Senator Mark Kirk is pushing for the U.S. to engage in deeper strategic cooperation with China on drugs, terrorism, and Afghanistan. Speaking yesterday at the Foreign Policy Initiative’s annual conference at the Newseum, the Illinois Republican argued that the U.S. should build a supply line to Afghanistan through Urumqi, Xinjiang, the area known to its Uyghur and other Muslim inhabitants as East Turkistan.

Kirk’s desire to route a supply network through territory he claims has a “rising Uyghur terrorist problem” is puzzling. More disturbing is that Kirk bases his assessment of the terrorist threat on Chinese Communist propaganda:

When you go to the Ministry of Public Security exhibits, you will see that we have gone from the 1950s being up against cross bows of the Uyghur's, to full blown AK‑47s and RPGs, from what the security services had been up against.

Where does this sympathetic pat on the back for the Chinese Communist Party’s security apparatus come from? The Party’s definition of “terrorism” has no place in the formulation of U.S. policy toward Uyghurs. Beijing, for example, routinely calls the Dalai Lama a terrorist, and demonstrators in the 1989 democracy movement “counterrevolutionaries.”

Kirk is an admirable and stalwart supporter of democracy in Iran, Russia, and practically everywhere else. He should consider the moral and strategic pitfalls in cooperating with the Communist Chinese on terrorism. Any joint efforts must be informed by an understanding of the Communist Party’s record of religious persecution, abuses, and outright falsifications about Uyghurs. Kirk, a former board member of the National Endowment for Democracy should ask to be briefed by the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a NED grantee based in Washington, and to meet members of the Uyghur exile community, such as Rebiya Kadeer, Nury Turkel, and others, about their vision for democracy and human rights in their homeland.

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