Chapter 10

“We Are Not Terrorists!”: Uighurs, Tibetans and the “Global War on Terror”

By Julia Meredith Hess

In this chapter, Julia Hess points out how anti-terrorist policies implemented after 9/11 have had effects not only on migrants already in the United States but also on people who are at the margins of the Chinese state. Chinese policy toward the Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group in China’s northwest province known as the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR), became increasingly repressive after 9/11, when, in an echo of the U.S.-led global “war on terror,” the Chinese state mounted an international campaign to label all Uighur separatists “terror groups.” The human rights situation of Uighurs in China has deteriorated, marked by increasing repression, including arrests, repatriation of Uighurs in neighboring countries to China, detention, torture, and execution. Hess also draws attention to the “transnational” dimensions of the struggle for Uighur rights, as Uighurs increasingly seek asylum abroad and Uighur expatriates in the U.S. join with human rights monitors to generate publicity and mobilize sympathy for their cause.

Study Question

  1. What has been the role of internet-based communication in mobilizing Tibetan and Uighur exile communities and wider global publics to press China to show greater respect for ethnic minority rights?

Critical Thinking

  1. On p.240, volume editor Samuel Martinez quotes Subhash Kateel, co-founder of Families for Freedom: “Really bad ideas from the United States get even scarier when they are exported to other countries.” Comment on this idea in relation to the Chinese government’s re-definition of its suppression of ethnic minority group politics as a front in the Global War on Terror.