For immediate release
December 12, 2012, 10:35 am EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) condemns the sentencing of three Uyghurs to death and one Uyghur to a life in jail in relation to alleged hijacking charges. According to official Chinese media, Musa Yusup, Ershidinkari Imin and Omer Imin were sentenced to death by the Intermediate People’s Court in Hotan after confessing to organizing, leading or participating in a terrorist group, hijacking an aircraft, and attempting to detonate explosives on an aircraft. The fourth Uyghur, Alim Musa, although convicted on the same charges, was given a life sentence because he had demonstrated “a good attitude in admitting his crimes.”
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. Citing Xinhua, Associated Press reported “the men had prepared for months, hoping to divert the plane overseas or blow it up in the process. Shortly after takeoff, they rose from their seats shouting ‘religious extremist slogans’ and attacked the cockpit with pieces of a metal crutch that had been broken apart and sharpened at the ends.” Xinjiang government spokeswoman Hou Hanmin, claimed the six Uyghurs were overpowered by passengers and crew while attempting to ignite explosives. Two of the alleged hijackers were killed in the struggle in circumstances that have not been independently confirmed.
Regarding the incident, World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilshat Raxit told AFP in an article published on June 29, 2012 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. In addition, according to a report from China Daily on July 7, 2012, Civil Aviation Administration of China Public Security Bureau official Song Shengli stated there were no explosives discovered aboard the aircraft, nor were airport security personnel punished despite the severity of the purported incident. During UAA research, it was apparent that some international media outlets did not detail these developments in their reporting on the hijacking and sentencing.
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.
In reporting the sentencing, the Global Times, a pro-Chinese government publication, claimed that Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, the President of the World Uyghur Congress, was also the leader of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and was being “publicly sheltered by the West.” The Chinese government asserts the ETIM is responsible for violent incidents in East Turkestan despite the lack of independent evidence verifying the claim and credible doubts that the organization even exists.
“The accusations against Ms. Kadeer are farcical and should terminally damage the reliability of any Chinese government allegations made against Uyghurs,” said Alim Seytoff, President of the Uyghur American Association, in a statement from Washington, DC. “Ms. Kadeer is a respected member of the global human rights community and a pro-democracy leader. The reason the West can so publicly shelter her from the heavy hand of the Chinese government is that she peacefully works for a genuine solution to the East Turkestan issue.” Mr Seytoff added, “It is unfortunate that the Global Times should attempt to score a political point while reporting that the lives of four young Uyghurs have been tragically ruined. The poor timing illustrates that the Chinese government under the new leadership of Xi Jinping is sadly treading the same path of repression in East Turkestan taken under his predecessor.”
UAA asks the international community to pressure the Chinese government to seek an independent review of the four Uyghurs’ cases and to condemn the circumstances of the convictions. Moreover, UAA urges new Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping to respect the values embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, celebrated just one day before the sentences, and engage in a genuine and meaningful dialogue with Uyghurs to resolve the East Turkestan issue. Uyghur leaders, such as Ms. Kadeer, should be treated as equal partners and not vilified. Lastly, UAA requests international media outlets to consider the sources of information contained in Xinhua reports and to seek a balanced approach in detailing serious incidents in East Turkestan.
“It is time for the repression to end in East Turkestan.” UAA statement on Human Rights Day 2012
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