Uyghur Monitoring
Policy of China

By Syed Fawad Ali Shah | July 2020

China is faced with multi-dimensional problems, such as sudden outbreak of the novel corona pandemic, influx of patients over health facilities, global bashing of its political policies and, above all, criticism by the world community for not taking it into confidence regarding the Wuhan mishap. Some are viewing it as a setback for China at the international stage yet China is pursuing its national interests. It is keeping a vigilant eye on all those who are defying it policies whom it terms as anti-state elements.

Starting from powerful states like USA, India and Russia down to its own minorities like the Uyghur Muslim community of Xinjiang province, China is following a proactive approach. The case of Uyghur Muslims is unique as thousands of them have fled to foreign countries claiming to be in fear of persecution by the Chinese government. They have applied for political asylum abroad. It is a cause of great concern for Chinese authorities that the Uyghur people might prove detrimental to Chinese national interests. To rigorously monitor their activities and to counter any anti-China move by them, the Chinese government has hired many people for espionage. There are hundreds of Uyghur Muslims based in Thailand and Malaysia who are living there as refugees or asylum-seekers. The very existence of such Uyghur Muslims in Myanmar is threatened by the fact that the Myanmar government lacks resources to check their activities. Since Malaysia is host to a very significant number of Uyghurs, China is taking special measures to monitor their activities there. These Uyghurs, mostly students, are living on their own and mostly in a peaceful manner but still there are no accurate facts and figures regarding their actual numbers.

Another question is how many of them are properly registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR. Before the corona pandemic, the monitoring of Uyghur Muslims was very easy but the corona outbreak has become a mammoth task for China and it finds it difficult to hire people for Uyghur espionage. It is searching for persons based in Malaysia to perform this task. Anybody can be on their payroll regardless of his or her profession. One can be an academic, a doctor, lawyer, engineer, shopkeeper or even a labourer to qualify for the task.

Some reliable sources at the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur have confirmed that it has a staff of 60 members for the purpose. Out of these, ten officers are directly linked to Chinese intelligence agencies. Their main task is to monitor the activities of the Uyghurs.

This writer has interviewed many Uyghurs in Malaysia. They love their homeland but they prefer staying in Malaysia due to the religious freedom there. They are of the view that in Malaysia they live a life of their own choice. They can even collect charity for their religious rituals and collect funds from abroad. Such liberties are not available to them in China.

Another attraction for them is easy access to the internet and social media. They can easily express their political, social and religious beliefs without any fear of persecution from Chinese authorities. There is another aspect to this phenomenon. A top security agency officer on condition of anonymity told this writer that after the US-Taliban peace deal, around 3000 Uyghur Muslim families have been shifted to the Badakhshan area bordering China, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. All this was sanctioned by the Haqqani Network supremo Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Another impact of the US-Taliban deal is that most of the Uyghur fighters working for Al-Qaeda have now switched their loyalties to Daesh. These Uyghur fighters have been instructed to leave major cities and spread across the rural areas. These fighters are being supported by Turkey and Iran. Turkey is supporting them due tomtheir Turkish origin. Similarly many Uyghurs have migrated to Iranian areas and Iran is supporting them as it wants them to be used as a pawn to disrupt the US-Taliban peace talks.

All these factors are adding to the problems of the Chinese authorities. After a comprehensive and exhaustive research study of 5 years, this writer has produced a detailed paper for the Chinese government, elaborating ways and means on how to tackle the Uyghur issue in the most peaceful manner. The research is based on surveys, interviews, data analysis and some earth-shattering intelligence information received from many credible resources. One hopes the Chinese authorities will focus on dealing with the Uyghur issue in a very tactful manner.