Jul 04, 2012

East Turkestan: Uyghurs Will Stage Peaceful Demonstrations

Many Uyghur exiles and their supporters around the world will stage peaceful demonstrations and other activities as to commemorate the third anniversary of the violently suppressed, peaceful protest in Urumchi

Below is an article published by the World Uyghur Congress:

The World Uyghur Congress is pleased to announce that as we approach 5th July many Uyghur exiles and their supporters around the globe are making final preparations to stage peaceful demonstrations and other activities on and around this day so as to commemorate the third anniversary of the violently suppressed, peaceful protest in Urumchi, East Turkestan. This day and the subsequent events stand as one of the darkest days in Uyghur and East Turkestan history in which hundreds of Uyghurs lost their lives as government forces brutally cracked down on the peaceful protest. The demonstrations will aim at drawing attention to this and to remind the international community once again to take stock of the horrific response from the Chinese government.


On 5 July 2009, Uyghurs peacefully assembled at the Grand Bazar, Urumchi so as to demonstrate against the lackadaisical and slow response by Chinese authorities into the deaths of two Uyghur following attacks on Uyghur workers at a toy factory in Guangdong province, China on 25/26 June. According to eye-witnesses, the response by the Chinese authorities was violent, resulting in ethnic unrest that left hundreds of Uyghurs and Han Chinese dead. As security forces enacted one of the fiercest crackdowns on East Turkestan in its history, many Uyghurs were arbitrarily detained, sentenced to death or lengthy sentences after trials plagued with politicisation and strangleholds on due process. In addition, the government has waged a campaign to put pressure on states to extradite Uyghurs who took part in the protest.

Many Uyghurs have since disappeared due to their involvement in the peaceful protest and other advocacy initiatives aimed at uncovering the true extent of the violent crackdown and for seeking a comprehensive investigation therein. The World Uyghur Congress is due to release a new report into the Uyghurs who have since disappeared as a result of their participation in the Urumchi peaceful protests. Furthermore, in response to the unrest, the Chinese government put in place a new ‘strike hard campaign’ in East Turkestan and a widespread internet black out as it sought to implement one of its strongest clampdowns in East Turkestan history.

Each year since, the World Uyghur Congress, which promotes the human rights of the Uyghur people on behalf of the Uyghur exile community worldwide, has sought to remind the international community of the atrocities committed by the authorities on 5 July 2009 and thereafter by spearheading the global commemoration of 5 July. The WUC and its affiliate Uyghur human rights organisations are organising events in 14 countries, including but not limited to the United States, Japan, Turkey, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. The events that will take place will include demonstrations in front of Chinese foreign missions, marches and conferences. For a list of actions worldwide, see Protest Calendar for 5 July 2012

Many NGOs, civil society organisations and governments have condemned the actions taken by the Chinese government at the time and since. As recently as the 20th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Nonviolent Radical Party and the Society for Threatened Peoples drew attention to the crackdown. WUC President Rebiya Kadeer said in the build-up to the anniversary that: “Three years have passed since my people were brutally suppressed, and yet no comprehensive and independent investigation into the events has happened. They are now suffering unimaginable restrictions on their lives and live in fear for their relatives who have since been arrested, detained and imprisoned. The events that many Uyghurs will be holding on the third anniversary will serve as a reminder to the international community for them to not forget the crackdown and that the increase in violations of their fundamental human rights due to this event are still very much a reality.”

On July 5, 2009, Uyghurs in the city of Urumchi, the regional capital of East Turkestan [also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China], participated in a peaceful protest against government inaction on the killing of at least two, but possibly several dozen, Uyghur migrant workers, by Han Chinese workers at a toy factory in the city of Shaoguan, in the southern province of Guangdong.  The protest had been organized over the internet as a peaceful demonstration. The authorities blocked students on some university campuses from leaving school grounds on July 5th in order to prevent their participation in the demonstration. Human Rights Watch noted that while the protest seemed to be sparked by the Shaoguan incident, the root causes for the protest lie in the long-standing discriminatory policies of the Chinese government towards the Uyghurs and the egregious repression of Uyghurs’ religious, political, educational, linguistic, and economic rights.

Chinese security forces moved in and used extreme force and violence to disperse and suppress the protest. Amnesty International has stated, “Eyewitness accounts received by Amnesty International contradict government accounts of the events of July, and suggest the authorities used excessive force against the protesters, resulting in the deaths of possibly hundreds of people.” 

Security forces used tear gas and stun batons on the demonstrators. Witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International indicated that security forces also fired on the demonstrators, as well as beat and kicked them. Uyghur organizations abroad and media outlets received similar witness accounts. Witness accounts received by Uyghur organizations abroad also indicated that protesters fled to other points of the city, where they were forced into several enclosed areas from which they could not escape and the police indiscriminately shot and killed Uyghur protesters in these enclosed areas and arrested those who remained. In sum, numerous witness accounts provided to Uyghur and other human rights organizations abroad, as well as witness accounts provided to the media, indicated that security forces committed extra-judicial killings of protesters.

The human rights violations that the Chinese authorities have perpetrated against the Uyghurs in the aftermath of the July 2009 incidents have included but have not been limited to:  mass and arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances of Uyghurs, including minors; arbitrary sentencing of Uyghurs to death and other severe sentences after trials plagued with politicization and strangleholds on due process; and arbitrary executions.