Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Unrest in Xinjiang

Delivered in Plenary - 15th July 2009

Mr President

For centuries the Uighurs have eked out a perilous living in an inhospitable part of a vast country. Most of them are peaceful followers of Islam. However, sadly some of the local population in recent years have become increasingly radicalised by terrorists in league with Al-Qaida. China has never been tolerant of dissent or its own minorities, but I do share its concern about the threat of Uighur Islamist terrorism. I actually helped convince the Council to ban the Uighur East Turkestan Liberation Front three years ago.

China’s authoritarianism and Han dominance must not be used as an excuse by Uighur terrorists, some of whom are found as far afield as Guantánamo Bay, to spread fear and violence, as most victims of the recent violence were in fact Han Chinese.

Many of us are naturally concerned about human rights in China and I am also committed as a friend of Taiwan. However, the EU remains wedded to a one-China policy and, given that the EU officially considers Taiwan and Tibet part of the People’s Republic of China, we should certainly not support in any way the secession of Xinjiang province.

One interesting aspect of this issue is whether this controversy will cause China’s Muslim partners in Africa like Sudan to reassess their links to the country.

Finally, I note that Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan has labelled this violence as a genocide: a bit rich coming from him when his own country fails to recognise the Armenian genocide. His efforts to appeal to pan-Turkic nationalism are also hypocritical, given Turkey’s treatment of its own minorities and in particular the Kurds in eastern Turkey.