Report on the demolitions in Kashgar and throughout East Turkestan

Saving Antiquities, 2 April 2012

We are pleased to share the following report co-authored by Uyghur Human Rights Project‘s Amy Reger and Henryk Szadziewski “Living on the Margins: The Chinese State’s Demolition of Uyghur Communities” which, in the words of the authors:

documents the Chinese state’s top-down destruction of Uyghur communities in Kashgar and throughout East Turkestan. We discuss how the destruction of Uyghur neighborhoods has resulted in the loss of both physical structures, including Uyghur homes, shops and religious sites, and patterns of traditional Uyghur life that cannot be replicated in the new, heavily-monitored Chinese-style apartment blocks where many have been forcibly relocated.

In 2009, SAFE responded to the destruction of Kashgar Old City with a Statement of Concern and Appeal for International Cooperation to Save Ancient Kashgar, which was signed by a coalition of cultural heritage organizations, archaeologists and art historians. The statement was mailed to the Director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Our intern, Ana Escobedo also created an awareness campaign about the issues with a “Save Kashgar” cause page on Facebook (now boasting more than 1,000 members) and an online petition. In addition, she also launched a flickr group dedicated to creating a consolidated photographic record of pre-destruction Kashgar. Read about the project here.

We thank the UHRP for the report, which includes the following recommendations to the Chinese government to:

Cease immediately all demolitions of Uyghur neighborhoods across East Turkestan until a transparent process of genuine consultation has been undertaken with residents;

Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and abide by Article 17, which “protect[s] against ‘arbitrary or unlawful interference’ with one’s home”; Article 25, which protects the right to participation in public life either “directly or through freely chosen representatives; and Article 27, which mandates effective [UHRP italics] participation by indigenous people and the sustainability of the indigenous economy”;

Meet signed and ratified obligations contained in the World Heritage Convention and end false assertions of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) support for the demolition project in Kashgar;

Raise the demolitions at bilateral human rights dialogues with the People’s Republic of China in such a way that does not devalue egregious human rights abuses in the face of ‘economic realities’, making clear that respect for human rights and robust economies are part of the same process;

Condemn the use of UNESCO’s name to approve the demolition of Kashgar Old City and demand open reporting by Chinese media of the demolitions that permits a considered evaluation of its merit; and

Send observers to East Turkestan with unfettered access to Uyghur communities to impartially oversee that all international and domestic legal protections have been utilized in demolition projects across the region.