WUC Condemns China’s Drastic Escalation in “Counter-Terror” Methods

Press Release – For immediate release
26 November 2015
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
 www.uyghurcongress.org
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or contact@uyghurcongress.org

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The World Uyghur Congress strongly condemns China’s blatantly disproportionate use of force – in particular, it’s recent use of a flamethrower against a group of Uyghurs in East Turkestan. Such a broad escalation in the use of force is an unacceptable breach of international law in relation to adherence to human rights norms while conducting counter-terror operations.

China most recently boasted about its apparently successful counter-terror campaign in which 28 people were killed – a group that China called a “terrorist gang”. The operation was reportedly in response to an attack on a coal mine that took place in late September, though it took state media little time to draw spurious links between the attackers and a supposedly “foreign-led” terror group, despite no credible evidence having being presented.

In the immediate wake of the tragic events in Paris earlier this month, in an unprecedented move, Chinese state media hurriedly released a series of photos depicting the counter-terror operation that had been underway and moved quickly to manufacture links to those involved in violence domestically. Such transparent exploitation of a horrendous tragedy sets a new and contemptible standard for the lengths that the state is willing to go to attract international attention and support.

Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, made explicit connection to Uyghurs when he said publicly, “East Turkestan terrorist forces […] should become an important part of international counterterrorism.” Similar sentiments have been expressed by the government following international acts of terror in an attempt to legitimize its own use of force to the international community as well its domestic audience.

China has consistently attempted to link violence in the region to international terror networks, despite a lack of evidence backing up the claim. Tangential links to the supposedly active “East Turkistan Islamic Movement” are also trotted out on a regular basis to construct the narrative of an organized and well-connected group with the capacity to strike across the country at any moment. These claims come despite strong evidence from academics arguing that such a group, if it exists at all, certainly does not have such organizational capacity.

With regards to China’s escalation in the use of force, it is absolutely unacceptable that authorities feel it necessary that such tactics and weaponry are used during these operations considering that even state media reported that those who were targeted were armed merely with knives. In no circumstances should such disproportionate displays of force be seen as appropriate.

Unmentioned by the government has also been credible reports suggesting that among the 28 who were killed were eleven women and children. China must promptly release all necessary information and act transparently to show that they are abiding by internationally accepted legal norms when conducting such operations.

Not only do these methods harm innocent civilians in the immediate term, but effective counter-terrorism measures and respect for human rights must be recognized as complementary and mutually reinforcing. If China continues to flout international law and ignore internationally accepted norms, the complications it faces will only deteriorate – as they have over the last decade and a half.

Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch called for an independent investigation into these incidents, stating that, “Clarifying facts on the ground is essential in order to determine whether excessive force was used.” Without credible information detailing the nature of these incidents, China continues to disregard the most basic elements of a free society.

We therefore echo the calls made by HRW and call on the Chinese government to open an independent investigation into this and similar incidents in the past year, as well as particular allegations that women and children were among the group that was killed. The international community must remain firmly sceptical of China’s narrative of such incidents, which is often skewed in full support of the actions of police and security forces and against Uyghur civilians and others.

Regardless of the actions of those who were killed, China must strictly adhere to international law and ensure that those suspected of crimes are provided fair and just legal proceedings. The routine extra-judicial killing of Uyghurs under the convenient guise of counter-terrorism is totally unacceptable and merely serves to heighten tensions and instability in East Turkestan.