World Uyghur Congress’ Statement on July 5th Urumqi Incident
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) strongly condemns the Chinese government on its brutally cracking down of a peaceful protest of young Uyghurs in Urumchi on Sunday, July 5th 2009. According to Uyghur eyewitnesses, as many as 800 Uyghur peaceful protesters were killed and thousands were injured by the armed Chinese police and security forces.
The peaceful protest began with about 1,000 to 10,000 Uyghurs — mostly students marching towards the People’s square in central Urumqi at around 5:00pm on July 5th. They expressed their anger at Chinese government’s handling Guangdong Shaoguan hatred crimes. Hundreds of Chinese paramilitary police with shields, rifles and clubs were already in position and moved to disperse and arrest the protesters before they reached the People’s Square, which indicates that the government has full knowledge of the protest beforehand and well prepared to suppress. The main aim of the Uyghur protesters was to express their anger at government’s handling of a mob attack on Uyghur workers on June 26th 2009 at a toy factory in Shaoguan city, Guangdong Province, in which 18 Uyghurs were killed and more than 300 were injured. The Uyghur protesters demanded a probe into the deadly attack on the Uyghur workers at Shaoguan and wanted to get an answer why the police did not show up for hours to stop the Chinese attackers.
The July 5th student protest started peacefully. The following live videos posted by several amateurs on YouTube speak for themselves. The student protesters were holding Chinese national flags in their hands at the time, and demanded justice for Uyghurs wounded and killed in Guangdong. They also protested against increased racial discrimination against the Uyghurs across China. However, as always they do, the authorities replied them with excessive forces instead of listening to the grievances of the Uyghur students. Paramilitary police initially used tear gas to disperse the student protesters then started shooting at them when they refused to leave. According to several Uyghur eyewitnesses, paramilitary forces started to shoot at any Uyghur protester on sight in the evening, chasing them around in alleyways, and killed an estimated number of 800 young Uyghurs. However, the Chinese media showed yesterday only some wounded Chinese victims and scenes of Uyghurs’ attacking on various vehicles, images that they carefully selected for the world and the Chinese audience to see, portraying Uyghurs as bad, troublemaking terrorists, a tactic that caused all this mess in the first place. They said 156 people died and 818 were wounded, but did not mention who they were and how they died or wounded. But the authorities are using all the means available to them to prevent the leakage of the facts on the ground to any international reporters by disabling all of the internet and phone communications between the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and outside the world. As the world already know, the Chinese government carefully crops out the news and images that it wants to show the world and hides the facts on the ground.
The Cause of This Protest is the Chinese Government, not WUC and Mrs. Rebiya Kadeer
The World Uyghur Congress categorically rejects China’s accusation that the peaceful protest was “masterminded by the World Uyghur Congress led by Rebiya Kadeer.” The WUC and Uyghur democratic leader, Mrs. Rebiya Kadeer, had no part in this protest.
It is a common practice of the Chinese government to accuse me for any unrest in East Turkestan and His Holiness the Dalai Lama for any unrest in Tibet. The Chinese authorities should acknowledge that the peaceful protest was sparked by the unlawful mob beating and killing of Uyghur workers at a Guangdong toy factory more than a week ago. The authorities should also acknowledge that their failure to take any meaningful action to punish the Chinese mob for the brutal murder of Uyghurs is the real cause of this protest. “The fact that Uyghurs were holding Chinese national flags speaks volumes for the nature of this peaceful protest and for what they were demanding – civil rights and equal justice under the law. They are not “outlaws” as accused by the Chinese authorities,” said Mrs. Kadeer.
Instead of addressing the legitimate demands of the peaceful Uyghur protesters, the Chinese authorities responded to quell the protest with the deployment of four kinds of police (regular police, anti-riot police, Special Police and the People’s Armed Police (PAP)). The Special Police and PAP used tear gas, automatic rifles and armored vehicles to disperse the Uyghur protesters. During the crackdown, some were shot to death, and some were beaten to death by Chinese police. Seventeen demonstrators were even crushed by armored vehicles near Xinjiang University, according to eyewitnesses.
Police Brutality First, Violence Next
The Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that “Another youth said the protest began peacefully but became violent after police fired on the crowd, and protesters then attacked cars and shops.” According to eyewitnesses contacted directly with WUC, the organizers of the protest made all the necessary preparation and arrangement for preventing the protest from turning into a riot, but the police brutality, including the beating of the protesters and the firing at the peaceful protesters, caused the violence including attacks on cars and shops.
What Happened on June 26 in Shaoguan?
In recent years Chinese Government has been forcing young Uyghurs, primarily marriage-age girls, against their wills to go to China’s coastal areas to work in factories as cheap labourers as part of their genocide strategies. Last May they brought 800 young Uyghur peasants to a toy factory in Shaoguan. It has been speculated that the factory laid off some Chinese workers to make room for the Uyghur new-comers. One laid-off disgruntled worker started a rumour that some newly arrived Uyghurs raped Chinese women. The Chinese workers believed in this rumour easily because of the constant portrayal of Uyghurs as bad criminals and violent terrorists by the Chinese state media, and thousands of them started attacking the Uyghurs randomly, killing 18 Uyghurs, including 2 girls, and injuring more than 300 according to some Uyghur sources. Video images of that attack are too horrific to watch, and the level of cruelty and hatred is incomprehensible. One of the video clips posted by a proud Chinese blogger shows a dozen Chinese were beating an Uyghur lying on the ground and yelling at “you are not dead yet, you are not dead yet?” as they kept beating the motionless body.
According to Uyghur eyewitnesses, some Chinese distributed a truck load of batons to Chinese workers. Security guards on site not only did not stop them but also helped distribute batons. The police did not show up for three hours. What is more outrageous is the fact that those attackers were hailed as national heroes by Chinese bloggers who posted comments on those video images. This is a vicious hate crime that has resulted from government’s constant portrayal of Uyghurs as terrorists. Considering that those poor peasants were taken there by force against their will, shouldn’t the government do more to protect them?
In Shaoguan the police did not show up for hours while Uyghurs were being beaten black and blue and eventually murdered, however, in Urumchi they showed up with fully loaded guns even before the protesters arrived at People’s Square, and did not hesitate to use them against armless students. It is such a sharp contrast!
Xinjiang, which we call East Turkistan, is the home of about 10-15 million Uyghurs. We, like the Tibetans have been suffering vicious political and religious persecution, ethnic discrimination and cultural genocide ever since the Chinese communists invaded our homeland in 1949. There was less than 7% Chinese in East Turkistan in 1949 now the immigrant Chinese consists more than 50% of the population because of influx of the Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Communist government have flooded our homeland with Chinese immigrants and marginalized the Uyghur people. The recent economic development in the area benefits mainly the Chinese immigrants, not the Uyghurs and other ethnic groups. The world did not pay much attention to Uyghurs as they did to the Tibetans, until Mrs. Rebiya Kadeer was released from the Chinese jail and came out to speak tirelessly for freedom, for human rights and for democracy for Uyghurs at various world stages and the saga of 22 Uyghur men wrongfully detained at Guantanamo started to shed a light on the Uyghur situation in China.
The Call by WUC
We, the World Uyghur Congress, call on the Chinese government to cease the brutal crackdown on the peaceful Uyghur protesters; to release those arrested in relation to this protest; and return all Uyghurs who killed and taken away by armed police to families so that they can proceed ceremonies according to the Uyghur cultural and religious tradition. We urge the Chinese government to bring those individuals responsible for the injuring and killing of Uyghur workers at the Guangdong toy factory on June 26 to justice. At the same time, we ask the international community to voice their concerns over the violent crackdown and unjustified injuring and killing of peaceful Uyghur protesters, and also hope the international media to listen to the stories of both sides involved before presenting the news from the Chinese media as facts. On the eve of the 60th anniversary of founding of the People’s Republic of China, we ask the Chinese government to change their six-decade long heavy-handed policies of forced assimilation, as well as cultural and ethnic genocide imposed upon the peace-loving Uyghur people and seek to resolve the East Turkestan question through peaceful dialogue.