Jun 08, 2011

East Turkestan: Silent and Deadly – China’s Tool of Repatriation

The case of Ershidin Israel is not an unfortunate anomaly in the international system. Islam Online explores the extent to which repatriation has become a silent yet consistent tool of international control for the Chinese establishment.

Below is an article published by Islam Online: 

 Shaheer Ali was a young Uighur nationalist from the city of Khotan (Hetian) in the south of the XUAR (Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region). He (was) imprisoned and tortured in China in 1994 in connection with his political activities. He fled to Nepal via Tibet in November 2000, and applied for recognition as a refugee with UNHCR. He was recognized as a refugee in May 2001.

In spite of this, he was detained by the Nepalese immigration authorities in December 2001 and held in Hanuman Dhoka district police office in Kathmandu for several weeks. He is believed to have been taken away from the police office by a group of Nepalese police and officials from the Chinese embassy in Nepal on or around 10 January 2002 and forcibly returned to China shortly thereafter.

Amnesty International received no further information on the fate of Shaheer Ali until October 2003, when it was reported in the official Chinese media that he had been executed. The exact date of Shaheer Ali’s execution is unclear, but he was reportedly sentenced to death in March 2003 after being convicted of various offences including “separatism”, “organizing and leading a terrorist organization” and “illegal manufacture, trading and possession of weapons and explosives”. […]

Ali was tried in secret and it is not known what evidence was presented in court to substantiate the accusations against him. According to interviews that Shaheer Ali gave to Radio Free Asia while he was in Nepal and which were made public after his death, he claimed to belong to a group called the East Turkestan Islamic Reform Party which he described as a ‘non-militant’ organization. He also described eight months of torture […] in 1994, including being beaten with shackles, shocked in an electric chair and having metal nails pushed under his toenails, in an attempt to make him confess to various offences.”

East Turkestan is home to thousands (if not more) of Shaheer Ali’s. Persecution, self-exile, forced repatriation, torture and execution are all realities, normalities even, in the Uyghur life.

The World Uyghur Congress - an international organization representing the collective interest of the Uyghur people both in East Turkestan and abroad – has called on the European community to join a demonstration in front of the Kazakh and Chinese embassies in Berlin scheduled for 7 June. The demonstration has been organized by the WUC and its member organizations to protest against the recent extradition of Israel from Kazakhstan to China. Israel who was living in Kazakhstan since 2009, under a UN mandated refugee status from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is now on the verge of being extradited to China, where he will in all probabilities face torture, detention and death, and all unlawfully. Israel sought asylum in Kazakhstan in 2009 when he fled the Chinese authorities, after providing information to Radio Free Asia about the apparent torture to death of a young Uyghur man named Shohret Tursun, who had been detained by the Chinese authorities soon after the July 2009 protest and ethnic unrest in Urumqi, East Turkestan´s regional capital.

[…] “The initial flight and the subsequent deportation of Ershidin Israel is a classic case of self-imposed exile and forced repatriation of Uyghur Muslims,” said Alim Seytoff, President of the Uyghur American Association […] “This is a big problem in the struggle of Uyghur Muslims,” he explained and added “the imminent threat of being forcibly repatriated by neighboring countries to China… is the daily life of many Uyghur refugees who (flee) Chinese persecution in East Turkestan”.

[…]Following 9/11 Chinese authorities have been carrying out large scale campaigns justifying their crackdown on the Uyghur people on the basis of the US-led “war on terror”, leveling much of the campaign against the so-called “three evils” of “separatists, terrorists and religious extremists”. “China has launched an international campaign to demonize Uyghur Muslims' peaceful struggle against China's state repression as "terrorism". Since 9/11, China executed and killed many innocent Uyghur Muslims as "terrorists," said Seytoff.

  “The first thing China does when a prominent Uyghur Muslim activist, such as Ershidin Israel, (flees) China, is to inform the country which took custody of this activist that he or she is a "terrorist". Then, China fabricates stories and evidence to substantiate its claims against this Uyghur Muslim activist in order to persuade the country to forcibly repatriate him or her back to China” said Seytoff explaining Chinese repression chronologically. Chinese policies on XUAR vis-à-vis her neighbors also includes “threats of severe consequences or economic aid”. East Turkestan’s neighbors, “mostly Muslim countries, are extremely pro-China and are happy to do China's dirty job in deporting Uyghur activists back to China where they either face execution or enforced disappearance”.

The case of Shaheer Ali is a clear example of Sino-Nepal cooperation in relation to a Uyghur activist. In 2007, Ismail Semed, a Uyghur refugee recognized by UNHCR, was forcibly repatriated by Pakistan to China was executed by China in the same year, in an apparent cooperative act between the two governments. In a case that received more publicity, 20 Uyghur asylum-seekers who had fled to Cambodia were labeled "criminals" and accused of participating in ethnic unrest in Urumqi in July 2009. A Human Rights Watch press release noted that “no evidence to support these allegations was provided”. Cambodia forcibly extradited them. 

A clear example of institutionalized repression is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – an intergovernmental mutual security organization founded in Shanghai by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. […] In early May, Kazakhstan, as part of SCO and under Chinese pressure, prevented Kazakhstani Uyghur activists from leaving Kazakhstan to attend a major Uyghur conference in Washington. This is certainly not the first time Kazakhstan has deported Uyghur activists back to China. China executed three Uyghur activists deported by Kazakhstan in the late 1990s. Seytoff also reported the case of Huseyin Celil, a Uyghur Canadian citizen who was kidnapped and secretly deported to China by Uzbekistan in 2006. Celil was sentenced to life in prison by Chinese authorities.