The Uyghur Human Rights Project releases a report on the limits placed on environmental activism among Uyghurs
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Mehmet Tohti [Former Vice President, World Uyghur Congress]: "A recent report released by Human Rights Watch over the inadequacy and unfairness of the trials of Urumqi protestors has brought our memory back to the July 5 massacre committed by the Chinese military and government backed Han Chinese mobsters. Mass arrests and manhunts started as early as the evening of July 5 after the suppression order issued by Wang Lequan, Communist party chief in the Uyghur Autonomous region, employed the rarely used word of "zhenya" which translated roughly to “kill to clean” or “complete suppression” in comparison to “ping xi” (to silence)that was used for the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and the Tibetan uprising of March 2008. When the Chinese military receives an order with “zhenya” usually there will be no limits to their actions. That’s what “zhenya” means and that is why it has rarely been used. This is a key word that could reflect the scale of suppression directed against Uyghurs that resulted in an unknown number of killings, arrests and disappearances that still question our minds.
The Chinese government's complete blockage of communications in East Turkistan since July 5 has caused grave concerns and raised serious questions for many experts as to whether China is hiding something from the outside world. This blockage has been harshly enforced by the government and includes the shutdown of landline telephone services, wireless telephone, and Internet and text messaging. The initial government excuse of "shutting down communication to prevent further spread of riots across the region" is no longer a valid one. And what could be the excuse for government keeping the entire Uyghur region in a state of complete communication blackout until today? Is it something to do with hiding the truth from outside and fearing exposure by the victims' families?
In addition to the communication shutdown, authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region passed a law during the first week of October that bans people from saying anything that "damages national Unity, incites separatism, or harms social stability." This vaguely worded bill has been implemented throughout East Turkistan to silence the outspoken parents, widows and family members of Uyghurs who have gone missing since July 5, 2009. In Kashgar, Hoten and other areas, local authorities even banned talk of the July 5 events themselves and have arrested violators.
Today Uyghur family members are constantly threatened, harassed and even prosecuted for inquiring about the location of loved ones, as we seen in the recent example of two Uyghurs who were arrested on charges of "State Secrete leakage" for reporting the death of one Uyghur man under police custody after his detention under an alleged July 5 connection. His father revealed that his son was killed by police torture and armed military personnel surrounded his house and actually forced the burial of his son without any traditional ceremony for fear of possible public exposure of this news.
Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, is absolutely right when he said that "the cases documented are likely just the tip of the iceberg." In my previous Hotline comment, I mentioned the more than 1000 deaths and subsequent arrest of as many as 10,000 Uyghurs on the basis of eyewitness testimonies. Recently one of my friends in mainland China told me that the small city of Artush alone received more than 179 dead bodies of Uyghurs from Urumqi in mid-July. Further, Canadian student Sakine Zulang has described her horrible experiences in the streets of Urumqi.
The Chinese government and official media also have given conflicting accounts of the total number of arrests made after the Urumqi massacre without mentioning the total Uyghur death toll. An official Xinhua News report on July 7, 2009, put the number of arrests as many as 1434 while the other day same Xinhua News Agency was quoted by Communist Party officials giving a much smaller number of more than 700 arrests. Meanwhile, at the outset the government denied the military employed violence against Uyghur protestors, but later on the puppet governor of the Uyghur Autonomous region disclosed twelve deaths by gunfire.
Ekrem (his full name remains undisclosed out of fear of retaliation), recently arrived in Toronto from Urumqi and told me that starting at 10pm on July 5, electricity in the Uyghur area of Urumqi city was suddenly switched off and nonstop gunfire continued until dawn. In the early morning firefighter trucks washed out all the neighborhood streets. The Uyghur area of Urumqi city used to be very active with thousands of Uyghur vendors, sellers, shoe shiners and small business owners from morning to evening. It is now deserted and in a state of absolute silence. Another area called Horse Race Square, (Sai ma chang in Chinese), the place where Uyghur women took to the streets on July 7 to demand the release of their arrested husbands, has now also became empty as the government forced all women to return their hometowns.
Then on July 7, the Chinese secret service organized nearly 10,000 ethnic Han mobsters armed with axes, iron bars and other tools to "show their teeth" to Uyghurs in Urumqi. Exact numbers of the death toll has never been reported.
It seems to me that the Chinese government wants to be certain it has cut off and silenced all voices from the victim families before they attempt to reopen communications in East Turkistan. Thus the international community has a responsibility to put pressure on the Chinese government to open the communication service for Uyghurs and launch serious inquiries about the tragic outcome of the July 5 massacre because it is no less significant than the Gaza incursion or other such human rights tragedies."
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