Oct 22, 2008

East Turkestan: Kadeer Responds to Terror Claims

Active ImageUyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer said that the allegations made by the Chinese government are used as an instrument to further demonize Uyghurs.

Below is an article published by The Uyghur American Association:

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) is extremely concerned about terror allegations made against eight Uyghur men at an October 21 [2008] briefing by Ministry of Public Security spokesman, Wu Heping. UAA was heretofore unaware of these men or of their alleged activities. UAA also believes that the timing and purpose of the announcement is motivated by recent credible challenges to the Chinese government’s claim that Uyghurs are connected to global terror networks. 

The eight men have been accused of “plotting, organizing and executing various terrorist activities targeting the Beijing Olympic Games”. The eight men, according to Mr. Wu, are all members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). 

The Chinese government has used the “war on terror” to justify fierce crackdowns in East Turkestan. These crackdowns have included the mass detention of Uyghurs, most recently in the cities of Kucha and Kashgar, as well as an increase in the number of executions, especially in 2008. 

Emerging evidence has undermined the basis for the Chinese government’s repression in East Turkestan. During the Olympic Games period East Turkestan witnessed three attacks, two in the Kashgar area and one in Kucha. Chinese government officials accused a number of Uyghurs with conducting the attacks, adding that the suspects had received substantial assistance from international terror groups. No evidence has ever been produced to support these allegations. 

A September 29 [2008] New York Times article cast doubt on Chinese government claims about the deadliest of the attacks, in which 16 people reportedly died in Kashgar. Photographs suggest that events did not occur as the Chinese government claim. The photographs show men in police uniforms carrying out the attack against other policemen, contradicting Chinese government claims that a vegetable seller and a taxi driver were responsible. 

Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer said “the Chinese government is using the allegations against the eight men as an instrument to further demonize Uyghurs in the eyes of the international community. The move is designed to justify China’s crackdown on Uyghurs in the face of mounting evidence that disprove claims of widespread Uyghur involvement in global terror.” 

Ms. Kadeer added, “I urge the international community to view the allegations against these eight men with extreme caution. We welcome an investigation into these allegations by an international and independent party that will be able to judge the validity of the Chinese government’s claims. We also urge the international community to ask China to produce credible evidence documenting the existence of ETIM.” 

Official Chinese claims regarding an alleged “East Turkestan Islamic Movement” aid the Chinese government in its vilification of peaceful dissent in East Turkestan. Many Uyghurs who peacefully disagree with government policies use the name “East Turkestan” to refer to the region, and the abbreviated Chinese term “Dong Tu” is often used interchangeably to refer to both ETIM and vague East Turkestan “separatist forces”, thus helping to delegitimize references to East Turkestan that are made by human rights organizations and other peaceful groups. In addition, independent scholars on East Turkestan issues have asserted serious doubts about the very existence of ETIM as an organized group, and have suggested that if the group did indeed exist at one time, it very likely disappeared years ago. 

The October 21 [2008] announcement from Beijing also signals an added measure in following through on its August 2008 threat of a “life or death struggle” in East Turkestan, as well as a hardening of policies designed to manage Uyghur issues. 

One of these measures, according to the Hong Kong based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, is the deployment of around 200,000 public security officers and armed police to East Turkestan to “prevent terrorist attacks” in the post-Olympic period. 

Another measure is the unprecedented level of restriction on religious activity. Students and government employees were not permitted to fast during Ramadan this year or attend mosques in general. Restaurants were also forced to open during fasting hours. 

Uyghurs are not permitted to undertake Hajj, unless it is with an expensive official tour, in which applicants are carefully vetted for their “obedience to the law”. Confiscations of passports, to the point where very few Uyghurs have passports, ensures adherence to the ‘official tours only’ policy, and also restricts other types of international trips. 

UAA asks that the international community seek a halt to the ongoing Chinese government crackdown in East Turkestan. The policy of demonizing Uyghurs as suspects in global terror on unsubstantiated evidence to justify such a systematic and sustained crackdown will not create long-term peace and stability as the authorities hoped for. UAA seeks dialogue and a peaceful resolution to Uyghur grievances.