HRC: The Status of Human Rights in East Turkestan

Friday, 13 March 2009 

UNPO East Turkestan Representative, Mr. Isa, spoke at an HRC event to outline human rights abuses in China.

At a side event, run in parallel to the Human Rights Council (currently in session), UNPO East Turkestan Representative, Mr. Isa, spoke representing the World Uyghur Congress (WUC). He delivered a speech under the title ‘The Status of Human Rights of Uyghurs in China.’ During this speech, which you can read in full below, Mr. Isa outlined the current plight of Uyghurs in China, highlighting numerous instances of human rights abuses inflicted upon them.

Although he recognized that the problem is escalating, a peaceful means to the attainment of the right to self determination were emphasized, as was the need to work within international law. However, the international community was also called upon to take action to prevent the abuses currently taking place in East Turkestan as well as urging China to ‘start [a] dialogue with the representatives of WUC to peacefully resolve the current issues and the future status of East Turkestan.’

The Status of Human Rights of Uyghurs in China

Dolkun Isa

Lades and Gentleman,

It is my honor to be here and to speak about Uyghur Human Rights issue today [11 March 2009].

First of all, I would like to express warm regarding to all you from Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, President of World Uyghur Congress.

As most of you know, the Uyghurs are the indigenous people of East Turkestan, also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. East Turkistan has been occupied by Communist China since 1949. The territorial size is 1,818,000 square kilometers which is 5 times the size of Germany,

This year is 60 years of communist Chinese occupation of East Turkistan. Since 60 years, the fundamental human rights and the freedoms of the Uyghurs including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights continue to be violated. With the steady flow of Chinese settlers into East Turkestan, the Uyghurs are faced with the danger of becoming a small minority in their own country and thereby losing their cultural identity.

The Uyghurs in East Turkistan face human rights abuses including arbitrary detention and imprisonment, religious repression, economic and educational discrimination, and the steady eradication of Uyghur language and culture from public life, and the forced sterilization of Uyghur women.

Uyghur language schools are being closed and Uyghur teachers are being forced out of their jobs.

The religious expression of Uyghurs is strictly controlled by Government authorities.

 

The government also supports the immigration of scores of Han Chinese migrants, despite high levels of local unemployment, while at the same time the government supports policies to move Uyghurs out of their homeland, including an initiative to move large numbers of young women of marriage age to work as cheap labor in Eastern China.

The Beijing Olympic Games are over. The Chinese government has completely failed to keep its promise to respect human rights; although the world’s attention was concentrated on the human rights situation in China before and during the Games and the international community had hoped China would improve its human rights record. Instead, the situation has dramatically worsened. The imposition of strict restrictions on civil liberties as well as a massive campaign of arbitrary arrests in East Turkestan both in the name of “Olympic security” have contributed to the grossly deteriorating human rights situation.

On August 14 [2008], in a speech, Wang Lequan, the Communist Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, stated that Chinese government authorities face a “life or death” struggle to quell Uyghur unrest.

According to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, by the end of August [2008], Chinese government authorities were mobilizing 200,000 public security officers and armed police in East Turkestan.

What we have seen since August [2008] is a following through on Wang Lequan’s call for a “life and death struggle”.

In its annual country reports on human rights abuses, the U.S. State Department has highlighted human rights abuses by Chinese government authorities in East Turkestan, including the use of the legal system as a tool of repression against Uyghurs.

At an October 21 [2008] briefing by Ministry of Public Security spokesman, Wu Heping, Chinese authorities announced the names of eight Uyghurs wanted for “plotting, organizing and executing various terrorist activities targeting the Beijing Olympic Games”.

On December 17 [2008] Abdurahman Azat and Kurbanjan Hemit were sentenced by the Intermediate People’s Court of Kashgar to death for “intentional homicide and illegally producing guns, ammunition and explosives”. Abdurahman Azat and Kurbanjan Hemit had been detained for allegedly carrying out an August 4, 2008 attack in Kashgar in which sixteen armed police were killed.

On January 4, 2009, The Procuratorial Daily reported that nearly 1,300 people were arrested in East Turkestan on state security crimes in 2008, marking a steep increase over previous years. Of the nearly 1,300 arrests made, 1,154 were formally charged and faced trials or administrative punishment. According to the People’s Republic of China’s national statistics bureau, only 742 people were arrested on state security crimes throughout the entire country in 2007, and 619 of these were indicted. Almost exactly a year ago, on January 18, 2008, Rozi Ismail, the chief justice of the Xinjiang Supreme Court, announced that the Chinese security forces dealt with more one thousand “anti-government” cases and arrested more than 15,000 Uyghurs in the past five years.

We would like to present you with the facts since the beginning of 2008 until the opening of the 2008 Olympics. These facts are solely the information made public by the Chinese government.

• On January 17, 2008, Chinese armed police forces killed five Uyghurs and captured 18 in the Pamir Mountains.

• On January 27, 2008, a peaceful gathering of a group of Uyghurs was attacked by Chinese security forces. As a result two Uyghurs were killed, six were wounded and another ten were arrested.

• In the following days after a demonstration by Uyghur women on March 23 – 24, 2008 in Hotan, Chinese police arrested approximately 700 demonstrators.

• On July 9, 2008, Chinese police stormed a building where a number of Uyghurs were meeting for a religious gathering. Five Uyghurs were killed, two injured and another eight arrested.

• Chinese authorities sentence five Uyghurs with the death penalty sentence July 9, 2008, including Mr. Abduweli Imin and Mr. Muhter Setiwaldi, in a public announcement made by Kashgar Peoples Court.

China has continued to disrespect national and international laws and has continued its pursuit of heavy-handed repression against the people of East Turkestan.

Relentless “Strike Hard” campaigns by Chinese security forces have pushed some Uyghurs into desperation and few to a point of no return. As a result, some individual Uyghurs attacked Chinese military and government targets in Kashgar on August 4, 2008, and in Kucha on August 10, 2008. After these attacks the Chinese authorities declared virtual martial law in these cities and began to detain and arrest large numbers of Uyghurs. Such unjustified actions on the part of the Chinese authorities have created a vicious cycle and further escalated the tension between the Uyghurs and the Chinese government.

After the end of the Olympic Games, Chinese authorities began to conduct house-to-house searches.  The deputy minister of the Ministry for Public Security was set up a special working group in Kucha, and leading the “sweeping operations” in Kucha and in Kashgar. More than 1000 individuals have been officially arrested, and even more people were temporarily being held in local government building in several villages in the region.

Uyghurs have also experienced further curbs on freedom of speech.

Xinjiang University police arrested Miradil Yasin, 20, and Mutellip Teyip, 19, on December 20 [2008], in relation to the organization of a peaceful protest. The two university students were arrested in the regional capital of Urumchi for distributing leaflets on the Xinjiang University campus urging students to join in a peaceful demonstration. Miradil Yasin, 20, and Mutellip Teyip, 19, were transferred to the Urumchi Public Security Bureau after their arrest for further investigation and interrogation.

On December 24 [2008], Xinjiang University held a special ceremony commending the police officers for arresting Miradil Yasin and Mutellip Teyip, and awarded 5,000 Yuan each to police officers Ilyar Ablimit, Niyazmuhemmet Imam and Wang Bing. Underscoring the official significance attached to the drive to prevent any type of peaceful protest, top university officials and relevant Urumchi and provincial government officials attended the ceremony. Xinjiang University Party Secretary Zhang Xianliang stated during the ceremony that Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Party Secretary Wang Lequan was extremely pleased with the university’s extraordinary efforts in preventing the potential protest.

 

There is no way for Uyghurs in East Turkestan to express their legitimate grievances in a peaceful manner because the Chinese authorities label all forms of dissent by Uyghurs as “terrorism”. For this reason, Uyghurs whose rights are being arbitrarily violated, who continuously suffer injustice and even execution without any legal process, have been left without any official channel to seek redress for their grievances.

We, the World Uyghur Congress, are extremely worried about the further escalation of the current situation. We insist on the use of peaceful means to gain the right of self-determination for the Uyghur people, respect of international law, and taking actions in the international framework. However, China is constantly using violent crackdowns on the Uyghur people due to the lack of pressure by the international community on the Chinese government to halt its state-sponsored violence on the entire Uyghur population.

The Uyghur people are in a desperate situation, considering the current massive crackdowns launched by the Chinese authorities, especially the fierce repression of innocent people. If the situation continues to go on, it could possibly lead to further violence, which will result the loss of innocent lives, and impairment to the peace and stability of the region.

We appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the international community, the European Union, and all the democratic nations in the free world to take action to halt the Chinese government’s ongoing violent crackdowns in East Turkestan.

The international community, especially European Union should play an active role in preventing China from further crackdowns and killings in East Turkestan.

The international community should encourage China to start dialogue with the representatives of WUC to peacefully resolve the current issues and the future status of East Turkestan.