China has been accused of oppressing and breaching the human rights of the Uyghur people in its western Xinjiang province.
There have been widespread reports of Uyghur people being held against their will in “re-education” centres, undergoing forced contraception and being subjected to a range of other restrictions.
China says the claims are “baseless” and have repeatedly denied any mistreatment of Uyghurs, saying they live in “peace and harmony”.
But who are the Uyghurs – pronounced “wee-gers” – and why might the Chinese state allegedly be targeting them?
Who are the Uyghur people?
The Uyghurs are a group of people who live mostly in the Xinjiang area of China.
They have been living there for at least several hundred years and there is good evidence that they may have lived there in some form for several thousand years.
They are generally regarded as a Turkic people, which means they speak a language related to Turkish and have ancestors who came from the traditional homeland of the Turks – north of central Asia.
But studies of their genetic make-up suggest that they also have ancestors who came from other parts of the world, with European DNA mixed with Chinese, south Asian, Siberian, and central Asian.
What have the Chinese been accused of?
China has been accused of interning one million Uyghurs in “re-education” centres in Xinjiang.
In 2019, leaked documents emerged that contradicted Chinese government claims that the detention camps were voluntary job training centres.
The classified papers appeared to confirm what former detainees had been saying, that the camps were centres for forced ideological and behavioural re-education, or brainwashing.
The Chinese government has been accused of forcing Uyghur women and member of other minorities to take part in birth control as part of a campaign to curb its Muslim population.
Footage has emerged over the last few years purporting to show hundreds of blindfolded and shackled prisoners – who were thought to be from the Uyghur population – being marched by guards in the Xinjiang city of Korla.
Sky News has also found evidence of children of exiled Uyghurs going missing in Xinjiang.
Why might the Chinese oppress the Uyghurs?
Xinjiang, where an estimated 80% of China’s Uyghurs are said to live, is China’s most western province.
It is a politically sensitive region – surrounded by eight other countries.
As the home of a significant proportion of the Silk Road, it has long been used as a thoroughfare along which goods from China have travelled.
Some, possibly most, Uyghurs do not accept that Xinjiang is part of China, citing the evidence that Uyghur people lived in the area before Chinese Han and Tang dynasties set up protectorates.
Xinjiang, as it is now, came under Chinese Qing dynasty rule in the 18th century, but there have been many times in its history when it was not under Chinese control.
In modern times, China has been increasing the number of non-Uyghurs in Xinjiang, so the proportion of Uyghurs in the region is declining.
Some Uyghurs resent that they are becoming, in their view, increasingly marginalised in the land where they have lived for centuries.
What unites the Uyghur people?
The Uyghurs are predominantly Muslim and have been for at least several hundred years.
But they have a rich and complex cultural history, stretching back millennia, with archaeological sites in Xinjiang showing that many in the past adhered to Buddhist beliefs, as well as those of other religions which now have relatively few followers.
Artworks discovered in caves in Xinjiang were made by Buddhist devotees who are believed to have been among some of the ancestors of modern Uyghur people.
They show the diversity of the society at the time, with images dating from the fifth to 14th centuries of Indians, Persians, Chinese and even some resembling Europeans on the cave walls.
Uyghurs are also united by a common language, which is related to Turkish, and by a shared culture of music, dance, food and other traditions.
How long have Uyghurs been in Xinjiang?
The oldest known inhabitants of the Tarim basin, a part of Xinjiang, are the Tarim mummies.
The mummified remains have European features and it has been claimed that the people spoke a language related to European Celtic. They lived about 3,800 years ago.
But there have been many influxes of people since then.
One of the key factors that has influenced who lives in the area is the presence of the Silk Road – the main worldwide trade route from Roman to Medieval times – through Xinjiang along which travelled goods and people.
Some Chinese experts argue that Uyghur people arrived in Xinjiang around the eighth and ninth centuries after the fall of a society further north called the Uyghur Khaganate.
Other experts, however, say that those arrivals were just one of the many waves of immigration into the area, and the modern Uyghur population reflects those past movements of people.
This article was originally published in 2020.
Traders were told of Hamas attack on Israel in advance and ‘profited from tragic events’, researchers claim
Israeli authorities are investigating claims some investors may have known in advance about the Hamas plan to attack Israel on 7 October and used that information to make hundreds of millions of pounds.
Research by US law professors Robert Jackson Jr and Joshua Mitts, from New York University and Columbia University respectively, found significant short-selling of shares leading up to the massacre, which triggered a war that has raged for nearly two months.
“Days before the attack, traders appeared to anticipate the events to come,” the authors wrote, citing short interest in the MSCI Israel Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) they say “suddenly, and significantly, spiked” on 2 October.
“And just before the attack, short selling of Israeli securities on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) increased dramatically,” they added.
The Israel Securities Authority told Reuters: “The matter is known to the authority and is under investigation by all the relevant parties.”
The researchers said short-selling prior to 7 October “exceeded the short-selling that occurred during numerous other periods of crisis”, including the recession following the financial crisis of 2008, the 2014 Israel-Gaza war and the COVID-19 pandemic.
They gave the example of Leumi, Israel’s largest bank, which saw 4.43 million new shares sold short over the 14 September to 5 October period, yielding profits of 3.2bn shekels (£680m) on that additional short-selling.
“Although we see no aggregate increase in shorting of Israeli companies on US exchanges, we do identify a sharp and
unusual increase, just before the attacks, in trading in risky short-dated options on these companies expiring just after the attacks,” they said.
What is shorting?
Short sellers are investors who bet on a fall in the price of a security, in this case a stock.
They typically do this by borrowing shares in a particular company and then selling them.
If the share price falls, they will then buy those shares back at the lower price, sealing in their profit.
The shares are then returned to the original investor from whom they were borrowed.
Traders ‘profited from these tragic events’
The value of the MSCI Israel ETF fell by 6.1% on 11 October, the first day the American market was open for business after the attack, and later dropped by 17.5% over the 20 days following the massacre.
The researchers – who did not name the traders – identified two large transactions on 2 October, adding: “On these two transactions alone, the trader made several million dollars in profit (or in losses avoided).”
They also identified similar patterns in April, when it was reported Hamas was initially planning its attack on Israel.
While the researchers do not identify Hamas as being behind the trades, their paper suggests the information originated from the terror group: “Our findings suggest that traders informed about the coming attacks profited from these tragic events.”
Their paper, Trading on Terror?, was published on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) on Sunday.
Ex-US ambassador Manuel Rocha accused of being Cuban spy
A former US ambassador to Bolivia has been charged with secretly acting as a Cuban agent for “more than 40 years”.
Manuel Rocha, who was arrested at his Miami home on Friday, served as the top US diplomat to Bolivia between 2000 and 2002.
Prosecutors from the US Justice Department accuse him of promoting the Cuban government’s interests, Sky’s US partner NBC News reported.
This is not a crime unless it is done on US soil without registering with the department as a foreign lobbyist, the broadcaster added.
Rocha, 73, appeared in court on Monday and is alleged to have begun his “clandestine activity” on Cuba’s behalf in 1981 or earlier.
It was one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the US government by a foreign agent, department officials said.
He met Cuban intelligence operators, lied to US government officials about his travels and contacts and used a passport obtained through a false statement, prosecutors claimed in court documents filed in Florida.
The charges reflect a harsher approach by the department towards the prosecution of illicit foreign lobbying.
During his 25-year career as a US diplomat, Rocha served as ambassador to Bolivia and held another senior post – head of mission – in Argentina.
He worked for the US Interests Section in Havana in the mid-1990s, a time when the US lacked full diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro’s communist government.
Prosecutors claim Cuba’s notoriously sophisticated intelligence services first began using Rocha in 1981 when he first joined the US State Department.
They added that the alleged links continued well after he left government service more than two decades later.
The FBI learned about the relationship last year, it is alleged, and arranged a series of undercover meetings with an agent posing as a Cuban intelligence operator.
In one encounter in Miami last year, Rocha is alleged to have said: “I always told myself, ‘The only thing that can put everything we have done in danger is – is … someone’s betrayal, someone who may have met me, someone who may have known something at some point’.”
Born in Colombia, Rocha joined the US foreign service in 1981.
As ambassador to Bolivia, he warned Bolivians that if they voted for Evo Morales in the upcoming election, the US would cut off aid to the poor South American country.
Rocha also served in Italy, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and worked as a Latin America expert for the US National Security Council.
Mother, 26, dies after attack by shark in Mexico while swimming with daughter
A 26-year-old mother has died in Mexico after being bitten in the leg by a shark.
The woman, who lived locally, was swimming with her five-year-old daughter when the attack happened.
She is understood to have died from blood loss from the massive bite wound on her leg. Her daughter was unharmed.
The attack happened in the waters off the beach town of Melaque in the state of Jalisco in western Mexico on Saturday, authorities said.
Rafael Araiza, the head of the local civil defence office, said the woman and her daughter were swimming towards a floating play platform about 25m (75ft) from the shore when the attack happened.
She is said to have been trying to boost her child onto the platform when the shark bit her.
Mr Araiza said despite their quick response, rescuers were unable to save her.
Authorities closed the beaches in Melaque and the better-known beach town of Barra de Navidad to swimmers in response.
Shark attacks are understood to be relatively rare in Mexico. A US diver survived a shark bite on the forearm in Magdalena Bay off the Baja California Sur coast in 2019.
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