WUC alarmed by the killing of Uyghurs in Yarkant

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

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) strongly condemns the Chinese authorities shooting and killing of eight Uyghur demonstrators in Yarkant County (Ch. Sha Che) yesterday. The lack of details released by the Chinese government and press leaves more questions than answers regarding the incident. The WUC calls on the Chinese authorities to disclose all information pertaining to the incident, another example of what is becoming a new trend of state-sponsored violence and arbitrary use of force to silence dissent.

On 30 December 2013, international media organizations  carried information released by the Chinese, state-run Tianshan news agency concerning the deaths of eight Uyghur demonstrators in Yarkant county, close to the ancient, silk road city of Kashgar. According to the scant information reported by Tianshan, “knife wielding” Uyghur “thugs”, armed with “explosive” devices, attacked police and burned police cars. The brief article labeled this incident a terrorist attack, and stated that police officers took “decisive” action, gunning down eight Uyghurs, and capturing one, without providing further information surrounding the incident. According to the Associated Press (AP), a Xinjiang government press officer, with the surname Cao, confirmed the reports, but had no further details.  AP also reported that authorities in Yarkant and neighboring Kashgar had no information pertaining to the incident.

“I am absolutely devastated by yesterday’s incident,  which is yet another among countless recent incidents that  proves the Chinese authorities’ total disregard for human life. This incident testifies to a recent trend of state-sponsored violence used to quell Uyghur dissent, whereby authorities ignore due process of the law, shoot and kill Uyghurs, label them terrorists, and then use counter-terrorism to justify the unlawful killings,” said  WUC president and prominent Uyghur human rights activist, Mrs. Rebiya Kadeer.

Because of the lack of Chinese government transparency, stringent restrictions on foreign journalism in the region, and the absence of an independent, reliable investigation into the incident, the WUC was only able to ascertain the names of two of the eight victims, Osman Barat and Abdughani Abdukadir, and has yet to uncover the specifics of the incident. Although recent bloody incidents in East Turkestan point to tighter restrictions on religious practice, practices of forced assimilation, and an upsurge in enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, and other egregious human rights violations as the chief causes of Uyghurs’ dissatisfaction, and hence protest, to the current authoritarian Chinese regime.

In addition, since  the October 28th car crash on Tiananmen  Square in Beijing, Chinese authorities have placed increased restrictions on peaceful gathering and assembly of Uyghurs. Earlier this month, 16 Uyghurs were killed by Chinese authorities in Saybagh County. After further inquiry into the incident by Radio Free Asia (RFA), the 16 Uyghurs, alleged terrorists by the Chinese government, were actually peacefully gathered to prepare for a wedding, and attacked Chinese authorities after an officer lifted the veil of a Uyghur woman. Among the 16 killed, six were Uyghur women.

“As history will tell us, the ensuing governmental repression of the Uyghur people creates a vicious cycle. Contrary to the Chinese government’s propaganda, stability of China’s entire country is compromised by the failed ethnic policies in East Turkestan. Uyghurs’ resistance towards the Chinese government is inextricably caused by continued repression”, said Mrs. Rebiya Kadeer, in response to yesterday’s incident.

The Chinese government needs to understand the implications of its repressive policies in East Turkestan, and ought to address reasonable grievances of the Uyghur people. Persistent appeals on Beijing to democratize and reform,  emanating from Uyghurs,  Tibetans, Mongols, and Han Chinese alike continue to be actively ignored.

This holiday season, with the New Year right around the corner, various countries have released activists,  human rights defenders, and prisoners of conscience as a sign of goodwill to the international community. However, yesterday’s incident in Yarkant, and the hundreds of Uyghurs who have been killed by the Chinese government in bloody incidents that have plagued East Turkestan this year, have proven that President  Xi, and the rest of the PRC leadership, care little about the fate of the Uyghur people, and are unwilling to ease repression and institute the desperately-needed reforms that they promised to institute at the beginning of Xi’s presidential term.

More than ever before, the WUC fears that bloody incidents like yesterday’s clash in Yarkant will become more frequent, and thus strongly urges

1) the international community to read the Chinese, state-sponsored reports with scrutiny;

2) the international media to freely, fairly and vigorously report on the incident despite the Chinese government’s current crackdown on foreign press;

3) the XUAR government fully disclose all information on this latest incident, including the identities of all the victims, and allows an independent investigation to be conducted by international organs;

4) Chinese authorities to allow access to Yarkant for the foreign media and government representatives in order to allow transparency surrounding the narrative of the incident;

5) the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to fulfill its obligations as a member of the UN Human Rights Council by immediately ending its longstanding repressive policies towards the Uyghur people.