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UAA condemns killing of Uyghur workers at Guangdong factory
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UAA condemns killing of Uyghur workers at Guangdong factory
Published  06/29/2009


For immediate release
June 29, 2009, 7:15 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) condemns in the strongest possible terms the mob killing of two Uyghur workers and the injuring of many, mostly female, workers at a toy factory in Guangdong Province in the early morning hours of Friday, June 26. According to official Chinese media, a massive mob attack at a factory in the city of Shaoguan on June 26 left two Uyghur workers dead and 118 workers injured. According to some news reports, the majority of the injured were Uyghurs. At least 16 people were seriously injured, and reports stated that 60 workers were still receiving treatment in the hospital on Sunday, June 28.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that more Uyghurs were killed in the attack than the two reported in the official media. In addition, according to a report posted on a Shaoguan government website that has now been taken down, 81 Uyghur workers were injured, 66 of whom were in critical condition in the hospital.

UAA is extremely concerned about the Chinese government’s failure to protect factory workers, in particular Uyghurs, from violent attacks. Adding to this concern are unverified reports that local security forces did not take an active role in stopping the violence. UAA is also concerned over reports that Chinese workers were able to raid the dormitories of Uyghur workers.
“Uyghurs have suffered for years under racial profiling and unjust government policies that have painted the entire Uyghur population as criminals and terrorists. The official media has published propaganda of Uyghurs as backward and violent, and members of the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. “As a people, Uyghurs only seek prosperity and the ability to raise their families in a secure environment. The Shaoguan incident shows that official policies, together with mob rule and fear, have prevented Uyghurs from simply being able to live their lives in peace.”

The riot at the Xuri Toy Factory, owned by Hong Kong tycoon Francis Choi, was reportedly started after rumors were spread among Han Chinese factory workers that Uyghur men working at the factory had harassed Chinese female workers. Some reports indicate the existence of rumors that Uyghur men had sexually molested Chinese female workers. These allegations remain unverified and unsubstantiated.

According to a report from the official Xinhua News Agency, a man surnamed Zhu fabricated the rape allegations to express his discontent after failing to get re-hired after quitting his job at the factory. Guangdong authorities have said they have found no evidence that ethnic Uyghur laborers had raped two Chinese women.

Reuters reported that around 400 riot police were deployed to quell the unrest among workers, some of whom reportedly fought with knives and metal pipes.

UAA is concerned that long-standing government policies discriminating against Uyghurs have perpetuated stereotypes of Uyghurs that may have given a green light to rioters acting out of anger and based on unsubstantiated allegations. UAA believes these types of policies and stereotypes likely fueled the violence that was carried out against Uyghurs at the factory during the riot.

“The perpetrators in the Shaoguan incident should be dealt with according to the law,” said Ms. Kadeer. “However, due to a lack of transparency in China, we may never know the true details of what transpired.”

Xinhua reported that the Hong Kong-invested factory had recruited 800 migrant workers (according to other reports, this number is 600) in May and June through the labor authorities of Shufu (Kona Sheher) County in East Turkestan.

It is unclear how this group of Uyghur workers was transferred to Guangdong Province. However, since 2006, Chinese government authorities have aggressively recruited Uyghurs, primarily young Uyghur women and girls, from southern areas of East Turkestan to work in factories in eastern China. Kona Sheher County, located near the city of Kashgar, is among those areas specifically targeted by the transfer policy. This area of East Turkestan has a majority-Uyghur population that has served as a stronghold for Uyghur culture and traditions. Under the transfer policy, local leaders, under intense pressure from higher-level officials, have used intimidation, deception and threats to force women to participate in the program. Many young women have reported extremely oppressive working conditions and living arrangements, as well as garnished wages, medical ailments caused by working conditions and a lack of medical treatment at the factories they are sent to.

At the same time that PRC authorities are implementing a transfer policy of young women out of East Turkestan in the name of providing economic opportunities, they are also supporting the movement of huge numbers of Han Chinese economic migrants into the region, and providing these migrants with employment, housing and healthcare.

As documented by UAA, Chinese authorities are actively seeking to recruit applicants from other areas of the PRC to work in the state sector in East Turkestan. Prominent Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti recently called upon authorities in East Turkestan to promote equal development between Han migrants and native Uyghurs in East Turkestan. Earlier this year, Tohti cited joblessness as the single greatest problem facing Uyghurs.

UAA calls on the Chinese government to conduct a thorough investigation of the Shaoguan incident and bring the perpetrators of violence to justice. UAA urges the Chinese government to compensate the families of the two Uyghurs killed and those injured in the violence. In addition, UAA calls on the Chinese government to immediately stop the transfer of young Uyghur women out of East Turkestan and allow the return of these women to their homes.

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