FOUR NEW DEATH SENTENCES ISSUED IN EAST TURKESTAN; CELL PHONE USERS PUNISHED FOR SENDING “HARMFUL TEXTS”
For immediate release
January 27, 2010, 2:45 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the issuance on January 25 of four new death sentences to Uyghurs in connection with unrest that took place in July 2009 in Urumchi, the regional capital of East Turkestan. The trials and convictions of these four men, announced on January 26 in Chinese state media, took place against a backdrop of unfair trials, a politicized judicial process and a lack of judicial transparency.
“Time and again, the Chinese government has ignored the calls of the international community to ensure due process of law for those Uyghurs tried and sentenced in connection with the unrest in Urumchi,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. “Twenty-six men have now been condemned to die after secretive trials and a hasty judicial review process. At least nine men have already been executed. An unknown number of Uyghurs were killed by security forces in July or have died in prisons since that time. The Chinese government must end this cycle of death and execution.”
According to a government spokesman in East Turkestan, in addition to the four death sentences issued on January 25 in an Urumchi court, one defendant was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve (a sentence which courts usually commute to life imprisonment) and eight others received lengthy prison terms, including life sentences. All of the defendants’ names, who were tried in five separate cases, appeared to be Uyghur. State media reports indicated the four who received death sentences would be executed immediately.
U.S. Congressman James McGovern has introduced new legislation that has received bilateral support in the House of Representatives. The legislation condemns the execution of Uyghurs, as well as mass arrests and detentions, in connection with the July unrest. House Resolution 953, currently co-sponsored by Congressman Frank Wolf, Congressman William Delahunt, and Congressman Christopher Smith, “calls on the Government of China to desist from further executions based on flawed trials, to fully implement habeas corpus protections and to conduct trials in an open and transparent manner.”
Chinese state media announced on November 9, 2009 that nine men, eight Uyghurs and one Chinese, had been executed after having been convicted of charges related to the unrest in July.
Executions are often carried out in significantly greater numbers in China on the eve of the Lunar New Year, which falls in mid-February this year. China continues to carry out more executions than the rest of the world combined. East Turkestan, almost without exception, is the only region in China where people have been executed for political crimes in recent years.
Cell phone users detained, punished for sending “harmful” text messages
According to a report on Tianshan.net, a state media outlet focused on East Turkestan, three cell phone users in the region were recently punished by public security officials for sending text messages containing “harmful information” and affecting “ethnic unity”. The report states that one such user was detained after sending messages seeking to “split the country” on January 17, and this individual is currently in detention. Another cell phone user was reported to have “disturbed social security” by sending text messages about the police situation on January 20, and a third cell phone user, a university student, was reportedly punished for sending “terrorist” text messages. The latter two received unspecified legal punishments.
The Tianshan.net article states that these types of activities violate national laws forbidding the use of the Internet and cell phone devices to fabricate rumors, commit slander, or publish and spread “harmful information”. The report also calls upon Internet and cell phone users to promptly report any messages containing “harmful information” to the authorities by calling 110.
Although text messaging capability was restored in East Turkestan on January 17 after being blocked by government authorities since the July unrest, and state media have trumpeted the restoration of very limited Internet access to regional Internet users, access to communication remains heavily monitored and restricted in the region. The restoration of text messaging comes at a time of intense regional government campaigns to combat the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism and preserve “national unity”. In addition, on January 19, state media reported that cellular companies in Beijing and Shanghai would be required to suspend text services for customers who had sent messages with “illegal or unhealthy” content. The China Daily newspaper reported that police would provide cell phone providers with a list of key words to be monitored.
In early January, state press reports indicated that governments at all levels in East Turkestan would be required to enhance security checks on “suspicious persons” and monitor religious activities in the name of fighting terrorism. The rules, which will come into effect on February 1, also connect the promotion of government officials with their work to eliminate the “three forces.”