Jul 26, 2011

East Turkestan: Chinese Military Hospitals Black Hole for Detainees?

World Uyghur Congress leader Rebiya Kadeer fears for injured Uyghur protesters transferred to Chinese military hospitals after 18 July clashes.  Kadeer alleges that relocation to these hospitals usually results in death.

Below is an article published by AFP:

An exiled leader of China's Uyghur minority has said she feared for the safety of dozens of people she said were injured in recent clashes with police in the country's Xinjiang region and then detained.

Rebiya Kadeer, the US-based president of the World Uiyghur Congress, said that about 70 injured Uyghurs were transferred from a civilian to a military prison hospital after the violence on July 18 in the remote city of Hotan.

"They collected all of them and brought them to a military (prison) hospital. It is clear whenever an injured Uighur is brought to a military hospital, he will never be released alive," Kadeer told AFP in an interview.

Kadeer said that Uyghurs have raised complaints for years about military prisons. She charged that prisoners in the past have been killed -- perhaps to harvest their organs, a practice long alleged by activists.

Chinese state media said that 18 people died in Hotan, an oasis on the ancient Silk Road, in violence around a police station.

State media called it a "terrorist" attack. It said that a crowd set upon the police station and killed four and that police then "gunned down" the attackers.

Kadeer disputed the account and said that the death toll may be higher. A spokesman for her group last week told AFP that 20 protesters had been killed.

She said the Uyghurs had gone to the police station and attempted to seize officers as they sought leverage to gain information on missing loved ones.

Kadeer defended the move, saying that it did not constitute violence.

"Of course I am against violence, but in this case the protesters were the ones who were attacked by Chinese police and they reacted to defend themselves. They have the right to know the whereabouts of their loved ones," she said.

"This is very different from in Western countries where police are there to protect people from being attacked. In China, they arrest simple people so they are the criminals; they just wear uniforms," she said.

"They arrest people whenever they want, they beat people whenever they want."

Xinjiang -- a vast, arid but resource-rich region bordering Central Asia -- is home to more than eight million Uyghurs, who speak a Turkic language and are mostly Muslims.

Many are unhappy with what they say have been decades of repressive rule and unwanted immigration by China's Han majority.

The government says nearly 200 people were killed and 1,700 injured in 2009 riots in the regional capital Urumqi, where witnesses recounted attacks by Uyghurs on Han Chinese in China's worst ethnic bloodletting in decades.

New York-based Human Rights Watch in its latest annual report said that hundreds of people detained after the Urumqi riots remained unaccounted for.

Kadeer said that Chinese authorities had rounded up Uyghurs in house-to-house searches in Hotan, leading to the frustrations. She said Uyghurs who sought information about loved ones faced threats themselves.

By Kadeer's tally, authorities have sentenced some 40 Uyghurs to death in recent months. She accused the United States of sending the wrong signals to China, pointing to the visit to Washington last month by Xinjiang's Communist Party chief, Zhang Chunxian.

"China was just looking at the reaction of the Western world and the United States. When they saw that there was nothing, it emboldened the Chinese authorities," she said.

Kadeer, a former department store tycoon and mother of 11, spent six years in prison until China freed her in 2005 to the United States. China has since accused her of fomenting unrest, charges she denies.