Current Issues Affecting the Uyghur Community

Population Policies

In order to completely assimilate East Turkistan into China, millions of Chinese are being settled in this country. Before 1949 there were only 300,000 Chinese in East Turkistan. According to the Chinese statistics now it is 7 million. Observers, however, believe that this figure is much higher.

Almost 250,000 Chinese are being settled in East Turkistan every year and contrary to “one child” policy in existence across mainland China, Chinese settlers in East Turkistan are allowed to have more children. At the same time, coercive birth control is being carried out among the Uyghur women to restrain the growth of Uyghur population.

Religious Repression

The Chinese government is directing a crushing campaign of religious repression against the Uyghurs. According to a report released by Human Rights Watch and Human Rights in China on April 11, 2005, “the world-wide campaign against terrorism has given Beijing the perfect excuse to crack down harder than ever in East Turkistan. Other Chinese enjoy a growing freedom of worship, but Uyghurs, like Tibetans find that their religion is being used as a tool of control.” Most recently the Chinese authorities have also tightened curbs on Uyghurs, banning any government official, state employees, Party members, children, and in some cases women from entering the mosques. At present, the number of mosques in East Turkistan is not sufficient to meet the needs of the Muslims. Building of new mosques has been prohibited. There are no private religious schools and private religious instruction is banned. There is a shortage of well educated clerics, Korans and Islamic publication.


When in detention, Uyghurs are regularly subjected to torture. Dr. Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, stated that “torture in China is still wide-spread” and groups including Uyghurs and Tibetans “have been particularly targets of torture”. Dr. Novak made this revelation after visiting detention centres in East Turkistan, Tibet and Beijing. A U.N. statement later said that over the years Chinese authorities have used electric shock batons, whips, hoods or blindfolds, needles, and hot oil to torture prisoners amongst other forms such as sleep deprivation, water submersion and bodily mutilation. Sources have reported that since 2000, almost 190 Uyghurs have died as a result of torture in Chinese prisons in East Turkistan. The most prominent among them was Abdulmejit Abduhalil, the leader of the Ili demonstration on February 5, 1997. He was tortured to death on October 17, 2000.

Arbitrary Arrests

According to Amnesty International, in the year of 1997 alone, more than 100,000 Uyghurs were arrested throughout the country. It has also been reported that between January and June, 1998, hundreds of Uyghurs were detained under suspicion of planning “separatist” activities. According to Amnesty International, since September 11, 2001, the Chinese authorities have arrested more than 3,000 Uyghurs. Reuters quoting Xinjiang Daily reported on January 21, 2006 that in 2005 alone, 18,000 Uyghurs were arrested accused of being “separatists”, “religious extremists” and “terrorists”. According to unconfirmed reports however, the figures of arrested people in East Turkistan is much higher. According to one source, more than 5,000 Uyghurs have been arrested after the turmoil in Urumqi on July 5-6, 2009.

Extrajudicial Killings

Amnesty International reports that the death penalty is extensively used in East Turkistan and the number of death sentences imposed in East Turkistan is significantly higher than in the rest of China. Amnesty International also believes that many of those executed have been victims of extra-judicial executions or deliberate killings. According to a CNN report on December 9, 1997, 1,000 Uyghurs have been executed in East Turkistan in 1997 alone. According to confirmed reports, between January and September 1998, 55 Uyghurs were executed. Amnesty International has reported that after September 11, 2001, more than 200 Uyghurs were executed on political grounds while 50 Uyghurs were sentenced to death for so-called “separatist” and “terrorist” activities. According to Reuters and AFP on August 17, 2004, four more Uyghurs were executed. These kinds of executions and deliberate killings are still continued in many parts of East Turkistan.

Economic Policy

The ever-increasing Chinese population in East Turkistan has brought about widespread unemployment amongst the Uyghur population. The Chinese have taken control of most political and economic platforms. As a result, there is very little unemployment among the Chinese, but Uyghurs unemployment is growing at an alarming state. Despite East Turkistan’s natural wealth, the Uyghur people live more or less at mere subsistence level with almost 80 percent living below the poverty threshold.

According to a report released by the “Xinjiang Provincial Government” on October 2004, the average income of the Chinese settler in East Turkistan is four times higher than that of a Uyghur. Almost 85 percent of the Uyghurs are farmers. According to the same official report, the average annual income of a Uyghur farmer is 820 Yuan (US$100) whereas a Chinese farmer in East Turkistan earns an annual income of 3.000 Yuan (US$ 400). Most private businesses are contracted to the Chinese. The rich resources of East Turkistan, including oil, gas, uranium, gold and silver reserves are transported to mainland China. The exploitation of these natural resources is strictly controlled by the Chinese Central Government. The Uyghurs have no control over these resources; they have no access to information on profits generated by these resources and have no chance to benefit from their own wealth.

Press Freedom

International media outlets face huge obstacles to working in the region. Information is strictly controlled by the State and so accurate statistics or reports are hard to come by. Chinese authorities are willing to issue incorrect or false information in order to block issues pertaining to East Turkistan from becoming known on an international scale as made evident in a secret document of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. The document, entitled “Defending the Stability of Xinjiang, adopted on March 19, 1999, briefly states that, “…through disinformation, prevent by all means, the separatist forces from making the so-called East Turkistan problem international”.

Paper Autonomy

Although East Turkistan is called “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” there is no self-rule or self government for the Uyghurs. More than 90 percent of all important political, administrative and economic bodies in East Turkistan are occupied by Chinese employees. For instance, the Regional Party Standing Committee, which is the ruling body of the Regional Party Committee, has 15 members. Only three of them are Uyghurs and ten are Chinese. The same over representation of Chinese is in evidence in the Regional Communist Party Central Committee and the Peoples Regional Government. Several seemingly important positions have been given to Uyghurs, but their authority is consistently undermined. Chinese “Divide and Rule” policies have divided the indigenous peoples of East Turkistan, such as the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tatars into separate “provinces”, “counties, and “townships.

Health and Nuclear Testing

Health care in East Turkistan for the Uyghurs is basic. In the majority of hospitals, there are no operating tables, gynaecological equipment or disinfectant. At best, some antibiotics or TB medication are available. Almost all the doctors working in hospitals in East Turkistan are Chinese and do not speak Uyghur so cannot communicate with the Uyghur patients who in turn, have difficulty explaining their problems. In recent years, cholera, leprosy, hepatitis, and HIV have become common medical problems.

The Chinese nuclear testing in East Turkistan over the past three decades continues to produce ecological disasters that pollute drinking water and food supplies, affect livestock and endanger human life. According to various sources in East Turkistan, babies with horrible deformities continue to be born. Tragically, the polluted districts bordering the nuclear test site still do not even receive elementary medical aid. After the nuclear tests in East Turkistan, no medical investigations have been carried out until now.

Sinicization Policy

A fierce campaign is being conducted to weaken the Uyghur language and increase the level of Chinese spoken in the region. Prior to the Chinese occupation of East Turkistan, the literary language of the Uyghurs contained no Chinese loanwords. Now, a large number of Chinese words have been introduced into Uyghur vocabulary, and several thousand Uyghur words have been removed stating that they are “not favourable to the socialist construction”, or inhibit “national unity”. Uyghur language schools have been banned, or merged with Chinese language schools, and Chinese has been imposed as the language of instruction. Young Uyghur children are being sent to mainland China to learn Chinese. Throughout the country hundreds of thousands of books written in Uyghur language have been burned.

The Transfer of Young Uyghur Women to Eastern China

Under the policy, thousands of Uyghur women have been removed from their families and placed into substandard working conditions thousands of miles from their homes. At the same time that the PRC government implements the transfer policy in the name of providing economic opportunities for these young women, it also provides support for the movement of large numbers of Han Chinese migrants into East Turkistan.

“This transfer policy can be seen as another aspect of Beijing’s effort to forcibly assimilate the Uyghur people and undermine the distinct Uyghur culture of East Turkistan,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. “Continuation of the policy will only further marginalize the Uyghur people and deepen Uyghurs’ mistrust of PRC officials, leading to even greater tensions in East Turkistan.”

The government-sponsored transfer into the broader context of the PRC’s is the ongoing cultural attacks and human rights abuses against the Uyghur people. Uyghur religion, a moderate form of Sunni Islam that is a vital part of their ethnic identity, has been fiercely suppressed. The PRC legal system is used as a tool of repression, with arbitrary detentions and torture commonly employed against any Uyghur who voices discontent with the government. Charges of “political crimes” and the death penalty have been shown to be disproportionately applied to Uyghurs. Uyghur women suffer from sterilizations and forced abortions, and forced labor is still used in East Turkistan’s rural areas.

The Urumqi Massacre

Urumqi, July 5th 2009

On July 10, nearly a week after the violence in Urumqi, the Chinese Government publicly announced the death toll of the violence. They said that out of the 184 that were killed, 46 were Uyghur and the rest was Han Chinese. The WUC refutes these figures based on reports of several Uyghur witnesses who have contacted WUC representatives in the USA, Germany and Turkey. These eye-witnesses have reported that on July 5th, the Chinese police were present on the People’s Square in Urumqi before the Uyghur protesters arrived and that they started kicking, beating and arresting the protesters at their arrival. A well-prepared and initially peaceful protest turned violent within a few hours.

The fact that the Uyghur demonstrators carried Chinese flags shows that they did not intend for the protest to turn violent. Chinese authorities knew about the upcoming protest by its announcement on the Internet. They had an opportunity to make arrangements on how to deal with it. The protest started as reported around 5:00pm local time (7:00pm Beijing time). The police’s beating, chasing and arrests started immediately and lasted for many hours. By 8:30pm local time, the police chased Uyghur protesters into three alleyways (Old Malbazar alleyway near Sanshihangzi, Haba alleyway near No. 28 Elementary School, and the one near the Border Hotel) and cut off the electricity of the city of Urumqi for 90 minutes. In these 90 minutes, the police, fully armed with armored vehicles and machine guns, surrounded the crowds and fired with full military power. The sound of gunshots can be heard in many YouTube videos made that night. Adam Grode, an English teacher living in the neighborhood where the crackdown took place, said that by midnight, when some of the armored vehicles had already left, the gunfire could still be heard. According to witness reports, an estimated 1000 or more people, most of them ethnic Uyghurs, were shot dead during that one and a half hour period of time. The Turkish Prime Minister has compared this violence to genocide.

After electricity in Urumqi was returned at 10:00pm local time, the police searched the homes in the three alleyways where the killings took place and arrested all the males of 14 years and older. The police forced Uyghurs to undress completely except their underwear and loaded them into trucks. With China’s history of brutal crackdown and mass arrest of Uyghurs in past demonstrations in mind, we strongly believe that Chinese authorities have arrested an estimated 5000 or more Uyghur males that night.  For this reason, the Uyghur protesters on July 7th and later were mostly women and children.

An eye-witness recalls a 20-year old Uyghur being shot twice and crawling into a nearby trench before he died. His body was found the next morning. Being distressed by the news of what happened to this young Uyghur man, more than 10 Uyghur residents, most of them women and children, gathered where it had happened. At that moment, a truck of police arrived and took that dead body as well as the people that had gathered around it. The fates of those people as well as of other detained Uyghurs are still uncertain.

The background of the riots

One of the reasons for the July 5th Uyghur peaceful protest in Urumqi was the government’s inaction after a number of Uyghur workers had been killed and several hundreds more injured in a Guangdong toy factory on June 25th. In addition, the Chinese government announced that only 2 Uyghur workers had been killed and 118 injured in that ethnic clash and that the violence had started with an Internet posting in which a former Han employee of the toy factory wrote that a number of Uyghur workers had raped two Han Chinese girls. The WUC believes that this is an incorrect representation of what happened. It is unlikely that one accusation posted on the Internet can mobilize several thousands of Han workers to take up iron pipes and other weapons, to come to the factory campus, and to start beating any Uyghur worker, in most cases until they died.

The author of an article published on on July 10 wrote the following: “A local man said he took part in the assault because he was furious that the rapes had gone unpunished. ‘I just wanted to beat them. I hate Xinjiang people,’ he said. ‘Seven or eight of us beat a person together. Some Xinjiang people hid under their beds. We used iron bars to batter them to death and then dragged them out and put the bodies together.’ Squatting on his haunches in the shadows of a half-constructed apartment block, the Han man – who gave no name – said the government was lying about the death toll. He claims he helped to kill seven or eight Uyghurs, battering them until they stopped screaming. He thinks the death toll is more than 30, including a few Han.”

According to witness reports received by WUC representatives in several countries, at least 30 Uyghurs were killed and more than 300 were injured in this clash. It took police authorities about two days to clean up blood stains in streets and dormitories in factory campus. Many of the families of victims that live in villages in the Kashgar District, East Turkistan (XUAR), have received the bodies of their loved ones with a threat from the police saying that they were not allowed to talk to anyone about this incident. If they would, they would lose their homes and their farming lands and they would go to jail.

After the riots in Urumqi

On July 6th, several thousand Han Chinese mobs, carrying meat cleavers, machetes, axes, clubs and shovels, went onto Urumqi’s streets to injure and kill every Uyghur they could find. They destroyed shops and restaurants owned by Uyghurs and demolished two mosques. One Han Chinese with the pen name of “TD” wrote the following[1]:

“I just made a phone call to Xinjiang. The situation has spread into a large scale.  Immigrant Han Chinese have already started actions. They are beating and killing every Uyghur they can find. The number of the Uyghur shops destroyed far exceeds that of those destroyed on July 6 and owned by Han Chinese. The number of the Uyghurs killed and injured is also many times more than what was reported. I was told that the people walking on the streets are only Han Chinese. Almost all of the Han Chinese walking on the streets are carrying long knives. It is unimaginable that some Han Chinese killed Uyghurs first, and then hang their dead bodies on trees. Some Han Chinese are standing on crossing bridges and throwing Uyghurs off the bridges. There were so many dead bodies, and trash-collecting trucks started to move them away. The policemen standing nearby are pretending they didn’t see anything, and sometimes saying ‘hit (the Uyghurs) at the life-threatening places.’ This has greatly encouraged those Han Chinese.”

Some Uyghur witnesses reported that those Han Chinese mobs are likely to have been military personnel in civilian clothes, because they acted like well-trained professionals when they were beating and killing Uyghurs.

Unlike in the case of the empty-handed, peaceful Uyghur protesters, the police made no attempts to stop the armed Han Chinese mobs on 6 July 2009. There are no reports on arrests of members of Han Chinese mobs who injured and killed Uyghur victims and who rioted on Uyghur properties. To our knowledge, all the arrested are Uyghurs.

Urumqi’s CCP chief, Li Zhi, said that those who had used “cruel means” during the rioting would be executed. In saying this, he referred to the several thousand Uyghurs who have been detained, since the Han mobs who used “cruel means” to injure and kill Uyghurs and damage Uyghur properties were not arrested.

In reports obtained by WUC representatives from people within East Turkistan (XUAR), it is stated that the Chinese authorities conduct secret executions of Uyghur victims and then cover up the evidence. Whereas Uyghurs do not have any place to hide the dead bodies of tens of Han people or the means to get rid of them because the roads are guarded by police, the Chinese authorities do. They dig two meters deep ditches at night in deserted locations and bury a number of dead bodies. In fact, several people have speculated that Uyghurs returning from Nepal and Pakistan “disappeared” this way in the past.

Media report that an unknown number of Han Chinese residents in Urumqi are looking for missing family members. Possibly, some of the 1000 or more people that were shot dead in the night of July 5th were Han Chinese and have already been buried by the Chinese authorities along with other bodies.

The Black Hand Behind the Scenes

In an article titled: “Who is the ‘Black Hand’ Behind the Scenes in the Urumqi Riots?”, Wei Jingsheng, a Chinese democracy activist, writes the following:

“During this whole play, the ‘black hand’ was hiding behind the scene for the first half of the show, where it is difficult to be discovered. However, near the crucial end, the Chinese government must come forward to coordinate in an effort to produce the needed effect. Thus in both Shao Guan and Urumqi, as the riots started and reached life threatening levels, both the government and the police were unusually absent from the scene. In particular in Urumqi this absence lasted for about 4 to 5 hours. … Thus, the minorities become the easiest diversion targets, to replace the target of the bureaucratic CCP.  Stirring up ethnic groups’ hatred against each other as Hitler did before, became a big subject that is related to the life and death of the CCP itself. They chose the Uyghurs instead of the Tibetans or Mongolians, because in Tibet, the Han Chinese is still a minority that would only escape rather than sustain a lasting big battle. In Inner Mongolia, there are already too few Mongolians. Only in Xin jiang, are there reasonably comparable forces of Uyghurs and Han Chinese. That is why they are the chosen targets.”

That is, as a victim of the Chinese regime and propaganda, Wei Jingsheng points out that both incidents took place through the Chinese government’s well-planned encouragement and lack of action to prevent mob beating and killing of the Uyghurs. An article published on July 12 in website and several other Internet postings written by Han Chinese readers suggest that the two incidents involving Uyghurs, one in Guang dong and the other in Urumqi, are the products of power struggles between the current Chinese president Hu Jintao and the former president Jiang Zemin; Wang Lequan, a close friend of Jiang Zemin and the current CCP General Secretary of East Turkistan (XUAR), is the one who executed the well-planned conspiracy by Jiang Zemin.

The Chinese Government’s practices in dealing with social unrest prove to the world that they do not honor either international law or the Chinese Constitution.  Another example is the Tiananmen Square Massacre that took place June 4, 1989. The Chinese Government said that only three soldiers had been killed. However, the Red Cross reported that 2,500 people died and 7,000 – 10,000 were injured.

We, the World Uyghur Congress, call for urgent intervention by U.N. human rights bodies in East Turkistan (XUAR). We appeal to the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to send independent observers to East Turkistan (XUAR), and force the Chinese authorities to launch an independent investigation into the protests, accounting for all those who have died or who have been detained.

The tensions remain high in East Turkistan (XUAR). China has responded to a peaceful Uyghur protest with a military crackdown that resulted in about 1000 Uyghur civilian deaths and about 5000 arrests. This has increased fear and intimidation faced by the Uyghurs. Those who have been detained are at great risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Given these alarming developments and given the history of over 60 years of human rights violations by the Chinese authorities in East Turkistan (XUAR), we are asking for high-level U.N. engagement with the Chinese authorities to stop the brutal crackdowns against the Uyghurs.

Disinterest of the International Community

In contrast to other violations of human rights around the world, the international community has been relatively inactive in issues pertaining to East Turkistan.