By Cao Chang-Ching 曹长青
The Taipei Times
October 14th, 1999
Xinjiang is an autonomous region; it in fact is entirely ruled by the Han Chinese. Although the Chairman of the Autonomous Region Government is an Uighur, his rank is no higher than that of the top officials in the other five administrative organs: the Provincial People's Congress, the People's Political Consultative Conference, Commission for Inspecting Discipline, Xinjiang Military Command and the Production and Construction Corp.
All of the six top officials of the above organs are deputy secretaries of the Xinjiang Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and most of them are Han Chinese. The person who truly wields power is the secretary of the CCP, and the position of secretary has always been held by Han Chinese, from General Wang Zhen (王震) , who led the invasion of Xinjiang in the end of 1940s to later, Wang Enmao (王恩茂), Song Huanliang (宋环良) and today's Wang Lequan (王乐泉).
When it comes to deciding major issues, the Uighur Chairman of the Autonomous Region Government has only one vote in this seven-member committee, one secretary and six deputy secretaries. But the secretary makes all ultimate decisions and was called "the Czar" of Xinjiang.
Under such a power structure, the Xinjiang Uighur officials are as silent as winter cicadas, and it is impossible for them to challenge the Chinese rulers and policies.
For example, like everywhere in China, the Beijing government also mandates a birth control policy in Xinjiang. Despite the fact that the Uighur and other minorities are allowed to have one more child than the Han Chinese, the Uighur people still detest the practice since they have a tradition of large families.
Abdulhekim, the Executive Chairman of the Eastern Turkestan National Center, is the eighth child in a family of 10 children. His oldest sister, who lives in Uzbekistan, also has 10 children.
"I have two daughters," said Abdulhekim, "and I want to have a son, but the authorities warned that I should be fined for violating the rules. I said okay, I'd rather pay the fine and have a son. But the cadres further threatened to expel me from the party. Again, I took it. Now the officials have organized a criticism meeting in my work unit and forced me to change my attitude. So, my wife had two abortions, which almost killed her."
East Turkestan (Xinjiang) is shown in white.
It was only after coming to Istanbul five years ago that Abdulhekim saw his dream come true to have a third child, a much-wanted son.
Although the Uighur people can have two children instead of one as the Han Chinese are allowed, children must be born according to a government quota. Couples can have children only after receiving their quota. In many cases, newlywed couples have to wait three or four years before receiving their quota for a baby. For those who give birth without receiving their quota first, a fine of 30,000 renminbi is imposed.
"If one is poor and unable to pay the fine," said Abdulhekim, "as is the case with many herdsmen, one's house will be torn apart and cows taken away."
The East Turkestan National Center often receives letters from Xinjiang telling stories about forced abortions.
One letter describes what happened in Wugan township in Toksu County of the Aksu district: a 28-year-old Uighur woman named Niyasam was pregnant for 34 weeks, but the authorities reproached her for having no "quota for birth." Then three policemen and the director of the county's birth control office, Halichem, hauled her to the hospital and had doctors tperform a caesarean operation on her.
Nobody knew whether the baby was alive or dead when it was taken away from the mother; the only thing Niyasam knew was that the baby's body was chucked into a big pit at the back of the hospital.
Waiting outside the hospital, Niyasam's husband thought he could take the baby's body back when it got dark and bury it according to Muslim traditions. However, when he arrived at the pit, the baby's body had already been torn to bits by stray dogs.
When Niyasam became pregnant again, she was terrified that she might be caught again. She was, a few days before the due date. But this time she managed to run away while the cadres were eating in her friend's restaurant. She hid in a cemetery at a nearby mountain, where she gave birth to a daughter.
According to statistics acquired by the East Turkestan National Center, in Toksu County alone, 846 Uighur had forced abortions in 1991. Since many women were in an advanced stage of pregnancy, caesarean operations caused them to lose their health or mental stability. About 17 people died from the abortions.
Birth control policy
In the same year of 1991, in Kasgar County of the Khotan district, the authorities sent out 432 cadres to carry out the birth control policy. The result was 18,765 forced abortions, with more than more than 50 percent performed on Uighur women.
"In addition to the intentional birth control policy that aimed at reducing the Uighur population," said Bekin, chairman of the Eastern Turkestan National Center, "the nuclear testing in Xinjiang severely damages local people's health. Turkic people are living in the rift of the abortion knife and the atom bomb."
China has conducted 46 nuclear tests so far, and all of them took place in Xinjiang. The nuclear test performed on Aug. 17, 1995 in Lopnur (罗布泊) was 10 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, according to a report.
Not far from Xinjiang's famous freshwater lake Bostun, there is a place called Malan (马兰), which the Chinese use as a secret nuclear base. This base is only 10km away from a residential area where ethnic Uighurs and Mongolians live.
Bache, a Mongolian who was born and raised in Xinjiang and is now a visiting scholar at the East Asian Institute at Columbia University in New York, told this reporter that he had traveled to Malan a couple of years ago and found that the bark and leaves of the trees near the nuclear testing areas had all fallen off. The director of the local hospital told him that many local residents suffered from hair loss and various skin diseases. The number of patients found having pathological changes in their blood was five or six times that of the other areas. The number of children and women with leukemia and throat cancer was rising rapidly. The number of premature births and deformed babies also increased. Bache had two brothers living in that area, but not long ago the brothers died, one after another, of unknown illness.
Doing research in the US on nuclear pollution, Ken Alibek is a Russian exile who left the USSR eight years ago when he was an expert at the "Soviet Union Nuclear Bacteriological Weapon Storage Center." He revealed in his book Biohazard in 1992 that Gorbachev had asked the center to prepare a proposal for developing bacteriological weapons. However, Alibek's research found two rare kind of bacteria, Ebola and Marburg, which doctors had never seen, even in Africa, not far from the Malan nuclear testing spot. This indicates that China began experimenting with bacteriological weapons as early as in the 1980s.
During the first five years of the 1980s, epidemics occurred continuously in south Xinjiang and caused many deaths. Nobody knew the names of the epidemics, so they were identified as "No.1 disease," "No. 2 disease" and so on, according to the year the disease struck. In the end, people simply dubbed the epidemics "unknown illnesses."
"We doctors in Xinjiang all took turns at participating in treating patients in that area," said a 45-year-old former Urumqi Hospital doctor who now lives in Istanbul and asked that her name not be revealed. "We had never had such epidemics in our East Turkestan history."
(This is part four of a seven-part series by Cao Chang-Ching. ).