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The Oic Mission To China Returns To Jeddah

Date: 25/08/2009
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The OIC high level delegation headed by Ambassador Sayed El-Masry returned to Jeddah on 22 August 2009 after a 5-day visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The delegation visited Beijing and the capitals of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region i.e. Urumqi and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region i.e. Yinchuan where the majority of the Chinese Muslims live.

The visit was upon the invitation from the Chinese Government. It is to be recalled that after the regrettable events of July 5, 2009, the Secretary General of the OIC H.E. Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu got into immediate contact with the Chinese Government during which the Chinese Government extended an official invitation to him to visit China and the Xinjiang Uygur region. One of the main tasks of the delegation that visited China was to prepare for this visit and to obtain firsthand information on the situation in Xinjiang and on the conditions of the Chinese Muslim community in general.

The OIC visiting delegation met twice with the high officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegation also met with officials of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, State Ethnic Affairs Commission, and the Islamic Association. They met with high officials in the branches of these institutions in the Muslim inhabited regions of Xingjian and Ningxia as well. They visited the institute of Islamic Higher Studies in Urumqi and mosques in Beijing and Yinchuan. At the end of their visit the delegation met with the Ambassadors of OIC Member States who are accredited to China and Ambassador El- Masry briefed them on the visit.

Upon his return to Jeddah, Ambassador El-Masry declared that the visit was a successful one. He gave some preliminary observations on the visit as follows:

- The Chinese Government is looking forward to the visit of the Secretary General and the date will be some time after Eid ul Fitr.

- Both sides value the importance of consolidating the good relations between China and the Islamic world. China welcomes the continuation of contacts and dialogue with the OIC and it considers it the most important inter-governmental organization which represents the Muslim world. China is considering formalizing its relations with the OIC.

- The two sides agreed that there are root causes to the unrest that flared up in Urumqi last July, and the Chinese side attributed this to rapid economic development in the region that created different levels in the standards of living among the populations in different parts of China. They added that it is true for not only Xinjiang but for other parts of China as well. Now China has embarked on a plan to narrow this gap. The OIC delegation explained its position on the issue that the problem could not be dealt with solely from security aspect, but should encompass all aspects of its root-causes.

- The OIC delegation sought information on the education policy, the question of control over natural resources, rules and regulations governing marriage and inheritance. They also wanted information on the percentage of Muslim Uygur people in high echelon posts and their per-capita income as compared to national per-capita income as well as on claims of some quarters of forced abortion. Intensive discussions were conducted on all these issues both in Beijing and Urumqi. The OIC delegation inquired as well on restrictions on right to travel to foreign countries, the claims about demolishing Islamic cultural heritage and historic sites especially in Kashgar and the issue of rapid changing of the demographic composition of Xingjian. During the long discussions, the Chinese side gave detailed account on their policy on autonomous regions, ethnic minorities, religious affairs, education policy, social and family welfare policies.

- The two sides discussed the state of religious freedom in Xinjiang and the OIC delegation presented the observations they acquired after their visit to the region. The OIC side explained that besides the economic aspect, there are some additional difficulties faced by the Muslims in Xinjiang such as age and gender restrictions on frequenting Mosques and participating public religious ceremonies. The delegation found out that these restrictions apply only to Muslims in Xinjiang but no such restrictions are applied in Yinchuan, Ningxia.

- The two sides are studying the possibility of organizing an academic symposium on “China and the Islamic civilizations” to be held in the near future.

It should be mentioned here that the OIC policy on the question of Muslim minorities in Non-OIC countries is guided by the principles of non-intervention in the domestic affairs, non-support of any separatist aspirations, and full respect to its territorial integrity and national independence of the country concerned. Contacts with such minorities should always be carried out through the legitimate Government or being within its full knowledge.

The Secretary General followed closely the proceedings of this important visit and he will present a report on the outcome of the contacts with China to the next OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in 2010.
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