It’s getting very ugly in Xinjiang. The violent riots by ethnic Uighurs have now been followed by vigilante mobs of Han Chinese, chanting “We want revenge for our dead.” Urumchi is now under martial law. The death toll is at 156 and rising; no one has a clear breakdown on how many deaths were caused by police and how many by the rioters. 1400 people have been arrested. The UK’s Telegraph newspaper has a correspondent on the ground, who is reporting that fresh demonstrations have started after the police subdued the activity on Sunday.
Al-Jazeera English has been reporting live from Xinjiang and putting their reports on YouTube. Their correspondent, Melissa Chan, has been on Twitter live from Xinjiang. As the New York Times reports, Twitter has been blocked by the Chinese government, but she is texting a friend who posts for her via proxy. The internet has been blocked completely in some parts of Xinjiang. For additional live tweeting from Xinjiang, you can follow Austin Ramzy reporting for Time.com and Malcolm Moore with the Daily Telegraph.
It’s still hard to identify the cause of the violence. The Chinese government continues to blame violent separatists, and it has accused exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer of masterminding the violence. Kadeer issued a statement today condemning both the Chinese government and “the violent actions of a number of Uyghur demonstrators that have been reported.” BBC reports that the violence was triggered by “a brawl between Uighurs and Han Chinese several weeks earlier in a toy factory thousands of miles away in Guandong province.” The follow-up protests seem to be women angry about the imprisonment of their sons and spouses.
Sky News has some dramatic footage.
I’m seeing reports on Twitter on riots in Urumqi (Urumchi), Western China. Urumqi is the capital of Xinjiang, a Muslim-majority region populated by the Uighur ethnic group. It’s been the center of a long-term campaign by the Beijing government to fully integrate the region into China. This has included a policy of moving Han-origin Chinese families into the region to change its ethnic balance and suppression of Uighur language and Islamic practice.
I can’t find any reference to the riots in the mainstream media (A Reuters article is now up), but Twitter is alive with reports of the riots. You can find photos of the riots, YouTube video, and a stream of English and Chinese language discussion of the violence.
Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is en route to Burma/Myanmar to press for the release of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Evelyn Leopold, a long time United Nations correspondent, previews the trip and the political gamble that the Secretary General is undertaking. Also, see this interview with Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis (IL)
IL: It is a tough mission. We believe in the man, we believe in his office and we believe if ever there was a test of the United Nations relevance Burma is that test. That’s why we’ve been strongly supportive of the mission, that’s why we believe he’s doing absolutely the right thing and it’s also why our Prime Minister for example only recently spoke directly to the President of China because it’s very important that Burma’s friends and neighbours also send a clear and strong message about the abuse, human rights abuses, and also about political prisoners.
[Question:] I suppose the trouble is that the Burmese ruling military junta has not in the past proved very susceptible to international pressure and there has been a lot of pressure on them.
IL: Well the message via the Secretary General from the international community is that Burma has a choice. That choice is to continue contravening human rights, to continue imprisoning political prisoners, or to come in to the main stream, to be part of the international community. And in a sense this mission by the Secretary General is a crucial pivotal moment in the choices that Burma has to make.
The Indian High Court formally annuled a 150 year old provision criminalizing “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” known as Section 337. UNAIDS is pleased:
“The Delhi High Court has restored the dignity and human rights of millions of men who have sex with men and transgendered people in India,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibé. “Oppressive laws such as Section 377, drive people underground making it much harder to reach them with HIV prevention, treatment and care services.”
According to UNAIDS technical advisor Pradeep Kakkattil this ruling will also help health workers who have been harassed by the police for simply doing their jobs.
“Health workers providing help to homosexual HIV sufferers are also working in precarious situations, he added. He said that it’s not uncommon for police to arrest you because you are providing information on something illegal.”
A good day in India for sure.
The estimable Eve Ensler has been doing yeo(wo)man’s work in calling attention to the horrific use of rape as a weapon of war in eastern DR Congo. Yesterday she wrote a forceful op-ed in The Washington Post on the subject, criticizing the UN for not doing more to implement a historic resolution passed by the Security Council last year that officially designates rape a war crime.
A few points: first, the passing of Resolution 1820 last year was itself an impressive accomplishment. That said, it was also embarrassingly belated. Rape has been a favored tactic of war criminals throughout history, and, morally at least, it has stood as a crime throughout.
Ensler is also right to bemoan the extent to which the promise of the resolution — an end to impunity for rapists, the widespread stigmatization of rape as a crime of the highest order, an eventual eradication of the practice — has been achieved in reality over the past year, particularly in Congo. Here, too, though, some perspective is in order. If it took the Security Council 60 years to classify rape as a war crime, it will prove even more difficult to enshrine this conclusion as a norm on the ground. This is not to excuse any delay in eliminating the climate of rampant rape that exists in places like Congo; but the reality is, in a world in which slavery, impressment of child soldiers, and genocide are still sadly prevalent, human rights norms can take a while to be realized on the ground. This is only more so the case in eastern Congo, where the world’s most appalling levels of rape make it arguably the most difficult test case imaginable for such an ambitious resolution.
Ensler is rightly incensed that a firm system of accountability is not in place to punish perpetrators of rape:
Rapes continue to be committed with near complete impunity. While the number of criminal prosecutions has risen marginally, only low-ranking soldiers are being prosecuted. Not a single commander or officer above the rank of major has been held responsible in all of Congo. Rapes by the national army are increasing, too.
I couldn’t agree more that more perpetrators, especially those in the higher ranks, need to be prosecuted. But to suggest, as Ensler does, that the UN should be doing the prosecuting misunderstands the confines within which the organization works. It is not mandated to conduct trials of Congolese citizens. That is the responsibility of a Congolese government that has, unfortunately, far too often turned a blind eye to rape conducted by its own soldiers and by the rebels it is combating.
Both the UN and other countries’ governments should be doing more to press the Congolese state to treat the crime of rape more severely. Resolution 1820 was a milestone. More important, as Ensler so passionately argues, is making sure that its potential is realized on the ground, in some of the worst places in the world to be a woman or girl.
(image from flickr user Julien Harneis under a Creative Commons license)
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.