Today’s Incident Represents Further Evidence of China’s Failed Policies Towards Uyghurs

Press Release – For immediate release
26 June 2013
Contact: World Uyghur Congress www.uyghurcongress.org
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or contact@uyghurcongress.org 

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is deeply concerned about the emergence of reports that 27 people have been killed during the early hours of this morning (0600 Beijing time) in Lukchun, Pichan County (Shanshan in Mandarin). There remain many unanswered questions surrounding the incident as reports confirm that an information blackout and security crackdown has been implemented in the region to quell any independent verification of the facts. The WUC therefore calls upon the Chinese authorities to independently investigate the incident and its root causes, and to alleviate the legitimate concerns of Uyghurs so as to avert such incidents in the future. 

Picking up from the original Xinhua source, various media outlets reported today that the incident occurred in the predominantly-Uyghur Lukchun village, outside a police station, government buildings and at a construction site, where so-called rioters began stabbing people and setting alight vehicles. Xinhua reported that 9 police and security guards, along with 8 civilians were killed in clashes with so-called “rioters“, of whom 10 were shot dead by police forces. Three other people were reportedly injured during the clash, and another three arrested. Images posted on the internet show the brutality of this incident.

The official reports, however, must be questioned in view of the inability to independently verify this narrative. The WUC has attempted to uncover further information on the incident, but all Uyghur telecommunications have been shut down in the Turpan Prefecture. The WUC is deeply concerned by this development, in what is a clear attempt to silence the free dissemination and examination of this incident by independent media, and to also prevent Uyghurs from knowing what happened to their people.

The WUC has been able to ascertain via Han Chinese contacts (whose telecommunications are still working) that house-to-house searches have begun. The Washington Post did manage to contact someone at the scene, who reported that the area has been cordoned off and armed police officers were posted at road intersections. They also reported that police, anti-riot forces and paramilitary police were patrolling the town armed with pistols and machine guns, said their source, who refused to give his name out of fear of government reprisals.

Whilst the ethnicity of the individuals who died was not revealed, the ethnicity is indicated by the naming of the rioters as “knife-wielding mobs”, a standard accusation from the Chinese authorities. The reasons behind the incident were also not revealed, but the timing of it should be taken into consideration when understanding the cause.

This incident has occurred around the arrival of Ramadan, which is severely repressed each year, and the sensitive fourth anniversary of the 5 July Urumchi unrest in 2009. Peaceful protesters gathered in Urumchi to demonstrate for better rights and to be free from repression following the murder of 18 Uyghurs at the hands of their Han Chinese colleagues at a toy factory in Shaoguan, Eastern China, on 26 June 2009. The Chinese security forces quickly swept in to Urumchi, violently cracking down on the protesters, leaving many dead, injured, detained and disappeared, following which there was a 10 month information blackout.

Only last week did we hear that 19 people were sentenced to prison and another 6 to administrative detention for having attempted to access information on such incidents. WUC President Ms Rebiya Kadeer said, “this is the second deadly incident in as many months. Since 23 April 2013, nearly 50 people have needlessly died, whilst approximately 40 have been detained and sentenced to terms of imprisonment in trials marred by a lack of respect for international standards and political interference. The increasing frequency with which these incidents occur illustrates the PRC’s reticence to address the root causes of the tensions that are escalating in East Turkestan.”

As is often the case, the root causes of such protests and confrontations lie in the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) longstanding, failing policies towards Uyghurs. There is an ever pressing need for the PRC to afford linguistic, cultural and religious freedoms, as well as ceasing politically-motivated arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killing, in order to alleviate the recurrence of these needless and avoidable events.