Tuesday, August 24, 2010



Acting jointly, China's Ministry of Public Security and the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China have tightened up their control over the Buddhist monasteries in the Tibetan areas of China and over the mosques in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. While the tightened supervisory measures over the mosques in Xinjiang have preceded the onset of the holy fasting period of the Muslims, the measures in the Tibetan areas have followed the recent high-profile visit of the Party/Government designated Panchen Lama to Lhasa and other areas in Tibet. A note recorded by me on June 17,2010, on the Panchen Lama's visit to Tibet under the title "Bringing up their Panchen Lama" is available at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers39/paper3864.html .

2. To discuss the tightening of supervision over the monasteries, the United Front Work Department, which, inter alia, is responsible for organising the periodic talks between the party and senior representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, organised a meeting on August 14 and 15, 2010, at Shigatse. Heads of all Buddhist monasteries in the Tibetan-inhabited provinces were required to attend the meeting. An official of the United Front Work Department has been quoted as saying in connection with the responsibility of his Department to ensure better supervision over the monasteries: "Competent Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns who are politically reliable, extraordinarily learned and widely respected should be selected to monastery management committees through thorough democratic consultation." There has, however, been no reference to the envisaged role of the Panchen Lama in this regard.

3. Subsequently. the Ministry of Public Security held a conference of senior officials of the branches of the Ministry in the Tibetan-inhabited provinces. These branches are called Public Security Bureaus. This was held at Lhasa on August 18 and 19,2010.The objective of this conference was described as "to assess the results and experiences of upholding public security, struggle against the current separatist movement, and identified current challenges facing stability in Tibetan areas.” It was reported by local Chinese officials that the conference discussed future action plans “to step up the fight against separatists; build bodies to protect social security; increase border security; and improve communication infrastructure, uniform and skills of the public security bureaus”. An official of the United Front Work Department briefed the conference on the deliberations of the meeting held by his Department.

4.The tightening of supervision over the Buddhist monasteries by the Party as well as the Government indicates their continuing nervousness over the loyalty of the local monks to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and their reluctance to support the Panchen Lama nominated by the Government and the Party. The Ministry of Public Security and the United Front Work Department were even earlier holding so-called re-education classes for the monks to stress the importance of patriotism and loyalty to the party and the Panchen Lama. Such re-education is likely to be stepped up in the wake of these two conferences.

5. A project for the re-education of the Muslim clerics in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region has simultaneously been undertaken. Its object is to underline the importance of patriotism and party loyalty as in the case of the monks. It has the additional objective of ridding Islam as practised in China of any vestiges of extra-territorial loyalty. Encouraging Islam in Chinese colours is the main objective. This drive has created some resentment among the Muslims because some of the meetings under this drive were held in the premises of local mosques and these were attended by non-Muslim officials and party cadres. While the Buddhist monks have not objected to non-Buddhist functionaries holding party meetings in their places of worship, the Uighur Muslims have strongly resented such practices.

6. Local Uighurs and members of the Uighur diaspora have strongly protested against a meeting organized by the Party’s Peyziwat (population 330,000) County Committee at a village mosque in the Kashgar prefecture on July 24 to hold a speech contest on the topic “Love the Country, Promote the Homeland” in the presence of 35 religious leaders.

7. Mrs.Rebiya Kadeer,President of the Munich-based World Uighur Congress, who lives in the US, has stated in an interview that she was shocked by the pictures of the party meeting held in the mosque.Mr. Abdukadir Asim, an Uighur cleric based in Turkey, has said: “It is a common principle among all religions that the privacy of the place of worship is fundamental. It is a strange and abhorrent event that communist propaganda was conducted in a mosque. I don’t believe it has ever happened before, anywhere else in the world.” He has criticized the General Secretary of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mr.Ekmelledin Ihsanoglu, who visited China recently for not raising with the Chinese authorities the question of the violation of the religious rights of the Uighurs in China. He added:“The action of holding a communist activity in a mosque ridicules not only Uighurs but also the whole Islamic world. The international community should speak out about this event.”

8. Addressing a meeting of Muslim clerics at Hetian in Xinjiang on August 21, Mr. Jia Qinglin , Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), called for greater efforts by local religious circles to contribute to the long-term stability and development of Xinjiang. He praised the contribution of patriotic religious personalities and claimed that the Government and the party attached great importance to the education and cultivation of religious believers, showed care for their lives and work, and supported their religious activities. He appealed to the clerics to help consolidate national unity and harmonious religious relations and to resist and eliminate the influence of religious extremism.

9. Simultaneously with action to tighten control over the mosques, the Government has initiated a programme for the demolition of exclusively Uighur residential areas in Urumqi, the capital, and forcing the displaced Uighurs to re-settle in apartments built for them in the residential areas of the Han Chinese. This has also been resented by the leaders of the Uighur community who look upon it as an attempt to destroy the ethnic identity of the Uighurs. In this connection, please see my article dated June 23, 2010, titled “China to De-Emphasise Uighur Identity of Xinjiang” at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers39%5Cpaper3886.html

10. There is considerable unhappiness among the Uighurs of Xinjiang over the fact that the Islamic world, which never misses an opportunity to protest over the violation of the human rights of the Muslims in other countries, remains silent on this issue in China. (25-8-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )



The following comments of President Benigno Aquino, the Manila Police Commander and some non-governmental security experts on the way the Manila Police handled the hostage-taking crisis on August 23,2010, have been extracted from despatches of the Agence France Press (AFP) :

* President Aquino: The tragedy highlighted many flaws in the ability of Philippine security forces to handle hostage situations. "There are a lot of things (that) resulted in a tragedy. Obviously we should be improving." One of the problems was the way the crisis played out through the media, with the gunman being allowed to speak on radio and watch events live on the bus's television, giving him insights into police actions. Waiting more than 10 hours before storming the bus was the right course of action, because police believed until that point they could convince the gunman to stand down.
* Mr.Leocadio Santiago, Manila Police Commander: "We saw some obvious shortcomings in terms of capability and tactics used, or the procedure employed and we are now going to investigate this."
* Mr.John Harrison, Assistant Professor and homeland security analyst at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore:"The fact that there was essentially live video was mistake number one." There should have been a media blackout to deny the hijacker feedback on what was going on around him. Instead, he was able to follow events -- including frenzied speculation by serving and former police chiefs appearing on Philippine networks -- via the bus' internal TV.
* Mr.Dennis Wong Sing Wing, an Associate Professor of applied social studies at the City University in Hong Kong:The police operation was "really shocking" to watch as it unfolded live on TV. "I am very angry about their unprofessional performance.They are indirectly responsible for the deaths of the Hong Kong people." The policemen assigned to end the hostage-taking appeared to lack modern weapons and communication equipment, and as a result were hesitant to attack the gunman, who was armed with an M-16 assault rifle. The Police failed to calm the hostage-taker down and hear him out.
* An unnamed retired Philippine military official who wrote a counter-terrorism manual and now runs a security consultancy:The police had enough expertise and equipment to deal with such an incident, but they were not put to use. "We have everything, except the execution was poorly done." He was critical of the stop-go negotiations and "tentative" assault launched after gunshots rang out from inside the bus, adding that the police should have disabled the TV monitor early on."Contact (by negotiators) should have been constant. It's the talking that does a lot.When you order an assault, it has to be an assault. There is no such thing as a tentative assault.If 10 policemen have to die, they have to die in that assault." Many of the policemen on the scene, some of them seen crouching without any body armour behind patrol cars, did not appear to be fully trained Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) personnel. "They just put helmets on certain people."
* Trial judge Jaime Santiago, a former SWAT officer:The police failed to impose crowd control in the hostage site and panicked after hearing gunshots from the bus. "They should have put a tactical force, SWAT snipers and an assault team on standby during the negotiation so that if the hostage-taker started harming people, they would act."
* Mr.Lionel de Souza, a former officer of Singapore's Criminal Investigation Department, recalled a similar hijacking of a bus in Singapore.
"I think that was in 1978 in Seng Poh Road in Tiong Bahru. The police were chasing some robbers and they jumped onto an SBS bus which was (carrying) passengers. (The robbers) sort of held them hostage. At that time, hostage negotiation was not well known. Nevertheless, the retired assistant commissioner - Tan Kah Wan - I think he did a good job. There was no loss of lives but there was the arrest of the hostage takers." In the Manila hostage tragedy, one image that left many doubting was the action of armed police who had crept up around the bus."They started smashing the windows with the sledgehammer, trying to wrench open the door with a rope. That by itself is a provocation to the criminal, and because he is already agitated, adding more pressure to his already troubled mind would entail him to sort of do things that a person with a proper frame of mind would not do. He may be a decorated police officer, he may know the law, but these tensions were building within him." Negotiations could have gone on longer as it was important to wear down the hijacker in such a crisis. Singapore is well-poised to handle a similar crisis, with hostage negotiators being well-trained. (24-8-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt, of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )