PRESS RELEASE: WUC Mourns the Victims of the Yarkand Massacre on the 6th Anniversary
On the sixth anniversary of the Yarkand massacre, the World Uyghur Congress remembers all those who were killed by Chinese authorities. It has been six years since Chinese security forces violently suppressed a large peaceful protest in Yarkand, leading to the deaths of many innocent Uyghurs. Since then, we have witnessed an escalation in discriminatory state policies that have led to the an estimated one million Uyghurs arbitrarily detained in political indoctrination camps, mass sterilization, forced labour and genocide.
In the year preceding Yarkand, Uyghurs had been killed consistently in a number of violent incidents with security forces and police. What occurred on July 2014 and in the days following, however, would mark the deadliest episode since the unrest in Urumqi in July 2009, and many details about what transpired remain murky to this day. All communication to and from the region was suspended in the months following the incident as internet and cell communication disappeared.
The major cause of the initial protests, according to Uyghur sources, was the response of the Chinese government to a protest that took place in Bashkent Township that led to the extrajudicial killing of a Uyghur family of five during house to house searches in the area. This resulted in the flight of many Uyghurs to nearby Elishku Township where they would then participate in the demonstrations there.
According to the Chinese government, 96 civilians (including 59 Uyghurs) were killed when police and security forces clashed with protesters. Chinese state media wrongly labelled the incident a “premeditated terrorist attack on a police station in Xinjiang.” Although the attack took place on Monday, July 28, state media took a full day to release any official reports about the incident.
Uyghur groups, however, reported that the incident involved residents protesting against “Chinese security forces’ heavy-handed Ramadan crackdown […] and extra-judicial use of lethal force in recent weeks.”
The Chinese government has consistently used the narrative of ‘terrorism’ to justify harsh repressive measures against the Uyghur population. A Counter-Terror Law that was passed in 2016 and roundly criticized by rights groups for its overly broad and vague language, has provided further cover for the state to apply inappropriate labels to Uyghurs critical of state policies. The Chinese government has also attempted to justify its genocidal policies against Uyghurs under the guise of ‘counterterrorism’.
The Yarkand Massacre stands as another example of the Chinese government’s complete disregard for Uyghur voices and opinions and the violent repression of anyone who expresses any form of dissent. The massacre preceded the current crisis and shows the escalating violence in the CCP’s treatment of the Uyghur people.
“We must honor the victims of the Yarkand Massacre by shining a light on the Chinese government’s violence and abhorrent treatment of the Uyghur people,” said WUC President Dolkun Isa. “So many innocent people have died or suffered incredibly simply because they were born Uyghur. How many massacres and atrocities have to happen before the Chinese government is held accountable?”
It is in this context that Uyghurs have continued to live for years, fearful of the presence of unrestrained forced by police, backed up by a central government that has little or no tolerance for dissent or the mere practice of quotidian cultural traditions.
We therefore implore the community of states, NGOs and international organizations to come together to strongly raise the issue in order to affect change.
After six years, countless questions remain unanswered about the true number of those arrested, killed and disappeared. The lack of transparency, accountability and any semblance of justice for the families of the missing and deceased has been striking.
The WUC demands that the Chinese government act immediately and transparently to disclose the whereabouts and fate of the missing and deceased to their family members and the wider community.