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Why China's Keeping A Close Eye On The Scottish Referendum

With Scotland's vote on independence fast approaching, China will be watching with some concern. Here's why
Posted at 8:55 AM, Sep 17, 2014

With the Scottish referendum right around the corner, Chinese officials will be watching with some concern — worried about the message a "Yes" vote could send to two major restive regions: Xinjiang and Tibet. 

Xinjiang in particular has seen its share of violence over the past few months as China has cracked down on the region, with clashes between members of the Uighur minority group and police. The worst of those clashses left close to 100 dead in early August. (Video via Arirang)    

The Chinese government's handling of that crisis alone has drawn parallels to Scottish history, as the Financial Times points out

FINANCIAL TIMES: "The harsh methods adopted by Beijing to suppress the Uighurs remind some of the Disarming Act ... The law then aimed to wipe out the Scottish Clan system."

That, coupled with a pro-democracy movement leading protests in Hong Kong, make this a pretty inconvenient time for the world's attention to be focused on self-determination and the potential breakup of a centuries-old union. (Video via The Wall Street Journal)

And yet, the bulk of China's coverage has repeatedly mentioned that 300-year-old history of Scotland in the United Kingdom — which echoes an argument its government has often made for keeping control of some of its semi-autonomous regions. 

With Tibet, in particular, the Chinese government says the region has its own centuries-long history as a part of China, and therefore, China was entitled to invade Tibet in the 1950s. China still officially calls the invasion a liberation. (Video via History)

And that might have led to this prompt, during an interview about the referendum on state-run China Central Television... 

YANG RUI, CCTV: "There's no sign whatsoever for a British invasion of Scotland, should the national party of Scotland declare independence?"

That goes along with what The Guardian reports some people in China have asked about the upcoming vote, writing "Ordinary Chinese people have shown relatively little interest, though some have questioned British acquaintances: 'Will there be fighting?'"

That Guardian article pointed to an op-ed in Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times as an example of the government's stance on the referendum. The op-ed argues, "Should the fate of the country be decided by a mere 8 percent of the UK population? ...  An incredibly large number of nations will suffer from secessional movements if other nations follow Scotland's example.  "

And the Chinese government won't be particularly reassured by the latest show of support for Scotland from another region steeped in conflict, as Palestinian bagpipers took to the streets of the West Bank this week. 

The latest survey, from Opinium, shows the margin between the Yes and No camps narrowing to four percent, with the No's in the lead. Scots head to the polls on Thursday.