Sep 28, 2011

East Turkestan: Demonstrations Planned for National Day of China

In an effort to raise awareness of Beijing’s egregious disregard for human rights in the region, the World Uyghur Congress along with Uyghur organizations worldwide are staging mass protests on 1 October 2011, China’s annual celebration of its statehood.  For indigenous populations forced to live under Beijing’s oppressive rule for more than six decades, this marks a day of mourning and sadness.

Below is a statement released by the World Uyghur Congress:

On the occasion of the National Day of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) celebrated each year on 1 October 2011, Uyghur organizations worldwide will stage demonstrations to protest the occupation of their homeland East Turkestan, also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (XUAR), 62 years ago. While the Chinese government celebrates the foundation of the PRC, 1 October [2011] represents a mourning day for the Uyghur people since it symbolizes the loss of freedom and human rights. With the protest actions, the Uyghur exile movement also aims to raise awareness on the ongoing human rights abuses against the Uyghurs.

Since 1949, the Chinese government has been waging intensive and often brutal campaigns to repress all forms of Uyghur dissent, cracking down on Uyghurs’ peaceful religious activities and expressions of ethnicity, dilute Uyghurs’ culture and identity as a distinct people, and threaten the survival of Uyghur language.  The authorities have also economically marginalized Uyghurs in East Turkestan through intense and blatant racial discrimination in employment. East Turkestan’s exceptional economic and strategic value has amplified the Chinese government’s motivations to accomplish these objectives.  East Turkestan is China’s largest producer of natural gas and oil and it occupies the strategically important position of bordering eight countries with connection of major energy supply routes from Caspian region to China. Furthermore, the region comprises one-sixth of modern-day China.

In the last years, East Turkestan has been turned into an open-air prison and the egregious human rights violations by the Chinese authorities perpetrate against the Uyghurs include:

State-sponsored mass resettlement of Han Chinese to East Turkestan and systemic, institutionalized discrimination against Uyghurs,

Forcible transfer of Uyghur women and girls to factories in Eastern China,

Assault on Uyghurs’ ethnic identity through religious and cultural repression and marginalization of the Uyghur language in the education system.

Authorities’ failure to remedy the horrific health and environmental effects of 32 years of nuclear testing in Lop Nur,

Forced labor (known as “hashar”) for non-prisoners,

Brutal and lethal crackdown of a peaceful Uyghur demonstration on 5 July 2009 through Chinese security forces, that left hundreds, and possibly thousands of people dead.

Since the July 2009 events, Uyghurs have been subjected to mass and arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances (including of minors); arbitrary sentencing of Uyghurs to death, life, and various jail terms after trials plagued with intense politicization and strangleholds on due process; arbitrary executions; and intensified repression of freedom of expression, including but not limited to the detention and sentencing of Uyghur webmasters, bloggers, and journalists.

Under the global war on terror, launched after the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the oppression of the Uyghur people has drastically increased. The Chinese authorities routinely equate Uyghurs’ peaceful political, religious, and cultural activities with terrorism and religious extremism.

In addition, Uyghurs fleeing suppression in East Turkestan are in extreme risk of being extradited back to China. In the past decade, at least 180 Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers have been forcibly deported – in flagrant violation of both national deportation procedures and international law standards – from countries with strong trade and diplomatic ties to China, obeying pressure from the Chinese government: Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Burma/Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and Uzbekistan. After their return, they disappeared, were detained, or sentenced to long prison terms and death, and some were even executed.

As a result from the ongoing oppression and discrimination of the Uyghur people, the situation in East Turkestan remains tense, as recent violent incidents in Kashgar and Hotan have demonstrated.

The Uyghur organizations in exile, including the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), call on the Chinese government to establish a meaningful dialogue with the Uyghurs to resolve the situation in East Turkestan and ensure the protection of Uyghur human rights.