PRESS RELEASE: WUC COMMEMORATES 12TH ANNIVERSARY OF URUMCHI MASSACRE
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) commemorates the 12th year anniversary of the Urumchi massacre, in the capital city of East Turkistan. Every year, July 5th is a dark reminder of the brutality Uyghurs face from the Chinese authorities. From July 5-7 2009, thousands of Uyghur protesters were killed, disappeared or injured, as the Chinese government cracked down on peaceful protests. This proved to be a pivotal turning point in the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur people.
‘’For the past 12 years, on July 5th, Uyghurs around the world commemorate the victims that have succumbed at the hands of the Chinese government during the Urumchi Massacre’’, said WUC President Dolkun Isa ‘’In the years that followed July 5th 2009, Uyghurs have seen all of their fundamental rights stripped apart, and today we’re facing a genocide.’’
The peaceful protest in 2009 began with several thousand Uyghurs — including students – marching towards the People’s square in central Urumqi at around 5:00 pm on July 5. They were protesting the Chinese government’s handling of the Shaoguan incident in which several Uyghurs were killed by Chinese factory workers in a dispute. Chinese police failed to protect the Uyghur workers, allowing them to be killed by the mob. The complete disregard for Uyghur lives and the systematic discimrination faced by the Uyghur people resulted in initially peaceful protests in Urumchi, as Uyghurs demanded to be treated equally and for their rights and freedoms to be respected.
As the protests began, hundreds of Chinese police with shields, rifles, and clubs were already in position and moved to disperse and arrest the protesters before they reached the People’s Square, indicating that the government had full knowledge of the protest beforehand and was well prepared to suppress it. The heavy-handed response resulted in unrest among the protesters, escalating the situation. This resulted in a further brutal crackdown from the Chinese authorities against the protesters.
The regional government quickly imposed a communications blackout that lasted for months following the incidents, which prevented the flow of information.
Reports from non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, based on interviews with eyewitnesses, indicated that security forces deliberately used live ammunition during the unrest. Human Rights Watch identified 43 verifiable cases of enforced disappearances of Uyghur prisoners between July 6 and 7, although the number is certainly much higher. In November 2009, the World Uyghur Congress and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) published a report on the Urumchi Massacre, with details of the large-scale violence over that summer, and the thousands of Uyghur victims.
In the aftermath of these terrible events, the Chinese government’s actions were never scrutinized by the international community nor subjected to any independent investigation. The lack of action then paved the way for the Chinese government to progressively enact policies that have allowed the ongoing crimes against humanity and genocide in East Turkistan.
On this 12th year anniversary of the Urumchi Massacre, and the 100th year of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the WUC urges the international community to learn from its past mistake, and do everything in its power to counter impunity, particularly in the context of the Uyghur genocide.