East Turkestan: Regional Instability Bolstered by Violence
Following reports of violence just two weeks after clashes in Hotan, Rebiya Kadeer and the World Uyghur Congress condemn Beijing’s discriminatory violence and demand that the Chinese government take responsibility for Uyghur and Han deaths.
Below is an article published by World Uyghur Congress:
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) unequivocally condemns Chinese government policies that have caused another outbreak of violence in East Turkestan. Without a substantial change to policies that discriminate against Uyghurs economically, culturally and politically the prospect of stability in East Turkestan is remote.
According to Chinese and overseas media reports, incidents of bloodshed on the streets of Kashgar occurred between July 30 and 31, 2011. The tragic events over the weekend in Kashgar took place less than two weeks after a day of violence in the southern city of Hotan. Due to the tight control of information and the imposition of a street curfew, the WUC is unable to confirm the accuracy of information from Chinese state media of events in Kashgar. The latest reports conflict in the number of dead and injured from the alleged series of attacks in Kashgar. Chinese state media has accused Uyghur individuals of carrying out the attacks. There is no doubt that without providing any substantive evidence, the Chinese government will accuse these individuals of links to international terror organizations. Without independent verification of such accusations, the WUC must remain skeptical.
I do not support violence. I am saddened that Han Chinese and Uyghurs have lost their lives. At the same time, I cannot blame the Uyghurs who carry out such attacks for they have been pushed to despair by Chinese policies. I condemn the Chinese government for the incident. The Chinese government has created an environment of hopelessness that means it must take responsibility for civilian deaths and injuries caused by their discriminatory policies.
The WUC has repeatedly urged the Chinese government to immediately stop the implementation of unjust policies in East Turkestan. The WUC has also insisted that Chinese officials end the institutionalized national and racial discrimination against Uyghurs that deprive Uyghur youths of a future. During the May 2010 “Xinjiang Work Forum” held in Beijing, the WUC sincerely called on the Chinese government to discuss the future of East Turkestan with legitimate representatives of the Uyghur people. Nevertheless, the “Xinjiang Work Forum” went ahead without the participation of a single Uyghur, whose rights as an autonomous people are highlighted in the Chinese Constitution and the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law.
Instead of pursuing a policy in East Turkestan that seeks to engage the Uyghur population, the Chinese government has chosen the way of violence and an armed brutal crackdown. There is no sign that Chinese authorities will discontinue their crackdown in East Turkestan. The Chinese government firmly believes in using the power of the gun to suppress the voice of Uyghurs instead of listening to it. Regardless of the dangers posed to those who do dissent, Uyghurs continue to express their unhappiness with Chinese policies; however, Chinese authorities have not heeded any of these expressions of discontent.
Despite the ruthless massacre of peaceful demonstrators, and the active suppression of Uyghurs, mass death sentences handed down to Uyghurs during and after July 5, 2009 in Urumchi, the Chinese government has not achieved peace or stability in East Turkestan. Uyghurs in East Turkestan have resisted Chinese rule in a variety of ways. There have been more than 20 bloody incidents since July 5, 2009. An attack on a police station in Aksu on September 18, 2010, the incident in Hotan on July 18, 2011 and the latest bloodshed in Kashgar between July 30-31, 2011 have been among the most widely reported by media.
We remind the Chinese government that unless there are genuine and meaningful policy changes that respect the legitimate rights of Uyghurs in East Turkestan there could be more of these outbreaks of unrest to come, as people have no other choice to express their grievances. Uyghurs across the region are denied any kind of freedom of speech or assembly that permit displays of public displeasure with government policies. On July 5, 2009, when Uyghur protestors attempted to peacefully request protection from the state against violent attacks, they were met with gunfire from Chinese security forces.
The Chinese government has to ask itself why Uyghurs so desperately resist knowing that they will be killed or executed. The answer should be very clear. Uyghurs have lost all hope. There are no Uyghur families who cannot tell a story of arrest, torture or death.
There are many Uyghur grievances in Kashgar that need to be addressed by the Chinese government. A government mandated demolition of the hub of Uyghur culture and tradition in the ancient city of Kashgar has made people very angry. The Chinese authorities have been transferring millions of Han Chinese to the area and in doing so polluted the environment of Kashgar. The Chinese government has provided housing, jobs, education and other opportunities for these immigrants while most Uyghurs suffer from a lack of economic opportunity. Thousands of young Uyghur girls and women, most of them from the Kashgar region, are forcibly transferred to factories in eastern China to supply cheap labor. Religious freedoms in Kashgar are next to none and have been restricted further as Muslims enter the holy month of Ramadan. Chinese authorities have launched strike hard campaigns and arrested countless Uyghurs on politically motivated charges. These policies do nothing but create hatred. Many of the Han Chinese immigrants from China discriminate and humiliate the Uyghur people on a daily basis simply because the Chinese government treats Uyghurs with such disdain.
Uyghurs in East Turkestan have patiently waited for a humanitarian reaction from the international community to the brutal suppression. As time passed, the Uyghur people’s hopes have gradually ebbed away. The inaction and unresponsive attitude of the international community over the mass killing of Uyghurs during and after July 5, 2009, the death sentences of young Uyghurs in trials that fall far below international standards, the forceful deportation of 20 Uyghurs from Cambodia and the recent repatriation of mandated UNHCR refugee Ershidin Israel from Kazakhstan to China are contributing factors to this sense of hopelessness that the Uyghur condition will ever improve.
Therefore, I urge the international community to listen to the grievances of Uyghurs now in order to prevent future disasters in East Turkestan.
I also call on the Chinese government to learn the right lessons from these tragedies and give up military crackdown as the only form of solution. I still firmly believe that mutual understanding and dialogue is the only way to resolve conflict and to reach a solution based on compromise.
I also appeal to Han Chinese people living in East Turkestan to side against government brutality towards Uyghurs and stop being used by the communist government for further escalation of ethnic tension between them and Uyghurs, the rightful owner of the territory.
It is time for the Han Chinese immigrants to ask a sincere question; why have the opportunities that have been presented to them as immigrants from thousands of miles away not been offered to local Uyghurs in East Turkestan?
I urge the Chinese authorities to be transparent and to give access to international media to report incidents like the one in Kashgar and to allow human rights organizations as well as Uyghur organizations to investigate conditions in the area.