Jan 09, 2007

East Turkestan: Claims of Uyghur Terrorism Still Lack Substance

Below is a Press Release issued by the Uyghur American Association;

China’s official news agency reported on January 8 that police in East Turkistan (designated as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by the Chinese authorities) raided a “terrorist camp” in a region of the Pamir Mountains, reportedly killing 18 people and capturing 17 others. During the raid on Friday January 5, one young police officer was reportedly killed and another was injured. The report also claims police discovered a number of grenades and large quantities of other explosive materials.

Sources contacted by the UAA were not able to confirm the details of the account in the official reports. However, sources living nearby the village where the raid is thought to have taken place – a village called Kosrap in Aktu County, around 20 miles south of Kashgar – do report a significantly increased security presence. UAA’s sources claim police are checking identity papers and searching vehicles in the vicinity of Kosrap Village; meanwhile, official reports claim that police are still searching for people who escaped from the alleged camp, supposedly either before or during the raid.

“We oppose all forms of violence,” said Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, president of the UAA. “The Uyghur people’s response to the continuing brutality of Chinese rule has been peaceful because the Uyghur people do not want a future that is predicated on violence and bloodshed,” she said.

“However, UAA adds its voice to all those who accuse the Chinese government of using the perceived threat of terrorism to persecute the entire Uyghur people. Just because we oppose human rights abuses against us perpetrated by the Chinese authorities does not mean we are terrorists: it means we are human, and in search of human rights and justice,” she added.


The Chinese authorities have long sought to equate all Uyghur opposition to Chinese rule with “terrorism”. East Turkistan remains the only part of the People’s Republic of China where people are still executed for non-violent crimes of political opposition to the Chinese state. The Chinese authorities never present any evidence whatsoever to support these claims. There is no video evidence; there are no independent witness statements; and there is no corroborating evidence from any other source whatsoever.

Although official reports of the incident on January 5 did not explicitly state the ethnicity of the people targeted during the raid, the reports nevertheless claim that they were ‘members’ of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group which the Chinese government accuses of wanting to found an Islamic state in East Turkistan, independent from China. The group was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States in August 2002, although little is conclusively known about its size, aims or operations. It is widely considered that ETIM was only listed at the urging of the Chinese authorities, and so that the US could hope to rely on Chinese support in the war on terror. However, it has been concluded by independent scholars and analysts that the group – such as it was – ceased to exist when its purported leader was killed in a skirmish with the Pakistani military in Pakistan in late 2003.

China also claims ETIM has close links with al-Qaeda, although once again, no evidence has ever been presented to support this claim, and notably, no senior al-Qaeda figure has ever made public reference to East Turkistan or the Uyghur people in any of their known statements.

“If the Chinese authorities want to be taken seriously as a responsible member of the world community, then they must allow independent scrutiny of any evidence they have for the claims they are making,” said Ms. Kadeer. “We call on the Chinese government to facilitate an investigation into the scale and nature of alleged terrorist activities in East Turkistan by an independent commission, such as a body within the United Nations.”