Jul 29, 2016

East Turkestan: Anniversary of Yarkand Massacre Marked by Uyghur Community amid Chinese Silence

Amid suppression by the official media of the Chinese Government, the World Uyghur Congress commemorated the second anniversary of the Yarkand Massacre, whereby hundreds of the community died on 28 July 2014. While recognised by the WUC, Chinese authorities have left critical information about the numbers arrested, killed and disappeared during the massacre unanswered and left families of those affected in the dark.

Below is an article published by the World Uyghur Congress

In the year preceding the events in Yarkand, Uyghurs had been killed consistently in a number of violent incidents with security forces. What occurred on 28 July 2014 and in the days following, however, would mark the deadliest episode since the unrest in Urumqi in July 2009. The major precipitant of the initial protests, according to Uyghur sources, was a protest that took place in Bashkent Township that led to the extrajudicial killing of a Uyghur family of five during house to house searches in the area. This resulted in the flight of many Uyghurs to nearby Elishku Township where they would then participate in the demonstrations there.

Uyghur sources from inside the region stated that upwards of 3000 Uyghurs may have been killed during and in the aftermath of the initial protests, with thousands arrested and an unknown number disappeared. It was alleged that nearly all of those who participated in the protests were gunned down by police and security personnel and many others were then killed during house to house searches that followed.

These reports also suggest that aside from the first day where upwards of 100 Uyghurs were killed, hundreds, and possibly thousands more, were systematically killed by police. Details about these events continue to be shrouded in secrecy, though credible evidence suggests that Chinese police and security forces acted brutally and without restraint, as they had done and continue to do a year later.

According to Chinese media sources, only 96 civilians were killed and hundreds more injured when police and security forces clashed with the protesters, including 59 Uyghurs – all later labelled terrorists – and another 37 civilians. Initial reporting by state media, however, suggested that just dozens of civilians had been killed in the clash, but later updated its count. Although the attack took place on Monday, July 28, state media took a full day to release any official reports about the incident.

Most worrying about the events and their aftermath have been the near complete suppression of any and all forms of dissent in East Turkestan. An additional knock-on effect has been the even tighter restrictions placed on media coverage. Uyghurs continue to be detained merely for speaking to overseas media about conditions on the ground or about missing loved ones.

It is in this context that Uyghurs have continued to live for many years, fearful of the presence of unrestrained force by the police, backed up by a central government that has little or no tolerance for dissent. We therefore implore the international community, including civil society and states, to come together to demand that China act within international law and provide critical information regarding the case.

Photo courtesy of World Uyghur Congress