For immediate release
July 18, 2008, 7:00 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496
With the Beijing Olympics only three weeks away, the Uyghur American Association (UAA) condemns Chinese authorities' recent intense crackdown on the Uyghur people of East Turkestan (also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region). In recent months, and particularly in the last few weeks, using anti-terror efforts as a justification, Beijing has undertaken an extremely harsh campaign of repression on all forms of Uyghur dissent in East Turkestan. Chinese officials have issued a series of unsubstantiated terror claims, exploiting the "war on terror" and Olympics security concerns to wage a sophisticated propaganda crusade against the Uyghur people.
While it presents itself to the international community as the host of the world’s largest sporting event, the Beijing government is committing systematic human rights violations against the Uyghurs on a massive scale.
Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer would like to express her wish for a peaceful and successful Olympic Games in Beijing, China. "I am opposed to all forms of violence and terrorism. It is my hope that the Chinese government responds in kind during and after the Olympic Games," said Ms. Kadeer.
On July 9 in Urumchi, five young Uyghurs were shot and killed without warning in an unjustifiable show of force on an alleged "religious extremist" group, and two Uyghurs were executed in Kashgar after their sentences were read in front of an audience of 10,000 Uyghurs forced to attend a mass rally. No evidence, however, has been put forth to support officials’ allegations that these Uyghurs were involved in terrorist activities. There has also been a complete lack of evidence to support recent official claims regarding a series of alleged terror arrests and the “busting” of terror cells in East Turkestan.
"I call on the U.S. government and the international community to condemn China’s manipulation of terror threats to kill and intimidate Uyghurs, on the eve of the Olympic Games," said Ms. Kadeer. "There has never been credible evidence of a significant terrorist threat from the Uyghur people, and I urge the Uyghur people to maintain their non-violent efforts for human rights, freedom and democracy, even while the terror label has been applied to grossly distort and suppress such peaceful dissent."
East Turkestan witnessed a crackdown on Uyghurs as the Olympic torch relay passed through Urumchi and Kashgar in June. Thousands of Uyghurs were detained in the months leading up to the torch's arrival in East Turkistan, and residents of buildings on torch relay routes in Urumchi and Kashgar were warned to stay inside their buildings with their windows shuttered.
"I respect the Chinese people's desire to hold the Olympic Games, but I lament the fact that the Chinese government is using the Games themselves to intensify the persecution of the Uyghur people", said Ms. Kadeer. "The Chinese government's repressive policies are deliberately creating instability in East Turkestan, and only when the Chinese government begins to respect the human rights of Uyghurs and address their legitimate demands will there be political stability in East Turkestan."
"Strike Hard" campaigns are used by Chinese officials in East Turkestan to stifle political dissent, and they have been utilized as an effective tool in the latest wave of repression against Uyghurs. On July 11 in the city of Ghulja, authorities announced a new "High Pressure Strike Hard" campaign, mandating "more detentions, more arrests, and more sentencing" for political and criminal activities. Officials in the city of Artush recently conducted a "Strike Hard" campaign against "ethnic splittist forces" and other elements, stressing the importance of carrying out this action in "the year of the Olympics". In the Artush campaign, 35 officials inspected 200 shops and businesses, confiscating, among other items, posters featuring the East Turkestan flag, items displaying howling wolves (the wolf is known among the Uyghur people as a symbol of political dissent and cultural heritage), and pictures of Ms. Rebiya Kadeer.
Uyghurs in East Turkestan face a wide spectrum of human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention and execution, torture, religious repression, and the suppression of their language and culture. In recent months, prior to the Olympic Games, Uyghurs have been subjected to an even higher rate of execution and detention, in addition to forced relocation, police monitoring, passport confiscation, and the destruction of places of worship.