Mar 13, 2008

East Turkestan: US Report Highlights Abuses

A US State Department report on human rights in China documents widespread abuses, so with the evidence should now come the action.

A US State Department report on human rights in China documents widespread abuses, so with the evidence should now come the action.

Below is a press release issued by the Uyghur American Association:

A US State Department report released yesterday [11 March 2008] draws attention to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government’s continuing and serious  human rights abuses against the Uyghur people of East Turkestan (designated as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region or XUAR by PRC authorities). The 2007 Annual Report on Human Rights in China documents various aspects of Beijing’s efforts to forcibly assimilate the Uyghur people and undermine the distinct Uyghur culture of East Turkestan.

The Uyghur American Association commends the State Department for focusing on human rights abuses by PRC authorities in East Turkestan, including the use of the legal system as a tool of repression against Uyghurs who voice discontent with the government; the fierce suppression of Uyghur religion, a moderate form of Sunni Islam that is a vital part of their ethnic identity; PRC government support of the influx of huge numbers of Han Chinese economic migrants into East Turkestan; the transfer of young Uyghur women from majority Uyghur areas of East Turkestan to work in factories in urban areas of eastern China; and the elimination of Uyghur language schools under the current “bilingual education” policy.

The report also noted several specific cases of Uyghur political prisoners, including the execution of Ismail Semed in February 2006; the sentencing of Uyghur-Canadian Huseyin Celil to life in prison for allegedly plotting to split the country; the sentencing of Alim, Ablikim, and Kahar Abdureyim, Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer's sons, for state security and economic crimes; and the continued detention of Uyghur writers Abdulla Jamal, Tohti Tunyaz, Adduhelil Zunun, Abdulghani Memetemin, Nurmuhemmet Yasin, and Korash Huseyin.

The entire report can be accessed here:

State Department Report (East Turkestan)

Highlights from the State Department report:

“Authorities in the XUAR used house arrest and other forms of arbitrary detention against those accused of the "three evils" of extremism, "splittism," and terrorism. Because authorities failed to distinguish carefully among peaceful political activities, "illegal" religious activities, and violent terrorism, it was difficult to determine whether raids, detentions, arrests, or judicial punishments were targeted at those peacefully seeking political goals, those seeking worship, or those engaged in violence.”

“Regulations restricting Muslims' religious activity, teaching, and places of worship continued to be implemented forcefully in the XUAR. The government continued to repress Uighur Muslims, sometimes citing counterterrorism as the basis for taking action that was repressive.”

“The XUAR government maintained the most severe legal restrictions in China on children's right to practice religion. In recent years XUAR authorities detained and arrested persons engaged in unauthorized religious activities and charged them with a range of offenses, including state security crimes. Xinjiang authorities often charged religious believers with committing the "three evils" of terrorism, separatism, and extremism. XUAR authorities prohibited women, children, CCP members, and government workers from entering mosques.”

“The government's policy to encourage Han migration into minority areas resulted in significant increases in the population of Han Chinese in the XUAR. According to 2005 statistics published by XUAR officials, 7.98 million of the XUAR's 20 million official residents were Han. Hui, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uighur, and other ethnic minorities comprised approximately 12 million XUAR residents. Official statistics understated the Han population, because they did not count the tens of thousands of Han Chinese who were long-term "temporary workers."”

“The XUAR government tightened measures that diluted expressions of Uighur identity, including measures to reduce education in ethnic minority languages and to institute language requirements that disadvantage ethnic minority teachers. The government continued moving away from the two-track school systems that used either standard Chinese or the local minority language and toward a new system that required schools to teach both standard Chinese and local minority languages or to teach standard Chinese only.”

“Uighurs were sentenced to long prison terms, and in some cases executed, on charges of separatism. On February 8 [2007], authorities executed Ismail Semed, an ethnic Uighur from the XUAR, following convictions in 2005 for "attempting to split the motherland" and other counts related to possession of firearms and explosives. During his trial Semed claimed that his confession was coerced. Semed was forcibly returned from Pakistan in 2003.”

“On April 19, foreign citizen Huseyin Celil was sentenced to life in prison for allegedly plotting to split the country and 10 years in prison for belonging to a terrorist organization, reportedly after being extradited from Uzbekistan and tortured into giving a confession. Although Celil was granted Canadian citizenship, Chinese authorities refused to recognize this and consequently denied Celil access to consular officials. During the year the government reportedly sought the repatriation of Uighurs living outside the country, where they faced the risk of persecution.”

“In June 2006 authorities charged Alim, Ablikim, and Qahar Abdureyim, three of Uighur activist and businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer's sons, with state security and economic crimes. In April [2006] Ablikim was sentenced to nine years in prison and three years deprivation of political rights, reportedly after confessing to charges of "instigating and engaging in secessionist activities." In November 2006 Alim was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $62,500 (RMB 446,429).”