East Turkestan: On-Going Arbitrary Use of Death Penalty
China issues seven new death sentences for Uyghurs, who as a people have been subject to continuous arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. The World Uyghur Congress calls on the international community to pressure Chinese authorities to release detailed information on these trials.
Below is a press release issued by World Uyghur Congress:
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is deeply concerned about the new death sentences handed down for seven people in East Turkestan. According to Chinese news sources dated March 23, seven people were sentenced to death by the Kashgar Intermediate People’s Court and three others received death sentences with a two-year reprieve. Although the ethnicity of the sentenced people is not specified, the WUC believes that all are Uyghurs since the sentenced people appear to have Uyghur names. Chinese media sources state that the seven sentenced to death are among a dozen people involved in “violent, terrorist” activities between June 2008 and October 2010. All of them were sentenced for “robbery and murder”, allegedly committed on three occasions last year between August and October.
These new sentences come only few weeks after the death sentences imposed on four Uyghur men, Turhun Turdi, Abdulla Tunyaz, Ahunniyaz Nur, and Abdukerim Abdurahman, in February 2011, for their alleged roles in three separate incidents that took place between August and November 2010 and on two other Uyghur men, Yasin Kadeer and Ahmet Kurban, who received death sentences with a two-year reprieve in connection with the incidents.
While the WUC clearly rejects any act of criminal violence, the WUC is deeply concerned that these judicial death sentences are likely to be an instance of the arbitrary use of the death penalty to intimidate the Uyghur population of East Turkestan, part of an ongoing pattern of politically motivated criminal charges, unfair trials, and disproportionate penalties.
The Chinese authorities routinely equate Uyghurs’ peaceful political, religious, and cultural activities with terrorism and religious extremism. The Chinese authorities use the fact that the Uyghurs happen to be Muslim to appeal to negative stereotypes. The authorities found an opportunity in the September 11th attacks to justify an increased and intensified crackdown on the Uyghur people. They use security campaigns and the global war on terror as pretexts to persecute and repress the Uyghur people. The crackdown has even further intensified since the July 2009 protest and ethnic unrest in Urumchi, the regional capital. The authorities use vaguely-worded provisions in the Criminal Law, such as “endangering state security” and “disturbing public order,” to prosecute and imprison Uyghurs who peacefully exercise their rights. Also these new convicts where sentenced for having been involved in ”plotting terrorist activities”.
According to Amnesty International, with the exception of one Tibetan case, East Turkestan is the only region in China where prisoners of conscience have been executed in recent years. Amnesty International has repeatedly stated that no one who is sentenced to death in China receives a fair trial. Uyghurs detained in the wake of unrest in Urumchi in July 2009 have frequently been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, incommunicado detentions, denial of access to lawyers and family members, and trials devoid of due process.
The WUC calls on the international community to ask the Chinese authorities to provide detailed information on these and other trials involving Uyghurs and to express concern about the well-documented and widespread violations of international human rights standards in criminal-law proceedings in East Turkestan.
In late February 2011, the Chinese government announced the abolition of the death penalty for 13 economic crimes. However, according to human rights groups, these are all crimes seldom if ever punished by execution, and the abolition announcement is likely to have little effect on China´s extensive use of the death penalty; China in recent years has carried out more executions than all other countries combined.