State violence and intimidation of Uyghurs will exacerbate, not ease, tensions in East Turkestan

Çar, 05/28/2014 - 19:41 -- Kanat

For immediate release
May 28, 2014, 4:30 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) expresses its deep concern over the Chinese government’s fierce crackdown on and systematic intimidation of the Uyghur people currently underway in East Turkestan.

According to reports in overseas and Chinese media, and in response to an announcement of a one-year “anti-terror” campaign, Chinese security forces have arrested large numbers of Uyghurs in the region. In addition, Chinese authorities conducted a mass trial of 55 Uyghurs in the border city of Ghulja on May 27, 2014. Overseas media reports cited Xinjiang party chief, Zhang Chunxian as stating the crackdown will employ “unconventional measures,” which UAA fears includes extrajudicial methods.

UAA believes an extended crackdown on Uyghurs will merely prolong a cycle of violence precipitated by repressive policies in the region. UAA stresses to the Chinese government that its current crackdown in East Turkestan, which is based upon the persistently unsuccessful tactic of carrots and sticks, is unworkable in the long run.

In addition to pursuing alleged terrorists, the Chinese government has targeted moderate Uyghurs like Ilham Tohti and Abduweli Ayup. Only by listening to the grievances of the Uyghur people and respecting the Chinese Constitution and the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law will the Chinese government achieve lasting peace and stability in the region.

“With the announcement of its so called year-long ‘anti-terror’ campaign, Chinese officials have finally come clean with their policy goals for the Uyghur people. The fiction of the ‘Harmonious Society’ has been exposed with this onslaught against the Uyghur. The Chinese state has no plan of how to promote a thriving and vibrant Uyghur culture, so it has resorted to a favorite tactic: fierce repression and systematic intimidation,” said UAA president, Alim Seytoff in a statement from Washington, DC.

“The security crackdowns in predominantly Uyghur areas are designed to make the Uyghur homeland safe for Han settlers and investors. The mass trials, reminiscent of the notorious Cultural Revolution, and widespread arrests are a crudely designed warning to the Uyghurs in East Turkestan. The purpose of that message is to forcibly silence the Uyghur people, even as they endure open economic, social and cultural discrimination.”

A BBC report dated May 28, 2014, detailed how 55 people, who appeared to be Uyghur, were found guilty on charges of terrorism, separatism and murder during a mass trial in Ghulja, which BBC reporter, Celia Hatton described as “political theatre.” According to the report, the mass trial was held in a local stadium attended by 7,000 people. China usually holds such mass trials of Uyghurs with the forcible attendance of their parents, relatives and government cadres. All of them are required to applaud when the government hands down severe sentences to the Uyghurs. Three of the Uyghurs in Ghulja were sentenced to death.

The mass sentencing follows Chinese state media reports on May 27, 2014 that Chinese security forces had arrested more than 200 suspects in raids conducted on May 26 in Hotan, Kashgar, Ili and Aksu prefectures. The suspects were alleged to have “watched and listened to terror videos and audio and collected material to make explosive devices.” In a bid to suppress information on security operations targeting Uyghurs, Chinese officials have suspended WeChat, and possibly other Internet services, in the predominately Uyghur city of Hotan.

UAA asks the international community to view the sentences handed down to Uyghurs in Ghulja and the arrests across the region with skepticism until further and independent details are made publicly available. UAA considers the events a kneejerk reaction from Chinese officials wishing to appear decisive on the deteriorating security environment in East Turkestan. UAA urges the international community to remind China that it has commitments to international standards of human rights and due process, including the right to a free and fair trial. International silence on China’s latest crackdown on Uyghur people will be widely interpreted by the Chinese authorities as a license to further strike hard against the Uyghur people’s legitimate demands and crush their yearning for freedom, democracy and human rights.

Furthermore, UAA requests China be asked to account for reports of state violence committed against Uyghur demonstrators in Alaqagha township on May 20, 2014. Radio Free Asia described how local Uyghurs peacefully protested the detention of women and children for wearing headscarves. According to eyewitnesses cited in the Radio Free Asia report, “up to four people may have been killed and several others wounded.” In the wake of the killings, Radio Free Asia described in a follow-up report how “more than a hundred Uyghurs” have been detained as a result of the demonstration.

Given the seriousness of the allegations of state violence in Alaqagha and the continued deterioration of conditions in East Turkestan, UAA disputes China’s contention that its policies in the region are “completely right,” and seeks a fundamental reform of approach towards Uyghurs that genuinely respects human rights and freedom.