Resentment Simmers among Muslim Minority in China

April 10, 2008

Author: William Foreman

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Wire Service: AP

There was no sign of dissent in the bazaar, where men wove through the crowd on motorcycles with freshly butchered sheep draped behind them.

But a Muslim merchant pinched his lips together with his fingers to show he could not talk freely.

"The Chinese are too bad, really bad," said Hama, who added the Chinese had broken up a protest of about 200 people last month.

He put his wrists together as if handcuffed. "I can't say more or I'll get arrested."

As China grapples with protests in Tibet, it also faces unrest on its Central Asian frontier.

Resentment against the Chinese has long simmered in this traditionally Muslim western region, which borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and Russia. The problems in Xinjiang came on top of nearly a month of anti-government riots and protests in Tibet and other provinces with sizable Tibetan populations.

Such clashes are growing as the Olympic Games approach, with its spotlight on China and its human rights record.

However, the situation with the Muslim minority Uighurs (pronounced "Wee-gers") is even more complicated, because China worries about separatist sentiment and brands more militant Uighurs terrorists.

Human rights groups say China exaggerates such threats so it can clamp down on the Uighurs and arrest dissidents.