Alleged hijacking in Hotan should be viewed with extreme caution

Hotan Airport

For immediate release
June 29, 2012, 4:45 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

Official Chinese media reports of an alleged plane hijacking in Hotan by six Uyghurs should be viewed with extreme caution given the lack of available details and independent verification of Chinese sources. As a result, the Uyghur American Association (UAA) urges the international community to dismiss any allegations of an organized Uyghur terror plot stemming from this incident.

State media reported on June 29, 2012 that an attempted hijack of Tianjin Airlines flight GS 7554 bound for East Turkestan’s regional capital, Urumchi, from the southern city of Hotan was made by six Uyghurs 10 minutes into the flight. Xinjiang government spokeswoman Hou Hanmin alleged that the group used a broken crutch to break into the cockpit. The spokeswoman went onto say that the six Uyghurs were overpowered by passengers and crew.

World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilshat Raxit told AFP that “The Uighurs of Hotan believe that this story about taking hostages is a lie.” He added that the incident on the plane resulted from a fight between Han Chinese and Uyghurs over seat allocations. UAA President Alim Seytoff stated, “the fact that that Chinese authorities are accusing these six Uyghurs of using one broken crutch to carry out the hijacking of a plane should give rise to suspicions over the official version of events.”

Chinese officials regularly exploit incidents between Han Chinese and Uyghurs to evidence an alleged “terror threat” to the Chinese state. Allegations of Uyghur terrorism have received little credibility outside of officially sanctioned Chinese media. UAA is unequivocally opposed to any form of violence and condemns all violent actions; however, the Chinese government regularly makes terror allegations against Uyghurs without producing evidence to back up their claims or allowing investigators to independently verify their version of events.

The incident in Hotan follows house-to-house searches, announced on June 7, 2012, that local authorities carried out in the Gujanbagh [Chinese: Gujiangbage] neighborhood of the city and June 11 restrictions on religious clothing placed on Uyghur women in Hotan. Also in June, a raid by Chinese police on a religious school in Hotan led to the injury of 12 Uyghur children. The intensifying repression in June has reportedly escalated tensions in the city. Chinese security officials frequently conduct security crackdowns on the eve of sensitive anniversaries, and the region is due to mark the third anniversary of turbulent unrest in Urumchi on July 5.

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