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Kaufman Condemns Repression of Uighurs and Clashes in Western China
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Kaufman Condemns Repression of Uighurs and Clashes in Western China
Published  07/10/2009

Statement from the Office of Senator Ted Kaufman

FOR RELEASE: July 9, 2009                   
CONTACT: Alex Snyder-Mackler (202) 224-5042
 
Kaufman Condemns Repression of Uighurs and Clashes in Western China
 
Senator speaks out against press restrictions and human rights violations in China

 
July 9, 2009
 
WASHINGTON, DC - Last night, Sen. Ted Kaufman, (D-DE) spoke out on the Chinese government's heavy-handed response to the bloody clashes between the minority Uighur community and the majority Han ethnic group in the Xinjiang Region of Western China.
 
"I am deeply concerned about ongoing tension in Xinjiang, and believe the senseless loss of life, suppression of press freedom, and violations of basic human rights is unconscionable in China, and anywhere in the world," said Sen. Kaufman on the Senate floor.  "I call on all parties to demonstrate restraint, end the violence, cease persecution of minorities, and protect fundamental human rights."
 

 
As a former four-term member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Sen. Kaufman has a deep commitment to freedom of the press and preserving the free flow of information. In this capacity, and more recently as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has closely followed China's censorship of independent journalism and use of advanced technology to jam international satellite and radio broadcasting including Voice of America and Radio Free Asia - two broadcasting entities overseen by the BBG. 
  

 
"I also call on the Chinese government to open internet and mobile phone access, end jamming of international broadcasting, and lift the grave and growing restrictions on the press," Sen. Kaufman continued. "Independent journalists have been censored for decades in China - a fact that is painfully evident as we try to understand how recent demonstrations metastasized into violence in Western China."
 

 
Full remarks, as prepared for delivery:
 

 
Mr. President, this week, bloody clashes have erupted between the minority Uighur community and the majority Han ethnic group in the Xinjiang Region of Western China.  Reports indicate that the Chinese government has responded with a heavy hand - deploying police and paramilitary troops, establishing a curfew, closing mosques, cutting-off internet and mobile phone access, and rounding-up and arresting innocent civilians.  The state-controlled media reported that at least 156 Chinese citizens have been killed, more than 1,000 have been injured, and approximately 1,400 have been arrested since the clashes began earlier this week.
 

 
I am deeply concerned about ongoing tension in Xinjiang, and believe the senseless loss of life, suppression of press freedom, and violations of basic human rights is unconscionable in China, and anywhere in the world.  Today, I call on all parties to demonstrate restraint, end the violence, cease persecution of minorities, and protect fundamental human rights.  I also call on the Chinese government to open internet and mobile phone access, end jamming of international broadcasting, and lift the grave and growing restrictions on the press.  
 

 
Independent journalists have been censored for decades in China - a fact that is painfully evident as we try to understand how recent demonstrations metastasized into violence in Western China. According to the State Department Report on Human Rights for 2009, the Chinese government has increased cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities, including the Muslim Uighurs.  It appears that as ethnic tensions rose, members of the Uighur community took to the streets, resulting in an aggressive crack-down by the Chinese security forces on Sunday.  

 
The exact circumstances by which violence transpired remains unclear, largely because the government censors such information, including the official number of casualties.  In what can only be described as "questionable," these numbers have remained stagnant in the past two days despite ongoing violence and civil unrest.
 

 
In recent years, the Chinese government has demonstrated great efficiency in monitoring the internet and restricting websites such as Facebook, My Space, Twitter, You Tube, blogs, and other outlets of information to monitor the free exchange of ideas among its people and the press.  
 

 
It has also used advanced technology to jam international satellite and radio broadcasting - including the U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.  In Xinjiang specifically, it has shut down more than 50 Uighur language internet forums, jammed Radio Free Asia's Uighur-language service, and cut-off internet and mobile phone access in the past week.  
 

 
In fact, Li Zhi, a top Communist Party official in Urumqi - the capital of Xinjiang Province - confirmed yesterday that the government cut-off internet access to the region.  Because of such limitations, the Han population now believes that the Uighurs are solely responsible for ongoing unrest, and such misperceptions have elevated the level of ethnic tension.  By creating a vacuum of information in and out of Xinjiang, the Chinese government has exacerbated the crisis.
 

 
While the casualty numbers remain uncertain, it is clear that recent developments have incurred an immeasurable human toll, including - but not limited to - the loss of innocent lives.  

 
There have been pictures of children in hospitals, who have been forced to witness violence perpetrated against their parents.  The Washington Post today reported emotional stories of women demanding the return of their missing husbands.  And the UK's Guardian reveals an image of an elderly woman on crutches standing defiantly in front of a police riot bus - an image which is eerily reminiscent of the bravery and defiance demonstrated twenty years ago in Tiananmen Square.  
 

 
These glimpses of ongoing developments stir great empathy and anger, and it is essential that the whole story be told, among the international community and also within China.  This is why I call on the Chinese government to provide unimpeded press coverage and internet access, allow journalists to report without restrictions.  I condemn the continued repression of Uighurs and violence perpetrated against all innocent civilians in China, and hope the ongoing unrest will soon be brought to an end.