The Chinese government’s live fire killings and enforced disappearances of Uyghurs in 2009 should have been a wake-up call for action

For immediate release
July 2, 2019 10:00 am EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

The Chinese government’s live fire killings and enforced disappearances of Uyghurs in 2009 should have been a wake-up call for action.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls on the international community to step up pressure on the Chinese government to close concentration camps for Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples.

UHRP urges concerned states and multilateral agencies not to ignore the Chinese government’s genocidal intent towards Uyghurs.

The Chinese government’s violent suppression of a peaceful protest in Urumchi on July 5, 2009 constituted grave violations of international human rights standards.

The subsequent arbitrary disappearances of Uyghurs tore apart families and communities, establishing a social environment where no Uyghur is safe from the Chinese state.  

Ten years after the 2009 unrest, the architects of these abuses have not been held to account. Uyghurs should not again be left vulnerable to unchecked Chinese state violence.

“The international community has a responsibility to protect Uyghurs from Chinese government brutality. It has been ten years since the Chinese state deployed its security forces to kill Uyghur protestors and to disappear forever Uyghurs arbitrarily taken from their homes. These victims of Chinese government violence should have received justice; however, we chose business as usual with Chinese officials accountable for egregious rights abuses,” said UHRP Director, Omer Kanat in a statement.

Mr. Kanat added: “Business as usual is no longer tenable. Uyghurs are facing an existential threat from the Chinese state. One and a half million, possibly three million, Uyghurs have been interned in camps. The erasure of our identity through political indoctrination, criminalization of religious belief, and suppression of language are conducted as Uyghur homes and places of worship are demolished. Ten years ago, Uyghurs believed Chinese government violence would be held to account. We must not ignore them again.”

On July 5, 2009, Uyghurs peacefully assembled on People’s Square in Urumchi to protest government inaction over a deadly attack on Uyghur factory workers in Shaoguan, Guangdong. Reports issued by Amnesty International and UHRP described eyewitness accounts of state security forces firing on the demonstrators. The city erupted into unrest that resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of people. 

In the aftermath, Chinese security forces conducted sweeps of Uyghur neighborhoods in the city, arbitrarily detaining Uyghur males. A report issued by Human Rights Watch in October 2009 documented large-scale sweep operations beginning July 6. Human Rights Watch’s report recorded enforced disappearances of 43 Uyghur men; however, Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, called the documented disappearances the “tip of the iceberg.”  In an article dated May 14, 2012, Radio Free Asia described how 36 Uyghur families had come forward with accounts of missing family members since the July 5, 2009 protest.

To help end the Chinese government’s severe repression of Uyghurs and close the camps, UHRP supports the U.S. Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 in the House and Senate and urges governments around the world to pass similar legislation. UHRP further urges governments to:

  • Call on China to immediately close the concentration camps in East Turkestan and release Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic peoples who are being held in secret indefinite detention.
  • Condition bilateral and multilateral agreements with China on the closure of the concentration camps and release of all those in detention.
  • Impose sanctions on the Chinese government and Party officials responsible for the ongoing crimes against humanity.
  • Impose sanctions on Chinese and international companies complicit in this crime, including the equipment and technology used in the massive archipelago of secret detention centers and the total-surveillance police-state throughout the Uyghur Region.
  • Initiate a UN Security Council agenda item regarding the largest detention of a targeted ethno-religious group since the founding of the United Nations.
  • Investigate and enforce domestic law to protect citizens and asylum seekers who are Uyghur from constant harassment, threats, coercion, and reprisals by Chinese security agencies.
  • Publicly affirm a policy of never deporting Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers to China.
  • Expedite Uyghur political asylum and refugee applications.
  • Prioritize humanitarian acceptance of stateless and at-risk Uyghur refugees currently exposed to reprisals or deportation in third countries.
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