World Uyghur Congress urges Chinese government to reform repressive policies in East Turkestan and end escalating violence

Press Release – For immediate release
22 May 2014
Contact: World Uyghur Congress 
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or [email protected] 

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is profoundly shocked at the news of a deadly bombing in the regional capital of East Turkestan, Urumchi on May 22, 2014. The WUC is extremely disturbed at the escalating violence in East Turkestan and urges the Chinese government to cease repressive policies targeting the Uyghur people that form the backdrop to the mounting bloodshed.


“Violence against civilians is unacceptable and my heartfelt condolences reach out to the victims’ families,” said WUC president, Rebiya Kadeer in a statement. “In spite of the Chinese government’s policy of repressing all kinds of dissent in East Turkestan by brute force, the vast majority of Uyghur people still believe in achieving their freedom, democracy and human rights by peaceful means.”


Ms. Kadeer added: “The Chinese government cannot escape the evidence that their broad repression of Uyghur human rights is responsible for escalating tensions in the region; Uyghurs who attempt to peacefully question discrimination, marginalization and injustice are silenced. I ask Chinese officials to be responsible members of the international community and respect international standards of human rights, as well as Chinese laws that supposedly guarantee equality.”


On May 22, 2014, Chinese and overseas media reported a bombing at a market in the Saybagh district of Urumchi that caused the deaths of more than 30 people and injured over 90. The bombing is the latest in a series of violent incidents in East Turkestan. World Uyghur Congress and Uyghur Human Rights Project research suggests that violence killed 219 people in East Turkestan during 2013. In 2014, Radio Free Asia has recorded a string of incidents in East Turkestan, occurring in: Yengieriq, Uchturpan, Kelpin county, Urumchi, Aksu, Kargilik and Guma.


In an explicit demonstration of state violence committed against Uyghurs, on May 20, 2014, Radio Free Asia described how Chinese police fired on demonstrators in Alaqagha township, who were peacefully protesting the detention of women and children for wearing headscarves. According to eyewitnesses cited in the Radio Free Asia report, “up to four people may have been killed and several others wounded.”


Reporting on a June 2013 incident in Hanerik, near Hotan, the New York Times detailed how residents claimed Chinese security forces fired on unarmed civilians as they protested heavy-handed policing. Chinese state media claimed no one had died during the incident, but exile Uyghur groups said over 100 civilians were killed.


The rise in violence in East Turkestan has occurred as the Chinese government increases repressive policies that have seen curbs on religious belief and practice, the elimination of Uyghur as a language of instruction in schools, economic discrimination and poverty, as well as detentions of prominent Uyghur intellectuals and activists, such as Ilham Tohti, Akbar Imin and Abduweli Ayup.


In the wake of unrest in July 2009 in Urumchi, Chinese security forces conducted indiscriminate mass arrests and enforced disappearances of Uyghurs. In addition, eyewitness allegations of state violence perpetrated against Uyghurs present at a peaceful protest prior to the unrest have not been addressed at all by state authorities.


Instead of addressing discriminatory policies, Chinese president, Xi Jinping has pursued a policy of harsh crackdown in the region.  In January 2014, Xi announced a “major strategic shift” that prioritizes security policies in East Turkestan. This move was followed by fiery rhetoric delivered by Xi during an April 2014 meeting of the Politburo Central Committee regarding the need to toughen China’s stance on terrorism. A recent trip to East Turkestan by Xi Jinping, concluded on April 30, 2014, reinforced the call for enhanced security measures. Xi visited People’s Liberation Army soldiers and the People’s Armed Police in Kashgar, a Uyghur majority city that he claimed was the frontline of counterterrorism. As reported by AP, a proposed 2014 budget will increase regional public security spending to 1 billion USD (in 2010 it was 423 million USD according to the New York Times). State policies regarding the tightening of security often target peaceful Uyghur dissenters.


The WUC believes the Chinese government must listen to the grievances of the Uyghur people and fundamentally reform its repressive policies in East Turkestan. By denying the Uyghur people the fundamental right to freedom of expression and association, as well as the right to determine the future of their communities and region, the discontent in East Turkestan will remain.


The WUC also urges the international community to use multilateral and bilateral mechanisms to question the Chinese government over the increase of violence in East Turkestan. The WUC considers the tensions in East Turkestan to have reached a level where it is now the responsibility of the international community to publicly express its concern. The international community should seek guarantees from the Chinese government that the fundamental human rights of the Uyghur people are being met in East Turkestan and that independent monitors will oversee the implementation of international human rights standards in East Turkestan.