Chinese government must be held accountable for February 5, 1997 massacre in Ghulja

For immediate release
February 5, 2013, 12:41 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

On the sixteenth anniversary of the Ghulja Massacre, the Uyghur American Association (UAA) calls on the Chinese government to fully disclose its role in the killing of Uyghur protestors in the East Turkestan city of Ghulja on February 5, 1997. UAA also calls on Chinese authorities to release all Uyghur political prisoners convicted on charges related to the Ghulja protests and to make available all records regarding events on February 5, 1997 in Ghulja to the families of protest victims

“In the light of increasing state pressure on Uyghurs stemming from unrest in Urumchi in 2009, it is important to remember the victims of the Ghulja massacre and their families on February 5,” said UAA President Alim Seytoff. “We must remember them because it is a reminder to the international community that China’s brutal actions against Uyghurs are systemic and enduring. The Chinese state’s actions on February 5, 1997 are a crime under international law, and as a result the Chinese government should be held accountable by the international community. If China is to be a responsible leader of the community of nation states, then it should abide by its universal standards.”

On February 5, 1997, demonstrators in Ghulja [Ch: Yining] in the northwest part of East Turkestan took part in a non-violent march calling for an end to religious repression and ethnic discrimination in the city. Among the policies that sparked the demonstration was the prohibition on traditional Uyghur gatherings known as “meshrep.” Chinese authorities banned “meshrep” just prior to the demonstration, despite the fact that they had been successful in fighting alcohol and drug abuse among Uyghur young people.

Chinese security forces shot at unarmed Uyghur demonstrators. Witnesses reported that most of the ten to fifteen thousand demonstrators were young men, but women and children who were present among the crowds were among those injured and killed by fully armed paramilitary police. Authorities subsequently rounded up thousands of Uyghurs, including fleeing demonstrators, people who were suspected of participating in the demonstration, and even their family members.

The Chinese government has ignored calls from international human rights groups, including Amnesty International, to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations in Ghulja, and to address the grievances of demonstrators. Groups such as Amnesty have underscored the urgent need to address the grievances that sparked both the Ghulja protests in 1997 and the protests that took place in the regional capital of Urumchi on July 5, 2009.

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