Uyghur American Association Urges Caution on Details of June 26, 2013 Turpan Incident

For immediate Release
June 26, 2013, 3:00 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association Tel:1 (202) 478 1920

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) urges the international community to exercise caution over details of an alleged attack that occurred in Lukchun Township, Pichan County on June 26, 2013.

According to an English language Xinhua report 27 people were killed after a series of attacks on police stations, government offices and construction sites in Lukchun. Official media added the attackers wielded knives to stab people, as well as set fire to cars. The report stated nine security personnel and eight civilians were killed in the attack. Security forces killed 10 of the assailants. The Associated Press (AP) reported three people were receiving treatment for injuries and police had detained three of the attackers. AP spoke to a man in Lukchun who told a reporter that large numbers of armed security personnel, including police, anti-riot forces and paramilitary police, were patrolling the streets of the township.

“What we know about events today stems from information provided by the Chinese state media. This alone should give cause for the international community to seek more details on this incident,” said UAA President, Alim Seytoff in a statement from Washington, DC. “In order to ensure no violations of human rights have occurred a full and independent investigation is required. The three men allegedly detained should be accorded judicial procedures that meet international standards.”

The state media report did not state any reason for the attack. However, World Uyghur Congress spokesman, Dilshat Raxit told the New York Times: “This clash did not happen by chance…There have been sweeps and crackdowns in the area, leading to many Uighur men disappearing, and the authorities have refused to give information about their whereabouts.” Overseas Uyghur activists have made several unsuccessful attempts to call Pichan County since the incident indicating an information blackout in the area. In a press release, the World Uyghur Congress citing Han Chinese contacts described how house-to-house searches have begun in Pichan County. Xinhua has since taken down the report on the attacks from its English language website.

Tension in the area may have been heightened since a seven-year-old Uyghur boy named Enkerjan Ariz was hacked to death, allegedly by a 52-year-old Han Chinese. A senior police official told reporters from Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the Han Chinese had suspected three Uyghur boys of stealing from a brick kiln at which the Han Chinese was employed. The official added, “he caught one of them…The other two ran away, and the Han Chinese took the child into his home and killed him.”

The incident, reported by RFA in an article dated April 10, 2013, took place in Dighar, a village neighboring Lukchun. RFA described how Uyghur residents of Dighar retaliated against Han Chinese living near the brick kiln. The escalating tension was quelled by a 10-day crackdown imposed by security forces. Further official information was provided in a second RFA report dated April 22, 2013, which stated that an official of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee of Pichan told RFA’s Uyghur Service last week that “the [suspected] killer has a mental problem” and insisted that the murder was “not related to the ethnic issue,” pledging to resolve the case quickly.

But local Uyghurs found it difficult to believe the man had mental problems if he managed a brick factory, suspecting that the alleged mental illness was an excuse to mask ethnic hatred. RFA quoted Abdulla Nuraji, deputy chief of the state-sanctioned Islamic Association of Pichan county, who said authorities must resolve the issue of land disputes, which is ultimately responsible for the tension between Han Chinese migrants to the area and Uyghurs who have farmed there for generations.

Tensions are high across East Turkestan as the region approaches the fourth anniversary of deadly unrest in Urumchi on July 5, 2009. A number of government measures have increased the pressure on Uyghurs to curb any expression of dissent. On June 20, 2013, the Legal Daily announced the sentencing of 19 Uyghurs in Kizilsu, Aksu, Turpan and Karghilik on a number of charges, including terror linked accusations, related to information gathered, stored and disseminated electronically. UAA believes the sentences were a clear signal to Uyghurs across East Turkestan to avoid any public commemorative displays of the July 5, 2009 suppression of Uyghur protests. The sentences were preceded by government curbs on Uyghur observance of Ramadan, which starts on July 8. In previous years, Chinese officials have heavily regulated Uyghur religious belief and practice exacerbating tensions between Uyghurs and the state.

UAA is unequivocally opposed to any form of violence and condemns all violent actions. UAA urges the international community to view Chinese government accounts regarding Uyghur violent acts with caution, as government authorities consistently fail to provide evidence to substantiate their claims.