Egyptian police said to detain Chinese Uighurs in wide sweep
Chinese students from the Uighur ethnic minority have been detained in Egypt in a broad police sweep that has shaken the country's sizeable Uighur student and expatriate community, activists said last Thursday.
Egyptian police have detained scores of Uighur students, including 20 from Cairo's Al-Azhar University who were stopped in the city of Alexandria on their way out of the country late on Wednesday and told they would be deported to China, said Abduweli Ayup, a Uighur activist in Turkey. Ayup said he had heard directly from some of the detainees and their relatives.
The detentions come amid reports that authorities in the Uighur homeland of Xinjiang in western China are seeking the immediate return of Uighurs studying abroad. Authorities in Xinjiang have significantly tightened security measures in the past year, as well as controls on religious expression, in what officials characterise as an "unyielding" campaign against Islamic extremism brewing in the region.
China's Uighur heartland turns into security state
China says it faces a serious threat from Islamist extremists in its Xinjiang region. Beijing accuses separatists among the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority of stirring up tensions with the ethnic Han Chinese majority. By Nadine Berghausen
Economy or security? China routinely denies pursuing repressive policies in Xinjiang and points to the vast sums it spends on economic development in the resource-rich region. James Leibold, an expert on Chinese ethnic policy says the focus on security runs counter to Beijing's goal of using the OBOR initiative to boost Xinjiang's economy, because it would disrupt the flow of people and ideas
China's far western Xinjiang region ramps up security: three times a day, alarms ring out through the streets of China's ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar and shopkeepers rush out of their stores swinging government-issued wooden clubs. In mandatory anti-terror drills conducted under police supervision, they fight off imaginary knife-wielding assailants
One Belt, One Road Initiative: an ethnic Uighur man walks down the path leading to the tomb of Imam Asim in the Taklamakan Desert. A historic trading post, the city of Kashgar is central to China's "One Belt, One Road Initiative", which is President Xi Jinping's signature foreign and economic policy involving massive infrastructure spending linking China to Asia, the Middle East and beyond
China fears disruption of "One Belt, One Road" summit: a man herds sheep in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. China's worst fears are that a large-scale attack would blight this year's diplomatic set piece, an OBOR summit attended by world leaders planned for Beijing. Since ethnic riots in the regional capital Urumqi in 2009, Xinjiang has been plagued by bouts of deadly violence
Ethnic minority in China: a woman prays at a grave near the tomb of Imam Asim in the Taklamankan Desert. Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking distinct and mostly Sunni Muslim community and one of the 55 recognised ethnic minorities in China. Although Uighurs have traditionally practiced a moderate version of Islam, experts believe that some of them have been joining Islamic militias in the Middle East
Communist Party vows to continue war on terror: Chinese state media say the threat remains high, so the Communist Party has vowed to continue its "war on terror" against Islamist extremism. For example, Chinese authorities have passed measures banning many typically Muslim customs. The initiative makes it illegal to "reject or refuse" state propaganda, although it was not immediately clear how the authorities would enforce this regulation
CCTV cameras are being installed: many residents say the anti-terror drills are just part of an oppressive security operation that has been ramped up in Kashgar and other cities in Xinjiang's Uighur heartland in recent months. For many Uighurs it is not about security, but mass surveillance. "We have no privacy. They want to see what you're up to," says a shop owner in Kashgar
Ban on many typically Muslim customs: the most visible change is likely to come from the ban on "abnormal growing of beards," and the restriction on wearing veils. Specifically, workers in public spaces, including stations and airports, will be required to "dissuade" people with veils on their faces from entering and report them to the police
Security personnel keep watch: authorities offer rewards for those who report "youth with long beards or other popular religious customs that have been radicalised", as part of a wider incentive system that rewards actionable intelligence on imminent attacks. Human rights activists have been critical of the tactics used by the government in combatting the alleged extremists, accusing it of human rights abuses
Overseas Uighurs and human rights groups say the measures have turned Xinjiang into a police state with widespread arbitrary detentions and invasive surveillance. The detentions in Egypt, a popular destination for religious study among China's Muslims, were seen by activists as a possible sign that China's security crackdown in Xinjiang is extending its reach overseas.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman appeared to acknowledge on Thursday that Chinese citizens had been detained in Egypt, saying at a regular briefing that consular officials would visit them. He gave no further details.
Another activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said overseas groups had managed to move 60 Uighur students out of Egypt to safety in Turkey this week, but 20 were held while trying to fly to Dubai.
Lucia Parrucci, a spokeswoman for the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation advocacy group, said that a July 1 raid at the Asian restaurant in Nasr City caught 37 Uighurs, mostly student patrons and restaurant workers.
Unverified videos shared on social media purportedly showed more than 70 Uighurs sitting on a floor in a government building and others being driven in a truck in handcuffs.
Abdullah, an Asian student of Islam at Al-Azhar university, said Uighurs were being detained in the Hay el Sabia area of Cairo's Nasr City district. He gave only his first name for fear of reprisals. (AP)
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