Uyghur Homeland, Chinese Frontier: The Xinjiang Work Forum and Centrally Led Development

For immediate release
June 27, 2012, 10:20 am EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

A new 37-page report by the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) examines the effects of the Xinjiang Work Forum, held in May 2010, which heralded an unprecedented state-led development push in East Turkestan. In this report, co-launched with the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization (UNPO), UHRP strives to provide an overview of the nature of development policies put in place in the two years since the Work Forum. Uyghur Homeland, Chinese Frontier: The Xinjiang Work Forum and Centrally Led Development considers the consequences of development that is mandated by leaders in Beijing in a region Uyghurs view as their home but Chinese view as territory vitally important to the economic growth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Policies adopted at the Work Forum focused on natural resource extraction, infrastructure projects, demolitions, trade promotion, tax reform and the transference of capital, investment and personnel from eastern areas of the PRC. Two years later, the Chinese government has yet to put in place a system to effectively monitor and assess the progress of these region-wide initiatives. Chinese officials have not clearly stated what targets, if any, they are using to measure the effects of their policies. In an echo of Maoist policies of the past, and a continuance of the failure to monitor the progress of the Great Western Development Drive, central and regional Chinese leaders have in the past two years relied upon top-down development while neglecting to lay out a clear blueprint for analyzing its grassroots effects.

The Xinjiang Work Forum was prompted in large part by the tacit acknowledgment on the part of Chinese officials that economic policies in the region had failed to bring about their desired results, such as developmental parity. Inequalities stemming from the failure of these policies, the effects of which were borne largely by the region’s Uyghur and other non-Han populations, contributed to the turbulent unrest that shook the regional capital of Urumchi in July 2009. However, the policies designed at the Work Forum have largely left unaddressed the same inequalities and discrimination that helped lead to the unrest. Three years after the turmoil in Urumchi, development strategy in the region remains devoid of an adequate framework from which to evaluate and mitigate economic conditions impacting the non-Han community, such as unequal income distribution, high levels of poverty, and hiring discrimination. At its core, regional development is plagued by the lack of consultation and participation of Uyghurs and other non-Han residents regarding the formulation and implementation of the policies that affect them.

Uyghur Homeland, Chinese Frontier: The Xinjiang Work Forum and Centrally Led Development documents the ways in which Work Forum initiatives have failed to ensure the equal distribution of the benefits of development among the region’s population. Until the flaws in regional development initiatives are remedied, and stark disparities are addressed, the future success of development in East Turkestan will be left in question.

Based on the findings of this report, UHRP provides a number of recommendations for the Chinese government and other entities. These include recommendations for the Chinese government to:

  • Eliminate ethnic discrimination in the hiring process for employment opportunities in the state sector and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), according to the Chinese Constitution, the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law, the Labor Law and the Employment Promotion Law.
  • Undertake research to compare unemployment conditions, income disparities and poverty rates among ethnic groups in East Turkestan, in addition to researching and comparing unemployment conditions among different regions within East Turkestan; and make the results of such research public.
  • Establish measures and institutions that can be monitored by civil society, such as interim targets and an independent monitoring body, to systematically and transparently evaluate the effectiveness of development initiatives carried out under the banner of the 2010 Xinjiang Work Forum.

The report, Uyghur Homeland, Chinese Frontier: The Xinjiang Work Forum and Centrally Led Development, can be downloaded at: http://docs.uyghuramerican.org/Uyghur-homeland-Chinese-Frontier.pdf

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