PRESS RELEASE: THE WUC COMMEMORATES THE 31ST ANNIVERSARY OF THE BAREN UPRISING
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) commemorates the 31st anniversary of the Baren Uprising, which took place in Akto County, Kizilsu Kirghiz Prefecture, from April 5 to 10, 1990. It is estimated that between two and three thousand Uyghurs died in the process and aftermath of the Baren Uprising, and the decade(s) that followed were marked by a significant increase in the brutal repression of Uyghur dissent.
“As the Baren Uprising shows, instances of police brutality against peaceful protestors often set the precedent for continued and increasingly violent repression”, WUC President, Dolkun Isa, said. “The Uyghurs who were present at the events of the Baren Uprising and were lucky enough to survive, have since then been subjected to unspeakable abuses by the Chinese government. We must therefore at all times protect the right of a people to peacefully speak up for their rights and freedoms in the face of injustice.”
On April 5th 1990, the first day of the Baren Uprising, a group of around 200 Uyghur men marched to the local government office in Akto County, to demand greater representation and to speak out against the significant significant influx of Chinese migrants into East Turkistan as well as the wider discriminatory policies, religious and cultural restrictions on the Uyghur people.
By the end of April 6th, over 18,000 Chinese troops had been reportedly dispatched to the region to suppress the demonstrations, whereas the population of Baren at the time was only 19,000. Just four days later, the demonstrations had been brutally dispersed, leading to the deaths of countless Uyghurs. Such demonstrations in the early 90s – and their brutal crackdown by Chinese authorities – would prove the catalyst for harsh Chinese “strike hard” campaigns throughout the decade. The Ghulja Massacre, during which hundreds of peaceful protestors were killed by Chinese security forces and thousands were arrested afterwards, stands out as the culmination of Chinese authorities’ violence against Uyghurs protesting for their rights and freedoms to be respected.
By now, China’s repression has culminated not only in an attempt to completely silence Uyghur voices and calls for justice, but to completely eradicate the Uyghurs as a people. In this context, the Baren Uprising and its aftermath highlight a decade-long process of violent repression in an attempt to stamp out the Uyghurs’ freedom, culture, religion and ethnic identity. These processes are also being extended towards Tibetans, Hong Kongers, Southern Mongolians and Chinese rights activists, who are increasingly targeted for peacefully calling for their rights to be respected.
31 years ago, the international community failed to adequately hold China accountable for brutally cracking down on peaceful protestors. Instead, the persecution has escalated into a full-scale genocide, threatening the existence of the Uyghurs as a people, which highlights that meaningful action is urgently needed to prevent further escalation. While commemorating the Baren Uprising, the world can no longer stand by idly while a genocide is unfolding before its eyes.