VIDEO: From Systematic Assimilation to Cultural Genocide: July 5, 2009 as a turning point in China's repression of Uyghurs

For immediate release

July 6, 2020 12:10 pm EDT

Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), (646) 906-7722




The unrest in Ürümchi and subsequent violent crackdown on July 5, 2009, were a turning point for human rights conditions in East Turkistan.  

On that day, peaceful Uyghur protestors were met with live fire from Chinese security forces. In the following days, as ethnic unrest overtook the city, police forcibly disappeared Uyghurs in security sweeps of neighborhoods. In an unprecedented measure, international communications were severed, and a 10-month internet shutdown was implemented. The unrest led to a series of “strike hard” campaigns and the development of “counter-terror” legislation to stifle opposition to government policies.  

In the 11 years since the unrest, East Turkistan has deteriorated into a level of repression beyond anything observers at the time anticipated. Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party accelerated its attempts to forcibly assimilate the population, leading to mass detentions, forced labor and cultural genocide. 

Evidence the Chinese government is deliberately targeting Uyghurs in a sterilization campaign suggests Chinese government actions in the region meet the definition of genocide laid out in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, namely “Article II(d), “[i]mposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”

On July 2, UHRP and the World Uyghur Congress co-sponsored a roundtable to discuss how the events of July 5, 2009 served as a turning point in CCP policies towards the Uyghurs.

Dr. Elise Anderson, UHRP’s Senior Program Officer for Research and Advocacy, moderated the discussion. Panelists included USCIRF Commissioner and UHRP Board Chair Nury Turkel; Dr. Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s China Director; Dr. Rian Thum, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham; Dr. Adrian Zenz, Fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; and Ms. Ursula Gauthier, a journalist at L’Obs.

Event video available here.