In the last post, we focused on China’s abuse of INTERPOL’s Red Notice system and targeting of Uyghur activist Yidiresi Aisha.  INTERPOL has reportedly blocked the Red Notice while it reviews Aisha’s case, but should we expect this case to change China’s behavior? Probably not.

It is extremely unlikely that the international attention and criticism of the Aisha case will discourage China’s future Red Notice abuse in cases against the Uyghurs for several reasons, including the following:

  1. We know from Chinese president Xi Jinping’s recent comments that Chinese officials are fully aware of international condemnation of China’s human rights violations and that China’s leadership is unswayed by such criticism. He said in a speech in June:
    “We will not accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us,” he said. “We have never bullied, oppressed, or subjugated the people of any other country, and we never will… By the same token, we will never allow anyone to bully, oppress, or subjugate [China]. Anyone who tries will find them on a collision course with a steel wall forged by 1.4 billion people.”
  2. The Xinjiang region was annexed by China in 1949. It was formerly known as East Turkestan and is culturally very different from other parts of China. Many of its residents still refer to it as East Turkestan. Most Uyghurs are Muslim, and just under half of Xinjiang’s residents are Uyghurs. Being a practicing Muslim apparently violates President Xi Jinping’s 2017 order that all religions in China should be Chinese in orientation. With activists alleging that “… China is trying to eradicate Uyghur culture,” and the president dictating that Chinese culture must be dominant, the two views cannot be expected to co-exist peacefully.
  3. The Xinjiang region is simply too resource-rich to expect that China would minimize or even reduce any control over it. The region contains oil, mineral, and natural gas resources and is a major component of China’s Belt and Road initiative, which is critical to China’s long-term economic vision. Maintaining power over the speech and acts of the Uyghur population is an element of maintaining power over the region as a whole.

Unless INTERPOL undertakes its own initiative to more thoroughly scrutinize Red Notice requests from China, we should anticipate that China will continue to misuse its access to INTERPOL’s tools as a means of oppressing dissidents and political opponents.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.