West's double standards clear to see

Updated: 2012-07-05 08:15

By Zhang Zhouxiang (China Daily)

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Just imagine the outcry if after al-Qaida's attacks on the United States on Sept 11, 2001 a mainstream newspaper in the West had published an article by Osama bin Laden praising the attacks as part of a holy war.

Unfortunately on Tuesday, only four days after Uygur hijackers tried to hijack a plane, the Wall Street Journal published an article by the notorious separatist Rebiya Kadeer, the "chairwoman" of the so-called World Uygur Congress, in which she praised the riots on July 5, 2009, in which almost 200 people died and more than 800 were wounded.

On Friday, minutes after the Tianjin Airlines plane had taken off from Hotan in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region for the regional capital Urumqi, six Uygur passengers, one of whom was pretending to be disabled, attacked the crew and other passengers with metal sticks, attempting to hijack the plane. Fortunately, the crew and passengers, of both Han and Uygur ethnicity, managed to overpower the hijackers.

However, the attempted hijacking of the Tianjin Airlines plane should be condemned by the international community the same as the 9/11 al-Qaida hijackings. Among all the terrorist crimes, the hijacking of airplanes is considered one of the most serious, said Pan Zhiping, a scholar with the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences. Terrorist hijackings of airplanes put at risk innocent lives in pursuit of political aims and are a serious crime, he said.

The attempted hijacking of the Tianjin Airlines plane shows that hijackers have become more dangerous. According to the local police, the hijackers not only managed to get metal sticks on board by pretending to be disabled, but also managed to get explosives, matches and even lighters on board. If the passengers and crew hadn't overpowered them before they set off the explosives, the result would have been disastrous.

"Therefore I don't think there is any problem in calling it terrorism," said Pan. "It's definitely not ethnic conflict as some foreign media outlets have claimed. On the contrary, if the terrorist attack had been successful it would have killed both Han and Uygur people."

Actually, Uygur passengers usually account for a considerable percentage of the passengers on flights within the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and this flight was no exception. It was different ethnic groups that faced the terrorist threat together.

Professor Rahmutulla at a college in Hotan condemned the hijacking as "endangering the lives of the 92 passengers on that plane" and said it was "detrimental to both Hotan and Xinjiang".

"Hotan is a remote region in Xinjiang and we strongly need development and stability," he told China Daily in a telephone interview. "The separatists are hurting our future. I hope the incident will not have a negative influence on our lives and our region."

It needs the combined efforts of different ethnic groups to combat terrorism. Local security personnel members confirmed that at least four of the six policemen who happened to be traveling on the plane and who helped overpower the hijackers were Uygurs. They saved the passengers' lives because they understood what the hijackers called out when they started their attack.

The attempted hijacking is still under investigation, and as yet no organization has claimed responsibility.

But Pan says that separatists and ethnic extremists are highly possibly the suspects . "The hijackers, who were ready to blow up the plane, had no economic interests," he pointed out. "All they wanted was to attract the world's intention and realize their political pursuits. That's an old trick of the separatists who have long been seeking to separate Xinjiang from China."

He also cited one similar example: on March 7, 2008, a plane flying from Urumqi to Beijing was forced to land in Lanzhou, Gansu province, 40 minutes after taking off, because the crew smelled petrol on a 19-year-old woman as she stepped out of the toilet. Later it was confirmed that she wanted to blow up the plane.

This time the separatists chose a date near July 5, the day of the riots in Xinjiang three years ago, Pan added.

Hence, it was insensitive of the Wall Street Journal to publish at this special moment Rebiya's article, which was full of lies and distortions. Rebiya accused the Chinese central government of stiring up ethnic hatred in Xinjiang to justify its rule. Such a claim is absurd. No government in the world is foolish enough to create such problems for itself.

According to the central government's White Paper on Development and Progress in Xinjiang released in 2009, the local GDP was 420.3 billion yuan in 2008, 86.4 times higher than it was in 1952. In 2008, the per-capita net income of farmers in Xinjiang was 3,503 yuan, 28 times more than that of 1978; and from 1950 to 2008, the central government invested 386.23 billion yuan in Xinjiang, accounting for 25.7 percent of the total investment in the region. The number of Xinjiang officials from minority ethnic groups shot up to 363,000 in 2008, from 46,000 in 1955, accounting for 51.25 percent of the total number of officials in Xinjiang. The number of mosques soared from 2,000 in the early days of the reform and opening-up drive to 24,300 in 2008, and the members of clergy from 3,000 to over 28,000.

Pan thinks the Western media distorts the facts in Xinjiang which may encourage such terrorist attacks. This is because the West has double standards: it denounces terrorists that hurt Western interests, while praising those who attack China as heroes.

The US government listed "The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement" as a terrorist group in 2002 for planning attacks against US embassies, he pointed out, but the equally threatening "Eastern Turkistan Liberation Organization" was not on the US' list of terrorists because its attacks were only directed at China.

"We need to unite against terrorism, instead of applying double standards," he said. "Terrorism is a threat to us all."

The author is a writer with China Daily.


(China Daily 07/05/2012 page9)