The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) has released today its latest report on the enforced disappearances of Uyghurs who took part in peaceful protests in Urumchi, East Turkestan, which were brutally suppressed by the Chinese authorities on 5 July 2009. The report aims at highlighting the situation of and to seek redress for Uyghurs who disappeared in the aftermath of one of the most tragic episodes in modern East Turkestan history, resulting in hundreds of deaths leaving a mental scar attached to the Uyghurs’ homeland. This report falls against the backdrop of worldwide protests peacefully held by Uyghurs yesterday.
The report brings together all the most up-to-date information pertaining to all Uyghurs who are believed or confirmed to have disappeared after their involvement in the 5 July peaceful protests. Whilst the WUC and affiliate organisations have been able to ascertain that 23 Uyghurs have disappeared, it is feared that there could be many more as retrieving information from East Turkestan is extremely difficult due to the severe restrictions placed on modes by which one can obtain the information in addition to the climate of fear of reprisals amongst Uyghurs should they come forward resulting in their self-censorship.
China has a history of arbitrarily detaining people with legitimate dissident voices so as to shackle freedom of expression and belief, as well as a host of other fundamental international human rights laws that are at least nominally enshrined in domestic law. In the immediate wake of the 5 July peaceful protests, the Chinese authorities responded in a violent manner, which resulted in many deaths and subsequently caused ethnic unrest, shedding a dim light on the Chinese Communist Party’s misguided pride in its policies towards ethnic unity within the territory of the People’s Republic of China.
In the aftermath of the ethnic unrest, the Chinese authorities proceeded to crack down on Uyghurs’ liberty and freedoms by putting in place a ‘new strike hard campaign’, reminiscent of the previous one in the wake of the Ghulja massacre, a total internet blackout, and a systematic search for those who partook in the peaceful protests. This latest report focuses entirely on those who have since disappeared in this deplorable tactic that is routinely practised by the Chinese authorities. Its release comes as we pass the 3rd anniversary of the episode which precipitated their enforced disappearances.
The 48 page report, complete with references where possible, aims at once again bringing to the attention of the international community of both the devastating effects that the actions of the Chinese authorities had and continue to have in East Turkestan as well as the continuing enforced disappearances on Uyghurs. Furthermore, the report will stand in good stead for the international community to take stock of these abhorrent, continuing human rights violations and to bare this in mind when assessing Uyghur exiles’ asylum applications.
Extract of the Report:
On July 5th, 2009, demonstrations erupted in the streets of Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of People’s Republic of China (PRC). These demonstrations stem from anger by Uyghurs who claim they are discriminated against by Chinese authorities. The protests initially began peacefully as demonstrators called for a full investigation into an incident in Shaoguan, Southern China several days earlier in which two Uyghurs had been killed.The peaceful protests then escalated into violent attacks between Uyghurs and Han Chinese later that day, in which many Uyghurs and Han Chinese needlessly lost their lives or were left injured as a result of the ensuing violence, notwithstanding the many buildings that were destroyed.
The crisis didn’t end with the violence, continuing for several days after the initial riots whereby many men disappeared as wide-scale police sweeps stepped up. Just a few days after the eruption of violence, some Uyghur women told a Daily Telegraph reporter that police officers entered Uyghur neighborhoods during the night of 6 July in order to pull men and boys out of their beds, subsequently rounding up approximately 100 suspects.2 As of October 21, 2009, Human Rights Watch(HRW) documented 43 cases of Uyghur men who disappeared after being taken away by Chinese security forces in large-scale overnight sweeps of Uyghur neighborhoods on 6–7 July.
As reported by Radio Free Asia – Uyghur service on May 14, 2012, exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer announced about 10,000 Uyghurs have been reported missing since the July 5 incident in 2009. Sources suggest that most of the disappeared victims are believed to be taken into custody by Chinese authorities in large-scale sweep operations. These operations were carried out by the People’s Armed Police and various government authorities in different cities and provinces of Xinjiang, but mainly in Urumqi. According to HRW, most of those taken away were young Uyghur men in their 20s, but the youngest were reported to have been 12 and 14.
As of May 14, 2012, more than 30 families have come forward to Radio Free Asia – Uyghur service with their own stories of missing relatives, 19 of whom provided details and photos. The families of disappeared victims believe that their missing relatives are being detained by the Chinese authorities. In many cases, their suspicions were confirmed by fellow prison cellmates and the police. The 19 families who have communicated with Radio Free Asia are from Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, Silk Road city Kashgar and Qaraqash County in Hotan prefecture. According to the one of the residents of Hotan’s Qaraqash County, the number of disappeared victims from there alone has exceeded 200. It has also been reported that many families from Hotan and Kashgar have traveled to Urumqi after the July 5th incident in search of their relative.
As one can see after studying the profiles of these victims, there is a distinct pattern of commonalities shared among the cases of theses disappeared individuals; all but two of the victims reported are of Uyghur dissent; all victims are young males; and all but a few of them are believed to be innocent of being involved in the riots or violent attacks during the July 5th incident. Moreover, in a further common attribute, the family of each disappeared person has been tirelessly searching for them since their disappearance. Many of these affected family members have petitioned to all levels of government offices and institutions, to no avail. According to the allegations received, the Urumqi City Police Department had been assigned to investigate all cases of disappeared victims post-July 5th incident. However, the Urumqi City Police Department, along with all other government institutions, have often released false information or refused to release any at all to families with missing relatives.
In addition, government officials and police officers from all echelons have been eagerly demanding an end to any further investigations of the fate of disappeared victims by their family members and friends. In this regards, families and friends with missing loved ones have been harassed, interrogated and arrested for continuing their investigation and/or for communicating with foreign media stations such as Radio Free Asia in defiance of the state authorities.
To read the report, please see here.