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Kashgar attacks expose deep wounds in East Turkestan
uaa
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Kashgar attacks expose deep wounds in East Turkestan
Published  08/1/2011

For immediate release

August 1, 2011, 2:45 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920

Attacks that occurred over the weekend in Kashgar, together with recent unrest in the city of Hotan, have punctuated an atmosphere of fear, repression and conflict that has permeated East Turkestan in recent months. According to media reports, the attacks took place in the southern city of Kashgar on July 30 and 31, resulting in the deaths and injuries of a number of people. Details of the attacks remain unclear, and no independent sources have confirmed the details of the incidents. The Uyghur American Association (UAA) is concerned that Uyghurs detained in connection with events in Kashgar will be subjected to torture and a lack of due process, and cautions that Uyghurs will likely be vulnerable to arbitrary detention as a massive security presence envelops the city.

UAA unequivocally opposes any form of violence. Violent incidents in East Turkestan will only serve to heighten ethnic tensions and increase the suppression of the Uyghur people. UAA mourns the loss of all victims in the attacks in Kashgar.

UAA also urges the international community to afford the utmost skepticism to Chinese government claims associating terrorism with the reported attacks in Kashgar. Chinese authorities consistently issue accounts of events involving Uyghurs in East Turkestan that are not substantiated by compelling evidence. The Chinese government follows a pattern of issuing such accounts accompanied by accusations of terrorism and charges that outside forces were to blame for orchestrating violence. It also has a record of failing to allow journalists to freely report on such incidents.

The attacks that took place in Kashgar on July 30 and 31 took place against a backdrop of heavy-handed repression of Uyghurs carried out by the Chinese government.

“Chinese officials have sown the seeds of instability in East Turkestan through the repressive measures they have enforced since the unrest of July 5, 2009”, said Uyghur American Association president Alim Seytoff. “The killings and detentions of Uyghurs carried out by Chinese security forces, and the relentless atmosphere of fear and hopelessness that has existed throughout East Turkestan since July 2009, have pushed many Uyghurs to extreme desperation. This situation serves no one in the region, be they Uyghur or Han Chinese. The Chinese government must take responsibility for creating this climate of fear, and must take steps to end its brutality against Uyghurs in order to create peace in the region.”

The Chinese government issued a “White Paper on Development and Progress in Xinjiang” in 2009, declaring that ethnic harmony in East Turkestan has made great strides, and the only factor inhibiting social harmony and economic prosperity in the region is that of “East Turkestan terrorist forces” supported by “hostile foreign forces”. The document represents Chinese officials’ failure to investigate flaws in official policies, including a reliance on brute force to maintain “stability”. Incidences of unrest, often referred to as “mass incidents” by Chinese officials, have been on the increase throughout China in recent years, but outside of East Turkestan, these events are rarely labeled as terrorist acts. 

Recent unrest in Hotan

Chinese officials provided unsubstantiated accounts regarding deadly unrest that took place in the city of Hotan on July 18. Until such time as officials in Hotan allow independent journalists and international observers to freely investigate the accounts of local residents, UAA urges the international community to view Chinese accounts of the Hotan unrest with caution. As with those Uyghurs detained in connection with events in Kashgar, UAA is concerned about the detention of Uyghurs in the wake of the unrest in Hotan. UAA urges the international community to demand a full, independent investigation into the unrest and the deaths reported to have occurred in Hotan and Kashgar.

Accounts provided by Uyghur residents of Hotan to the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) regarding July 18 events detail deadly force used by Chinese security forces against Uyghurs, and describe a peaceful demonstration that took place in a local bazaar. Uyghurs in Hotan told WUC that local Uyghurs had gathered on July 18 to protest a security clampdown in the city, arbitrary detentions and the confiscation of land. Uyghurs have also told WUC that more than 70 people have been arrested in connection with events in Hotan, and roadblocks have been implemented on all roads leading to the city.

Chinese state media has said that the incident in Hotan on July 18 was a terrorist attack orchestrated by “religious extremists”. However, as stated above, Chinese officials have frequently issued allegations of terrorist involvement in events involving Uyghurs, with little documentation and without allowing independent scrutiny of such claims.

A similar lack of transparency was exhibited by Chinese officials regarding attacks that reportedly took place between August and November 2010 in the cities of Aksu, Hotan and Kumul. In addition, while Chinese state media reported in February 2011 that the reported attacks were terrorist in nature, reports they issued in the wake of the fall 2010 attacks did not include any mention of terrorism, and only mentioned one attack that had reportedly taken place in Aksu. A lack of details and corroborating evidence necessitates skepticism regarding China’s claims about the reported attacks.

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