UAA expresses support for victims of Tiananmen massacre

For immediate release
June 3, 2009, 5:00 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496 

On the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989, the Uyghur American Association (UAA) expresses support for the massacre’s victims. UAA calls upon the Chinese government to acknowledge and rectify the atrocities that it carried out upon the Chinese people at Tiananmen. UAA urges the international community to continue the struggle that the Tiananmen protestors engaged in until one day everyone in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is free- free to express their beliefs, practice their religions, and live without fear of persecution.

“Twenty years after the demonstrations that took place at Tiananmen and throughout the PRC, including East Turkestan, the Chinese government has not yet answered the call of its citizens for freedom and democracy,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. “China’s current status in the international community provides it with an historic opportunity to march into democracy and show respect for the rights of its citizens. The economic development it has achieved does not justify the systematic human rights violations it continues to carry out among the Chinese, Uyghur, Tibetan and Mongolian people.”

Among the student protestors at Tiananmen in the spring of 1989 was a young Uyghur student by the name of Orkesh Dolet (widely known by his Chinese name, Wu’er Kaixi). Wu’er Kaixi, who had been studying at Beijing Normal University, confronted Premier Li Peng on national television about the need for the central government to listen to the people and their demands for political and economic change. Following the government’s violent crackdown on demonstrators, Wu’er Kaixi’s name was the second on a list of 21 most-wanted student leaders of the Tiananmen protests.

This year also marks the twelfth anniversary of the Ghulja Massacre in East Turkestan, when armed Chinese security forces used extremely brutal force to crush large-scale peaceful demonstrations carried out by local Uyghurs. Demonstrators were calling for equality, religious freedom and an end to repression by the government. Just as they did during the Tiananmen Massacre, PRC authorities deployed People's Liberation Army troops from other provinces to clamp down on peaceful Uyghur protesters in Ghulja in 1997. Also, just as with the Tiananmen massacre, the Chinese government has never provided a full and fair account of what happened in Ghulja, including an accounting of the young men, women and children who were killed and injured, both during the massacre on February 5 and in the subsequent crackdown. In addition, an unknown number of demonstrators remain in detention today because of their peaceful involvement in the Ghulja demonstrations.

Hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Uyghurs were killed or imprisoned, or disappeared, after taking part in the Ghulja demonstrations. Between ten and fifteen thousand demonstrators took part in a non-violent march in response to ever more repressive policies and practices against the majority Uyghur community in Ghulja. Following the protest and subsequent crackdown, thousands of Uyghurs were detained on suspicion of having participated, and hundreds were executed.

Twelve years on, the human rights situation for Uyghurs has not only lacked improvement, it has taken a decided turn for the worse. The Chinese government’s dictatorial policies continue to oppress both Uyghur and Han Chinese citizens. The mothers, fathers, husbands and wives of those who lost their lives at Tiananmen and in Ghulja still grieve their loss.

The Uyghur American Association calls upon the Chinese government to grant freedom to all people living in the PRC, and to bring about peace in China. On the twentieth anniversary of June 4, 1989, Uyghurs mourn together with the international community, and await the day that the Chinese government builds a foundation for peace and harmony based on equal relations with its people.