“Spiritual support from West fosters separatism in Xinjiang”, featured in China’s Global Times
By Zhang Yi
The PEN American Center, a literary and human rights organization, announced on Monday that it would award Ilham Tohti, formerly an economics professor of the Minzu University of China who was detained in January and later charged with separatism, the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.
The president of the organization claimed that Tohti represented “a new generation of endangered writers who use the Web and social media to fight oppression.”
Obviously, the West is trying to pressure the Chinese government once again and offer spiritual support to dissidents. Tohti is a Uyghur, and this identity made him particularly critical of the government’s policy in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region which has experienced a series of violent clashes in recent years.
The trend is spreading out of Xinjiang recently. Terrorists from Xinjiang are to blame for a car crash in Tiananmen last October and a mass stabbing in Kunming in March, resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries.
The Chinese government has attached the highest importance to the stability of Xinjiang. Tohti reportedly has a close relationship with the World Uyghur Congress that instigates the independence of Xinjiang. The website he established in 2006, Uyghur Online, was shut down several times during the July 5 riot in Xinjiang in 2009 because of rumormongering and clamoring for separatist sentiments.
The West’s support for dissidents like Tohti comes at a time when China is at a critical juncture in combating terrorism and boosting national unity. These people share a great number of similarities in values with Western society whose support has become their leverage in challenging Chinese authorities.
It is worth noting that the West still tries to meddle in China’s affairs through its universal values such as human rights and freedom of expression. Supporting dissidents has been one of its means to denounce a rising China whose political system and core values differ from those of the West.
Admittedly, China lags far behind in the global influence of soft power, and it is expected that some dissidents will ally with the West in terms of values and even actions and the West will continue to make similar provocations.
Dissidents have diverging interests with mainstream society. Although there have been divided opinions over various issues in China, the Chinese public has reached a consensus on the unification of the country and solidarity of different ethnic groups. The West’s fuss-making is nothing but playing around with its own illusions.