WUC Concerned by Reports of 11 Killings on China-Kyrgyzstan Border
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is deeply concerned by reports detailing the deaths of 11 Uyghurs from Uchturpan on the border between Kyrgyzstan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on 23 January 2014, which also involved the deaths of 3 other individuals. The quickly altering and unclear narrative of the incident along with the PRC and Kyrgyzstan’s close relationship via the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) raise questions as to what happened. Kyrgyzstan is a known transit-country for Uyghur refugees. The WUC is therefore concerned that these Uyghurs may have been refugees fleeing the PRC after a tumultuous year of repression. The WUC calls on the Kyrgyzstan government and the local Bishkek office of the UN High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR) to work together to investigate this incident.
According to information initially revealed by Kyrgyzstan’s media, Alexander Barykin, “head of the hunters’ society”, was reportedly hunting in the Pikertyk area along the border when he spotted the group of Uyghurs and decided to pursue them along with two younger hunters, rather than waiting for border guards to handle matters. In approaching the group of Uyghurs, who were not carrying firearms, Mr Barykin’s shot and killed two Uyghurs with his rifle, who was then killed along with the two young hunters. The Uyghurs were reported to have then taken Mr Barykin’s rifle, and continued into Kyrgyz territory, advancing approximately 40km, where “specially trained” border police proceeded to kill the remaining 9 Uyghurs, with one border guard also being injured.
Although the Uyghurs were reported to have been unarmed, State Border Service Raimberdiev Duyshenbiev later alleged that they had firearms, whilst Kyrgyz Border Service Dusen Do Aliyev furtherelaborated that they used explosives. However, news articles had beforehand documented a list of 21 objects found upon the group of Uyghurs following a preliminary investigation, in which no mention of explosives was made and most of the items were benign.
The two incidents were separated by four and a half hours, with the first occurring at approximately 1050 and the second at 1715, both Kyrgyz time. Later developments in the narrative of the incident, including by Chinese media, suggest that the Uyghurs were separatists from the PRC, which does not corroborate with the objects found upon them, and this allegation is markedly different from the original, namely that they were a “gang”. AKI press has also responded sceptically to the official narrative of a Uyghur or Islamist incursion into Kyrgyz territory. Further, journalist David Trilling has also raised questionsregarding the emerging official narrative in an article dated 24 January 2014.
The WUC is deeply concerned about this narrative. The fact the reports stated subsequent to a preliminary investigation that the Uyghurs had explosives is especially alarming. Likewise, the lack of substantial weaponry among the Uyghurs should also call to question how the reported “specially trained” border police were unable to apprehend at least one of them peacefully. Moreover, it must be noted that the group of Uyghurs were traversing a mountainous region some 3500m high in the middle of winter. As a known transit-country for Uyghur refugees, the WUC is also concerned that the group of 11 Uyghurs may be refugees fleeing the tumultuous repression that has plagued East Turkestan during 2013, claiming at least 219 lives, and continuing into 2014. Uyghurs seeking refuge have in the past been subjected to human rights violations.
“Kyrgyzstan remains an important conduit through which Uyghur refugees can escape the repression to which they are subjected in East Turkestan. It is well known that the Chinese authorities are exporting their repression abroad via the SCO to curb Uyghur activism and Uyghurs seeking refuge. As a country whose inhabitants were subjected to repression and to whom Uyghurs provided refuge in the past, Uyghurs frequently seek similar assistance from their ethnic, linguistic and cultural cousins in Kyrgyzstan. SCO membership requires member states to align their anti-terrorism, separatism and extremism regulations to the PRC’s notoriously vague and flexible definitions, which have serious ramifications for Uyghurs in this regard,” remarked WUC President and prominent Uyghur activist Ms Rebiya Kadeer.
In view of the uncertainty surrounding the narrative of the incidents, the WUC calls on the Kyrgyzstan government and the UNHCR to cooperate in investigating what transpired. In a situation in which none of those from within the group survived the incident it is absolutely vital that a full, transparent and independent investigation is undertaken to avoid politically-motivated conclusions regarding events.