The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) condemns the violence and mass killings of Uyghur civilians perpetrated by Chinese police and military forces

For immediate release
August 5, 2014
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or [email protected]

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC)  condemns the violence and mass killings  of Uyghur civilians perpetrated by Chinese police and military forces on Monday, July 28, 2014 in Elishku Township, Yarkent County. The extra-judicial killings and mass arrests that have taken place in the region in the last two weeks has reached to a level of massacre of civilians which urgently need to be addressed internationally.  The WUC calls for an immediate action by the international community to stop the police brutality in East Turkistan. 

On the 28th of July, the official Chinese sources reported an incident in in Elishku Township, Yarkent County which was labeled as a “terrorist action” by a mob that resulted in killing of 13 Uyghur and Han Chinese citizens. However, the dubious reporting could not be verified by independent sources and the language of it resembles to the previous instances of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the Chinese security forces. Although there were tight restrictions for the media and internet since then both the news agencies as well as Uyghur organizations abroad started to acquire information that challenges the initial official account of the incident. A week after the incident the official sources had to modify the account and the number of deaths as a result of increasing question marks in international community in regards to the incident.

On Monday, August 3rd, the number of deaths announced by the government reached to 96 people. Of these 96, 37 were said to be ‘civilians’ and the remaining 59 labeled ‘suspected terrorists’.However, this number still remains  unverified due to the continuation of tight restrictions on reporting in the region. However in the last weekthe unconfirmed reports that Uyghur organizations received from the local sources portrayed a totally different account of what happened in the region during the last day of Ramadan and Ramadan Festival.

As noted, WUC sources in the region have documented a much more brutal incident in which the Chinese security forces applied indiscriminate use of force and extra-judicial killings in several townships especially in Nochi, and 15th, 16th and 17th townships of Elishqu village, of Yarkand county. The attack of the security forces allegedly started when they detect “illegal community praying” by a group of women in these districts. The women were celebrating the end of Ramadan and arrival of Aid together. Following the attack, which led many women and children to lose their life, a group of Uyghurs assembled on the site of incident which again tried to be dispersed by the security forces by the disproportional use of force. This incident was reported by the local authorities as an attack by a knife-wielding mob to the security forces. Following this, a high number of security forces was deployed to the region and launched an operation in order to root up the reported mob. However in a short period of time the operation turned deadly as the security forces one more time attack indiscriminately to the civilian population by using force. The region was closed down to the media and journalists and the internet and cellphone service were disrupted frequently during these operations.

Sources from the region suggest that the death toll could be much higher, with numbers cited by hundreds. As per these sources, Chinese military forces have been mobilized and dispatched to Kashgar, Hotan and Yeken and have been involved in the killing of civilians in and around their homes. The military have been responsible for violent crackdowns specifically in Elishku, Huandi, Nochi, Dongbagh and Gulbagh.

The extrajudicial killings of innocent civilians by Chinese security forces has swelled dramatically over the course of the year in the region. Since June 18, 141 people have been killed and 231 arrested, while since March of last year, the Society for Threatened Peoples has cited the death toll at 495 with 526 injured. Within the same period, 976 people were arrested for political reasons, with 256 coming in June and July alone, of which, 22 have been executed without due process. In addition to this, there are numerous cases of forced disappearances which increasingly has become a standard operation procedure of security forces. Most of these incidents have been reported by the official sources as “terrorist attacks” organized by Uyghur groups. However, after most of these incidents it was revealed that the incidents took place  either as a result of harsh reaction of the security forces to  peaceful protests by local people or due to the police raids to the civilian houses suspected of having “illegal religious activity”, which in accordance with the laws and regulations in the region could include communal praying, basic religious education and practices.  In fact,  it is instructive to recognize that ‘suspected terrorist’ may indeed include those with no propensity towards violence, but those that simply wish to peacefully demonstrate and have their voices heard.

The WUC calls on international community to intervene and demand that China disclose the true nature of the incident in the Elishqu village of Yarkand and the operation that is taking place in the vicinity of Kashgar and Hoten. In the last one week, the contradictory and inconsistent official reports of the incidents provided by the Chinese authorities demonstrate the unreliability the official accounts, The WUC also calls for an independent and impartial international investigation in regards to the mass killings in Yarkand. The recent track record of the Chinese authorities in the region indicates a possible escalation of the similar forms of uses of force by the security forces without any impunity against Uyghur civilians. The lack of accountability on the part of local and central government and security forces are paving the way for more arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings of Uyghur civilians. Already the number of  incidents of mass  arrests, forced disappearances, unlawful executions  reported in the last one year reached to a level that needs to be addressed internationally. In the absence of strong international pressure against the Chinese authorities East Turkistan may witness an increasing number of massacres and mass killings of Uyghurs by Chinese security forces.