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Source: Index >> Culture History >> Religions

Situation of Islam in Xinjiang during the Republic Period
(Tianshannet) Updated: 2010-August-4 17:57:03


From 1911 when the Revolution of 1911 broke out to 1949 when New China was founded, Xinjiang successively went through four regimes of Yang Zengxin, Jin Shuren, Sheng Shicai and direct dominance from the Kuomintang government.

Yang Zengxin, a successful candidate in the highest imperial examination in the Qing Dynasty, was born in Mengzi County, Yunnan Province, where Muslims lived in compact community. He was appointed as the governor of Xinjiang after the Revolution of 1911, and changed to the post of provincial chairman afterwards. Having spent his official career mostly in Hezhou and Xinjiang where Muslims had an overwhelming majority, Yang Zengxin knew a lot about the doctrine and sects of Islam. So he adopted dual tactics of both mollification and suppression towards the Muslims in Xinjiang, not oppressing them excessively lest the major ethnic groups in this region rose to oppose him. He made use of Islam to comfort the Muslim mass and' took advantage of the ethnic conflicts to disintegrate them so that they were no able to unite together under the standard of Islam.

Yang Zengxin was active in striving for the support of the upper circles of the Muslims in Xinjiang, giving preferential treatment to the nobilities of the Uighurs so as to use them to comfort and control the Muslims. Not only did he fully acknowledge the titles and ranks of the nobilities of the minority groups in Xinjiang that were conferred by the Qing Dynasty and reserved all their privileges, but also reported to the Government of the Northern Warlords for reconfirmation and promotion so as to solidify his ruling. Yang Zengxin also took advantage of the conflicts among the ethnic groups and clans to make them contain each other to maintain the peace of his separatist regime.

By the end of the Qing Dynasty, the land army and patrol battalion in Xinjiang were dominated by Hans. In order to keep Huis and other Muslim peoples under control and pin down the former army dominated by Hans, Yang Zengxin organized the Hui Army, with which he could alsQ pin down the armed escort dominated by the Uighurs and the cavalry of the Kazaks. Thus, not only the people who constituted the majority in Xinjiang were kept under control, but the Hans were also pinned down. To maintain the social stability of Xinjiang and solidify his regime, Yang Zengxin adopted a serial of measures to restrain the "Double-Pan" thoughts (Pan-Islamism and Pan-Turkism appeared in the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century). He took strict precautions towards foreigners to Xinjiang by having their identity clarified, not allowing them to engage with locals, or expelling them and burning the propaganda material they distributed. He also prohibited foreigners from running schools or be teachers in Xinjiang. As for Chinese who colluded with foreigners to propagandize the "Double-Pan" thoughts, he resorted to severe punishment. The foreign teachers who openly spread the "Double-Pan" thoughts in new schools would be expelled by the local government, and the school they served would be closed down as well.

Jin Shuren, a student of Yang Zengxin, came to Xinjiang after he graduated from the High School of Gansu and was appointed county magistrate ofAksu and other counties, and was promoted to the position of director of the Provincial Civil Affairs Department of Xinjiang in 1926. He was appointed chairman of Xinjiang by the Republic Government after Yang Zengxin was assassinated. Jin Shuren held an attitude of strict precaution towards religious matters. His policy of ethnic and religious discrimination and suppression intensified the contradictions among the ethnic groups in Xinjiang. He arranged refugees unwisely at the cost of Uighur farmers' field and their irrigation systems. His estrepement damaged pasture lands and impacted the subsistence of the Kazaks, Khalkhas and other peoples who lived on it. Taking advantage of the opportunity to enlarge the army, he squeezed out most of the Hui military officials and replaced them with the Hans from Gansu. Many of his officials and soldiers held an attitude of Han chauvinism towards Muslim groups. It aroused the great indignation of the Muslims of all nationalities and resulted in violent conflicts. The Accident of Xiaobao in 1931 triggered an insurrection and led to the collapse of Jin Shuren's regime.

On February 27, 1931, Zhang Guohu, a platoon leader of the Han garrison in Xiaobao, a small town at the east of Hami, took a local Uighur woman by force, ignoring the ethnic tradition of the Uighurs. The local Uighur peasants marched to Qincheng Town and rose in revolt that night. The local garrison was wiped out, and it soon developed into a province-wide uprising. The regime of Jin Shuren finally collapsed, and Sheng Shicai took over and became the new warlord ruling Xinjiang.

Sheng Shicai was bom to a military family in Shenyang. He had been to Japan twice for learning, and held a post in the general headquarters of the revolutionary army of the Republic after he turned to China. In 1930, he came to Xinjiang. Taking advantage of the uprising in Hami, Sheng Shicai built up his feudal warlord regime. He had always flaunted ethnic equality and religious freedom, but when the political situation changed, he came to bloodily persecute personages within minority groups and adopted a policy of eliminating Islam. On April 12, 1934, Xinjiang Provincial Government issued its Administration Declaration (generally called "Eight Declarations") which placed religious problem above all the others. Soon afterwards, it formulated "Six Policies" (namely 1. opposing imperialism; 2. favoring the Soviet Union; 3. insisting on ethnic equality; 4. being honest and upright; 5. maintaining peace; 6. being constructive) as its complete guiding line. In the initial period to carry out these policies, it produced some positive effects. For example, the authorities admitted personages from ethnic minority groups into government, and ethnic contradictions were mitigated to some extent as a result. At the Second Provincial Populace Representative Assembly of Xinjiang, the Xinjiang Populace Federation was set up to deal specially with ethnic relations. It is also at this conference that the ethnic name for the Uighurs, the Khalkhas, the Tajiks and the Tatars were defined, and a number of mass organizations were established to promote ethnic culture and improve Muslims' education. However, the Six Policies in fact were only a tactic by which Sheng Shicai could build up his autocracy. Once he had held his ground in Xinjiang, Sheng Shicai began to persecute Muslims, accusing them of plotting revolt. He roped in prestigious and powerful people from minority groups at first, and then dragged them into the cases of revolt and sentenced them to imprisonment or even execution.

Xinjiang entered the stage of the direct ruling of Kuomintang after Sheng Shicai left. Motivated by calls for peace at home and abroad and due to its military failures, the Kuomintang Government dispatched Zhang Zhizhong for peace negotiations in Dihua, at which a peace protocol was signed and the Provincial Coalition Government was established, which soon disintegrated. In January 1949, Bao'erhan took up the post of chairman of the Xinjiang Provincial Government. On September 19, he telephoned Mao Zedong, indicating that he had decided to break away from the Kuomintang government. On October 20, the vanguard of the People's Liberation Army entered Dihua and garrisoned there, and Xinjiang was liberated peacefully.

(SOURCES:China Intercontinental Press)Editor: zhaoqian
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