Death Stalks Persecuted Uyghurs in Dam Square


UNPO
2008-02-04

UNPO and the East Turkestan Foundation (ETF) marked the eleventh anniversary of the Gulja massacre with a vigil in front of Amsterdam’s Royal Palace on Sunday 3 February. Amid moving speeches and energetic drumming, Uyghurs sought to raise awareness of the repression and state sponsored violence that is faced everyday in East Turkestan. As the figure of Death stalked victims of the Uyghur die-in, passers-by learned of the Uyghur plight from conversations with UNPO and ETF volunteers and the hundreds of flyers that were handed out.

Below is an article published by UNPO:

A cold and windy Dam Square formed the backdrop to an emotive vigil by UNPO and the East Turkestan Foundation on Sunday 3 February. Marking the Gulja massacre of eleven years ago, the vigil saw over fifty people brave the elements to raise awareness of those Uyghurs who died or remain detained by the Chinese authorities.

By the time the vigil has reached its close, over a thousand leaflets had been handed out and countless passers-by, young and old, had pulled aside UNPO and EFT volunteers to learn more of the situation in East Turkestan. Many were surprised and shocked by the treatment meted out to Uyghurs, in what remains an largely unknown and closed part of China.

The event received extensive media coverage, the links to which are available below:

Metro (Amsterdam) (Dutch Language - Page 14 - Requires subscription)

Turksestudent.nl

(Turkish Language)

Turksnl.net

(Turkish Language)

Yakamoz

(Turkish Language)

Note: The article below, originally published by UNPO on 2 February 2008, provides additional background information on East Turkestan, the Uyghur’s grievances, and the oppression under which they live to this day:

China’s Xinjiang Province lies in the westernmost territory of China, bordered to the west by Central Asian states and to the south by South East Asia. Within its administrative borders lie the shifting sands of the Taklamakan Desert and over its plains were traveled for centuries by the traders of the Silk Road.

Some of the roads may be asphalt now and journey times quicker but development has not been advanced in all aspects of life in Xinjiang Province. Since becoming part of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 there has been a systematic attempt by Beijing to homogenize the language, culture, and even the population to the rest of China.

Nearly fifty years of administration by China has left behind a litany of civil liberty infringements and human rights abuses. The chief target of this state sponsored intimidation has been the Uyghurs of Xinjiang. The abuses have been many and varied, and are continuing today.

The Uyghurs of Xinjiang have long been the majority group within what was East Turkestan before being incorporated into China as Xinjiang Province. Since formal incorporation however, Beijing has implemented a policy, similar to that being used in Tibet, of encouraging the immigration of Han Chinese into Xinjiang in a concerted effort to dilute the Uyghur population.

This policy has reinforced the idea of the Uyghurs as second class citizens within their own homeland. Linguistically, the Uyghur language is now taught as a second language and most university courses are now only available in Chinese. Moreover, the publications that are available in Uyghur are limited, more since an officially sanctioned destruction of books in 2002.

Against this backdrop, the avenues for Uyghur cultural expression have been repeatedly curtailed. Celebrations such as the Uyghur New Year and cultural festivals called Meshreps have been banned since 1994. Were it enacted, the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law of 1984 would provide some protection, but there is no sign that the Chinese authorities have the intention or inclination to protect protection to the Uyghur culture.

When Uyghurs have attempted to demonstrate their opposition to state policy, the state has moved efficiently and all too effectively to quash debate. The demonstration that was held on 5 February 1997 was just such an instance of Uyghurs attempting to open debate on the central government’s policy towards their culture and heritage.

What began as a nonviolent protest, terminated in a violent rout by Chinese state security forces. In the face of such intimidation, the Uyghurs once again braved the streets of Gulja to protest the violence with which their attempt to make a legitimate peaceful display of grievance was met. Once again the security forces clamped down on the marchers and the demonstration ended with demonstrators running for cover.

Over the course of the two days it is estimated that several Uyghurs met their deaths while hundreds were injured, many seriously, in the crackdown that ensued. Some of those that were detained by the security forces remain in detention, and it is believed that at least two detainees have died whilst under the custody of the Chinese state.

The exact numbers remain unclear because of the close scrutiny the Chinese authorities maintain in the region and the control that is held over what information is able to reach the wider world. However, to ensure that the events of 5 February 1997 do not go unnoticed in the eyes of the world, organizations all over Europe marked the aftermath of the Gulja demonstrations.

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