Amnesty International: Long-standing Uighur grievances behind repeated protests must be addressed

Amnesty International
Press Release
AI Index: ASA 17/006/2011
4 February 2011

February 5 marks the 14th anniversary of a violent crackdown on peaceful Uighur protesters by security forces in the city of Gulja (In Chinese: Yining), in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in China’s far-West. On 5 February 1997 dozens of people were killed or injured in Gulja when security forces opened fire on Uighur protesters. The Uighurs had begun a peaceful protest against the banning of “meshreps”, a traditional Uighur form of social gathering, the closing of a Uighur football league, high unemployment among Uighurs, and the closure of religious schools. Many dozens were killed and injured, and potentially hundreds in the ensuing days according to unconfirmed reports. In the government crackdown, thousands were detained, many hundreds disappeared, and there were reports of executions after unfair trials.

Security forces cracked down violently again on 5 July 2009 when Uighurs in Urumqi began a peaceful protest, this time about perceived government inaction over beatings and killing of Uighur migrant workers by Han Chinese in Shaoguan, in the southern province of Guangdong, in June 2009. Violent clashes between ethnic groups and Han Chinese ensued, leading to hundreds of deaths. In the crackdown that followed, as in Gulja, thousands were detained, hundreds imprisoned, and dozens sentenced to death and executed after unfair trials.

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Fourteenth anniversary of the Ghulja Massacre

Rafto Foundation, 03 February 2011

Fourteen years ago on 5 February 1997 hundreds of Uyghurs were killed or imprisoned after participating in a peaceful demonstration in the city of Ghulja in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), China.

Still the victims of the Ghulja Massacre remain unaccounted for. The crackdown on Uyghurs in the aftermaths of the deadly unrest in Urumchi on 5 July 2009 is a tragic reminder that the executions, killings and detentions of Uyghurs continue today.

Peaceful protesters
On 5 February 1997, thousands of Uyghur men, women and children went out onto the streets of Ghulja and called for equal treatment, religious and cultural freedom, as well as freedom of speech. They also demanded an end to the racial discrimination they experienced daily, leading to the cultural and economic marginalisation of the Uyghur community.

Met with force
The peaceful demonstration was met with brute force by units of the People’s Armed Police and riot police. According to eye witnesses, the security forces opened fire into the crowd. The death toll varies, but witnesses report that as many as 30 Uyghurs were killed on the spot, and more than a hundred were wounded.

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Xinjiang Court Offers First Indicator of State Security Stats for 2010

The Dui Hua Foundation, 20 January 2011

One of the ways we gauge the human rights situation in China is to look at the numbers of arrests and prosecutions for “endangering state security” (ESS) during the previous year. To this end, we pay close attention to statistics typically included by the heads of the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate during the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress in March. Close analysis of these figures over many years give us a perspective from which we can identify trends and make judgments about whether things are getting more or less restrictive in China.

An early indication of which direction those trends might be heading comes from statements made by the president of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) Higher People’s Court, Rozi Ismail. According to the Xinhua News Agency, on January 16 Mr. Ismail announced that courts in the XUAR concluded 376 trials for ESS in 2010. This reflects a 16 percent drop compared to the 437 cases concluded in 2009 but remains more than 30 percent above the number reported in 2008. It is assumed that a crackdown against “splittism” following the deadly riots in Urumqi on July 5, 2009, is primarily responsible for the increase in ESS cases over the past two years.

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United States Must Support Cambodia & Uphold UN Refugee Convention

UNPO, 21 December 2010

The Hague, 21st December 2010 – Just over one year ago the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh stated it was “deeply concerned” about the welfare of twenty Uyghurs deported under the cover of night from Cambodia to China, but today their cases are almost forgotten.

The whereabouts of those twenty Uyghurs remains unknown amid longstanding and deep-rooted fears for their safety.  The Chinese government has disappeared these Uyghurs.  Moreover, Cambodia was fully aware prior to returning these Uyghurs that they would be subject to grave human rights violations upon their return.

In 2010 the United States and the Kingdom of Cambodia marked their 60th Anniversary of diplomatic relations amid messages of “peace, stability and development” from H.M. King Norodom Sihamoni and President Obama’s desire that “human rights, and strengthening democratic institutions” be a continuing feature of the relationship.

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One Year Anniversary of Cambodia’s Forcible Return of Uyghur Asylum Seekers – Rep. Rohrabacher Calls on Chinese Government to Disclose Whereabouts and Release

17 December 2010
Tara Setmayer
Communications Director
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Washington, DC, USA
Tel.: +1 202-225-2415

Washington, DC –December 19th, 2010 marks the one year anniversary of Cambodia’s forcible return of 20 Uyghur asylum seekers to China. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has expressed concern that the Chinese government still has not disclosed the returnees’whereabouts and legal statuses or information about their well-being.

The plight of the Uyghurs is evidence of the brutish force of the Chinese dictatorship,” said Rohrabacher. “ I call on the Chinese government to immediately reveal these missing Uyghurs’ whereabouts and to unconditionally release them. The Chinese government has not produced any evidence that they have perpetrated any crimes recognized under international law or China’s domestic law.  We should know what has happened to them.”

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One Year Later, Whereabouts of Deported Uighurs Still Unknown

17 December 2010, Washington, USA
Contact: Mary McGuire, Freedom House,  +01 202-747-7035

Freedom Houses urges the Chinese government to reveal the whereabouts of 20 Uighurs deported from Cambodia one year ago. At the time of the deportation, Chinese officials promised to deal with the Uighurs in a transparent manner. However, a year later, no information has been released about their location or well-being.

On December 19, 2009, Cambodian authorities deported back to China 20 Uighurs who had been seeking asylum in Cambodia. Most members of the group, which included a woman and two children, had fled to Cambodia in October 2009, fearing persecution amid the Chinese security crackdown in Xinjiang in the aftermath of ethnic violence in July of that year. Chinese authorities accused the individuals of being involved in the violence that took place in Urumqi but have not provided evidence to support such claims. Rather, before being deported, several of the asylum seekers reportedly revealed details of violence committed by Chinese security forces against Uighurs, raising concerns that the Chinese authorities sought the Uighurs’ deportation to silence their eyewitness accounts.  Two days after the deportation, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited Cambodia and concluded 14 deals with the Cambodian government worth approximately $1 billion.

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Cambodia: one year without answers

Jesuit Refugee Service
16 December 2010

The fate of 20 asylum seekers forcibly returned to China

Bangkok, 16 December 2010 – As the one-year anniversary approaches, JRS remembers the Uighur asylum seekers that we came to know well, and again we ask the question: what happened to them? What happened to the pregnant mother and her two children? What happened to the man who had already escaped years of torture at the hands of the Chinese authorities? What happened to each individual who was trying to start a new life in a safe country?

Last year, the Uighur asylum seekers were returned to China, a country where their lives were in danger. While they were in Cambodia, JRS staff worked with them, trying to protect their right to live safely. Since then, JRS can only assume that these friends have been executed, tortured or imprisoned.

“I would prefer to die than be returned to China” is what one Uighur man, who came to be friends with the JRS Cambodia staff, said before they were forcibly returned to China on 19 December 2009.

They arrived in Cambodia in small groups between May and October 2009, seeking asylum from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the government from the persecution they said that they faced in China. Seeking asylum in a country that is a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, they presumed that they would have access to fair and transparent processing of their claims and that they would be safe from forced return.

They were wrong.

On 18 December 2009, they were abducted at gunpoint from a safe-house, jointly managed by the Cambodia authorities and UNHCR, where they had spent one night. The next day, the 20 Uighur asylum seekers, were deported via chartered plane back to China. JRS stood helpless, watching this plane take off in the dark from the Phnom Penh airport. The plane, along with the Uighur people, disappeared into the night.

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At a year of their disappearance, the Nonviolent Radical Party calls on international organizations to urge Beijing to disclose the whereabouts of the 20 Uyghurs deported from Cambodia to China

15 December 2010

For more information, contact:
Mr. Marco Perduca
Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty (Rome, Italy),
Tel.: +393490815747

Statement by Senator Marco Perduca, co-vicepresident of the Nonviolent Radical Party and Treasurer of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization:

“In patent violations of international procedures, the Cambodian Government transferred on December 19 of last year 20 Uyghurs before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) could make a determination about their refugee status.

Since then, as usual, China has rewarded Cambodia for her collaborative stance by signing an agreement two to provide US$1.2 billion in aid to Cambodia. Phnom Penh returned these Uyghurs to China knowing that they would encounter harsh prosecution from the State violating the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol to the Refugee Convention, of which it is a party.

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