View Full Version : Uighur Protests Draw World Concern about Chinese Policies

06-07-09, 16:29
Uighur Protests Draw World Concern about Chinese Policies
By Kate Woodsome
06 July 2009


A bloody clash involving ethnic Uighurs in western China's Xinjiang autonomous region has left at least 156 people dead, triggering an outcry from human-rights organizations and exiled Uighur groups. Uighur groups said the violence underscores Beijing's strict policies toward the Muslim minority.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to reporters before his departure from Rangoon, Burma, 04 Jul 2009
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (File)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led the international call for restraint Monday after China announced that Sunday's protests spiraled into deadly violence.

Mr. Ban's spokeswoman, Michelle Montas, relayed his concerns to journalists in New York.

"Governments' concerned also must exercise extreme care and take necessary measures to protect the lives and safety of the civilian population," he stressed.

Sophie Richardson, a China foreign policy expert with Human Rights Watch, said the world has a reason to be concerned.

"This may well be the largest incidents of political violence in China in 30 years," she said.

A resident stands near a burnt car dealership in Urumqi, China, 06 Jul 2009
A resident stands near a burnt car dealership in Urumqi, China, 06 Jul 2009
It is difficult to determine what exactly happened in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi. China tightly controls the media, and residents are reporting disruptions in their phone and Internet services.

A Washington-based spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, Alim Seytoff, said Uighur students took to the streets to protest the killing of two Uighurs at a factory in Guangdong province last month. That violence erupted after a false rumor was spread accusing the Uighurs of rape.

Seytoff said Sunday's protest turned violent when Chinese forces began attacking and indiscriminately shooting Uighur demonstrators.

"We are horrified by the unjustified, excessive use of force by the Chinese authorities against unarmed Uighur civilian protesters," he said.

But the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, accused the Uighurs of trying to sabotage the country. Xinhua also has accused Seytoff's group of instigating the unrest, a charge he denies.

State Dept. Spokesman Ian Kelly points to a reporter at a press briefing in Washington (File)
State Dept. Spokesman Ian Kelly at a press briefing in Washington (File)
U.S. State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said the United States deeply regrets the loss of life in the Xinjiang rioting and is calling on all sides for calm and restraint.

Richardson said the unrest likely was in part a result of the Uighur's long-standing grievances with Chinese policies.

"The very repressive cultural, linguistic, educational, economic and religious constraints that they live under on a daily basis," she said.

Uighurs make up about half of the 20 million people living in Xinjiang, a vast, mountainous region that rests several-thousand kilometers west of Beijing. They are Muslim and speak a Turkic language - qualities that draw them closer in culture and custom to Central Asians than to the Chinese.

Seytoff said the Uighurs have suffered increasing harassment by the central government since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States stirred global alarm about Muslim extremists.

"And because of their unique difference, after 9-11, the Chinese government began to label the entire Uighur people as terrorist separatists and Islamic radicals and began to crackdown Uighurs because of the lack of interest and attention paid by the international community," he said.

The Uighurs said their feeling of discrimination has grown since millions of Han Chinese have moved to the area to take advantage of Beijing's efforts to narrow the wealth gap between the coastal cities and the western desert region.

Their grievances about economic, cultural, and religious discrimination by the Han are similar to the Buddhists in neighboring Tibet. Last year, widespread protests against Chinese rule in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, also turned deadly.

Richardson said she expects the Uighurs will face the same difficulties as Tibetans who took part in those protests.

"What I would expect to see are comparable problems with respect to due process. People being tried without any access to council even though there are not any charges against them. That we will not know what is happen to those arrested in the protests in the last few days for months," said Richardson.

Uighur resident (R) passes by paramilitary police on duty in Urumqi, China's Xinjiang province, 06 Jul 2009
Uighur resident (R) passes by paramilitary police on duty in Urumqi, China's Xinjiang province, 06 Jul 2009
Seytoff said like in Tibet, he also expects Chinese forces will be hunting down the protesters and their families..."and trying to arrest and trying to intimidate the entire Uighur population through this event," he added.

China's Xinhua news agency said hundreds of people have been arrested in Xinjiang, and 20,000 security forces are patrolling the area.

06-07-09, 16:32
Uighur Demonstrations in Xinjiang Leave 156 Dead
By Stephanie Ho
06 July 2009


Chinese paramilitary police close off the roads to a hospital where the injured are kept after riots in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, 06 July 2009
Chinese paramilitary police close off the roads to a hospital where the injured are kept after riots in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, 06 July 2009
The Chinese government says the death toll from a police clash with ethnic Uighurs late Sunday in the Xinjiang autonomous region has risen to 156, and is still climbing.

Uighur exile groups deny being involved, saying unrest resulted from Uighurs' building frustrations with what they feel are excessive controls by the Han Chinese on economic opportunities, culture and religion.

State television Monday was filled with images of violence and bloodshed on the streets of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

Official media say nearly 1,000 people were hurt or killed, and more than 200 shops and buildings, and 260 vehicles were burned.

The head of Xinjiang's Public Security Bureau, Liu Yaohua, said minority Uighur protesters used an incident last month in Guangdong province as an excuse to riot.

Liu says the incident - which involved a clash last month between Uighur factory workers and Han Chinese in southern China - was treated as a straightforward criminal case. Two Uighurs died in that violence.

During Sunday's riots nearly 3,000 Uighurs protested last month's clash.

China has accused the Uighurs of seeking independence for Xinjiang, and says foreign groups fan the flames of separatism. Official Chinese statements especially blame the World Uighur Congress, led by Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur businesswoman who spent years in jail in China and now lives in the United States.

A foreign journalist in Urumqi described a heavy security presence - with armored personnel carriers and water cannons out in force. The journalist says the security presence is heavy in the southern part of town, which is where the Uighur minority live. The journalist also says as of Monday, security forces are still arresting people.

People in the Urumqi also report Internet service was out Monday.

The World Uighur Congress in Germany issued a statement condemning what it describes as Chinese security forces' "brutal crackdown of a peaceful protest" by young Uighurs. The statement quotes Uighur witnesses as saying scores of protesters were killed and dozens were injured after authorities used lethal force to disperse the protesters.

The group also rejected China's accusation that it "masterminded" Sunday's events.

Xinjiang is at China's western border. Almost half of Xinjiang's 20 million people are Uighurs, who primarily are Muslims. Many in the minority group resent controls imposed by Beijing and the large influx of Han Chinese migrants into the region. The population of Urumqi is mostly Han Chinese, and under normal times the city is under tight police security.

06-07-09, 16:38