The situation of Uyghurs: Press Conference Minutes
Ms Rebiya Kadeer held a joint press conference with Heidi Hautala MEP, Chair of the human rights subcommitee. Questions were raised following Ms Kadeer's earlier address to the human rights subcommittee. Ms Kadeer responded to questions from a variety of international journalists focusing on her proposed future communication with the European Parliament, Chinese authorities and her account of the situation in East Turkestan. Ms Kadeer reaffirmed her rejection of seperatist activity and her support for non violent solutions.
The Situation of Uyghurs: Press Conference minutes, 01-09-09
HH = Heidi Hautala, RK = Rebiya Kadeer
HH: Welcome all to this Press Conference. It is my pleasure and honour to present to you
Rebiya Kadeer. She was giving evidence and talking to us this morning about the
situation of the Uyghurs in China. We are very concerned about the situation; we would
like to see that the Chinese and the Uyghurs are living in harmony. But we have heard
some disturbing information. I would like to repeat that it is time for an independent
investigation so that all human rights violations can be investigated and cleared. Now, I
would like to give the floor to Rebiya Kadeer.
RK: Thank you very much. I would like to thank Heidi Hautala for organising the hearing
this morning and press conference and to thank you all for attending this press
We are the Uyghurs living in Central Asia in our land named East Turkestan. East
Turkistan has been military controlled by the Chinese Communist Authorities since
1949. Then, China granted us autonomy in 1955 and promised us to respect the rights of
the Uyghurs. The Chinese Constitution grants us the freedom of religion, education in our
own language, political and economic self-determination. However, China didn’t keep
the promise and has often persecuted Uyghurs and continuously used repressive means.
We are kept backward and we cannot benefit from the economic development. The
Chinese authorities repress our religion and ban our language. They didn’t respond to our
needs and turned to violence and repression. Many Uyghur are now illiterate.
When they granted us autonomy, they promised us that they would not move Chinese
population into our land. However, the Chinese authorities operated a policy population
transfer from mainland China to East Turkestan. Now the Chinese consist 46% of the
population. Also, the Chinese Government didn’t attempt to educate the Uyghurs.
Instead, they tried to build difference and hatred between the two ethnic groups. With
regards to our cultural rights, the Chinese authorities try to damage our culture, language
and religion. They use a cultural genocide policy against Uyghurs. In many ways, our
situation is similar to the Tibetan situation. The Uyghurs are forced to live without the
right of expression, assembly and education in their own language. They are not allowed
to send their children to the school of their choice. It is all under the instruction of the
If Uyghurs raise questions about the policies, they are labelled as separatist and terrorist
and they are punished. They are often detained and then don’t have the right to hire a
lawyer. So, the Uyghurs are frequently persecuted for political reasons. The Uyghurs who
speak out against the policies are often arrested and persecuted in public. The group
being oppressed for political reasons are the Uyghurs and those speaking out are being
sentenced or executed in public. Our situation is very similar to that of the Tibetans. Due
to time constraints, I will not close my statement now. I am open to answer any of your
Nawab Khan, Kuwait News Agency
Q: In your opinion, Heidi Hautala, who should conduct the investigation? Would that be
the United Nations or the European Union or another body?
HH: Normally, the UN would conduct this type of investigation. However, we are in the
European Parliament now and it is our duty to remind the European Union of their power
and possible influence into conducting such an investigation. This morning, Rebiya
Kadeer admitted that some Uyghurs have responded to intimidation from Chinese police
with the death and injury of Han Chinese citizens. She is not denying that. The
investigation is extremely important. Basically, the UN would have to conduct the
investigation, but with the clear help of the EU.
Daniel Vontel, The Belgian Television TBF
Q: I would like Rebiya Kadeer to explain what happened in Urumqi from her point of
view. What is the most recent information and is she still willing to confirm the
disappeared to be 10,000?
RK: First of all, it is important to note that the arrests and detentions have not ended.
According to information from Uyghurs in East Turkestan, the number of people
disappeared is about 10,000 and China continues to arrest people. We have received
information from witnesses that the situation in East Turkestan is terrible and that people
are disappearing everyday and are ready to testify. The available accounts were witnessed
during and in the aftermath of 5 July in Urumqi. Most of the people who have been
arrested during and after the 5th July unrest are teenagers and university and high school
students. They are all tortured in detention and forced to confess to having committed
crimes. According to eye witnesses, they were taken to a certain area in the city by the
Chinese police and there they were forced to say that they had burned the place.
Another problem is that the family members of dead or disappeared Uyghurs are not able
to talk to the authorities. Many of them were threatened by the Chinese to not tell anyone
that their husband or son disappeared during the incident. The internet and telephone
lines are still blocked; no one can communicate with people inside in East Turkestan.
They are simply not allowing us to communicate with our family members.
In fact, the demonstration of the Uyghurs that turned out in the violence was peaceful.
The demonstrators were carrying the Chinese flag to show the Government that they are
Chinese citizens in search of the truth. According to new information a school in Urumqi,
received 83 children of parents that were disappeared or detained during or after the
incident 5th July. This in only just one orphanage.
Halid Demifaro GO television, Pakistan
Q: Rebiya Kadeer, what is it exactly that you want to achieve? Do you want
independence or restoration of the situation in 1949? Do you want to live in Chinese
secular state or some kind of separate Sharia state?
RK: As is stated in my statement, I want the Chinese to respect their own Constitution
and the rights of the Uyghurs. I want the right to self determination. The Chinese
authorities they promise us autonomy in law, but they don’t keep their promises. We have
no religious freedom. Therefore, we have to rewrite the autonomy law.
When we established East Turkestan in 1944 it was a secular republic, not Sharia. First,
we want the Chinese authorities to start the dialogue with the Uyghurs. In this process we
will decide upon what we want.
Q: Rebiya Kadeer, do you expect more arrests if the Chinese Government does not
respect the Constitution and indeed sit down with you to discuss the situation?
RK: In any case, we will use peaceful means to try to solve the problems. We hope that
the Chinese Government, perhaps under pressure of the international community, the
Islamic world, the European Union, will sit together and negotiate with the Uyghur
Harco Valedo, la Rathon, Spain
Q: I would like to know what your opinion is of European countries and institutions.
What do you think of the stance they have taken and their views on the conduction of an
independent investigation? Do you feel there is a common opinion amongst states?
RK: The Chinese authorities have used the ‘War on Terror’ to further suppress Uyghur
dissent. Because we are Muslims, it was easy for China to accuse us of terrorism. Now,
China uses the global economic downturn to further suppress the Uyghurs. But I hope
that the international community and the European Union organise a hearing and that the
United States Government will not allow the Chinese Government to continue, but will
initiate an international and fair investigation.
Lishi Yang, Anti-TV
Q: Heidi Hautala, you as Chairwoman, do you have an agenda on addressing the Human
Rights issues in China.
HH: The European Parliament has called for the implementation of the protection of
constitutional rights and for the liberation of Human Rights defenders that are detained.
In the future, we have to understand that the situation in Xinjiang is to a large extent
similar to the situation in Tibet. There is a lot of work to do in the dialogue with China
and we are definitely open to discuss these issues with them. Also, we continue to talk to
the ones that come to us to speak about their situation. The Human Rights situation in
China is a permenant point on the agenda.