Mar 02, 2012

East Turkestan: World Uyghur Congress Contests Claim

In response to accusations from Beijing about a direct involvement in the violent incident that took place on 29 February 2012 in Kargilik, the World Uyghur Congress has issued the following press release:

Below is a press release issued by the World Uyghur Congress:

In light of the recent violent incident in Kargilik (Chinese: Yecheng), Kashgar Prefecture, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) strongly refutes Beijing´s accusations that the WUC has masterminded and incited the incident. The WUC hereby reiterates once again its strong commitment to the principle of nonviolence, and to peaceful and democratic means for the solution of the conflict in East Turkestan. The WUC urges the international community to not get drawn into China´s official propaganda regarding the issues related to the Uyghur people.

In typical fashion, the Chinese authorities are labelling the Kargilik incident as a “terrorist attack,” recalling the so-called “three evils” (terrorism, separatism, extremism). While social tensions and protests are springing up throughout the country, only events related to the Uyghur Muslim population are considered “terrorism.”  The incident has taken place amidst a heavy crackdown on Uyghurs’ human rights, especially in areas of religious freedom, increased and tightened security presence in East Turkestan, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances amongst the Uyghur population.

On 28 February 2012, Chinese state media reported that an unknown number of “attackers” armed with knives killed at least 10 people in Kargilik, and that “police shot two of the assailants dead, while also chasing other attackers”, injuring other individuals. According to a statement released by the state-run website on 29 February, “a group of Uyghurs stabbed to death 13 people before police shot seven of the attackers dead,” increasing the total number of victims to 20.

According to local sources the WUC spoke with, 12 people were killed in the incident, seven of whom were members of the security forces, and the police shot and killed 10 Uyghurs, injuring  a further 11. Some of the injured were passers-by, where at least one was left in a life-threatening condition. Since the incident, Chinese security forces are detaining Uyghurs in Kargilik, wherein approximately 100 people have been detained.

Immediately following the incident, the Chinese security forces mobilized a large number of armed personnel to enforce the imposition of martial law in the city. The authorities prohibited inhabitants to leave the city as traffic to and from Kargilik was blocked. In addition, information on the incident is  being reportedly censored in Chinese media and internet.

Several residents of Kargilik County interviewed by Radio Free Asia (RFA) on 29 February stated that the violence was an outbreak of Uyghur discontent towards the massive influx of Han Chinese into East Turkestan, which has led to increased economic discrimination of the Uyghur population.

“I urge the international community to view official statements about the incident with extreme precaution, and look into the root causes of such sad events,” said Rebiya Kadeer, leader of the Uyghur National Movement, today. “Through Beijing´s repressive policies against the Uyghur people, tension in the region are escalating and social discontent is steadily increasing. As long as the Chinese authorities respond to social grievances by an increased security presence and further restrictions on Uyghur culture, the situation on ground will only get worse.”

The incident comes only a few weeks after seven Uyghurs were extra-judicially killed in Guma (Chinese: Pishan) County in an alleged attempt to flee the country in December 2011. A six-year-old boy is still missing since the incidents. One month later, in January 2012, the Chinese authorities announced that 8,000 police officers were recruited to “beef up security in the vast countryside” and “crack down on illegal religious activities.” One month after the Hotan and Kashgar incidents in July 2011, the Chinese government implemented a two-month “Strike Hard” campaign in East Turkestan “in order to strengthen anti-terrorism efforts.”