A diplomatic dispute has erupted over China’s and Turkey’s competing claims for 17 ethnic Uighurs who were detained in Thailand on charges of illegal border-crossing. Each is demanding the Uighurs’ return.
The Uighurs entered Thailand via Cambodia to escape their homeland in China’s Central Asian region of Xinjiang, where ethnic tensions between the Uighurs and the Chinese government have escalated in recent years.
The Uighurs are Turkic Muslims who live mostly inside Xinjiang, which was conquered by China’s Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
Because of ethnic, cultural and linguistic affinities, Turkey has been actively involved in improving the Uighurs’ lot in communist China. Ankara has been vocal in criticizing China for its mistreatment of the ethnic minority group.
The 17 Uighurs hail from one family in Xinjiang. They escaped from Cambodia and entered Thailand, where they were detained by police for illegal border-crossing. Thirteen of them are children, including two who were born in a Thai detention center.
Turkey issued passports to the 17 Uighur detainees and gave them permission to migrate to the country.
China vehemently objected to Turkey’s move and insisted that the Uighurs are Chinese nationals who should be sent back to China.
A Thai court convened a hearing March 24 to decide to which country the Uighurs should be sent. Chinese and Turkish diplomats attended the hearing.
On March 27, the court said a final decision could not be made and that Thailand would continue holding the group.
International human rights organizations have urged the Thai government not to return the Uighurs to China, where they may face persecution.
In early March, Heiner Bielefeldt, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, issued a scathing condemnation of China’s rights abuses against the Uighurs. China responded with a boilerplate rebuttal, calling Mr. Bielefeldt’s charges “groundless.”
TAIWAN DESTROYS FISHING BOAT
A Chinese fishing vessel was demolished by a giant bulldozer March 20 to demonstrate the Taiwanese government’s seriousness in enforcing laws against China’s rampant illegal fishing operations.
The action caught Beijing by surprise because Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is often praised by the communist government for his China-friendly policies.
The Chinese fishing vessel was caught Dec. 28 off the coast of Jinmen, popularly known in the West as Quemoy, a heavily fortified island 6 miles from the Chinese coast. Three Chinese fishermen were charged and tried by a local court and were given sentences of two to six months.
Unlike Japan, Taiwan does not have a fishery agreement with China.
MILITARY REGION BANS BOOZE — AGAIN
The Nanjing Military Region has announced a ban on alcohol consumption at several specific occasions.
Alcohol and warfare do mingle in the People’s Liberation Army, and alcohol consumption has been listed as a major disciplinary problem by Supreme Leader Xi Jinping in his anti-graft campaign. One of his first orders was a sweeping December 2012 ban on troops’ use of alcohol.
A key part of China’s military-industrial complex in China is the alcohol industry. At the time of Mr. Xi’s first ban on alcohol in the PLA, the world’s largest army owned a substantial stock of the world’s most famous and largest Chinese hot liquor brand, Maotai. More than 20 percent of Maotai consumption was attributed to the PLA.
Mr. Xi’s 2012 ban was announced Dec. 23. The next day, Maotai’s stock plummeted by 5.55 percent, leading a nosedive for most liquor brands in China’s stock market.
But old habits die hard. Apparently, Mr. Xi’s ban has not been effectively carried out in the PLA, as alcohol consumption continues to soar.
The ban by the Nanjing Military Region states specifically the types of occasions where alcohol cannot be consumed, such as banquets held for classmates or comrades-in-arms from the same hometowns or provinces. No alcohol will be allowed for any work-related activities and meetings involving officers and soldiers with different ranks, and no military personnel on duty are allowed to visit bars or wine parlors while in uniform.
It remains to be seen whether this round of alcohol ban will be effective. One of the largest of the seven PLA regions, Nanjing has defense and combat responsibilities for East China and the East China Sea, including the Taiwan Strait and the Senkaku/Diaoyudao islands.
• Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @Yu_miles.