Fresh Incidents in Hotan and Urumchi a Further Indictment on the State of Affairs in East Turkestan

Press release – for immediate release
1 July 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 for the second time during the last week about further reports of incidents in Hotan and Urumchi. Having previously called for caution on the understanding of, and an independent investigation into, an incident on 26 June 2013 in Lukchan, Pichan County, these latest developments demonstrate clearly that the endemic, failed policies of the Chinese authorities to address the Lukchan incident and the Uyghur human rights situation is at risk of boiling over.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) revealed  yesterday that Uyghur residents in Hotan were unhappy at a raid on a mosque by the police during prayers, where the local imam was being forced to keep his sermons “in line with political thinking,” following which the Uyghurs protested in the street and were promptly shot at, killing at least 2 people. 

Reports from the ground as illustrated by RFA differed markedly from the official narrative. According to the Global Times,  a number of casualties were caused following an incident on Friday in which a purported 100 people attacked a police station in Hotan, Qaraqah County (Moyu in Mandarin) after “gathering at local religious venues,” thus inferring that the 100 individuals were Uyghur. Global Times also reported that another 200 people “attempted to incite trouble” at an important shopping area in Urumchi, though no casualties were recorded.

During the weekend, images emerged on the internet of swathes of security personnel, paramilitary police and the armed forces descending upon Urumchi and elsewhere in East Turkestan, establishing check-points and spot-searching individuals, providing an alarming reminder of what happened 4 years previously on 5 July 2009 at the same location. China Daily also reported that 19 people have been detained for “making up” and “spreading rumours via text messages and the internet” as the Chinese authorities have been tightening security throughout East Turkestan.

As with the Lukchan and Maralbeshi incident, the Chinese authorities were quick to label the incidents as terrorist attacks, going as far to accuse the Syrian government and opposition forces, without providing evidence. However, we highlighted on both the Lukchan and Maralbeshi occasions, and were corroborated by independent international media, that the lack of ability to verify the facts and the differing reports from the ground compared to the official narrative must urge pause for caution when trying to understand the incidents’ root causes.

Whilst the WUC deplores acts of violence, the accusations of terrorism for 4 different incidents go too far, rather illustrating the reticence of the Chinese authorities to address the long standing concerns of Uyghurs by ceasing its repressive policies on Uyghur language, culture, religion and identity, in addition to the use of harassment, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and the death penalty to silence critics.

Regarding the Lukchan incident, which was reported by Uighurbiz.net to have been caused by the government’s forced demolition programmes, the WUC discovered that there was a telecommunications block put in place on Uyghur phones and internet usage. An AFP article confirmed this, with a second article reporting further that two journalists had been temporarily detained for an hour, informing them that the Lukchan area is “closed to media”. The Epoch Times has also revealed how journalists are being followed and harassed by security forces.

The WUC is deeply concerned that during the past two months, several incidents have occurred of this kind. Without counting the deaths in the Hotan incident on Friday, nearly 100 people have died and several hundreds have been arrested, detained or sentenced since the Maralbeshi incident on 23 April 2013. WUC Spokesman Dilxat Rexit confirmed that, contrary to official numbers, which are confused and conflicting, that 67 people were killed at Lukchun, with the youngest being just 13 years old.

This is already a significant increase of arrests and deaths since the same period last year, which was then described as the most repressed 5 July Urumchi anniversary and Ramadan in recent years. Several officials have issued statements expressing their concerns for the Lukchan incident, including the US, EU and Germany.

As we approach the Fourth Anniversary of 5 July Urumchi incident, where there is yet to be an investigation nor anyone held accountable for the egregious human rights violations happening that day and in its aftermath, in addition to the commencement of the observance of Ramadan on 9 July, the WUC is extremely concerned in light of these recent developments.

It is now clear that an independent, transparent and comprehensive investigation into these incidents, should it happen at all, will not suffice in itself until there is an overhaul of the Chinese authorities’ official policies towards Uyghurs in the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” WUC President Ms Rebiya Kadeer said.

The international community must follow the US’ and Germany’s lead in voicing their concerns at the current state of affairs of the Uyghur human rights situation. The WUC therefore calls upon the international community to instigate an international inquiry into these latest incidents, both addressing the past and present causes of such events, as it is clear that the Chinese authorities will not do so. We call on the European Union and the US, as two influential, international actors to work together to use all available diplomatic means to urge the PRC to halt any further incidents like this within internationally accepted legal standards.