WUC Calls for Transparency on the 7th Anniversary of Urumqi Unrest
On the 7th anniversary of the unrest in Urumqi in July 2009, the World Uyghur Congress calls on the Chinese government to act transparently and reveal the whereabouts of countless Uyghurs who went missing as a result of intense crackdowns by police and security forces. Legitimate questions continue to go unanswered, exacerbating tension and resentment among the Uyghur population in East Turkestan.
On July 5th, 2009, what started as a peaceful protest in response to government inaction over the deaths of Uyghur factory workers in Shaoguan days earlier quickly turned violent as state security forces moved in to crush the protesters. By Chinese estimates, 197 people were killed in the violence, but we can conclude that the number is likely much higher considered China’s recurrent misrepresentation of incidents such as these. The number of deaths and injuries has since never been independently verified, but deaths of both Uyghurs and Han Chinese were widespread.
The regional government quickly instituted a communications blackout that lasted for months following the incidents that prevented the flow of information in and out of the area through the complete restriction on internet and mobile phone use. These tactics have since been used frequently in an attempt to tightly control who is able to gain access to information, amid a general lack of access to independent media that persists year round.
Despite reports from Amnesty International and the Uyghur Human Rights Project, who both conducted interviews with eyewitnesses to the events and concluded that the security forces made liberal use of live ammunition, Chinese media was steadfast in blaming Uyghurs and arguing that terrorism was the driving force behind the actions.
Along with those that were killed and injured in the incident, a considerable number of arrests were also made shortly afterwards. In a report released by Human Rights Watch, it was estimated that there were 43 verifiable cases of enforced disappearances of Uyghur prisoners arrested in the aftermath – a number that is likely much higher in reality. The report documents police practices that extended into August, 2009, and highlighted the arbitrary nature of many of the detentions, affirming that, “the security forces simply went after every young man they could catch and packed them into their trucks by the dozens”.
The response has been well-documented and results unambiguous. If the Chinese government continues to opt for repression and restrictions on the most basic human rights protections, the outcome will be both inevitable and predictable. If, however, the government is able to recognize the root causes of instability, namely pervasive discrimination and unjust treatment, we may yet have a viable chance to work towards a solution that will benefit both sides.
The WUC therefore calls on the government of China to take substantive steps to eliminate policies designed to restrict Uyghur cultural and religious expression, along with remedies for continued discrimination in education and employment opportunities. China must also ratify important international human rights treaties, like the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.