To Strike The Strongest Blow: Questions Remain Over Crackdown On 2009 Unrest In Urumchi

For immediate Release
July 2, 2013, 2:45 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

A new report from the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), To Strike The Strongest Blow: Questions Remain Over Crackdown On 2009 Unrest In Urumchi, details widespread human rights violations committed by the People’s Republic of China in the wake of unrest in Urumchi on July 5, 2009.

“As the fourth anniversary of the July 2009 unrest in Urumchi approaches, it is important to remember how China conducted a systematic crackdown on the Uyghurs in Urumchi, as the pattern of repression is likely to continue in the wake of recent incidents in Lukchun and Hotan,” said Alim Seytoff, UAA President, in a statement. “In the weeks and months following the Urumchi unrest, many Uyghurs, often young and male, were arbitrarily detained by Chinese security forces. Many of them were tortured behind the walls of prisons and police stations. An alarming number of Uyghurs simply disappeared and four years on their loved ones have no information on their whereabouts or condition. The effects of these enforced disappearances have been devastating on these families. They do not even know if their sons, brothers or fathers are dead or alive.”

Mr. Seytoff added: “To Strike the Strongest Blow is accompanied with a letter addressed to the Chinese ambassador to the United States asking for a response to accusations of human rights abuses in post-July 5 Urumchi. We trust the Chinese ambassador will honor the distraught families with a considered answer.”

On July 5, 2009, in Urumchi, Uyghur men, women and children peacefully assembled in People’s Square to protest government inaction over a deadly attack on Uyghur factory workers in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province. The details of what happened that day, and over the following months, have been unclear. What is known is that the city erupted into unprecedented unrest that resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of people. 

Since July 5, 2009, Chinese officials have spared no effort to silence and intimidate Uyghur voices about the unrest, and have actively sought to suppress information that contradicts the official narrative. Besides a 10-month communications blackout, harsh punishment for Uyghur webmasters and journalists aided official efforts to manage and control information emerging from the region on the unrest.

In the past year, UHRP accessed an extensive archive of Chinese state media reports spanning the period of July 2009 to February 2010 from the Urumchi Evening News, a small proportion of which are cited in To Strike The Strongest Blow: Questions Remain Over Crackdown On 2009 Unrest In Urumchi. The archive, predominately in the Uyghur language, reveals how the Chinese media built a narrative of the unrest after the state initiated the 10-month information blockade by cutting off both telephone and Internet communication in the entire region. The archive also demonstrates how in building that narrative, the Chinese government account, especially of the post-unrest detentions, lacks sufficient clarity, a finding which should cast doubt on the state’s version of events. The report also includes interviews conducted in 2010 and 2011 with Uyghur eyewitnesses to the post-unrest security crackdown, as well as the reporting of human rights organizations and overseas media.

Four years following the unrest several questions over due process in trials and detentions, enforced disappearances and torture remain. Four years after the unrest many Uyghur families across the region do not know what happened to their relatives. This report also documents how the Chinese government heavily employed video surveillance to single out individuals who had participated in a peaceful protest for detention. Further troubling aspects of post-July 5 East Turkestan are reports of minors arbitrarily detained, tortured, sentenced or simply disappeared. This element of the Chinese government’s security crackdown puts the People’s Republic of China in contravention of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly Article 37.

The overwhelming pattern emerging from what documentation is available is lack of clarity from the Chinese government on a number of issues. It is unclear how many Uyghurs were detained, tried and forcibly disappeared. This absence of transparency is especially troubling in terms of human rights, as any process of redress cannot be initiated without accurate details. UHRP believes international pressure should be applied on China to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance and to ratify the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

The report, To Strike The Strongest Blow: Questions Remain Over Crackdown On 2009 Unrest In Urumchi, can be downloaded at: http://docs.uyghuramerican.org/to-strike-the-strongest-blow.pdf

 

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