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Tensions Remain High in China Following Deadly Riots

Protests continued in Western China Tuesday following deadly clashes on Sunday between the region's Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese. Analysts examine the roots of the unrest with Judy Woodruff.

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    Judy Woodruff has more.


    And for that, we go to Alim Seytoff, the spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress and the vice president of the Uyghur American Association, both of which promote the rights of Uighurs. Born and raised in East Turkestan, which China calls Xinjiang, he came to the United States in 1996.

    And Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, he has written extensively about China.

    We invited the Chinese embassy to participate in this discussion, but they declined.

    Gentlemen, thank you both for being with us.

    Alim Seytoff, let me begin with you. The Uighurs have been in this region for centuries. Were the tensions just running so high that something was inevitable like this?

  • ALIM SEYTOFF, World Uyghur Congress:

    The tensions has been rising very high because of the Chinese government's political propaganda, indoctrination of the Chinese people and Chinese nationalism, and portraying Uighurs — especially after 9/11 — as terrorists, separatists, and Islamic radicals.

    So in the minds of the Chinese government, Uighur people, their very presence in East Turkestan or Xinjiang is a threat. So there is so much racism going on. As a result, we are witnessing what is happening in our homeland, unfortunately.


    Minxin Pei, how do you describe what's been going on in this region?

  • MINXIN PEI, Claremont McKenna College:

    Well, this has been a restive part of China. In the mid-'90s, the situation was much worse. Then, after a while, things quieted down a little bit. But in the last few years, tensions began to rise again for a variety of very complex reasons.


    And what are some of those reasons?


    Economic being one, because that part of China has huge natural resources, oil deposits, natural gas deposits, and the exploration of these resources is deeply resented by the local population.


    And the Chinese government has moved, what, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Han Chinese into this region?


    Yes, that policy is a longstanding policy. Since the early '50s, the Chinese government has been steadily settling migrants. In recent years, it's more driven by private entrepreneurship. This no explicit government encouragement, but the government has been enabling that migration of private entrepreneurs into that part of the region. And that, of course, has contributed to the ethnic tensions.