Mar 29, 2008

East Turkestan: Continued Suppression of Uyghurs

Active ImageUnder the cover of terrorism the Chinese regime continues to suppress the Uyghur population in East Turkestan.

Below is a Press Release published by Uyghur Human Rights Project:

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) Ministry of Public Security has released the name of the woman arrested in a March 7 [2008] incident involving a passenger airplane flying from Urumchi to Beijing.  A Ministry spokesperson stated that 19 year-old Guzalinur Turdi had confessed to attempting to hijack and crash China Southern Airline flight CZ6901.  Reuters reports that PRC officials claim Ms. Turdi and an unidentified man boarded the plane using Pakistani passports.  When contacted by Radio Free Asia journalists, PRC officials refused to give further details about the incident or the detainees.

“The Uyghur American Association (UAA) unequivocally condemns all acts of violence. We also urge extreme caution when evaluating any PRC claims of ‘terrorism’,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer.  “In the era of the ‘global war on terror,’ PRC authorities have used the threat of ‘terrorism’ to justify the repression and forced cultural assimilation of the Uyghur people of East Turkestan.  Ms. Turdi should be tried according to international legal norms, in a free and transparent court system.  She should have access to a lawyer, her trial should be open to domestic and foreign press, and she should be well-treated by government authorities while in their custody.  Unfortunately, in the PRC, the legal system is often used as a tool of repression.  Non-transparent trials, lack of independent counsel, forced confessions, and mistreatment of those detained by the government are all common.”

In recent years, using ‘terrorism’ as a justification, Beijing has undertaken a renewed, systematic, and sustained crackdown on all forms of Uyghur dissent in East Turkestan (designated as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by the Chinese government).  Amnesty International has documented that, since 2001, “tens of thousands of people are reported to have been detained for investigation in the region, and hundreds, possibly thousands, have been charged or sentenced under the Criminal Law; many Uighurs are believed to have been sentenced to death and executed for alleged “separatist” or “terrorist” offences.”  According to a scholarly paper from a 2001 Ministry of Justice compendium, one out of eleven convicted Uyghurs are in prison for “state security crimes.”  The state-run Xinjiang Daily reported that, in 2005 alone, 18,227 individuals were arrested in East Turkestan for endangering state security, a jump of 25 percent from the previous year.

Uyghurs in government custody frequently suffer from physical abuse and other maltreatment. In late 2005, after making his first visit to China, during which he visited prisons in Urumchi, Lhasa, and Beijing, Mr. Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, confirmed that “torture was widespread” in China, especially in East Turkestan and Tibet.  Forms of torture he documented included the “use of electric shock batons, cigarette burns, guard-instructed beatings by fellow prisoners, submersion in pits of water or sewage, exposure to extreme heat or cold, being forced to maintain uncomfortable positions, deprivation of sleep, food or water, (and) suspension from overhead fixtures by handcuffs.”

Human rights groups have noted that the Beijing regime’s recent amplification of a Uyghur terrorist threat on the eve of the 2008 Olympics has provided it with the opportunity to deflect attention away from its repression in East Turkistan and project an exaggerated image of Uyghur terrorism on the world stage.  Just as it has used the “global war on terror” to justify the intensified persecution of Uyghurs, it has used an emphasis on the Uyghur terrorist threat to justify its human rights abuses against Uyghurs in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics.