The long arc of Chinese state repression against Uyghurs: Commemorating the 1997 Ghulja Massacre

February 5, 2018 marks the twenty-first anniversary since Chinese security forces killed unarmed Uyghur demonstrators

For immediate release

February 5, 2018 10:30 am EST

Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

On February 5, 1997, Uyghur demonstrators in Ghulja took part in a non-violent protest calling for an end to religious repression and ethnic discrimination in the city. After violently suppressing the demonstration, Chinese authorities arbitrarily detained large numbers of Uyghurs. Subsequently, human rights organizations documented a pattern of torture in detention and unfair trials of detained Uyghurs. For their alleged role in the events, several Uyghur participants were executed. Despite credible evidence describing state violence used against Uyghur civilians, the extrajudicial killings have been recast as “the beginning of active terrorism in the country.”

“The unlawful killing of protestors in Ghulja in 1997 demonstrates the longevity of Chinese government repression of Uyghurs’ fundamental human rights. Uyghur families have not received justice for the indiscriminate shooting and arbitrary detention of their loved ones twenty-one years after the events. The Ghulja Massacre is a stain on the record of Chinese Communist Party administration in East Turkestan. Without a proper accounting for the loss of life and lack of due process, there can be no resolution for these Uyghur families,” said UHRP Director, Omer Kanat in statement.

Mr. Kanat added: “The arbitrary detention of Uyghurs is ongoing, as seen in the security sweeps that followed the unrest in Urumchi in 2009 and the current round up of thousands of Uyghurs into ‘reeducation camps.’ This long-term pattern is important to consider when China denies reports of mass and indiscriminate detention of Uyghurs.”

2017 witnessed large numbers of Uyghurs sent to reeducation camps, where they are indefinitely detained and some are later sentenced to prison without trial.  According to sources cited by Radio Free Asia in a January 22, 2018 article as many as 120,000 Uyghurs are being held in ‘reeducation camps.’

Radio Free Asia’s reports have revealed the extensive nature of arbitrary detention through ‘reeducation camps.’ A December 14, 2017 article disclosed how authorities were holding nearly ten percent of residents in Kona Sheher Township in ‘reeducation camps.’ Two reports published in January 2018 detailed the overcrowded conditions in camps located in Korla and Hotan. A January 18, 2018 report described how overcrowding at a camp in Korla was causing health problems among inmates. 

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