Western Regions by establishing the Beiting Command and the Pacification Commissioner's Office to manage military and political affairs. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the central authorities set up the Hami Garrison Command to manage local affairs. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the imperial court quelled a rebellion launched by the Junggar regime, defining the northwestern border of China. It then adopted more systematic policies for governing Xinjiang. In 1762, the Qing government established the post of Ili General and adopted a mechanism combining military and political administration; in 1884, it established a province in Xinjiang.

In 1949, the People's Republic of China was founded, and Xinjiang was liberated peacefully. In 1955, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was established. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, Xinjiang has witnessed fundamental social and economic change, and it is in its best period of prosperity and development. Although there were some kingdoms and khanates in Xinjiang in the past, they were all local regimes within the territory of China and constituted part of the country; they were never independent countries. It is indisputable that Xinjiang is an inseparable part of Chinese territory.

Xinjiang has been a multi-ethnic region since ancient times. Down the ages, many ethnic groups have lived here, frequently migrating and communicating with each other. The earliest explorers of Xinjiang included the Sai, Rouzhi, Wusun, Qiang, Qiuci, Yanqi, Yutian, Shule, Shache, Loulan and Cheshi in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (770-221 BC). Following them were peoples entering Xinjiang in large numbers in different periods: the Xiongnu (Hun), Han, and Qiang in the Qin and Han dynasties; the Xianbei, Rouran, Gaoche, Yeda, and Tuyuhun in the period of the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties (220-589); the Turk, Tubo, and Ouigour peoples in the period of the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907); the Khitans in the period of the Song, Liao, and Jin dynasties (916-1279); the Mongolian, Jurchen, Dangxiang (Tangut), Kazak, Kirgiz, Manchu, Xibe, Daur, Hui, Uzbek, and Tatar peoples in the period of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties (1279-1911). By the end of the 19th century, 13 ethnic groups - the Uygur, Han, Kazak, Mongolian, Hui, Kirgiz, Manchu, Xibe, Tajik, Daur, Uzbek, Tatar, and Russian - had settled in Xinjiang, with the Uygurs having the largest population. The multi-ethnic region constitutes an integral part of the Chinese nation.

The Uygur ethnic group came into being in the long process of migration and ethnic integration; they are not descendants of the Turks. The main ancestors of the Uygurs were the Ouigour people living on the Mongolian Plateau during the Sui and Tang dynasties. We find that many different names were used to refer to the Ouigour people in historical records. Historically, to resist oppression and slavery by the Turks, the Ouigour people united with some of the Tiele tribes to form the Ouigour tribal alliance. In 744, the Tang court conferred a title of nobility on Kutlug Bilge Kaghan, who united the Ouigour tribes. In 788, the then Ouigour ruler wrote to the Tang emperor, requesting to have their name changed to "Huihu" (Uygur). After the Uygur Khanate suffered a major defeat in war in 840, some of them moved inland to live with the Han people, the rest of the surviving Uygurs were divided into three sub-groups. One of the sub-groups moved to the Turpan Basin and the modern Jimsar region, where they founded the Gaochang Uygur Kingdom. Another moved to the Hexi Corridor, where they merged with local ethnic groups to become what was later known as the Yugu people. The third sub-group moved to the west of Pamir, scattered in areas from Central Asia to Kashgar, and joined the Karluk and Yagma peoples in founding the Karahan Kingdom. There they merged with the Han people in the Turpan Basin and the Yanqi, Qiuci, Yutian, Shule, and other peoples in the Tarim Basin to form the main body of the modern Uygur group. In the Yuan Dynasty, ancestors of the modern Uygur people were called the "畏兀儿" people in the Chinese language. In the Yuan and Ming dynasties, the various ethnic groups in Xinjiang further merged; Mongolians, especially those of the Chagatai Khanate, were fused with the Uygurs, adding fresh blood to the Uygur group. In 1934, Xinjiang issued a government order, stipulating that "维吾尔" would be the standard Chinese name for Uygurs, which for the first time expressed the accurate meaning of "Uygur": to maintain unity among the people.

Xinjiang ethnic cultures are an inseparable part of Chinese civilization. As early as the pre-Qin period, Xinjiang was in close contact with the Central Plains. Archaeological studies demonstrate that painted pottery-ware unearthed in Xinjiang shows the influence of the Yangshao Culture in the middle reaches of the Yellow River, while many articles made from Xinjiang's Hetian jade were unearthed from the Shang Dynasty (c.1600-c.1100 BC) Tomb of Fu Hao in Anyang, Henan in central China. After the Western Han (206 BC-AD 25) united Xinjiang, Chinese language became one of the official languages used in government documents of that region. Agricultural production techniques, the system of etiquette, books, and music and dances of the Central Plains spread widely in Xinjiang. Pipa (the four-stringed Chinese lute), the Qiang flute, and other musical instruments were introduced to the Central Plains from or via Xinjiang and exerted a great influence on local music. The treasure house of Chinese culture boasts elements of the Uygur Muqam, the Kazak Aytes art, the Kirgiz epic Manas, the Mongolian epic Jangar, and many other cultural gems of various ethnic groups. It is undeniable that Xinjiang was influenced by Islamic culture, but this did not halt the flow of local cultures into the Chinese civilization, nor did it alter the fact that they were part of Chinese culture. Having a stronger sense of identity with Chinese culture is essential to the prosperity and development of ethnic cultures in Xinjiang. Only by regarding Chinese culture as an emotional support and spiritual home, can we promote the prosperity and development of ethnic cultures in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang has long been a multi-religious region. In primitive society, Xinjiang residents followed primitive religion from which Shamanism evolved. Before the fourth century BC primitive religion was practiced in Xinjiang. Later, a succession of religions popular in the East and the West were introduced into Xinjiang via the Silk Road, the first of which was Zoroastrianism.

Around the first century BC Buddhism was introduced into Xinjiang and gradually became the major religion, coexisting with many other religions, and Yutian, Shule, Qiuci, Gaochang, and other renowned Buddhist centers were formed. From the fourth to the 10th century, Buddhism reached its peak, while in the same period Zoroastrianism proliferated throughout Xinjiang, particularly in the Turpan area. Around the fifth century, Taoism was introduced into Xinjiang, becoming prevalent mainly in Turpan and Hami. It spread to most parts of Xinjiang and experienced a revival during the Qing Dynasty. In the sixth century, Manichaeism and Nestorianism were introduced into Xinjiang. From the 10th to the 14th century, Nestorianism flourished as the Uygur and some other peoples converted to it in many parts of Xinjiang.

In the late ninth and early 10th century, Islam was introduced into southern Xinjiang, changing the religious profile of Xinjiang again. After the Karahan Khanate accepted Islam, in the mid-10th century it launched a religious war against the Buddhist Kingdom of Yutian, and the war lasted for more than 40 years. In the early 11th century, the Karahan Khanate conquered Yutian and imposed Islam in that region. Thereafter, Islam dominated southern Xinjiang while Buddhism dominated northern Xinjiang. In the mid-14th century, the rulers of the Eastern Chagatai Khanate spread Islam to the northern edge of the Tarim Basin, the Turpan Basin and Hami by war and compulsion. By the early 16th century many religions coexisted in Xinjiang, with Islam predominant. Beginning in the 18th century, Protestantism, Catholicism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church were introduced into Xinjiang. Islam has ever since been the principal religion in Xinjiang, coexisting with a number of other religions.

The history of Xinjiang shows that the coexistence of multiple religions with one or two predominant has always been a basic characteristic of the religious structure of Xinjiang, and blending and coexistence of different religions has been the norm there. Islam is neither an indigenous belief of the Uygurs and other ethnic groups, nor the sole one of the Uygur people. Today in Xinjiang, a fairly large number of people do not believe in religion or believe in religions other than Islam.

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