(Xinhua) Rebiya Kadeer's separatist stories challenged by EU
lawmakers September 02, 2009.
Rebiya Kadeer, president of the so-called World
Uygur Congress, pitched her separatist stories in the European Parliament on
Tuesday, but they appeared to be unpopular among European Union (EU)
Dressed in traditional Uygur costume, Kadeer
attended a session of the European Parliament's human rights committee. She
commenced her address by accusing the Chinese government of mishandling the
bloody riot in Urumqi, capital of China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on
Speaking through an interpreter in the Uygur
language, Kadeer claimed the Uygurs had established their own independent
state before Xinjiang was liberated in 1949, referring to the autonomous
region of China as "East Turkestan" throughout her speech.
But her accusations and separatist claims
failed to convince some EU lawmakers.
Nirj Deva, a British member of the European
Parliament, said he was confused as Kadeer's personal experience ran counter
to her accusations. "How is it possible for her to become one of the richest
women in China if she has been discriminated? If her human rights were
trampled, is it possible for her to become a member of the Chinese National
Committee of the Political Consultative Conference, which is one of the
highest bodies of China's national assembly?" he asked.
Before going into exile and engaging in
separatist activities abroad, Kadeer had made a fortune with her business
empire and became a millionaire in Xinjiang. She was even listed as the eighth
richest person in mainland China by Forbes in 1995. As a business mogul, she
was elected to the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political
Consultative Conference in the 1990s.
Deva said he could not agree with Kadeer's
accusation that the Chinese government had deprived the Uygurs of the right to
learn their own language since the so-called occupation in 1949, either. "If
the Uygur language is banned, how could Kadeer speak it so fluently today?" he
said. Kadeer was born in 1951. Deva said the inability to differentiate
between fundamental human rights and separatist-related violence was a cause
Charles Tannock, another British member of the
European Parliament and a long-time critic of China's human rights record,
said Kadeer's words were unfounded as well. Instead of being discriminated
against, minority groups in China. including the Uygurs, were in fact enjoying
preferential treatment, Tannock observed.
While the Han majority could only have one
child under the family planning policy, Uygurs were allowed to have a larger
family and build thousands of mosques, the lawmaker explained. Kadeer herself
has 11 children.
"Defending the rights of minorities does not,
in my view, mean supporting violence incited by secessionists against
legitimate Chinese authority in the province and against Han Chinese people,"
Tannock said. He added that the EU was committed to the one-China policy, the
common position of all 27 EU member states, and that the European Parliament
should not support secessionist forces within China which are backed by
religious extremist groups.
In response to Tannock's comment, Heidi
Hautala, a Finnish lawmaker and chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee,
stressed that she personally did not support separatists in China. "For my own
part, the fact that Kadeer is being invited here as a representative of the
World Uygur Congress does not mean that I am a supporter of Uygur
secessionism," she concluded.
A controversial documentary about the struggles of exiled
Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer in China failed to draw a big audience despite all
the hype that preceded its broadcast. The Chinese Embassy created a buzz last month when it asked
Maori Television not to screen The 10 Conditions of Love, claiming it
But the controversy did not convert into high ratings. Attracting 63,000 viewers to watch the documentary - which
depicted the plight of the Muslim Uighur people living in Xinjiang - was
"probably a bit disappointing", said Maori TV's general manager of sales and
marketing, Sonya Haggie.
While the Chinese Government did not manage to stop the
broadcast, it was successful in having its response - Xinjiang Urumqi July
5 Riot: Truth - shown immediately after The 10 Conditions of Love. But that official version of the ethnic riots in July in
which at least 197 people were killed and more than 1600 were injured drew
only 50,000 viewers to Maori TV.
Ms Haggie said that "overall, the ratings were strong for a
Tuesday." "However, we were surprised that the two documentaries did
not attract a larger audience given the level of interest that there has
In Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth, Kadeer was
branded a terrorist and was accused of instigating and orchestrating the
riots. Ms Haggie said the station received one email which
expressed concern at the level of violence in the Chinese Government's
A senior source at Maori Television said that despite the
Chinese Embassy's request to "can" The 10 Conditions of Love, the New
Zealand Government had never pressured the station not to show it. "They have never, to my knowledge, tried to exert any
editorial control over the station at any time."
The source said the possibility of Ms Kadeer, who now lives
in the United States, seeking an audience with King Tuheitia during the recent
coronation commemorations at Ngaruawahia had been mooted. But a senior Tainui figure, whom the Herald agreed
not to name, said the meeting had never eventuated and no contact between the
exiled Muslim leader and the tribe had occurred.
15 seized over syringe attacks in Xinjiang. September 3, 2009.
Police have seized 15 people for stabbing members of the
public with hypodermic syringe needles in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur
Autonomous Region, a senior local official said Wednesday. Of the 15, four
were officially arrested and prosecuted, said Zhu Hailun, head of the
political and legal affairs commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC)
committee in Xinjiang. The court would pronounce judgment on the four in the
near future, Zhu said.
Members of nine ethnic groups including Han Chinese, Uygur,
Hui, Kazak and Mongolian had reported stabbing incidents to the police, said
Zhu. Police investigations are under way. Yin Yulin, deputy director of the
region's health department, said nobody had been infected or poisoned from
being stabbed so far.
China detains 15 for syringe attacks in Xinjiang. September 3, 2009.
Chinese police in the far western region of Xinjiang have
detained 15 people for stabbing attacks using syringes that have increased
tension between ethnic groups in the region, media and visitors to the area
said on Thursday.
State media did not say how many people had been stabbed. A
doctor in the regional capital, Urumqi, said the number may be as high as
1,000, but he could not confirm that.
Nobody had been infected with anything or poisoned by the
stabbings in Urumqi, the China Daily said on its website, citing the Xinhua
"According to eyewitness reports, on September 2 several
hundred Urumqi citizens took to the streets to rebuke the despicable conduct
of the violent perpetrators and call on the government to severely punish
offenders," the pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po said in a report.
In Xinjiang's worst ethnic violence in decades, Uighurs,
Turkic-speaking Muslim people native to the region, attacked majority Han
Chinese in Urumqi on July 5, after taking to the streets to protest against
attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in south China in June in which two
Uighurs were killed. Han Chinese in Urumqi sought revenge two days later.
It is unclear if there is an ethnic dimension to the syringe
A visitor to Urumqi, contacted by Reuters, said the
atmosphere was tense with many ethnic Han Chinese citizens blaming the
stabbings on Uighurs. Xinhua said victims came from nine
ethnicities, including both Uighurs and Han Chinese.
The Hong Kong newspaper said 400 people had been injured by
attackers who immediately fled. Most of the victims only realized they had
been stabbed after the attacker had vanished.
Xinjiang government officials were not available for
comment. One foreign visitor to the city told Reuters by telephone there was
no obvious sign of tension.
Four of the 15 detained people have been formally arrested.
Guardian) New violence breaks out in Urumqi, witnesses say.
September 3, 2009.
Witnesses today said fresh violence had erupted in the
Chinese city of Urumqi, less than two months after vicious inter-ethnic
violence killed 197 people and injured around 1,700. One source told the
Guardian that around 2,000 Han Chinese had gathered in the city centre to
demonstrate amid claims that the authorities – who flooded the city with a
20,000-strong security force following July's violence – had not protected
them from attacks by Uighurs.
The source, who is not Uighur, said some Han had assaulted
passing Uighurs, adding that a security force numbering up to around 1,000 had
gathered in the area.
However, one protester contacted by the Guardian said: "We
are here in People's Square peacefully. "We are just giving the government
some advice. There are over 10,000 people here [this number is often used
figuratively in China], but among them are many ethnic groups, not only Han.
We do this because terrorists are making some incidents to break people's
peaceful lives." A third source said Han were protesting about their personal
security, and another said there had been a smaller protest by Han yesterday.
The new unrest follows claims of syringe attacks, which
appear to have sparked new concern among residents. The government of the
autonomous Xinjiang region said it had no information about such events.
However, the state news agency Xinhua reported that police had arrested 15
people for stabbing members of the public with hypodermic needles, citing a
senior local official.
Zhu Hailun, the head of the political and legal affairs
commission of the Communist party committee in Xinjiang, said four of those
had been officially arrested and prosecuted and would face court in the near
future. Members of nine ethnic groups, including Han,Uighurs , Hui, Kazaks and
Mongolians, had reported stabbing incidents to police, Zhu said. Yin Yulin,
the deputy director of the region's health department, told the agency nobody
had so far been infected or poisoned as a result of being stabbed.
Chinese residents protested deteriorating public safety on
Thursday in the western Chinese city of Urumqi where deadly ethnic rioting in
July killed nearly 200 people, eyewitnesses said
People living near the city centre reached by telephone said
hundreds, possibly thousands of members of China’s majority Han ethnic group
had gathered downtown to denounce the regional government and deteriorating
law and order in the city of 2.5 million.
Despite official claims of calm returning, safety fears have
remained high since the July 5 riot among members of the region’s main Uighur
ethnic group who targeted Han, residents said.
Han resident Zhao Jianzhuang said he had joined a large
crowd of protesters at a downtown intersection who were being blocked by riot
police from marching on central People’s Square, less than 1 mile (1.6
He said people were pushing and shoving police and some in
the crowd had been beaten. Participants were shouting slogans including “The
government is useless,” and calling for the dismissal of the regional
Communist Party boss Wang Lequan, a noted hard-liner and ally of President Hu
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said she had no
knowledge of the protest, but told reporters at a regularly scheduled news
conference that China’s government “is competent to safeguard social stability
and national unity.”
Zhao said anger was stoked by a perceived delay in trials
for those arrested over the riot, as well as a recent spate of stabbings by
people wielding syringes in which he claimed more than 460 people had been
injured. “There are so many security forces deployed here, yet they’re
incapable of protecting us,” Zhao said.
At 13:50 or so on September 2, there was a demonstration
by the businessmen and residents of the Little West Gate area of Urumqi.
They marched in the streets for about an hour. According to what our
reporter learned from those present at the scene, the reason of the
demonstration was that the people had nabbed a suspect who was using a
syringe to stab people and took him down to the police station.
However, due to lack of evidence, the police station "had to release the
suspect." This outcome upset the people.
At 10:40 or so on September 3, there was yet another
"syringe attack" in the Little West Gate area of Urumqi. By 10:50 or
so, about 1,000 people had gathered to demonstrate again.
From 11:00 on, there were many different groups gathered
at various places in Urumqi. At around 12:00 or so, several tens of
thousands of people converged on the Autonomous Region Party Committee
office in People's Plaza, Urumqi. These people carried Chinese
national flags, and banners with words like "Defend our homes, severely
punish the rioters" and so on.
At People's Plaza, Autonomous Region Party secretary
Wang Lequan addressed the crowds. He said that the government will
severely punish the criminals involved in the 7.5 incident in Urumqi in
accordance with the law; he said that the government will severely punish
the criminals involved in the series of syringe attacks in accordance with
the law; he said that the Urumqi government has set up an investigative
team to study the compensation scheme for all the businesses that have
suffered losses due to the 7.5 incident.
Our reporter noted that during Wang Lequan's speech,
some of the marchers were emotionally excited adn even threw water bottles
at the speakers.
There were no major violent acts (such as destruction of
public property) during the demonstration march.
More than 1000 people have been
arrested in Xinjiang since riots broke out in early July. A Xinjiang
traveller filed this report on the Chinese Government's tightening grip on
"Safeguarding security and unity, loving people of
all ethnic groups" — banner on army vehicle.
In a shady patch, near the main entrance to Kashgar's Id
Kah Mosque, armed police wearing military fatigues and helmets, and
carrying riot shields, watch worshippers as they file in for prayers.
Soldiers look out from various points throughout the city and armed mobile
units circle the streets in trucks bearing red and white banners.
Hotel staff here are friendly, very friendly. Why are
you here, what is your itinerary, where have you just come from, what were
you doing there, what do you do for a living?
While the Government opened Urumqi up to journalists
just after the riots and offered them the luxury of internet access in a
city that was otherwise an information blackhole, Kasghar remains pretty
much off limits to anyone with a journalist visa. What's the difference?
In Urumqi, China's Muslim Uighurs are a minority. In Kashgar, and further
south, Uighurs make up about 90 per cent of the population.
Travelling around this southern area by road makes for
an arduous journey punctuated by frequent police checks. Posters at the
checkpoints show photos of Uighurs wanted over the July riots. Police
officers electronically check the IDs of Uighur passengers. Add in prayer
stops, and a break for the end of the daily Ramadan fast, and a nine-hour
express trip becomes a 12-hour exercise in getting on and off a bus.
Many in Xinjiang are, for now, thankful for the level of
security. Some have even questioned why the army wasn't called in sooner
to stop the July 5–7 bloodshed when at least 197 people were killed during
riots and retaliatory attacks. (Uighur groups say the death toll is much
But there are other restrictions which have not been so
welcomed. Since the riots, SMS and international calls have been cut off
and the internet restricted to a few sanitised local sites. In today's
optical-fibre-connected world, it's truly awe-inspiring to travel across a
piece of land the size of Pakistan, three times the size of France, which
has been disconnected and mostly submerged in an information blackout.
No-one seems to know when communications will be back to
normal — after China's 60th anniversary celebrations, some
speculate. Some younger people I spoke with said it's been a particularly
long and dreary summer. No Ramadan greetings from friends overseas, no
online games, chat, music or video downloads. "I need to check my exam
results, and then I'm supposed to also enrol in my next course over the
internet," one student told me. When he called his school, they had no
suggestions other than to just wait.
As fax machines make a comeback, there's an air of
resignation. This is a region and a population already used to strong
controls. For a long time, the Xinjiang regional and local governments
have had a close say in how Uighurs live their lives: where and when they
can pray and how often; if, when and how they can travel both domestically
and overseas; in what situations women can wear a headscarf; what style of
facial hair men can keep; who can become an Imam; who can and cannot
In the evening, as men recite the Koran inside a small
mosque in the old city, a Uighur man outside says that he cannot
participate because he works for the Government. His job on this evening
is to note down the names of those who attend the prayer sessions.
Outside a school, a student tells me that because he is
under 18-years-old, he is only allowed to pray once per day instead of the
usual five. Older school children who want to observe the Ramadan fast
have been given food and water by teachers, he said.
But resignation is not exactly acceptance, and among people I spoke with —
Han and Uighur — there were signs of growing frustration and resentment.
Much of this has been directed at long-serving Xinjiang
Communist Party Chief, Wang Lequan, the Government's poster-boy for
ethnic-minority management. For 15 years, Wang's restrictive policies and
frequent strike-hard campaigns targeting Uighurs have built up resentment
within the Uighur community.
Now, post-riots, Wang has also become the target of many
Han Chinese who accuse him of failing in his duty to maintain stability
Tens of thousands of mostly Han Chinese took to the
streets of Urumqi last Thursday, calling for the dismissal of several
government leaders, including Wang, after reports of syringe attacks
against residents again raised tensions.
The protesters were offered two heads — the Urumqi
Communist Party head Li Zhi, and Xinjiang's police chief Liu Yaohua were
both sacked. For those who wanted to see the end of Wang Lequan, it's a
major disappointment. But his supporters might ask: if frequent
crackdowns, heavy surveillance and re-education campaigns are not enough
to keep the peace in Xinjiang, then what is?
"Strengthen ethnic unity, oppose ethnic separatism" —
banner beneath Mao Zedong statue in downtown Kasghar.
In Beijing, following the riots, I heard many of the old
stereotypes about Uighurs reiterated, often by well educated Han Chinese.
Uighurs are hot-headed, their religion makes them violent, they don't
wash, their food is not clean, they wouldn't be called thieves if some of
Outside the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, a large television
screen showed footage of the children of exiled Uighur leader, Rebiya
Kadeer, condemning their mother and asking her to give up her separatist
activities. The Government has labelled Kadeer a separatist, and said that
she orchestrated the July unrest.
For many Chinese living outside Xinjiang, it's
convenient to digest this "truth", one which confirms that the clashes
which left almost 200 dead, had nothing to do with them or their
From the Uighur side, there is also prejudice against
Han Chinese, and a palpable resentment — they're all money-hungry, lacking
in morals, uncultured and brainwashed, they discriminate against us.
In Kashgar, where many of the post-riot arrests took
place, some wonder why the government isn't doing more to address this
"Why is no-one really asking why Uighurs hate Han
Chinese? Most people here don't want independence, they just want equality
and to be treated fairly by the rest of China," said a Uighur
businesswoman, who believes Chinese state media has reinforced a negative
view of Uighurs.
In a café, a Uighur tour guide laughed as he told me how
some Han Chinese in major cities like Shanghai would ask him which country
he was from and praise his excellent grasp of the Chinese language.
Sometimes he would play along, and pretend he was a foreigner.
Why can't students be sent on compulsory excursions to
places like Xinjiang, he asked, so they can interact with some of the
country's 56 ethnic minorities?
It's something I also wondered once back in Beijing as I
watched buses carrying thousands of university students to rehearsals for
the upcoming national day celebrations.
This was where the central Government had directed the
students' energy over the summer break, into shaking pompoms for the PRC's
60th birthday party.
"Defending the interests of migrant workers" — banner
on army vehicle.
One evening, watching television in my friendly Xinjiang
hotel, I caught part of a new drama series depicting the lives of Uighur
migrant workers who have taken up factory jobs in China's east. In this
particular episode, set in a garment factory, a Han Chinese supervisor
noticed that a young Uighur woman was having back pain. The kindly
supervisor whisked the worker away to the hospital for a check-up, and
quickly encouraged other Uighur workers to speak up about their health
I thought it was one of the more interesting pieces in
the Government's arsenal of propaganda tools, one which directly addresses
an incident which sparked the Urumqi riots. In Shaoguan, in China's east,
there was an earlier clash between Uighur and Han Chinese migrant workers
at a toy factory which left two Uighurs dead according to official
The Government says misinformation about this incident
spread over the internet and SMS and was exploited by overseas separatist
groups to fuel the events in Urumqi. Hence the current restrictions on
But rumours have always spread and there were still many
floating around when I was in Xinjiang, passed on by neighbours, friends,
or friends of friends. In the short term, it might make it more difficult
for people to organise a mass protest, but they can't keep Xinjiang
blacked out forever, can they?
As I watched television, I began to worry that this was
it, that this was the Government's answer to the bloodshed. Close the
hatches, plaster the towns in slogans and soldiers, put out a politically
correct television show and assume that people will suddenly change their
Of course, it's not that simple, and no doubt there are
all kinds of political manoeuvring taking place behind the scenes.
One person I spoke with said that at least now the
central Government knows it can't just ignore the problems in Xinjiang.
But that's assuming it has been ignoring them all this time. In
truth, the top leadership has been complicit in the local government's
hardline approach — there's a lot at stake in Xinjiang, including a
wealth of natural resources and a border shared with eight countries
including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
So, maybe they will put some more money towards
improving Uighur education and work opportunities. Perhaps they will
encourage more Han Chinese to visit Kasghar and its tourist-friendly
reconstructed old city. They might even begin tolerance campaigns in
factories which take in both Han and Uighur workers. But they'll never
scale-back the overall level of control, or the restrictive policies and
web of surveillance and security that underpin it.
Central University of Nationalities (in Beijing) Uighur
associate professor Ilham pointed out that the 7.5 incident had been
violently suppressed and Xinjiang is now under high-pressure policies now.
Therefore, it can be expected that the Uighurs should use methods such as
syringe attacks to take revenge. He believes that it is not enough
to use force to heal the hurt in the hearts of the Uighur people.
The Han writer Huang Zhangjin who studies the Xinjiang
problem pointed out the authorities have failed to recognize their mistake
after the 7.5 incident and continues to lock down information. "The
syringe revenge attacks have been circulated around for quite some time
and the citizens are scared. They wouldn't allow this to be reported
until after the attacks exploded. How can this satisfy the anger of
the citizens?" Huang Zhangjin believes that in order to calm down
the tense situation in Xinjiang now, the best thing is to relief Wang
Lequan from his job. "The mistakes in the ethnic policies may not
have been created by him, but only he can be the scapegoat that can
relieve the angers of the Uighurs and the Hans and bring them down the
road to reconciliation."
Times) Urumqi imposes rules to ban
unlicensed demonstrations September 04, 2009.
Authorities in Urumqi City have banned unlicensed
marches, demonstrations and mass protests, a municipal government
spokesman confirmed Friday. The announcement was publicized by the city
government Thursday night, shortly after tens of thousands of people took
to streets during the daytime to protest against syringe attacks in the
city, said the spokesman. "The leaflet is meant to safeguard public order,
and protect the lives of the public and guarantee property safety," said
The five-article announcement bans all gatherings,
marches or protests on roads or other public venues in the open-air
without having first obtained permits from the public security department.
Also banned are weapons, knives with restricted uses, and explosives, or
use of violence, and disturbances at such events, said the spokesman.
In case of violations, the public security department
will disperse those gathered, and detain those who disobey the order. Acts
violating the administration of public security will be penalized, while
criminal responsibility will be pursued for those suspected of having
committed crimes in those gatherings, according to the announcement.
Police said that attacks with syringes against innocent
people have been carried out in Urumqi since Aug. 17. The regional health
department said 476 people have sought treatment for stabbing as of midday
Wednesday, of whom 89 were showing obvious signs of needle injuries. As of
Wednesday, there had been no deaths reported and no symptoms have been
found of infectious disease viruses or toxic chemicals.
Police had seized 21 suspects, of whom six are in
custody and four have been arrested for criminal prosecution, said the
regional information office in a mobile phone text message to the public
Thursday. It also said that the court would hand down severe punishments
to those found guilty.
The attacks came less than two months after the July 5
when 197 people, mostly from the Han ethnic group, were killed, and 1,600
Tens of thousands of Han Chinese protested in the Xinjiang
capital Urumqi yesterday to demand the resignation of the region's top
Communist Party boss for failing to protect their safety as reports of
mysterious syringe attacks triggered fear among city residents.
In the biggest rally since ethnic rioting in July,
protesters waved home-made banners and shouted slogans as they marched in the
streets before gathering at a square outside the government headquarters,
several participants and witnesses said.
Police and armed officers were deployed, especially in Uygur-populated
districts. Xinhua late last night put the number of protesters at tens of
"Among the slogans that we shouted, the loudest was, 'Wang
Lequan step down,'" a protester who only gave his surname, Ma, said in a
reference to the party boss. "I didn't know there would be a protest, but when
I saw them, I decided to join them. We are very disappointed that the
government can't protect our safety."
The protest was triggered by mysterious syringe attacks on
the public by a group whose identity has not been disclosed.
Xinjiang Television reported that by noon on Wednesday,
hospitals across Urumqi had reported treating 476 people, the victims of
attacks by hypodermic needles. Of these, 433 were Han Chinese, 19 Uygurs and
the remainder from other ethnic groups.
Zhu Hailun , head of the party's political and legal affairs
commission in the region, said none of the needles were contaminated by
infectious disease or poisoned by chemicals.
But many residents, including Ma, the protester, said they
were not convinced by the government's accounts of the number of victims.
The Xinjiang government first alerted the public about
attackers using hypodermic needles by sending out mobile-phone text messages
But as more reports of attacks emerged, and with access to
information still limited because the internet remains shut down after the
July riots and phone text messaging is still unavailable to the public,
residents started to panic and staged a smaller protest on Wednesday.
Last night, Xinhua said 21 suspects had been detained for
the syringe attacks, without identifying their ethnicity, and said the attacks
Six have been officially arrested and four charged.
But instead of calming fears, the announcement led to
increased speculation. In the absence of a credible source of independent
information, the public had to choose between believing state media and
Ma said: "We don't have any other access to information
apart from text messages and state media reports. But the government is not
telling us all the truth; they are misleading us. We don't believe only 476
people were attacked - I heard there were at least 800."
Yesterday's march was largely peaceful, with protesters
waving banners carrying phrases such as "Severely punish criminals" and "We
want stability", and shouting slogans. But Ma said that at one point he saw
some protesters badly beat up a Uygur man they believed had just attacked a
pedestrian with a hypodermic needle.
Xinhua reported that Wang and the Urumqi party secretary, Li
Zhi , went to the scene and called for calm.
Han Chinese unrest tests security troops' mettle By Lucy Hornby.
September 4, 2009.
Unrest in Urumqi, the capital of China's frontier Xinjiang
region, is testing Chinese security forces as Han Chinese demonstrators impugn
their loyalty, two months after deadly ethnic rioting on July 5.
On Saturday, the city center was once again under heavy
security and roads were blocked to cars after three days of protests this
week. Troops used tear gas on two occasions on Friday to stop the crowds,
after five people died in demonstrations on Thursday when crowds called for
the regional party secretary to resign for not ensuring better security after
a spate of syringe attacks.
Han Chinese seeking to break into Uighur neighborhoods or
march on government offices called security forces "traitors" and "turncoats"
for blocking their way, with older men often making emotional appeals directly
to police and paramilitary troops to let them through.
The unrest this week in Urumqi is unusual in that it is a
sustained challenge by the Han Chinese who make up the majority of China's
Security forces have been patrolling Uighur neighborhoods
since July, and occupied Tibetan areas for months in a show of force after
demonstrations against Chinese rule in March 2008.
"When they curse us, we feel wronged and heartbroken," a
plainclothes military cameraman said on Friday. "We are also here to protect
the people. Still, they ask why we are suppressing them when we didn't protect
them on July 5."
Four paramilitary armored vehicles were removed from one
intersection after Han Chinese crowds vociferously complained, but troops and
police broke up crowds wherever they coalesced.
On Thursday, crowds severely beat a Uighur man they accused
of syringe attacks, and then attacked the ambulance that had tried to extract
him from the crowd. It is not known whether any of Thursday's casualties died
in that incident.
Some of the units blockading roads in Urumqi, a city where
most of the population is Han Chinese, used bullhorns to plead with the crowds
for their understanding. "We understand and sympathize with you, but please
cooperate in maintaining order and security in the city," one group announced
to a crowd attempting to march to People's Square, site of the regional
Most of the 197 people killed when Uighurs, a Muslim people
with cultural ties to Central Asia, rioted on July 5 were Han Chinese. Han
Chinese launched revenge attacks on Uighur neighborhoods two days later.
Uighurs in Urumqi complained of harassment by police and
civilians alike, saying they are subject to regular harassment and have to
carry additional identity cards. "Look at how the security forces are allowing
the Chinese to protest. If a Uighur does anything at all, any Chinese citizen
can call the police," said a Uighur man, Ali, who said he had been detained
for 48 hours in late July. In the Uighur neighborhoods behind the barricades,
patrol groups stood watch with fixed bayonets.
Han Chinese complained about the security measures. "On July
5, the Uighurs were allowed to rampage as they liked, but troops intervened
with us before we were even allowed to do anything. They should at least let
you kill someone and then arrest you," said a Chinese shopkeeper surnamed Du.
Guardian) Chinese police use teargas to break up deadly protests
in Urumqi By Tania Branigan. September 5, 2009.
Five people have been killed and 14 injured in protests in
Urumqi, state media said tonight, after thousands of Han Chinese took to the
streets for a third day of demonstrations. They claimed officials had not
protected them from syringe attacks and had failed to tackle the perpetrators
of earlier violence. The announcement from the state news agency Xinhua came
shortly after the public security minister, Meng Jianzhu, blamed separatists
for the reported assaults with hypodermic needles, as he arrived in the
capital of China's restive north-western region of Xinjiang "to direct work to
defuse ongoing unrest".
Security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters as they
marched towards government offices again today, Xinhua reported. Yesterday
tens of thousands of demonstrators demanded the resignation of the region's
hardline Communist party chief, Wang Lequan.
News of the deaths underscores the seething distrust which
remains between Uighurs and Han in Urumqi two months after the region's worst
communal violence in decades. The unrest is particularly alarming to
authorities as they prepare to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Communist
party rule in China on 1 October.
Zhang Hong, the city's deputy mayor, offered no details of
the dead and injured. Witnesses reported attacks by Han on Uighurs, with one
describing how police intervened to rescue a man. Han in the city blame
Uighurs for the syringe attacks, though as yet there is no information on who
was responsible. China has previously experienced unfounded rumours of Aids
patients attacking people with hypodermic needles.
Meng alleged the syringe attacks were "premeditated … and
instigated by ethnic separatist forces" in a continuation of the 5 July riots.
He did not offer evidence for the allegation. Xinhua
said that 531 people had reported syringe attacks to hospitals since
mid-August, with 106 showing "obvious signs of needle attacks", but added that
no infections or poisoning had resulted. It said police had seized 21 suspects
and four would face trial. The minister also pledged to speed up the process
of dealing with those detained over the earlier riots and severely punish the
murderers, in answer to the demonstrators' complaints of a sluggish response
by officials. But he added that those involved in violence, disorder or the
undermining of ethnic unity would be punished whatever their ethnicity.
More than 200 people were killed and 1,700 injured in
vicious inter-ethnic violence in July, with most dying in murderous attacks on
Han Chinese. Those were followed days later by revenge attacks on Uighurs.
China has accused the exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer of orchestrating the
riots, but she denies the claim and alleges authorities cracked down brutally
on people protesting peacefully against the earlier killings of two Uighurs in
Reuters said an angry Han crowd confronted anti-riot police,
stopping them from entering a Uighur neighbourhood this morning. "They have no
right to block off the road like this. These Uighurs have been stabbing us
with needles," one of the men said. "We need to take care of the problem."
Another resident told Associated Press: "These people making trouble, we catch
one, we kill one."
A Uighur woman, Arwa Quli, complained: "There have been many
Uighurs beaten up … if you just brush against someone, they might think that
you tried to stab them."
Loudspeaker vans toured the city ordering crowds to disperse
and "think of the nation". But one Han Chinese man, Ji Xiaolong, told
Associated Press: "They should be catching the terrorists, not harassing the
people … I have to wonder if [the Chinese president] Hu Jintao really knows
what is going on here."
Xinhua said last night that 196 suspects had been charged
over the July riots and 51 faced trials. But a Han shop owner told Reuters: "I
think the government has been way too lax towards the Uighurs." Muslim Uighurs
make up almost half of Xinjiang's population of 23 million. Many chafe at
growing Han immigration and controls on their religion, and a small number
Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress,
told Reuters: "The Chinese have never been told to respect the Uighur people.
Uighurs have no feeling of security, not even at home."
The Associated Press said that armed police had seized video
and cameras from their staff, and three Hong Kong journalists said in a
statement released by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China that they had
been punched, kicked and beaten with batons while running away to escape
teargas, and then detained.
Five people have died in the massive protests against
syringe attacks in the restive Xinjiang city of Urumqi, an official said last
Xinhua quoted the city's vice-mayor, Zhang Hong, as saying:
"On Thursday, 14 people were injured and sent to hospital and five people were
killed in the incidents, including two "innocent people", later defined as
members of the public. He gave no further breakdown of who the dead were. The
vice-mayor was speaking after Beijing said for the first time yesterday that
the syringe attacks were instigated by "ethnic separatist forces". Thousands
of Han Chinese continued to protest yesterday despite a massive police show of
force. Beijing had not previously identified those responsible for the attacks
or said whether they were ethnically motivated.
The public security minister, who has arrived in Urumqi to
take charge of the situation, said the attacks were premeditated, a
continuation of the July 5 ethnic violence between Han Chinese and Uygurs, and
aimed at undermining ethnic unity. The authorities say nearly 200 died in
July. The protesters, angered by the lack of security, after the syringe
stabbings took to the streets for a second day, although in smaller numbers
compared with the protest on Thursday, when tens of thousands rallied and
called for the resignation of the region's communist leader Wang Lequan .
Police used tear gas and public appeals to break up the crowds as some Han
tried to break into Uygur-populated districts. There was no ethnic violence,
but the atmosphere was tense.
Three Hong Kong TV journalists covering the protest were
detained, handcuffed and roughed up by armed police yesterday.
TVB senior reporter Lam Tsz-ho, his cameraman
Lau Wing-chuan and Now TV cameraman Lam Chun-wai were tied up and detained by
police for hours before being released. They all had valid credentials for
reporting on the mainland. The incident was widely condemned in Hong Kong.
Last night, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said he was deeply concerned
about the incident and promised to look into it. Both TVB and Now TV protested
over the arrests. All five journalists' associations in Hong Kong expressed
deep concern. A female employee at the Urumqi media centre said the Hong Kong
reporters were detained because they had entered police-restricted areas, but
said they would ask the officers to refrain from using violence. "We will
communicate with the armed police and ask them to be more civilised with
reporters," she said. The rough handling of Hong Kong reporters also raised
questions over whether the Xinjiang authorities had changed their media
policy. When ethnic riots broke out in Urumqi two months ago, overseas media
were allowed to cover the incident largely without harassment. This policy won
praise from around the world.
The protests over the past two days have been essentially
peaceful. But social unrest of such a scale taking place less than a month
before the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic is a huge
worry for Beijing.
Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu arrived in Urumqi
yesterday to take in charge of the situation. He called on the local
authorities to restore social order as soon as possible.
Meng, who is also a state councillor, said the attacks were
premeditated and a continuation of the July 5 ethnic violence that pitted the
city's Han Chinese against Muslim Uygurs. He said the purpose of these attacks
was to undermine ethnic unity. He vowed to hunt down those responsible for the
attacks and restore order. But on the streets, few seemed to be impressed by
the authorities' show of force.
Xinhua last night said the syringe attacks had continued
despite a dozen people being arrested. So far, 513 people have been stabbed.
Most of the victims are Han but some are Uygurs and from other ethnic
minorities. The authorities tried to play down the attacks and said no one had
been poisoned or infected with disease.
Thousands continued to gather in downtown Urumqi yesterday,
shouting slogans demanding severe punishment for the syringe attackers and the
restoration of law and order. "People are afraid to go to work and children
dare not to go to school. We've heard that some of the syringes are filled
with sulphuric acid. What if we were stabbed in the eyes and go blind? Who
will be responsible for that," one protester asked.
The crowds also demanded the resignation of Wang, party
chief of the Xinjiang autonomous region since 1994. They said he had failed in
his job and could not provide protection to the city's people.
The authorities have arrested 21 suspects, but many victims,
including Han and Uygur, said those who had attacked them were mostly young
Uygurs. Witnesses said two Uygurs were caught stabbing innocent passersby with
needles. The angry crowd turned on them for revenge. The two were saved after
police intervened and separated them from the crowd.
In the afternoon, more than 1,000 Han protesters tried to
break into Nanhu Square - a Uygur-populated area - apparently seeking revenge.
They were blocked by armed police, and the two sides scuffled briefly. Some
Han protesters were taken away by police.
The government did not disclose the number of casualties,
although the clashes appeared to be mild. But footage from China Central
Television's evening news showed that some police officers had been injured.
Hong Kong television footage also showed that some members of the public had
suffered suspected rubber bullet wounds.
Downturn Urumqi was virtually under military lockdown, with
helicopters hovering and armed vehicles patrolling. Most schools and offices
were closed, a local resident said.
The latest unrest was triggered by reports that only a dozen
suspects had been arrested despite the official tally of victims of the
syringe attacks reaching 513. Of those, 106 showed obvious signs of needle
Xinhua said residents had begun stockpiling food.
Daily) Protesters jostle cops in Urumqi September 5,
Urumqi residents on Friday confronted armed police
during protests against more hypodermic syringe attacks as city officials
said five people had died in Thursday's protests. Meanwhile, 14 others
were injured and hospitalized in the massive protests on Thursday against
the syringe attacks, the city's executive deputy mayor Zhang Hong said on
Friday. Among the five dead, two had been confirmed as innocent civilians,
while police are trying to identify the rest, Zhang said.
Zhang said investigation had showed that the syringe
attackers were from the Uygur ethnic group while those who were attacked
included people of Han and other ethnic groups. He also said no one died
on Friday. More than 1,000 protesters faced policemen who blocked them
from entering Nanhu Square in the center of the city around 1:40 pm on
Witnesses said two members of the Uygur ethnic minority
were caught attacking people with syringes near a Carrefour supermarket on
Friday and the victims sought revenge. But policemen sequestered the two
suspects, which triggered angry responses from the public. That prompted
the police to fire tear-gas shells to disperse the crowd.
Officials have appealed to people to keep away from the
streets and not to repeat Thursday's incidents.
Another group of more than 100 youths marched on
Jiefangnan Road around the city's bustling commercial area around 2:30 pm.
About 100 armed policemen with shields moved along with the protesters.
All shops, banks and commercial facilities along the
street were closed. A number of other smaller confrontations were reported
as helicopters hovered over the city for the second time since the July 5
riots that left 197 people dead.
China's Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu reached
Urumqi on Friday to direct the work of defusing the unrest. Meng urged the
local governments and the committees of the Communist Party of China at
all levels "to restore social order as soon as possible". "Maintaining
stability is the central task of overriding importance in the Xinjiang
Uygur autonomous region at the present time," he said at a meeting with
local officials upon his arrival. Meng warned that "those who were
involved in the violence of beating, smashing, looting and burning, and
those who broke social orders with different means or who undermine ethnic
unity, shall be punished according to the law without exception, whatever
his ethnicity is".
The municipal government said it had issued an order
banning unlicensed marches, demonstrations and mass protests.
Police officers said 531 victims of syringe stabbings
had been admitted to 24 hospitals. The victims include members of Han,
Uygur and Kazak ethnic groups.
Ethnic groups united in hostility towards leaders By Kathrin Hille.
September 5, 2009.
The government in Xinjiang has been caught off guard by the
anger it faces from its own people.
For decades its rulers brought in millions of people from
China's Han ethnic majority to colonise the ethnically diverse far western
region. They kept a wary eye on the Uighurs, the biggest local ethnic group,
as the main security risk. But since Wednesday it has been Han marching in the
streets of Urumqi, the regional capital, calling for Wang Lequan, Xinjiang's
Communist party secretary, to step down.
The protesters' wrath was triggered by fear over reported
syringe stabbing attacks that most attributed to the Uighurs. But the
unfolding complaints reflect broader dissatisfaction across ethnic boundaries.
"The central government may have put the economy first for the past 30 years
but, in Xinjiang, stability has always been first and the economy is a distant
second," says a Han resident of Korla, a city in the region's south. The
35-year-old resident asked not to be identified for fear of government
retribution. "We shouldn't be surprised that the Uighurs are making trouble.
Even many Han are dissatisfied."
Xinjiang is different from other Chinese provinces where the
leaders rotate every few years. Mr Wang has held senior positions there since
1991 and headed the regional party committee for 15 years. One popular joke in
Xinjiang is that while highway railings elsewhere need poles every three
metres, Xinjiang needs one every metre, "because Wang Lequan's family produces
them". While his administration is determined to force rapid economic
development, its approach has created a yawning income gap.
Until the mid-1990s, oil and gas exploration in Xinjiang was
concentrated in the northern half of the region. But over the past decade
PetroChina and other state-owned companies have begun to explore finds in the
Taklamakan desert of southern Xinjiang.
In official propaganda, this benefits everyone. "Our
strategy is to develop Xinjiang with large state-owned enterprises to make
sure the development happens fast and on a large scale," explains a
documentary on Xinjiang television. "Thus we are creating new job
opportunities, and we are raising incomes fast." But in reality most Uighurs
are missing out, as the oil companies in Xinjiang prefer employing Hans, who
speak Mandarin and are often more likely to bring technical skills than local
Uighur farmers. The wider public in Xinjiang shows discontent with rapid
development as well. "They take our gas but they are giving nothing back," is
the most frequently heard complaint.
In general, tax revenues paid by a local branch of a central
government-owned state enterprise should be split between the local and
central governments. But for the natural gas PetroChina sends through its
pipelines, tax is paid at the other end, where it emerges in Shanghai. That is
where the subsidiary running the pipeline is registered, according to a 2005
notice from the State Administration of Taxation. Queries about Petro-China's
local tax payments were not answered by the Xinjiang government or the
In Xinjiang, natural gas is in short supply. In Aksu, midway
between Urumqi and Kashgar, buses, taxis and cars queue for half a kilometre
at a natural gas station almost every day. Petrol and gas prices in the region
are among the highest in China. And homes in much of Xinjiang burn coal or
wood for heating because most of the natural gas is sold to other provinces.
Xinjiang's economy has been growing fast despite such
bottlenecks. Gross domestic product has risen at 11 to 15 per cent a year over
the past five years.
In Korla, where most oil companies set up their regional
headquarters for Taklamakan exploration, gleaming black Porsches and BMWs
congregate every night as oil engineers and other affluent migrants from other
provinces enjoy the fruits of this boom. Many feel left behind. A 35-year-old
man complains that the rent he pays for the shop floor where he sells cheap
accessories is more than 10 times that charged in a commercial area in Yiwu, a
bustling coastal trading hub. "If this doesn't get better soon, I'll leave
Xinjiang," he says.
Five people have been killed and 14 injured in the latest
bout of protests in this ethnically divided city, an official said Friday, as
security forces moved in to contain mounting anger among Han Chinese who
accuse the government of failing to protect them. The authorities' inability
to quell public anger here despite two months of intensive security and
propaganda efforts following July riots reflected the depth of China's ethnic
problems, and revealed the potential for discontent to boil over.
The casualties came Thursday during antigovernment
demonstrations by thousands of Han Chinese, according to Zhang Hong, the
executive vice mayor of Urumqi. Two of the dead were "innocent" bystanders and
authorities are looking into the circumstances of the other deaths, Mr. Zhang
said. On Friday, smaller numbers of Han protestors continued to skirmish with
police, who responded in some cases with salvos of tear gas. Witnesses said
police dispersed a small crowd that gathered in front of the regional
Communist Party headquarters. Thousands of police in riot gear, many armed
with assault rifles, manned barricades in the center of Urumqi Friday. Armored
personnel carriers guarded a main road and a helicopter hovered overhead.
Enraged Han Chinese say security forces have failed to
guarantee their safety since ethnic violence killed nearly 200 people in the
northwestern city in July. Demonstrators have called for the ouster of the top
Communist Party official in the vast, strategically important Xinjiang region.
The trigger of this week's protests appeared to be a spate
of stabbings in Urumqi by assailants armed with syringes. Han residents have
blamed the attacks on Uighurs, and rumors have spread that they are an effort
to infect Han Chinese with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Mr. Zhang said 21
people have been detained by police as suspects in those attacks. The
government says more than 470 people have sought medical attention for
suspected syringe stabbings; doctors were able to find obvious wounds in 89 of
The depth of Han Chinese animosity toward the ruling
Communist Party, and the chasm that has grown between the majority Han and the
predominantly Muslim Uighurs with whom they live in this part of the country,
pose a major challenge for China's leaders. Underlining the seriousness of the
situation, Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu arrived in Urumqi and urged
local officials to "restore social order as soon as possible," according to
the state-run Xinhua news agency. Mr. Meng blamed the syringe attacks on
"ethnic separatist forces."
By Friday evening, downtown streets, closed to traffic,
appeared largely calm. Some groups of Han Chinese, the country's majority
ethnic group, gathered on sidewalks and streets and complained angrily about
what they say was the weakness of the government's response to the July
unrest, in which rioting Uighurs attacked Han people, and revenge attacks by
Hans followed. "We don't trust Uighur people any more, and we've lost
confidence in the government," said a 54-year-old Han woman. "The government's
security is useless," she said.
People on the street stopped to offer their views and
castigate foreign reporters for, in their view, siding with Uighurs. "Uighur
people are evil. They are terrorists," said a Han woman who was joined by a
group of other people who angrily denounced the U.S. for what they said was
its support of exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer. China has blamed Ms. Kadeer,
who lives in the U.S., for instigating the July unrest. She rejects the
As a police truck equipped with loudspeakers called on
residents to disperse, one group of mostly young Han men listened as one of
their number said: "We don't need the police, we can protect ourselves."
Some in the Uighur community said they fear the protests
could morph into attacks on Uighurs. "A lot of people want to leave because
they are worried about their safety," said a Uighur small-business owner.
Others say Urumqi has become much more polarized since the July riots. "It's
rare to see Han Chinese in this neighborhood these days," said a Uighur
butcher whose shop is in the center of a Uighur shopping area.
Police ringed Uighur neighborhoods downtown in an effort to
prevent more violence. Thursday's protests, which Xinhua said involved tens of
thousands of people in multiple parts of the city, appeared largely aimed at
Xinjiang Communist Party chief Wang Lequan, a member of the party's ruling
Politburo. Demonstrators shouted "Down with Wang Lequan," a remarkable show of
defiance -- especially in a city already under heavy security after July's
riots -- in the run-up to the politically sensitive 60th anniversary of the
Communist Party's takeover of China on Oct. 1.
Urumqi party chief, Xinjiang police chief sacked. 2009.09.06
The party chief of Urumqi and police chief of northwest
China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region were removed from their posts
Saturday. The removal came after the July 5 riot in Urumqi which left
197 people dead and following syringe attacks in the city that caused panic
among the public.
Li Zhi, 59, secretary of the Urumqi Municipal Committee of
the Communist Party of China (CPC), was replaced by Zhu Hailun, 51,
secretary of the CPC Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Political and Legislative
Affairs Committee, according to a decision by the CPC Xinjiang Autonomous
Regional Committee and approved by the CPC Central Committee. Li was
appointed the Urumqi party chief in November, 2006. Also on Saturday,
Xinjiang's police chief Liu Yaohua was replaced by Zhu Changjie, party chief
of Xinjiang's Aksu Prefecture.
Fresh protests broke out this week after hundreds of
Urumqi residents reported that they were stabbed by syringes. Five people
were dead and at least 14 people hospitalized over injuries in the protests.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the
syringe attacks and demand security guarantees. By Thursday, local hospitals
had dealt with 531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings, 106 of whom
showed obvious signs of needle attacks.
Chinese military medical experts on Saturday ruled out the
possibility that radioactive substance, anthrax and toxic chemical were used
in recent syringe attacks in Urumqi City. "According to the preliminary test
results, such possibilities can be ruled out," said Qian Jun, director of
Disease Control and Biological Security Office with China's Academy of
Military Medical Sciences. Qian said he, along with
other five medical experts from the military, had examined medical records
of more than 200 victims since Friday. Samples had been sent to Beijing for
further test, Qian added.
Xinjiang police has captured 25 suspects amid the syringe
scare, of whom seven are in police custody, four were arrested and four
others were referred for criminal prosecution. Four suspects, three men and
one woman, have been prosecuted for endangering public security, said Wutkur
Abdurahman, procurator general of the city's procuratorate Saturday. The
four, all from the Uygur ethnic group, were involved in three cases.
Two suspects threatened a taxi driver with a syringe and
robbed him, one suspect allegedly inserted a pin into a woman's buttock at a
roadside fruit stall, and the other injured police when resisting arrest
with a syringe that contained drug.
The party boss of Urumqi and the city's police chief were
sacked yesterday after days of mass protests in the restive region.
Xinhua announced last night that Communist Party chief Li Zhi
had been removed along with the top police official in Xinjiang , Liu Yaohua
. Li was replaced by Zhu Hailun , a top Xinjiang party official, while Liu
was replaced by Zhu Changjie , party chief of Xinjiang's Aksu prefecture.
But at a press conference the agency and propaganda officials refused to
comment on why they had been replaced, saying Li was removed "due to work
The sackings come in the wake of mass protests by mostly
ethnic Han Chinese that have left five people dead. Since Wednesday, angry
people have taken to the streets demanding the government stop a number of
mysterious syringe attacks. These have come just two months after riots by
the city's Muslim Uygurs left nearly 200 people dead, mostly Han.
While an uneasy calm returned to the city yesterday,
security remained tight - police stopped any gatherings and armed vehicles
were out in Uygur-populated areas to keep the two ethnic groups apart. But
the needle attacks continued. On a busy downtown street, a Han boy was
attacked by three Uygurs, and stabbed in the stomach. Twenty-five people
have been arrested for stabbing attacks, most of them Uygurs. Officials said
four people would be formally charged.
There were no big riots yesterday but some protesters
gathered outside the government office. Cable TV said police had fired tear
gas to disperse crowds in a couple of incidents. Police said on Friday that
at least five people had been killed in the protest on Thursday. Local
hospitals had dealt with 531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings.
Authorities said it was not clear if victims of the
stabbings would face health problems. Speaking at a press conference, a PLA
medical team said 22 samples from victims had been sent to Beijing for
further tests. However, Urumqi city prosecutor Udgar Abdulrahman said a
Uygur man assaulted police with a syringe containing heroin. Residents said
pharmacies had been banned from selling syringes to the public.
Calm returns to China's Urumqi after officials sacked. By Lucy Hornby.
September 5, 2009.
Residents of China's far western city of Urumqi, in turmoil
over a spate of needle attacks, expressed grudging satisfaction that two high
officials were fired as the city recovered from angry protests. Elderly
residents practiced taichi in front of rows of military trucks in People's
Square, where on Thursday tens of thousands of Han Chinese gathered to call
for the resignation of provincial party secretary Wang Lizhi, saying he had
failed to ensure their security.
New information cast doubt on government warnings that
separatists wielding syringes had attacked hundreds of residents.
On Saturday, two officials -- Li Zhi, the city party
secretary, and the regional chief of police -- were sacked. The Xinhua news
agency did not give a reason, but both had been in office on July 5, when 197
people, mostly majority Han Chinese, died in deadly rioting by Uighurs, a
Turkic-speaking Muslim group native to the region. "I support this move. I
think the stability of Xinjiang should be paramount," said a Han Chinese
woman, surnamed Gao.
Han Chinese took to the streets this week in fear and anger,
saying the government had failed to prosecute the rioters and had also failed
to protect their safety, as rumors of needle attacks swirled around a city
that has been cut off from the Internet and has had limited phone access for
two months. "Li Zhi was fired. People aren't going to be satisfied with this
alone," said one food seller, who declined to give his name.
The city's procurator said four Uighurs had been indicted
for "endangering public security" in connection with the needle attacks, and
four others were to be formally arrested.
Police have detained 25 Uighurs over the attacks. Of those
indicted, two were heroin addicts who used a syringe to rob a taxi driver, and
a third addict used a syringe to fight off police trying to arrest him. The
fourth stuck a needle into a fruit seller's buttock. None of the cases, or the
charges, seemed to support government assertions that the needle attacks were
coordinated by separatists bound on fomenting unrest.
Government reports said 513 people had lodged reports of
needle attacks as of September 4, but only 106 showed any physical signs.
Doctors said 22 were being monitored for signs of infection, but dismissed as
unlikely the possibility that any would have gotten AIDS or other diseases.
Even the official Xinhua news agency acknowledged late on Saturday that "some
of those who said they had been stabbed actually suffered from mosquitoes'
stings or other psychogenic reasons."
Five people died in the protests on Thursday, and vigilante
mobs of Han Chinese had tried to break through paramilitary barricades into
Uighur neighborhoods on Friday. Troops used tear gas on Friday and Saturday to
disperse demonstrators seeking to approach the People's Square, site of the
regional government, and the city government.
Kadeer buildings loom as next Xinjiang flashpoint
By Dan Martin. September 6, 2009.
Broken glass crunched under the Uighur man's feet as he
sneaked up a dim stairwell, careful not to be seen in a building that could
become the next flashpoint in China's restive Xinjiang region. The building,
part of the Rebiya Trade Centre complex of now-exiled Uighur leader Rebiya
Kadeer, has loomed for years in this regional capital as a reminder of the
support she commands among her restive Muslim ethnic minority. But following
repeated recent ethnic unrest here, China has targeted the buildings for
demolition in an apparent bid to banish Kadeer's shadow, say local Uighurs,
who warn that such a move could spark a new round of violence.
"The Communist Party is rotten to the core," said the man,
whose name was withheld to avoid possible police reprisals. Along with many
other Uighurs, he had lived in this decrepit and now-deserted building until
an eviction notice last month. He had returned to salvage some meagre
belongings. Crouching in front of a window to hide from a heavy Chinese police
presence outside, he traced the name "Rebiya" on the dusty floor, then
abruptly wiped it away. "They are trying to erase her name entirely!" he
whispered angrily in Mandarin.
Kadeer is a former retail magnate and philanthropist who was
once China's richest woman. She was held up by the Communist Party as proof of
the success of its ethnic minorities and was even named a delegate to
parliament. But Beijing quickly turned on Kadeer after she dared to question
China's policies toward its eight million Uighurs, a central Asian,
Turkic-speaking people who have long complained of Chinese religious and
political oppression. Jailed for six years in 1999, she was then sent into
China blames Kadeer for instigating July 5 unrest in Urumqi
that left nearly 200 people dead, mostly members of the country's ethnic Han
majority. The city was seized anew in recent days by mass Han protests against
a wave of mysterious syringe attacks blamed on Uighurs. Five people died in
Reports have circulated for years about plans to demolish
Kadeer's buildings -- still topped by large Chinese characters reading "Rebiya
Trade Centre" -- and evict residents, including at least 30 of her relatives.
But the plans have been fast-tracked following the July violence, Uighurs say.
Tenants of the main Trade Centre, many of them female Uighur
merchants doing business under a women's empowerment programme launched by
Kadeer, were told to leave by September 5, a timetable delayed by this past
week's unrest. "Tenants are all moving out. Soon the building will fall," said
a Uighur security guard at the building.
Local Uighurs said the three buildings would be replaced by
an open square. "Uighurs will be very angry," an elderly Uighur man
interjected as others murmured quietly in agreement.
The Washington-based Uighur American Association revealed
the new demolition plan last month, warning it could spark a new round of
bloodletting. "Uighurs are likely to be dismayed over the destruction of the
Kadeer buildings, and UAA fears that public expression of discontent... would
be met with brutal force (by China)," it said.
Several of Kadeer's 11 children have been jailed by Chinese
authorities, including a son sentenced in 2007 after he allegedly publicly
discussed the demolition plans, the UAA has said, illustrating the issue's
extreme political sensitivity.
Urumqi government officials declined to comment on the issue
when contacted by AFP.
Kadeer's relatives, who had lived in one of the buildings,
survived on income from a restaurant there, the UAA said.
Kadeer herself issued a statement last month saying the plan to
raze the building was aimed at silencing her. "How long will the Chinese
government hold my children and grandchildren hostage in retaliation for my
human rights advocacy?" she said.
Asked how his people feel about Kadeer, the evicted Uighur
man clenched his jaw and gave an emphatic thumbs up as he led an AFP reporter
to a darkened exit of the doomed building. Wiping tears from his eyes, he
disappeared back into the gloom.
Xinjiang sends 2,100 officials to neighborhoods: official. September 6,
The regional government of northwest China's
has sent 1,500 officials and police officers to communities densely populated
by ethnic Uygurs
in wakeof a deadly riot on July 5 to help solve public disputes, said a top
regional official on Sunday.
Wang Lequan, secretary of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional
Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said the officials, mainly
from ethnic minority groups, have been sent to explain government policies and
solve disputes. "These officials have done a great deal of face-to-face
educational work in communities and maintain social orders," he said.
Wang said the regional government would continue to send
another 600 experienced senior officials -- 100 bureau level and 500 section
chief level officials -- to communities in the north part of the city, which
is heavily populated by Han people. "These officials along with officials to
be sent by the city government of Urumqi will go door to door to explain
policies and solve disputes," he said.
The move is an important "treasure" to smash the separatist
sabotage of the "three forces" of extremism, separatism and terrorism both at
home and abroad, the regional party chief said.
Wang made the remarks at a meeting for mobilizing civil
servants to go to the grassroot neighborhoods to help solve public disputes
and maintain social stability. He reviewed the unrest in Urumqi since the riot
on July 5, which left nearly 200 people dead, mostly ethnic Han people. He
said four suspects stabbed a Han woman with syringe needles in Xiaoximen
Shopping Area in Urumqi on Sept. 3, sparking mass protests that demanded
The protests left four dead and 14 others hospitalized. "The
incident has seriously affect the normal public life, and caused social
disturbance," he said.
The situation in Urumqi is on the whole stable, but it is
also fragile as demands of some residents have not been met and the sporadic
occurence of needle attacks continue to ignite sentiments, Wang said. The
control and mandatory measures, which bring inconvenience and ignite people's
sentiment, could spark mass gatherings anytime, he said.
By Friday, local health and police authorities had confirmed
531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings, 171 of whom showed bvious signs
of needle attacks. The majority of the victims are of the Han ethnic group and
the minority are from the ethnic groups including Uygur, Hui and Kazak, Wang
Medical experts have ruled out the possibility that
radioactive substances, anthrax and toxic chemicals were used in recent needle
attacks in Urumqi. He also called on local residents not to believe and spread
rumours and to express their demands through legal channels.
The social order had returned to normal in the wake of the
July 5 riot, but the enemies at home and abroad were not reconciled to ailure
and so they conducted the needle attacks to spark public panic and anger, Wang
The mass protests have affected normal life and production
in Urumqi and put to test the unity, stability and harmony that people of all
ethnic groups have been seeking and longing for for years, the official said.
Online) China warns those convicted of needle attacks may face
the death penalty September 7, 2009.
In an effort to curb renewed unrest in the restive
northwestern city of Urumqi, China has warned that anyone convicted of using
a syringe in an attack could face the death penalty.
Harsh punishment would be meted out to those found guilty
of using hypodermic needles containing harmful substances as weapons, the
It also said that 7,000 officials — described as “harmony
makers” — were being sent to the city to help to defuse tensions. The
authorities fear that public anger over the attacks could spill over into
More than 200 people died in July during days of unrest in
Urumqi between the Han Chinese and the local Uighur population. It was the
most deadly riot in China for 50 years and security in the city remains
In an attempt to defuse the situation, two top ruling
Communist Party officials were dismissed on Saturday after three days of
protests over the attacks left five people dead last week. Thousands marched
in the city on Thursday to demand better protection after a spate of
assaults involving hypodermic needles.
Residents called for further action yesterday after it
emerged that 530 people had been treated in hospital in the last few weeks
for injuries that they claimed to have sustained after being stabbed by
Officials said that some of the injuries may have been
mosquito bites. The authorities also emphasised that both Uighurs and Han
had been victims of the attacks. No one is believed to have been seriously
injured or contracted a disease from the attacks.
In one case two drug addicts, a Uighur man and woman, are
alleged to have threatened a taxi driver with a syringe before robbing him.
In another, the city prosecutor said, police were assaulted by a Uighur, 47,
with a syringe containing heroin.
Meng Jiangzu, China’s Public Security Minister, has said
that the attacks are a continuation of July’s unrest. Up to 25 people are
believed to have been detained in connection with the attacks.
Government lorries mounted with loudspeakers toured the
streets telling residents that the bizarre attacks were part of an organised
separatist plot to spread terror. Last week thousands of Han Chinese
gathered in Urumqi’s central square to demand better protection from the
authorities, and the resignations of the region’s top police official, Wang
Lequan, and the city’s party secretary, Li Zhi.
Mr Wang was shouted down after attempting to address the
protesters. Both officials have now been dismissed. Mr Wang has said that
the protests were triggered after four people stabbed a Han Chinese woman
with needles in one of the city’s shopping areas. Local residents warned
that the authorities may not yet have done enough to placate the restive
Thousands of armed police remain a visible presence in the
city. They conducted spot searches of pedestrians’ bags in the traditionally
Uighur area of Urumqi.
The ethnic make-up of the city of 1.8 million is evenly
split between Turkic-speaking Uighurs, who are Muslims, and make up most of
the region’s population, and the Han, China’s dominant ethnic group.
(ESWN Comment: This is incorrect because the Han percentage is more
like 75% compared to 12% for Uighurs (see
Post) All Eyes on Regional Official After Latest Unrest in W.
China By Kathrin Hille. September 7, 2009.
When the Zhang family's more than 150 wedding guests
gathered at the Phoenix Hall restaurant in Urumqi on Saturday night, there was
only one topic of conversation: Will he stay or will he go?
The person in question was not the groom but Wang Lequan, the
regional Communist Party chief.
Wang's position as the strongman ruling Xinjiang, the
multiethnic region in western China, had been uncontested for 15 years. But
last week, tens of thousands of people took to the streets demanding his
resignation. The protesters were mainly from the Han majority, outraged by a
series of syringe stabbing attacks attributed to the minority Uighurs, and
complaining that Wang had botched the response to ethnic riots in early July
that the government said left 197 people dead, mostly Han Chinese.
The unpopularity of Wang is bad news for China's central
government. At the Central Party School, which trains high-ranking
officials, Wang was a classmate of Hu Jintao, China's president and
Communist Party general secretary. The two are still considered close allies
Beijing has long relied on Wang to make sure that the
long-standing discontent among Xinjiang's Muslim Uighur population does not
spread and thus pose a threat to broader political stability in China. The
July riots and the ongoing protests have damaged that trust. The Communist
Party is even more determined to maintain stability than usual as it
prepares to reaffirm its grip on power with celebrations of the 60th
anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1.
That is why on the streets of Urumqi, the theory is that
Wang has less than a month left in office. Many Xinjiang residents believe he
must be in trouble with Beijing since he has not appeared on state television
since last week's protests.
But analysts say removing Wang would be close to impossible.
"As a provincial party chief, you will only be demoted if you're corrupt or if
you're dead," said Russell Leigh Moses, a Beijing-based political analyst.
As a member of the Politburo, the pinnacle of political
power in China, Wang could be removed only through a majority vote in the
Communist Party's central committee, followed by a Politburo decision. And
removing an official as senior as Wang could send a signal beyond Xinjiang
that the Chinese people have the power to expel officials -- a concept at odds
with the very core of the country's political system.
An increasing number of officials across the country have
been replaced in the past year for mishandling local grievances, but the
government has taken care not to widely publicize that these moves followed
sometimes violent protests.
That leaves the government with the task of winning back the
trust of Urumqi's unhappy Han residents, many of whom believe the government
has not been tough enough with Uighur participants in the July riots. Although
the city has returned to an uneasy calm under heavy police presence, some Han
in Xinjiang remain defiant.
Authorities sought to appease Urumqi's Han residents over
the weekend by firing the city party secretary and the regional police chief.
Just as the Zhangs' guests started arriving for the wedding reception, news
broke that Li Zhi, the party secretary, had been replaced with Zhu Hailun,
head of Xinjiang's law and order commission.
But that was not enough, according to Que Wei, one of the
wedding guests. "Wang Lequan has to go," he said. "I trust Li Zhi and I trust
Zhu Hailun, but I don't believe a word Wang Lequan says."
(TVB HD) (in Cantonese)
(CCTV 9) (in English)
Times) Urumqi vows to stem syringe attacks By Guo
Qiang. September 8, 2009.
A crackdown on needle stabbings in Urumqi has
life returning to normal in the capital of the
Autonomous Region. As armed police kept patrolling the streets, people are
trying to go about their daily business as seen before the July 5 riots.
On one stretch of the Nanhu Plaza, more than
60 people, mainly senior citizens, were dancing to the tune of Paso Doble,
while on another a father played badminton with his teenage son. Dozens of
other senior citizens were enjoying the serenity and angling on a pond at the
other side of the plaza. Traffic is nearly back to normal on the streets in
Urumqi, with some buses again packed with passengers.
Financial establishments such as outlets of
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Agricultural Bank of China,
and the Urumqi Commercial Bank were all open for business Monday. Some schools
in the city remained closed. An official from the educational department of
Urumqi city said kindergartens, primary and middle schools, as well as
privately run schools, were told to stay closed.
Wang Lequan, secretary of the Xinjiang Uygur
Autonomous Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Sunday
ordered more than 7,000 government officials to walk door-to-door in Urumqi to
calm people after five people died and 14 were injured during riotous protests
last week by people demanding that something be done to stop the stabbings.
Urumqi officials said at least 531 people had
reported being stabbed with medical syringes as of Friday. Military medical
staff examined 217 victims and found no signs of toxic or radioactive
contamination, according to Xinhua. Most of the victims were women and elderly
residents, and the attacks were carried out in heavily populated public places
with an aim to raise public concerns and fears, according to public security
The Hong Kong-based Apple Daily newspaper
reported yesterday that assailants had started indiscriminately poking people
in Korla and Shihezi, an almost entirely Han city, with dirty needles. The
result was dozens of people going to hospitals for testing.
Shihezi is one of the best-known cities in
Xinjiang. Known as the "Pearl of the Gobi Desert" for its fine environment, it
is also a model of supporting and cultivating the construction of the border
A Shihezi press official dismissed the report
yesterday, saying no confirmed stabbing cases had been reported and local
social order is as normal as usual. "Although 16 residents in Shihezi
contacted authorities and claimed they had been stabbed between Thursday and
Saturday, health departments found no supportive evidence," an official
surnamed Zhang told the Global Times. He attributed the situation to mounting
public fears following incidents in Urumqi. Calls to the Korla city government
and public security bureau went unanswered yesterday.
"Sporadic syringe stabbings and rumors will
continue in the near future as a result of strained nerves among the public,
but that does not mean a spread of the needle attacks across Xinjiang," an
expert on ethnic issues, who declined to give his name, told the Global Times.
"I believe a majority of the Xinjiang people are longing for peace and
stability instead of ethnic conflict and turmoil," he said. "Uygur assailants
are spiritually motived by overseas forces, and it will be easier for the
government to deal with the aftershock if the Western media abandons its
support of these Uygurs and (alleged Uygur separatist) Rebiya Kadeer."
Urumqi officials issued a stern warning
Sunday to those behind the bizarre spate of needle attacks: If convicted, they
face harsh sentences, including the death penalty. And it warned residents
that they could face possible jail sentences of up to five years for spreading
rumors about the stabbings.
The stab-and-run needle attacks have dealt a
severe blow to a Xinjiang tourism industry already hurting from the deadly
July 5 riots. An employee surnamed Ou from the Xinjiang branch of the China
Youth Tourism Service told the Global Times that her clients have canceled
most of their meetings that were initially scheduled to take place in Urumqi
in August and September. September is traditionally a booming season for
tourism in Xinjiang, but not this year, she noted.
Yinamu Naisierding, head of the Xinjiang Tourism
Administration, assured yesterday at a tourism promotion seminar in Xiamen,
Fujian Province, that tourists would be safe if they are willing to travel to
Xinjiang, according to the
China News Service.
The Urumqi government announced yesterday
that it is implementing traffic-control measures from 9 pm last night to 9 am
today on the city's main streets.
Was needle panic a fake frenzy? By
Bill Schiller. September 8, 2009.
Were rumours the spark that sent thousands of
angry Han Chinese protesters in Urumqi pouring into the streets last week?
Demonstrations by frightened Chinese erupted in the Xinjiang capital last week
amid claims that the region's native Uighurs had launched a wave of
politically motivated syringe attacks against Han Chinese. But days after
reports of the attacks in state media, credible evidence seems in short
supply. Some are questioning whether there were any organized attacks at all.
"I don't think there's very much evidence to
support the idea that there was any sort of campaign," says Gerald Groot, a
specialist in Chinese studies at the University of Adelaide. "I've seen
reports suggesting there could have been as many as 500 people who were
stabbed. But there's really been nothing to show for it." The government said
more than 500 people claimed to have been attacked, but only 170 show any
signs of injury. Of those, 22 were being monitored and none were expected to
suffer repercussions, it said. "It seems more like mass hysteria than reality
to me," observed Groot.
Even China's state-run Xinhua News Agency
dialled down its reporting of the alleged attacks. "Some of those who said
they had been stabbed actually suffered from mosquito stings and other
psychogenic reasons," Xinhua said. Other agency reports noted that of the four
people officially charged last week, most were drug addicts involved in acts
of plain criminality.
A man and a woman threatened a cab driver
with a syringe while robbing him of about $100 to buy drugs. A man, 47,
scuffled with police while trying to resist arrest and pricked an officer with
a drug-filled syringe. And a 19-year-old man confessed to poking a woman in
the buttocks "with a pin" at a fruit stall, Xinhua reported. The incidents
occurred between Aug. 28 and 31.
"It's not clear why these incidents reported
by Xinhua were considered `political' as opposed to `criminal,'" says Nicholas
Bequelin, a keen observer of events in Xinjiang and senior researcher with
Human Rights Watch. He said Chinese authorities had not substantiated claims
the attacks were political. But the fact rumours appear to have triggered last
week's protests is proof positive tensions in Urumqi still loom large –
despite upbeat reports in state media that the crisis of the summer has
In July, the city was the scene of bloody
rioting that claimed 197 lives – mostly Han Chinese – when local Uighurs
exploded with fury. They were angered by reports that three Uighur workers had
been killed in clashes with Han Chinese at a factory in southern China.
Rumours on the street suggested many more
Uighurs had died there. In the subsequent riots, Uighurs killed scores of Han
Chinese in Urumqi. Then Han Chinese set out to avenge their dead.
Since then, Urumqi has been in a
communications lockdown: the Internet has been suspended, text messaging has
been interrupted and calls in and out of the region are sporadically blocked.
That, says Bequelin, has created an atmosphere ripe for rumour mongering. He
said the Chinese authorities' "chokehold on information" has been a critical
factor in the ongoing crisis. "This has not only frustrated people, but helped
spread rumours," he says, calling the communications clampdown "the first
real-live test of what happens if you suspend Internet services for too long."
Bequelin says the Internet is a key
security valve, allowing people to let off steam. Without it, "people decided
they had to take to the streets to make themselves heard."
Last week, thousands publicly called for the
firing of the region's strongman, Communist Party Secretary Wang Lequan – a
friend and ally of President Hu Jintao. Wang has hung on, but two lesser
figures were sacrificed: the city's Communist Party Secretary Li Zhi and the
region's top police official, Liu Yaohua, were sent packing Sunday.
Angry Han Chinese in the city have claimed
since the summer Chinese authorities have been too soft on Uighur rioters, who
had the upper hand in the July clashes. But authorities are also aware how
important it is to try to maintain harmonious inter-ethnic relations in a
country with at least 56 officially recognized minorities – the Han Chinese by
far the biggest.
Against this backdrop, rumours of organized
"syringe stabbings" were a powerful force in a vacuum of reliable information
– especially in the tense aftermath of July's riots. But reports yesterday
suggested the Urumqi rumour mill is still running hot. "This is not over," one
newspaper vendor in the city told a British journalist. "They are going round
pouring sulphuric acid in people's faces now."
China to demolish buildings in restive Urumqi. By Royston Chan.
September 8, 2009.
Three buildings owned by the family of exiled
Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer in Urumqi will be demolished, Xinhua news agency
said, as the Chinese government sought to reassert control over the
The government ordered shops and businesses in central Urumqi to close early
on Monday, giving rise to a wave of rumours of new unrest among citizens
panicked by mysterious needle attacks.
Police received 77 new reports of needle attacks on Sunday and Monday, despite
threatened punishments for both attackers and rumour-mongerers, Xinhua said. A
Han Chinese crowd tried to beat up a Uighur on Monday after another alleged
Streets were empty on Monday evening, under heavy security.
Xinhua, quoting the regional government, also
reported that people buying "dangerous chemical products" in Xinjiang would
face more stringent checks. The report gave no explanation for the tougher
checks or link them to the unrest in Urumqi.
Thousands of Han Chinese protested in Urumqi
last week, demanding the removal of regional party secretary Wang Lequan for
failing to ensure their safety. Two other officials were sacked.
Last week's protesters also denounced the
failure to proceed with trials for demonstrators charged after unrest on July
5, when 197 people died in rioting by Muslim Uighurs.
The Akida Trade Center, a building full of Uighur shops owned by the Akida
Industry and Trade Co founded by Kadeer, were slated for demolition due to
cracks in the walls and sunken footings, Xinhua said. The announcement
confirmed a report on Aug. 19 by the Uyghur American Association. More than 30
members of Kadeer's family, including siblings, children and grandchildren,
had been living on upper floors of the building, the UAA said. The Akida
company building and the Tuanjie, or Unity, theatre, would also be torn down,
Xinhua said. Those properties were also owned by Kadeer and her family.
China has repeatedly accused Kadeer, once a successful businesswoman, of
triggering the deadly July unrest in the strategic and energy-rich
northwestern region of Xinjiang. At least two of Kadeer's sons who are still
in China are in jail, while a daughter is under house arrest. Her oldest son
manages her business interests in China.
Blogs) Misinformation age in Urumqi. By Lucy Hornby.
September 8, 2009.
Urumqi is a city cut off from the outside
world. There has been no Internet access for two months. Phone links in or out
of the region are sporadic. Text messaging is limited. And so people gather in
the streets to listen to rumors.
Walking through the streets of Urumqi these
past days, the main sounds I heard were of human voices. The snatches of
conversation carried rumors of syringe attacks, and outbreaks of rebellious
outrage. The words floated from open shop doors, from knots of people gathered
at a bus station, and from people talking on cell phones as they passed me on
It was unusually quiet for China, and so the
voices carried. Construction sites halted work on Friday and Saturday and road
blocks kept cars out of the city so that demonstrators wouldn’t flood in,
after thousands gathered in People’s Square on Sept 2 to demand the
resignation of the region’s most powerful official. He came out on a balcony
to address the crowds through a bullhorn; they threw bottles and stones at
On Friday evening, at an intersection where
police and paramilitary had disbursed thousands of ethnic Han Chinese trying
to force their way to People’s Square, a knot of people gathered to listen to
a grim woman, her voice clear and defiant.
“China is democratic and scientific now, but
they have taken away our democracy by keeping us down.” Urumqi was swept by
talk of syringe attacks, which the government blamed on separatists, and
gripped by a resurgence of racial hatred, two months after 197 people were
killed during a riot by Uighurs. Terrified of the mysterious syringe stalkers,
Han Chinese took to the streets in disgust and fear to demand more security
from the government. Troops were stationed at the entrance to Uighur
neighborhoods, to prevent bloodshed by the angry crowds.
The rumors varied with each group clustered
on the sidewalks – some versions claimed Uighur women, in their distinctive
headscarves, were sticking people with syringes. Others said men were
targeting Han women and children. Still another blamed “Uighurs wearing
suits.” On Saturday morning, about 20 men huddled around a Chinese man who was
busy conveying the story of how a boy had been pricked with a needle, and how
troops had prevented the crowd from beating up a nearby Uighur. Then an older
man began a litany of complaints about mistreatment by the police and
paramilitary. The others nodded in agreement.
The syringe scare was started by a police
department text message last Monday, warning residents against attackers with
syringes. Based on the indictments so far, some drug addicts had robbed a cab
driver by threatening him with a syringe; another tried to fend off police who
were trying to rescue them. And then there was a teenager who stuck a needle
in a fruit seller’s buttock.
The government warned of a coordinated
separatist attack. The effect of the text message, especially in buses crowded
with Urumqi residents who are fearful and suspicious of each other, was panic.
Over 500 people have gone to the police saying they were attacked; only 106 of
them had a clear mark, bump or rash on their skin, official figures show.
But it’s not all hysteria. Those 106 people
were pricked with something. Xinhua, the state news agency, said some were
mosquito bites. But others were indeed injured, albeit slightly. Doctors, who
reassured reporters that it was unlikely the attacks could spread AIDS, said
that at least some of the verifiable injuries could be pin or sewing needle
So who is sticking needles into people? Angry
copycats who got an idea from that text message? People who want to enjoy the
fuss? People who want to arouse tension and strife in Urumqi, the divided
If the government wanted to reduce tensions,
it has a tough job now. Its claims of a separatist plot have inflamed
tensions, but it is so invested in them it would be difficult to back off now.
If it said nothing was happening, people would believe a cover-up was going
“The propaganda they put in the newspapers is
all designed to trick and cheat us!” a Han woman told me, as several men
vehemently tried to convince the police that, as fellow Han Chinese, they
should be helping and not blocking the crowds.
As I wrote this, the government ordered work
units in central Urumqi to close at 6 pm, but gave no reason for the order.
Instantly, more wild rumours flashed through the city.
Standard) Media anger at police abuses. By Beatrice Su.
September 8, 2009.
About 40 Hong Kong
journalists protested outside the Central Government Liaison Office to decry
the "shameful" treatment of fellow reporters covering the unrest in Urumqi.
They demanded that mainland officials respect media freedom, while chanting:
"Violence against reporters is shameful" and "No assault to press freedom."
Among the protesters were TVB reporter Lam
Tsz-ho, who was beaten by mainland policemen on Friday, and Now TV reporter
Wong Ka-yu, whose hotel room was searched, preventing her from covering quake
activist Tan Zuoren's case in Sichuan last month. Lam said he suffered muscle
pain but fortunately he not suffered any broken bones. A reporter for 10
years, Lam said he was treated like a criminal. "I could do nothing when they
pointed the gun at me. I clearly understand the risk of working in the
mainland, but it was the first time I was treated like a criminal," Lam said.
He hoped the authorities will give a clear explanation over the incident.
Hong Kong Journalists Association chairwoman
Mak Yin-ting called for the incidents to be investigated, and described the
"brutal intervention in media coverage is unacceptable. "That was an
unreasonable excuse to interrupt the coverage," Mak said. "We request the
mainland authorities stop all violent behavior towards reporters and respect
press freedom." She also questioned Sunday's incident in which five
journalists were brought to the police station even after they showed their
authorized reporter's passes.
The journalists were released after being
detained for 30 minutes.
Times) Beijing scrambles to find scapegoats. By Wu Zhong.
September 9, 2009.
In need of a scapegoat over massive protests
by the Han Chinese community in Urumqi, Xinjiang province, against a string of
bizarre syringe attacks supposedly orchestrated by Uyghur separatists, the
government at the weekend sacked Li Zhi, Urumqi's Communist Party chief.
Li, a vice-ministerial-level official, became the first Chinese official to
fall victim to new government regulations that hold local officials
accountable for "mass incidents" - the official term for mass demonstrations -
which came into effect in mid-July.
Li, 59, may have taken a fall to quell growing public anger, particularly
among Han residents, over worsening public security in the region. But the
main target of criticism from the Han
Chinese protesters is Wang Lequan, the party
secretary of Xinjiang since 1995.
Analysts agree that Li's removal will secure
the position of Wang, also a politburo member and reportedly a protege of
President Hu Jintao, for the near future - unless the situation in Xinjiang
gets too out of control.
The eruption of massive street protests in
Urumqi last week was a major embarrassment for the central government and Hu
personally, especially as Beijing is preparing grand celebrations for the 60th
anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on October
The ongoing unrest in Xinjiang makes it
harder for Beijing to boast solidarity and the harmonious co-existence of
ethnic groups as being among the major achievements of communist rule over the
past six decades.
Hu paid a four-day visit to Xinjiang from
August 22 to 25 to inspect the situation in the aftermath of July 5 violence
in Urumqi that left 197 people dead and another 1,600 injured.
In Chinese tradition, when violent unrest
occurs in an ethnic-minority region, the supreme Chinese leader -
traditionally the emperor - would not inspect the area unless he was assured
that order had been restored and that the situation was fully under control.
Similarly, it seems that Hu was assured that
the ethnic conflict in Xinjiang was a closed chapter. During his inspection
trip, the president expressed gratitude to the armed forces and the police for
"ending the violence of the July 5 riot in Urumqi", according to the state-run
Xinhua News Agency.
Indeed, both before and during Hu's Xinjiang
visit, Xinjiang and Urumqi officials had stressed that "life was becoming
normal" and that tourists were again visiting Urumqi.
But last Thursday, tens of thousands of angry
Urumqi residents, mostly ethnic Han, took to the streets in protest against
the government's failure to stop hypodermic syringe attacks on Han
pedestrians, allegedly by Uyghurs.
Urumqi residents feared the syringes
contained poison, or blood from HIV/AIDS-infected patients. Such attacks have
previously been reported in the country.
Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu, who
flew to Urumqi at dawn on Friday to personally oversee the handling of the
incident, said the fresh unrest was a continuation of the July 5 incident. He
blamed "overseas separatists" for attempting to further instigate hatred and
conflict between the Han and Uyghur ethnic groups.
But the September 3 protests were most likely
prompted by the government's inaction over initial reports of syringe attacks.
Some protesters told Hong Kong media that as early as August 17, Han Chinese
had complained to local police of syringe stabbings, allegedly by Uyghurs.
These were said to have continued "almost every day" since then - even during
Hu's visit, and Urumqi police now admit that attacks had taken place since
Police inaction could be explained by a
mistaken belief that the incidents were isolated. However, it is more likely
that the authorities were afraid to launch high-profile searches that could
have intensified ethnic conflict and made a mockery of claims that law and
order had been restored.
But the inaction led Han residents, who
account for 75% of Urumqi's 2.3 million population, to take matters into their
own hands by staging protests, with the first major demonstration taking place
last Thursday. According to Xinhua, these protests were attended by "tens of
thousands of people" and they "crippled city traffic and forced shops in major
commercial streets to shut".
Syringe stabbings occurred even during the
protests and one attacker was caught at the scene, Xinhua said, with only
police intervention saving her from being lynched. Armed police prevented the
crowd from going to Uyghurs areas, but five people were killed and more than a
dozen injured during the September 3 protests, Xinhua reported.
Both Wang Lequan and Li Zhi made public
appearances on different occasions during the protests. "Wang Lequan, step
down!" the protesters shouted. On Hong Kong television, some protestors were
seen throwing plastic bottles at him. "This government is unable to protect
people's lives. It must be changed," one protester said.
Han residents are not happy with Wang, whom
they accuse of mishandling the July 5 incident. (See 'King of Xinjiang' faces
blame for riots, July 16, 2009, Asia Times Online) In Washington, exiled
Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer has also called on Wang to step down, blaming him
for intensifying ethnic conflict in Xinjiang. For once, the Han and Uyghur
ethnic groups in Xinjiang seem to have some common ground.
Wang, however, will likely remain in his
post. He is a politburo member and "there is no precedent of a politburo
member being sacked for his mistakes", according to a sociology researcher
with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing.
Two former politburo members, ex-Beijing
party chief Chen Xitong and ex-Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu have
previously been jailed over corruption, but only as a result of power
struggles. If Wang were to be replaced, Beijing would have to find someone
suitably experienced in handling ethnic issues.
"At this stage, dismissing Li Zhi is the
proper move. The current unrest has only [occurred] in Urumqi, and as party
chief of the city, Li certainly is the first person to blame. But if the whole
situation in Xinjiang gets out of control, then Wang cannot shirk his
responsibility," said the CASS researcher.
Li's dismissal was announced on Saturday, and
he was immediately replaced by Zhu Hailun, 51, the secretary of the CPC's
Xinjiang Committee of Political and Legal Affairs. Zhu commands all
law-enforcement forces in the region and this replacement shows that Beijing
places top priority on restoring law and order in Urumqi.
Xinjiang's police chief Liu Yaohua was also
dismissed on Saturday and replaced by Zhu Changjie, party chief of Xinjiang's
For the time being, the street protests in
Urumqi are under control after police reportedly used tear gas to disperse the
crowds. Hospitals in Urumqi are reported to have dealt with 531 victims of
syringe stabbings, 106 of whom showed obvious signs of needle attacks. Chinese
military medical experts on Saturday ruled out the possibility that
radioactive substances, anthrax or toxic chemicals were used in the attacks,
Xinhua reported, adding that samples had been sent to Beijing for further
By Friday, Xinjiang police had detained 25
suspects, seven of whom had been held in police custody, four of them had been
formally arrested and four others had been referred for criminal prosecution,
Since the leadership reshuffle, the Urumqi
government has announced a "strike hard" campaign against syringe attacks.
Attackers will be prosecuted quickly and punished harshly, with convicted
attackers possibly being given the death penalty. Even one who spreads
"rumors" about syringe attacks can be jailed for five years. Meanwhile,
unauthorized assemblies and demonstrations are banned and armed police have
been deployed across the city.
The government has also announced the "soft"
measure of sending 7,000 officials described as "harmony makers" to
residential communities in Urumqi to help ease panic and tension.
Xinjiang officials says "regretful" over row involving HK journalists.
September 8, 2009.
A top media official in
northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region expressed Tuesday regrets
over an alleged beating of three Hong Kong journalists in the regional capital
of Urumqi last week, but noted that they had violated local regulations.
"We are regretful over the
incident," said Hou Hanmin, director of the Xinjiang Autonomous Regional
Information Office, during a meeting with a group of Hong Kong journalists who
came to Urumqi to cover the aftermath of the riot on July 5.
"Of the three journalists, only
one had a temporary press card that allowed him to conduct interviews in the
city, but the other two didn't have. They violated our regulations," she said.
After the July 5 riot in which
197 people were left dead and more than 1,600 others injured, local
authorities stipulated that journalists who came to cover the incident should
first obtain temporary press cards issued by the regional information office.
Citing an investigation about
the alleged beating of the three journalists on Sept. 4, Hou said security
personnel found some people were following and filming a group of
demonstrators on a road in the city that afternoon, and suspected them of
instigating the demonstrators when witnessing that they made profuse gestures
before the demonstrators.
"Security personnel asked them
to show ID cards and leave the scene, but they refused to do so and continued
to film the protests among the demonstrators," Hou said.
"Security personnel repeatedly
asked them to leave but failed. Under such circumstances, they detained three
of them," she said.
Hou did not specify whether a
beating, as claimed by the three journalists, was involved in the detention
process, but said "something that everybody doesn't want to see took place".
She also criticized some
unspecified media and individuals for making "irresponsible remarks" after the
incident without knowledge of the truth of the fact.
But Hou also stressed local
authorities would maintain the media openness policy that has been employed
after the July 5 riot and security personnel would also provide protection for
journalists who conduct interviews while complying with local regulations.
"We reiterate here that
journalists must abide by relevant laws and regulations, and refrain from
doing anything that goes against their identity of being journalists," she
China official regrets 'beating' September 8, 2009.
AN OFFICIAL in China's Xinjiang region voiced
regret on Tuesday over last week's alleged beating of three Hong Kong
journalists during ethnic unrest in the regional capital Urumqi, state media
said. The three journalists were tackled and detained by paramilitary police
while trying to escape tear gas fired to disperse crowds on September 4 when
Han Chinese protested inadequate security in the city.
'We are regretful over the incident,' Hou
Hanmin, Xinjiang spokeswoman told Xinhua news agency. Xinhua said Ms Hou was
expressing regret over what it described as an 'alleged beating.' 'Of the
three journalists, only one had a temporary press card that allowed him to
conduct interviews in the city, but the other two didn't. They violated our
regulations,' he said.
The mass protests were sparked after reports
that hundreds of people had been stabbed with syringes in Urumqi, with
demonstrations on Thursday leaving at least five dead. Ethnic majority Han
Chinese blamed minority Uighurs for the needle attacks, sparking fears of more
ethnic unrest after violence in July left nearly 200 people dead, most of them
According to the Foreign Correspondent's Club
of China, the Hong Kong journalists were punched and kicked by the police,
then detained face-down on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs
for up to 20 minutes. The journalists repeatedly asked the armed police to
check their central government-issued press identification cards but the
requests were ignored, the club said in a statement.
Spokeswoman Hou's comments suggested that
Xinjiang officials did not recognise the reporters' central government press
credentials. The incidents stood in contrast to the
relatively open and safe reporting conditions foreign correspondents
experienced while covering the July unrest that also ended with nearly 1,700
'The beating and harassing of journalists
must stop. The local authorities in Xinjiang must ensure that journalists are
able to do their jobs without fear of attacks,' FCCC President Scott McDonald
said in a statement.
When mosquito bites are routinely confused
for race-based syringe attacks, you know you have a problem. Welcome to
China's western province of Xinjiang, where security has gone from bad to
worse thanks in part to ham-fisted government policies.
Racial tensions between the Han Chinese,
China's majority ethnic group, and the Uighurs, a Muslim and Turkic ethnic
group, have probably never been worse. On July 5 a Uighur demonstration turned
into a violent riot that left 197people dead, most of whom were Han Chinese.
Last Thursday tens of thousands of Han protesters took to the streets asking
for better state protection and the resignation of Xinjiang Party Secretary
Wang Lequan. State media reported five dead after those demonstrations, with
no official explanation given.
For much of the last six decades Beijing has
steadily built up the Han presence in Xinjiang and solidified its control
there. This process was sped up by the "Strike Hard" campaign launched in 1996
that targeted criminals and supposed "separatists" who might support political
freedoms for Xinjiang. The province is important to Beijing because it
occupies one-sixth of China's land mass and is home to the country's largest
oil fields. While state-directed investment has poured into the province,
Uighurs often feel left out of the economic boom and complain their way of
life is being destroyed.
The man at the heart of many of these
policies is Mr. Wang, a politburo member who has been Xinjiang Party Secretary
since 1995. His vision for the province—economic development combined with
gradual tightening of religious and cultural freedoms—tracks closely with the
way Hu Jintao governed Tibet when he was Party Secretary there, and the two
men are seen as allies.
Today, more than two months after the July 5
protests, life has hardly returned to normal. All schools are
closed—officially as a swine flu precaution—and university campuses are
sealed. Traffic restrictions at night act as a curfew and business has ground
to a standstill. All Internet in the province is cut off, as is most text
messaging and international calls, and people are stockpiling food. Soldiers
patrol the streets and stand guard around Uighur neighborhoods to prevent Han
vigilantes from taking justice into their own hands. This is hardly the stuff
of the "harmonious society" that Mr. Hu likes to talk about.
The mob mentality of two ethnic groups that
are at each other's throats is difficult for any government to deal with; but
an information blackout has made things worse. Dangerous rumors have sprung up
in place of reliable information, which contributed to the mass hysteria of
the syringe attacks. (In hundreds of cases, no puncture mark has been found by
doctors.) The government inadvertently acknowledged this problem Monday by
announcing possible jail penalties for rumor-mongers.
So far there are no signs that policy change
is on the way. A high-ranking Chinese official, Jia Qinglin, suggested Monday
that improving the living standards of ethnic minorities was an important part
of ethnic unity. But this is precisely the approach that got Xinjiang where it
is today. Beijing has poured money into the province and guided its commercial
development through a pseudo-military corporation known as the Bingtuan. But
higher living standards or not, the Uighurs who have inhabited Xinjiang for
centuries want to hold onto their basic religious and cultural freedoms, like
fasting during Ramadan or educating their children in Uighur instead of
Rather than considering small policy changes
like these, Xinjiang officials have blamed an elderly Uighur woman living in
the United States, Rebiya Kadeer, for masterminding the riots and spent
considerable energies going after her family and her properties in Xinjiang.
In the tradition of the Cultural Revolution, her children have been forced to
issue written denunciations of their mother. Ms. Kadeer's landmark shopping
center in Urumqi, where many of her extended family live, is due to be razed
to the ground.
But Xinjiang needs more than just a new, non-Kadeer-affiliated
shopping center if its people are to live in peace. Beijing did fire two
provincial party leaders over the weekend, and it would do well seriously to
consider the protesters' calls for Mr. Wang's resignation. That would take a
special meeting of the politburo—and serve as a sign that the leadership in
Beijing is prepared to hold its own members accountable in response to the
demands of its citizens.
Daily) Syringe attacks persist in Urumqi
September 9, 2009.
Police said they received 77 reports of
syringe attacks between 5 pm Sunday and 5 pm Monday in Urumqi, the capital of
Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, despite authorities warning attackers they
might face the death penalty. So far, police have caught 45 suspects during
the syringe scare, of whom 12 remain in police custody. The procuratorate has
approved the arrests of four. Eight people have been sent to drug rehab,
according to Urumqi police authorities. Despite signs of recovery in the city
after assaults caused fear among residents and triggered mass protests, the
Urumqi municipal government implemented traffic control Monday night on the
city's main streets. Shops and businesses in the city center were ordered to
close early. The control lasted from 9 pm Monday to 9 am Tuesday.
The Public Security Department of the
Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region reiterated syringe attackers must be given
punishment in order to protect residents and maintain social order, according
to a public notice released late Monday. The pledge followed a joint notice on
Sunday of the court, the prosecutor's office and the police bureau of Urumqi,
which said an attacker may face a life sentence or even the death penalty. The
department emphasized that those who stab others, no matter what means they
use, are considered to have committed crimes and must be punished according to
Those who pretend to suffer syringe attacks
and cause fear among the public will also face punishment, according to the
public notice. As well, citizens are allowed to take to the police any
suspects who commit syringe attacks or flee from the scene, the notice said.
But it prohibited beating suspects.
The building built and named by Rebiya Kadeer
in Urumqi will be demolished as it has serious security risks, local
authorities said Monday. The building has cracks in the wall and the ground
has sunk, said an official with the municipal government. Kadeer, the leader
of the separatist World Uyghur Congress, was accused of being the mastermind
behind the July 5 riot, which left 197 dead and more than 1,700 injured. The
time of the demolition hasn't been revealed but a notice was sent to vendors
in the building on July 22 by the Akada Industry and Trade Company, founded by
Kadeer. The building is also considered a fire risk by the fire department as
its wires are old and the fire exits are used as stores by vendors, said the
official. Although the municipal government spent a large amount of money to
repair the electrical system in 2006, it is still not safe, the official said.
The building, with more than 500 stores in the four floors and covering 1,720
square meters, was built when Kadeer ran a business in the Erdaoqiao area and
belongs to the Akada Industry and Trade Company. Other aging buildings,
including the Akada company building and the Tuanjie Theater, are also listed
to be demolished.
The row between
Xinjiang authorities and Hong Kong media continued to escalate yesterday, with
mainland officials defending the beating of three Hong Kong journalists in
Urumqi last week. Hong Kong television stations have rebutted the officials'
defence as "factually incorrect".
Three Hong Kong journalists -
reporter Lam Tsz-ho, a TVB cameraman and a Now TV cameraman - were covering
the aftermath of a mass protest by Han Chinese in Urumqi after a string of
hypodermic-needle attacks, which the central government has blamed on Muslim
separatists. They were pinned to the ground by People's Armed Police officers,
kicked and punched before being tied up and taken away.
A top media official in Xinjiang expressed
regret over the rough handling but said the three journalists were suspected
of inciting a disturbance and that they had broken local regulations. "In the
process [of detaining the trio], something we all didn't want to happen did
happen, and we are deeply regretful about this incident," Xinjiang Information
Office director Hou Hanmin said in a meeting with Hong Kong journalists in
Citing a police investigation, Hou said the
journalists were found "giving orders" to protesters in Tianshan district.
After the three had refused to present their journalist's licences to police,
ignoring repeated requests from the police, they were detained. Two of them
were then found to have been working without proper credentials, Hou said. "Of
the three journalists, only one had a temporary press card that allowed him to
conduct interviews in the city, but the other two didn't. They violated our
Since February, Beijing has required all Hong
Kong journalists to apply for temporary reporting licences whenever they wish
to report on the mainland. "Some media then irresponsibly hyped up the
incident and some people made irresponsible comments without knowing what
really happened," Hou said, adding that journalists "should not do anything
that they are not authorised to do".
In response, TVB and Now TV issued statements
yesterday saying their journalists were properly accredited.
TVB said Hou's comments were "partial" and
"factually incorrect". Now TV said Hou was "making up facts" and police had
never asked for credentials.
The meeting between Hong Kong journalists and
Urumqi officials yesterday was tense. The four media outlets whose journalists
were beaten up or detained last week - TVB, Now TV, RTHK and Commercial Radio
Hong Kong - were not invited to the meeting but showed up anyway. Commercial
Radio reporter Yeung Tung-tat was asked to apologise after the meeting for
shouting out: "The government is shameless."
Meanwhile, at the Foreign Ministry's regular
press conference yesterday, spokeswoman Jiang Yu also stood by the actions of
People's Armed Police officers. "During their handling of the emergency, I
believe it was proper and necessary for the police to implement some
contingency measures at the scene in accordance with the law," she said. "I
hope reporters can co-operate and understand."
The beating drew sharp criticism from Hong
Kong journalists and legislators, who were further enraged by the brief
detention of five Hong Kong television and radio reporters in Urumqi on Sunday
when they tried to interview people.
Daily) Syringe suspects seized in Xinjiang By Cui Jia and Cai Ke.
September 11, 2009.
Nine suspects believed to be responsible
for syringe attacks in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region communities of
Hotan, Altay and Kashgar are in custody. The arrests follow reports of
syringe attacks in several cities in the autonomous region after a spate of
similar attacks in the region's capital, Urumqi, that led to massive
Six of the suspects were caught in Hotan,
according to the Hotan public security bureau on the local government's
website on Wednesday. Of the six, two have already been officially detained.
By Sunday, nine syringe attacks had been
reported in Hotan, but only three had been confirmed, the bureau said. Among
the three hospitalized victims, two were Han Chinese and the other was Uygur.
So far, none of the victims is believed to have contracted a disease or been
exposed to poisoning.
Police are offering a 5,000 yuan ($735)
reward for information about the attacks, Hotan police said.
An official from the public security bureau
of Altay region confirmed on Tuesday that two syringe attack suspects were
in custody there. "Five possible syringe attacks were reported to the public
security bureau by Tuesday, four of which were false alarms. The other case
is genuine. The victim did not show any abnormal symptoms," said Ahlebeck,
deputy director of the public security bureau of Altay region.
Ahlebeck said police apprehended a
35-year-old and a 21-year-old in connection with the attack. Further
investigation is under way.
A syringe attack suspect was caught on
Monday in Kashgar, according to Wang Jianhua, spokesperson for the local
government. "We have received five syringe attack reports from Han
residents, of which three turned out to be false alarms," Wang said. There
were no other confirmed reports of syringe attacks in other parts of
Xinjiang. Ten such attacks were reported in Ili and 10 more in Hami, but
none have been proven.
Tens of thousands of people took to the
streets in Urumqi, last week calling for an end to the attacks. Local
authorities said late Tuesday that police had apprehended 45 suspects in
connection with the recent flurry of syringe attacks in Urumqi. By Monday,
the prosecution of eight of them had already begun.
The attacks, which have targeted innocent
people, are believed to have been orchestrated in a bid to scare residents
and create further unrest, said Du Xintao, an official with the regional
public security department. "The attacks are terror attacks," Du said.
By last Friday, Urumqi health and police
authorities had confirmed 531 people had been stabbed by hypodermic syringes
in the city, 171 of the victims showed obvious signs of the attacks. The
majority of the victims were from the Han ethnic group. Others were from
ethnic groups including Uygur, Hui and Kazak.
China Morning Post)
Journalists to march over Xinjiang claim
Gary Cheung, Eva Wu, Albert Wong and Kristine Kwok.
September 11, 2009.
representing the city's journalists will organise a march on Sunday to voice
anger after Xinjiang authorities accused three Hong Kong journalists beaten by
police in Urumqi last weekend of inciting protesters there. The move by the
Hong Kong Journalists Association came as former National People's Congress
Standing Committee member Tsang Hin-chi and former chief executive Tung
Chee-hwa called for understanding and calm.
The association, which has demanded an
apology from Xinjiang over arrests and beatings - which came as reporters were
covering unrest over syringe attacks in Urumqi - called on journalists joining
the march to dress in black. Chairwoman Mak Yin-ting said they would tie red
ribbons to the gates of the central government liaison office to show their
anger and then march around the building. "We urge Xinjiang authorities to
launch a thorough investigation into the incident and respect press freedom,"
But Tsang said he hoped Hong Kong journalists
would take national interests into account and play down the row. "Our country
has struggled hard in the past six decades and the achievements did not come
easily. I hope Hong Kong journalists will show understanding if something
unhappy happens." Tung, now a
vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said
the best way forward was for everybody to calm down, and urged people to see
the events in light of the tense situation and need to restore social
The march, from Western police station to the
liaison office, will start at 1pm on Sunday. Mak said the association was
urging other groups representing Hong Kong journalists to take part. It will
also write to President Hu Jintao and Xinjiang authorities to express its
Chris Yeung Kin-hing, chairman of the News
Executives Association, said his group had no plan to join the march.
"Different groups have their own ways to express concern about the incident."
Instead, his group will hold a seminar on Sunday afternoon to discuss the
incident in Urumqi.
Tsang, speaking after attending the opening
ceremony of a photographic exhibition at the Convention and Exhibition Centre
on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China,
said he hoped the central government would respond to the controversy, adding
that the Xinjiang authorities' handling of the matter had not been
Liaison office deputy director Li Gang said
the office had conveyed the views of various sectors in Hong Kong to relevant
central government departments. "I believe that the row will be resolved in a
peaceful and rational manner after further communication," he said. Li said
mainland authorities would continue to protect the rights of Hong Kong and
overseas journalists to cover news on the mainland.
TVB senior reporter Lam Tsz-ho, his cameraman Lau Wing-chuen and
Now TV cameraman Lam Chun-wai were tied up, handcuffed and beaten by police
while covering protests in Urumqi over the syringe attacks.
On Tuesday, Hou Hanmin , director of the
Xinjiang Information Office, accused the three journalists of inciting
Tung told 400 students at an event organised
by the Federation of Youth Groups that he believed in Hong Kong journalists'
professional conduct. "I sympathise very much with what they experienced in
Urumqi." However, he also said the restoration of social stability was of the
utmost importance to the Xinjiang regional government.
Cheng Yiu-tong, executive councillor and a
Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress, said Xinjiang authorities
should apologise to Hong Kong journalists if their accusation against the trio
was found to be unsubstantiated.
Twenty-three pan-democratic legislators
yesterday wrote to Hu and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, demanding a
full investigation and saying that those involved should apologise to Hong
Kong journalists if they were found to have wrongly handled the incident. The
camp also called for Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to reflect
Hongkongers' concerns over the row to the central government.
A Hong Kong official said there were limits
to what the city government could do on the issue because it happened outside
At a regular Foreign Ministry press
conference in Beijing yesterday, Hong Kong reporters fired at least five
questions at spokeswoman Jiang Yu over the Urumqi incident. But Jiang did not
comment on the Xinjiang government's accusation. Asked whether the ministry
would agree on the Xinjiang authorities' accusation, and whether Beijing had
evidence that the syringe attacks were a terrorist plot, Jiang said only:
"Your question is out of my capacity to answer. Please check with relevant
authorities in Xinjiang."
Needle attacks and rumours spread in China's Xinjiang. By Lucy Hornby.
September 11, 2009.
A police text message was the spark that
ignited the rash of reports in the divided city of Urumqi. Five people died in
unrest last week and tens of thousands poured into the streets to demand the
ouster of the powerful regional Party Secretary, Wang Lequan. "Recently,
several residents were attacked by hypodermic syringes. Local police security
departments have also uncovered a case in which assailants used syringes to
attack passers-by," read the text message, sent to Urumqi residents on Aug.
31. "Please don't panic over the incident, and inform police officers if you
find any suspects."
Panic they did.
By Sept. 4, 513 people had turned up at police stations to report they had
been jabbed, stabbed or pricked. They were tested for HIV, hepatitis and
sexually transmitted diseases, adding to fears that the attacks would spread
AIDS. At least another 77 attacks have since been reported. On Sept 3, Han
Chinese crowded into People's Square demanding Wang's resignation for not
ensuring their safety during the July riots, or against the mystery stabbers.
The five died on Sept 3, when crowds beat up a Uighur man accused of jabbing a
woman, and then attacked the ambulance ferrying him to hospital.
New orders punishing rumour-mongers and
forbidding citizens from beating up suspects imply that the city government is
trying to dampen the firestorm it started. Most of the stabbings appear to be
simple hysteria. Only 106 victims had shown signs of jabs, bumps or rashes as
of Sept 4. Some were pricked by sewing needles or pins, not syringes, doctors
said. Other marks might be insect bites.
Authorities have revealed details of four
crimes that appear to have prompted the syringe warning.
On Aug. 28, a 19-year-old Uighur followed a
fruit seller home and stuck a pin in her buttocks. The next day, two Uighur
drug addicts, a man and woman aged 22 and 34, used a syringe to mug a cabbie,
stealing 710 yuan ($100).
On Aug. 31, a Uighur addict used a syringe
with heroin in it to fend off arresting officers, some of whom were injured.
On Sept 3, four men jabbed a woman in the
neck with a syringe loaded with an unidentified dangerous substance.
Authorities have not explained how the crimes
by junkies and molesters comprise an organised plot. It is possible that those
who were actually pricked, many on crowded buses, were targets of people
seeking revenge or trying to stir up hatred, or just bored people looking for
Online) Panic over syringe stabbings spreads to Beijing.
September 11, 2009.
The Chinese authorities are anxious that
mysterious syringe stabbings that have caused panic in the restive far west
have now reached the capital.
The threat of such needle attacks comes as
an enormous security blanket has been thrown across Beijing to ensure that a
huge military parade to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Communist Party
rule passes off without a hitch on October 1.
Indications that the bizarre attacks may
have extended from the mostly Muslim, riot-torn region of Xinjiang to
Beijing came in the form of directives from internet service providers to
clients to prevent any mention of such violence on websites.
Managers of websites said that they
received notification today to delete any discussion or mention of syringe
stabbings in Beijing as soon as these are spotted.
In a country where the media are carefully
monitored by the propaganda authorities, the internet has become the most
important outlet for relatively free discussion of almost every topic. News
often breaks first on smaller sites that have escaped the eagle eye of
China’s cyber police.
One website manager, who declined to be
identified for fear of retribution, told The Times that he had been
given no indication of where or when such attacks might have taken place in
Beijing. He said: “We don’t even know what is in the syringes. But I’m not
worried. I’ll just make sure I only go out in my car and don’t walk in the
The attacks in Xinjiang have spread from
the capital, Urumqi, where 200 people were killed in July when ethnic
Uighurs turned on Han Chinese, to smaller cities in the region where many
chafe under Beijing rule.
According to officials more than 600 people
in Urumqi say that they have been stabbed, although many incidents have
turned out to be nothing more serious than mosquito bites. More than 40
people have been detained in the city in connection with the attacks.
State media said that nine suspects have
now been detained in the smaller Silk Road cities of Khotan, Altay and
Such is the level of suspicion in China,
where people are accustomed to suppression of news in the state-run media,
that rumours can easily set off panic. A police text message ignited the
panic last week in Urumqi when tens of thousands of Han Chinese marched
through the streets to demand government action to stop the attacks.
The message said: "Recently, several
residents were attacked by hypodermic syringes. Local police security
departments have also uncovered a case in which assailants used syringes to
attack passers-by. Please don't panic over the incident, and inform police
officers if you find any suspects." People then panicked.
Suspects sentenced over needle attacks in Urumqi. September 12, 2009.
Three suspects were sentenced to up to 15
years in jail Saturday over syringe stabbings that triggered public scare in
Urumqi, capital of northwest China's
Court hearings on two cases involving the
three Uygur suspects began at about 10 a.m. at the Municipal Intermediate
People's Court of Urumqi and ended at about 1 p.m., the first of its kind
since many innocent civilians were injured in a series of hypodermic needle
attacks from mid-August.
The court sentenced Yilipan Yilihamu, 19, to
15 years in prison for "deploying false dangerous substances" as he was
convicted of inserting a pin into a woman's buttock on Aug. 28, Shi Xinli,
president of the court, told a press conference soon after the court hearing
The young Uygur was captured on the day hours
after the victim reported to police that she was stabbed at a roadside fruit
"His action violated the Criminal Law and
caused public panic and a grave consequence, so he deserved the penalty," said
Chen Jing, a professor with the Law School of Xinjiang University.
In a separate trial in the same court,
Muhutaerjiang Turdi, a 34-year-old man, and Aimannisha Guli, a 22-year-old
woman, were sentenced to 10 years in jail with a fine of 5,000 yuan (732 U.S.
dollars) and seven years in prison with a fine of 3,000 yuan respectively for
robbing a taxi driver on Aug. 29, Shi said.
The two jointly threatened a taxi driver with
a syringe and robbed him of 710 yuan for buying drugs. The woman was captured
on the same day of the robbery and the man surrendered to police three days
The man was given a 14-year jail term for
robbery in 2001 and was set free in September last year. The woman was
sentenced to one year in prison in January 2007 for theft and was released in
October in the same year, according to court investigations.
More than 200 people, including family
members of the defendants and victims and reporters, were present at the court
hearings Saturday, which proceeded in Uygur language according to the
defendants' wish with simultaneous interpretation in mandarin.
"The court verdict was very accurate," said
Xu Chun, a lawyer with the Gonglian Law Offices based in Urumqi.
The court hearings strictly punished crimes
and alleviated people's scare, contributing to the recovery of the social
order, Xu said. "The suspects did not hire any lawyers themselves so the court
arranged some for them, which is an effort to protect the rights of the
defendants," he added.
"The court made a fair judgment and I think
Urumqi people will feel satisfied with it," said Li Yuying, a saleswoman in
the city. She expressed the belief that the government is capable of
maintaining social stability and protect people's security. She called on
relative authorities to launch quick actions against any possible security
threats in the future.
"Only harsh punishment of criminals according
to law and return of a safe living environment could cure people's
psychological trauma," said Shi Shuhong, a teacher with the No. 35 Primary
School of Urumqi.
"In the view of Muslims, the word Muslim
means solidarity and stability. A complete Muslim must love the country and
the religion, and contribute to the national prosperity, to people's health
and welfare," said Ma Wenxu, an imam with the Luyuanjie Mosque in the city.
"The court hearings and sentences were timely and correct, I fully support and
welcome them," he said.
Hundreds of people have been stabbed by
hypodermic syringes or needles in Urumqi, triggering public angst and wrath.
Tens of thousands of residents took to the
streets early this month, demanding security guarantees. Five people died and
at least 14 were hospitalized for injuries during the protests.
No death nor any case which needs anti-virus
drugs has been reported.
The city's public security authorities
announced last week that police had caught 45 suspects amid the syringe scare,
of whom 12 are in police custody.
Syringe attackers may face harsh punishment
in accordance with the law, including life imprisonment and even death penalty
if convicted of causing grave consequence, the city's judicial and police
authorities have said.
(CCTV9 in English)
Daily) Syringe attacks get up to 15 years in jail. By Cui
Jia and Cai Ke. September 14, 2009.
No radioactive, toxic or viral substances,
such as AIDS, were found in blood samples taken from victims of the recent
spate of syringe attacks in Urumqi after being tested at a laboratory in
Beijing, an expert said Sunday. But Qian Jun, director of Disease Control and
Biological Security Office with China's Academy of Military Medical Sciences,
said: "Although no radioactive or toxic substances were found, some patients
showed various levels of anxiety and depression and have been recommended for
On Saturday, the first group of syringe
attack suspects went on trial in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur
autonomous region, following a series of attacks on at least 500 people in the
city since mid-August.
Two men and a woman were given sentences
ranging from seven to 15 years in jail for syringe stabbings or robberies in
which they threatened their victims with needles. Both trials took place in
the Uygur language according to the defendants' wishes, with interpretation in
The court sentenced 19-year-old Yilipan
Yilihamu to 15 years in prison for injecting a hypodermic needle into a
woman's buttocks on Aug 28 at a roadside fruit stall.
Yilihamu initially denied the charge but later
changed his plea to guilty after evidence was shown in court. He plans to
"The penalty given to Yilihamu is appropriate
because his action caused public panic and led to grave consequences. He
violated the Criminal Law," Chen Jing, a professor with the Law School of
Xinjiang University, told China Daily. "It's only been just over two weeks
between the arrest and sentencing of the suspect. The speedy trials showed the
government's determination to crack down on crime and to foil any attempts to
undermine social stability."
In a separate trial in the same court,
Muhutaerjiang Turdi, a 34-year-old man, and Aimannisha Guli, a 22-year-old
woman, were sentenced to 10 years in jail with a fine of 5,000 yuan ($732) and
seven years in prison with a fine of 3,000 yuan respectively, for robbing a
taxi driver on Aug 29. The two threatened a taxi driver with a syringe and
robbed him of 710 yuan in order to buy drugs. Guli was captured on the day of
the robbery and Turdi turned himself in to police three days after.
The court also found that Turdi was given a
14-year jail term for robbery in 2001 and was released in September last year.
Guli was sentenced to a year in prison in January 2007 for theft and released
in October of the same year. "The court made a fair judgment," Xu Chun, a
lawyer with the Gonglian Law Office based in Urumqi, told China Daily.
But some Urumqi residents believe the
suspects should have received harsher sentences. "I think all three of them
should get at least life imprisonment as they have caused a massive scare
among people and everyone in the city has been deeply affected," a 27-year-old
Urumqi resident speaking on condition of anonymity said Sunday.
On the other hand, people with comparatively
wider knowledge of law believe the punishment was accurate and appropriate.
"Given the consequences of the criminals' crimes, objectively speaking, such a
result is enough to punish them as well as sound an alarm to the general
public", said 72-year-old Ma Wenxu, an imam with the Luyuanjie Mosque in the
Police capture 75 suspects of Xinjiang syringe attacks. September 15,
Seventy-five suspects involved in recent
syringe attacks in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's
Autonomous Region, had been detained as of Tuesday, a local police officer
"As of Tuesday, police have arrested 75
suspects, cracked seven criminal rings and 36 cases related to the syringe
attacks," said Huang Yabo, a senior officer with the regional public security
department. The 36 cases of syringe attacks involved 16 in Urumqi, 13 in Hotan,
and two in Turpan, two in Kashgar and one each in the Changji Hui Autonomous
Prefecture, Aksu and Altay. Huang said that criminologists had been sent to
the region to direct investigations. There were still a few lawbreakers
attacking local residents with syringes, the police officer said. "The police
will intensify the fight against the criminals."
Zhang Jun, deputy head of Urumqi Public
Security Bureau, said in one case, two Uygur youngsters had been detained for
stabbing a local resident named Zhang Yun in the arm on Sept. 12 in a
supermarket. "The two suspects, who are now under detention, have confessed
they attacked Zhang with unused syringes to create panic in society," said
In another case, Tursunjiang Turdi, along
with seven others were seized for organized attacks on Urumqi residents with
needles, pins and toothpicks. "They have confessed their aim was to undermine
ethnic unity in Xinjiang and to create ethnic hatred," said Zhang.
Three Uygurs have already been given heavy
sentences ranging from seven to 15 years in jail on Sept. 12 for syringe
stabbings or threatening to use syringes during robbery.
Hundreds of people have been stabbed by
hypodermic syringes or needles in Urumqi during the past three weeks which
triggered mass public anger. Tens of thousands of residents took to the
streets earlier this month, demanding security guarantees. Five people died
and at least 14 were hospitalized for injuries during the protests.
The city's public security authorities
announced earlier this month that police had caught 45 syringe scare suspects.
Tests of victims' samples had found no dangerous viruses or chemicals, medical
experts said last week.
Xinjiang police capture terror gang and explosives. September 16, 2009.
Police in northwest China's
Autonomous Region have captured a terror gang together with materials and
tools to make explosives, the country's anti-terrorist authorities said
Six suspects, including ringleaders Seyitamut
Obul and Tasin Mehmut, were captured, and "a large quantity" of materials and
tools to make explosive devices were seized during police raids in the suburbs
of Aksu city in Xinjiang. Police did not say when the suspects were seized.
Initial investigation showed the gang had
made more than 20 explosive devices in three places in the suburbs of Aksu
after the July 5 riot, and planned to carry out terrorist attacks, the police
Daily) 'Terror gang' rounded up in Xinjiang. By Cui Jia.
September 17, 2009.
Security forces said Wednesday raids, which
ended late last month, broke up a terrorist bomb-making operation in Xinjiang
in Northwest China.
The six alleged terrorists taken into custody
during the pre-Aug 26 swoops were hoping to ramp up violence and panic in the
troubled region by carrying out suicide bombings and other outrages, police
Investigators uncovered a large cache of
bomb-making material when they conducted operations in Aksu, in the southern
part of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, said a notice posted on the
Ministry of Public Security website Wednesday.
Police believe the gang made more than 20
bombs that were hidden in three locations around Aksu in the aftermath of the
July 5 riot in Urumqi. The authorities say the group was preparing to carry
out suicide bombings, motorbike explosions and detonate car bombs.
Police named two of the six people in custody
as Seyitamut Obul and Tasin Mehmut. The pair were described as the ringleaders
of the cell.
Li Wei, director of the center for
counterterrorism studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International
Relations, warned that terrorists are looking for new ways to spread fear.
"Terrorists have gone underground to organize different forms of terror
attacks in Xinjiang, after the July 5 riot in Urumqi, such as the recent
syringe attacks in the region and plotting bomb attacks," said Li.
Press) Four syringe attackers sentenced to between 8 and 15
years. September 17, 2009.
A court in Xinjiang sentenced four men
accused of jabbing a pedestrian with a hypodermic needle to prison terms of
eight to 15 years on Thursday, as authorities move swiftly to assuage panic
over a string of such attacks.
The men were the second group of attackers to
be sentenced over the bizarre syringe attacks, which that have further raised
public anxiety in Xinjiang, already on edge over July rioting that marked the
country’s worst ethnic violence in decades.
Hundreds of attacks have been reported,
although authorities say only a few dozen people have shown definite signs of
having actually been jabbed with hypodermic needles. Instruments used in
attacks have reportedly also included safety pins and even tooth picks, and no
serious injuries have been reported.
The public security minister has called the
attacks an organised terror plot orchestrated by the same Muslim separatists
blamed for July violence between Han Chinese and Uygurs, a minority Muslim
ethnic group native to Xinjiang. No evidence has been shown to back up the
The sentences handed down by the Intermediate
People’s Court in Urumqi came five days after a first batch of three accused
needle assailants were sentenced to up to 15 years. All the convicted have
Two of the men were given 15 years
imprisonment, one 12, and the other eight over an attack in an underground
pedestrian crossing on the morning of September 3, state broadcaster CCTV
said. One man jabbed a pedestrian in the neck while the others acted as
lookouts, but all were caught after being restrained by passersby.
CCTV showed the four standing before a panel
of judges looking downcast and wearing civilian clothes.
The speed of the trials, and the high degree
of publicity given to them, appears aimed at calming fear and anger that
exploded into mass street protests earlier this month in which five people
Prosecutors said the original four put on
trial included three drug addicts and that at least one attack was a robbery.
All of the suspects were Uygurs, while victims of the attacks are mainly Han.
Times) Taiwan denies entry to Rebiya Kadeer By Liang
Chen. September 27, 2009.
Taiwanese authorities announced their refusal
Saturday to issue a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, a separatist Beijing believes to be
connected with East Turkistan terrorists, diffusing tensions across the
Taiwan residents were divided in their
reaction to the decision.
Analysts said the move shows that Taiwan has
"learned its lesson" after inviting the Dalai Lama into Taiwan and the
screening a documentary about Kadeer earlier this month.
"If Rebiya wants to enter Taiwan regardless
of the government's decision, we will send her back on the original plane in
accordance with immigration laws," Hu Jing-fu, the deputy director of Taiwan's
immigration agency, told reporters yesterday after the authority said it would
deny her visitation rights.
A survey released Saturday by the United
Daily News showed that 28 percent of 792 people polled supported the
authorities' rejection of Kadeer's entry, while another 28 percent opposed the
The remaining voters said they did not care
one way or another.
On the same day, Wu Den-yih, the new head of
Taiwan's "Executive Yuan," told reporters in the southern city of Kaohsiung
that the authority decided not to allow her visit based on security concerns
and public interest.
"I respect and support the decision," Wu
Wu said intelligence information shows that
the World Uyghur Congress, headed by Kadeer, is "closely connected with East
Turkistan forces," according to the Taiwan-based United Evening News.
East Turkistan groups are widely believed to
be involved in extremist and terrorist activities.
Wu's statement came one day after Jiang Yi-huah,
the internal affairs head of the Taiwan region, said Kadeer wouldn't be
allowed "in consideration of Taiwan's interests."
The statements followed reports about Kadeer
wanting to visit Taiwan later this year. She was invited by rock band vocalist
Freddie Lin, an advocate for Taiwan independence.
Kadeer held a press conference in Washington
Saturday to ask Taiwan to apologize for "accusing her of being a terrorist,"
which was later refused by Wu, according to the Taiwan-based Chinese News
Separatist forces in Taiwan have expressed
their dissatisfaction with the government's decision, as Lin made a statement
Friday that the resolution to invite her to Taiwan will never change.
The DPP also blasted Taiwan authorities,
asking for a clear definition of what makes a terrorist.
An editorial by the pro-DPP Freedom Times
criticized the authority's move and called Ma "a surrenderer to the Chinese
People in Taiwan responded positively to the
authority's decision Saturday as "lots of Taiwan merchants are thrilled to
learn about the news, and agree that is unworthy to sacrifice the development
of Taiwan for a separatist," Ye Huide, the executive vice president of the
Association of Taiwan Enterprises, told reporters, according to the
Cross-Straits Metropolis Daily.
An editorial in the China Times, a
Taiwan-based newspaper, approved the ban and accused the "separatist forces"
in Taiwan of "intentionally increasing the tension across the Straits to
achieve their own political aspirations."
A Wall Street Journal reported yesterday said
that the relationship between Beijing and Taiwan "has improved significantly"
since Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou took power last year.
Xiu Chunping, a professor of Taiwan studies
at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "Ma shrugged off pressure of
the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and made a wise decision that is
in line with the mainstream public opinion."
"The mainland will stoutly boost the
cross-Straits ties and never loosen its stance on fighting against the
separatists in Taiwan and Tibet," Xiu said.
And Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher of the
Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said
that Taiwan authorities don't want to further rock the boat.
Three months ago, few people outside the
Uygur community had heard of Rebiya Kadeer. Now, she has become a household
name, thanks in part to Beijing's vilification campaign, which blames her for
riots in Urumqi on July 5.
The 62-year-old grandmother has become a
media star, meeting members of parliaments in Japan, Australia and the United
States, and earning hitherto record prominence for the World Uygur Congress (WUC),
of which she is president. Sales of her autobiography, Dragon Fighter,
are soaring in the US and Europe.
"It is not out of the question that she will
receive the Nobel Peace Prize," said Dr Dru Gladney, president of the Pacific
Basin Institute in Claremont, California, and an expert on Xinjiang. "She
stands for non-violence and peaceful resolution of conflict. She mimics the
Dalai Lama. She is charismatic, intelligent, warm, deeply caring and has high
integrity. The Uygurs adore her and call her their mother."
Beijing sees a different personality: she is
the "black hand" behind the July 5 riots, in which nearly 200 people died and
more than 1,000 were injured. "Evidence shows that the riot was organised,
instigated and masterminded by the WUC led by Kadeer," Xinhua news agency said
on July 8.
In the 60 years since the People's Liberation
Army took over Xinjiang, the Uygurs in exile have never had such a leader nor
been so united.
Official figures show 8.87 million Uygurs
live in China, 98 per cent in Xinjiang. About 600,000 live abroad, with
300,000 in Kazakhstan, 50,000 each in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and others in
Mongolia, Russia, Germany, the US, Australia and Turkey. The largest exodus,
of 67,000 from Xinjiang to the Soviet Union in April 1962, was sparked by the
shortages of the Great Leap Forward and the promise of food supplies. It was
encouraged by the KGB. In the 1990s, many refugees applied to return home but
were refused because they had lost their Chinese citizenship.
The WUC, established in Munich, Germany, in
April 2004, lists affiliated organisations in 13 countries. It receives some
of its funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, a bipartisan
organisation created by the US Congress.
It was in 1953 and 1954 that two former
leaders of the East Turkestan Republic, Mehmet Emin Bughra and Isa Yusuf
Alptekin, founded the East Turkestan Overseas People's Association in
Istanbul. It published magazines and campaigned for the region's independence.
The two men died in 1964 and 1995 respectively. Disputes among different exile
groups, mainly over the issue of whether to use violence, prevented formation
of an effective opposition to China.
The exiles' headquarters used to be in
Istanbul, but pressure from Beijing forced them to move in the late 1990s to
Munich. Since its foundation, the WUC has operated like other lobby groups,
with 60 websites, petitions, briefings of parliamentarians and media
activities, which have intensified since July. Its mission statement does not
contain the word "independence". "The main objective of the WUC is to promote
democracy, human rights and freedom for the Uygur people, and use peaceful,
non-violent and democratic means to determine their political future ... It
declares a non-violent and peaceful opposition movement against Chinese
occupation of East Turkestan," it says.
Beijing disagrees, regarding the WUC as a
terrorist organisation. "It is wholly dedicated to masterminding secessionist
activities in the name of human rights and democracy," Xinhua has said. "After
her release from prison in China in 2005, Kadeer arrived in the United States
and immediately became involved with overseas terrorists, separatists and
extremist forces." She denies the charges.
Professor Yitzhak Shichor, from the East
Asian studies department at Israel's University of Haifa, said the WUC was a
powerless and divided body, infected by informers and internal rivalries,
without the ability to organise even small riots in Xinjiang. "WUC and Uygur
telephone calls and e-mails from abroad are constantly monitored by the
Chinese," he said.
Beijing issued a white paper on terrorism in
Xinjiang in January 2002, saying "East Turkestan terrorists" at home and
abroad were involved in at least 200 instances of violence between 1990 and
2001, killing 162 people and wounding more than 440".
"The 'East Turkestan' forces in China's
Xinjiang and relevant countries plotted and organised a number of bloody
incidents of terror and violence, including explosions, assassinations, arson,
poisoning and assaults, seriously jeopardising the lives, property and
security of the Chinese people of various ethnic groups and social stability
in Xinjiang, and posing a threat to the security and stability of the
countries and regions concerned," a May 2003 white paper said.
Beijing sees the same "black hands" behind
recent needle attacks. "They are a continuation of the July 5 incident,
plotted by unlawful elements and instigated by ethnic separatist forces,"
Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu said on national television.
The outside world is sceptical. Beijing has
failed to produce evidence linking the WUC to the killings and needle attacks
in Xinjiang. Nor has it persuaded the world that those who commit violence in
Xinjiang are linked to al-Qaeda.
In 2002, 22 Uygurs were taken from a village
in Afghanistan and sent to the US military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. After
years of court rulings in their favour, the US government ruled that none were
terrorists and that they should be released.
"The Uygurs are not terrorists," Susan Baker
Manning, a lawyer for two of the Uygurs, told a subcommittee of the US House
Committee on Foreign Affairs in June. She said the administration of former US
president George W. Bush had accepted Beijing's branding of the East Turkestan
Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a terrorist organisation as a trade-off for China's
support of the Iraq war.
Last year, a US appeals court in the District
of Columbia found no credible evidence that ETIM was associated with al-Qaeda
or the Taliban, nor that it had ever fought the US.
Shichor said a minority of Uygur diaspora
organisations considered the use of force the most efficient means to change
China's policy. "The majority of Uygurs prefer the use of peaceful means," he
said. "Beijing's repeated attempts to link Uygurs to international terrorism
have been mostly dismissed as sheer unfounded fabrication. Its tough reaction
reflects its growing concern about the effective activities of Uygur diaspora
organisations. It keeps blaming the WUC and its leaders as well as Uygurs
inside Xinjiang for terrorism to give it a justification to go on cracking
down on them."
Since July 5, Kadeer has moved quickly to
develop world support. Foreign governments and NGOs are increasingly
sympathetic to her calls for improved human and religious rights in Xinjiang.
"But she is not close to the status of the
Dalai Lama," Gladney said. "She is a woman in a patrimonial culture and she is
not a religious leader. She is a Muslim and not a Buddhist, and her cause does
not have the support of stars in Hollywood."
She speaks Uygur and Putonghua, which she
rarely uses. Her English is poor, so this limits her ability to speak directly
to an international audience.
Her chief adviser, Erkin Alptekin, son of Isa
Yusuf Alptekin, is more cosmopolitan. He was the first president of the WUC in
2004. Living in Germany, he speaks Uygur, Turkish, English and German. But he
left Xinjiang in 1949 with his father, at the age of 10, and has not returned.
Kadeer is in better contact with the grass
roots. A mother of 11, she was one of the richest people on the mainland in
the 1990s, a philanthropist and delegate to the Chinese People's Political
Consultative Congress in 1993. In March 2000, she was convicted of "leaking
state secrets", served two years in solitary confinement, and was released on
medical grounds in March 2005 and allowed to go to the US.
The exiled Uygurs are fighting a losing
battle against a rising China. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 seemed
to present them with a golden opportunity. In Central Asia, a single country
was replaced by five republics formed on the basis of their ethnicity. All
have substantial Uygur populations, which raised hopes they could become
support bases for the independence struggle. This was especially the case with
Kazakhstan, which has a 1,500 kilometre land border with China.
But Uygurs abroad were unable to build the
kind of global support the Dalai Lama has won. Beijing also moved swiftly to
set up close economic and military ties with the republics. They were ruled by
former officials of the Soviet state rather than dissidents of the
independence struggle, as in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states.
In 1996, China and Russia formed the Shanghai
Five with three of the Central Asian states, including Kazakhstan. With the
addition of Uzbekistan, in June 2001, it became the Shanghai Co-operation
Organisation. Its priority has been a common security policy, fighting
"terrorism, separatism and extremism", with joint military exercises.
The bloc has been a diplomatic triumph for
Beijing. Instead of becoming a base for Uygur activism, Kazakhstan has been
co-operating in fighting it. No Central Asian country supports the Uygurs and
some have handed back to Beijing those accused of violent activity. Since the
five republics are also fighting Muslim fundamentalist groups, they are more
Beijing has also moved to increase economic
ties with the five, becoming a major buyer of their oil, gas and other natural
resources, and exporting consumer and manufactured goods.
21 suspects involved in Urumqi riot prosecuted. September 25, 2009.
procuratorate on Friday brought charges against 21 suspects in the Urumqi
riot. The July 5 riot in the capital city of northwestern China's Xinjiang
Uygur Autonomous Region left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 injured. The
city's procuratorate said it has instituted public prosecutions in the
Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi against 21 suspects involved in six
cases including homicide, arson and robbery.
The six cases are:
-- Alleged intentional homicide
and arson committed by Abdukerim Abduwayit;
-- Alleged intentional
homicide, arson and robbery committed by four suspects whose leader was Gheni
-- Alleged intentional
homicide, arson, robbery and intentional damage to properties, committed by 11
suspects led by Ahmatjan Moming;
-- Alleged intentional
homicide, robbery and arson committed by Alim Metyusup and Tayirejan Abulimit;
-- Alleged intentional homicide
and arson committed by AzizijanYasin;
-- Alleged intentional homicide
committed by Han Junbo and Liubo.
Further public prosecutions are
to be instituted against other suspects in the Urumqi riot, said the
China Beat) The Ethnicization of Discontent in Xinjiang By
Rian Thum. October 2, 2009.
One of many disturbing long-term effects of
the recent violence in Urumqi is an increased ethnicization of anger on all
sides. Ethnic tensions are of course nothing new in Xinjiang, and ethnically
targeted state policies have long made it difficult to distinguish between
anti-government and ethnic discontent, but until now Uyghur resistance has
been aimed at the state. The recent Urumqi uprisings represent a significant
redirection of anger along more clearly ethnic lines.
The interactions between Uyghur and Han
citizens vary with the uneven demography of Xinjiang. In the provincial
capital, Urumqi, Uyghurs are a minority. This means that Urumqi Uyghurs
frequently encounter intense racism, but also that they deal with the Han in a
wide variety of contexts, many quite friendly. Uyghurs in Urumqi often draw
clear distinctions between grievances against the Han and the government.
However, it is important to remember that most Uyghurs do not lead the daily
lives of minorities. In Southwestern Xinjiang, where most Uyghurs live,
Uyghurs constitute the majority. In rural Uyghur areas, the sight of a Han
person is rare, outside of interactions with officials and police who have
been sent from elsewhere to implement state policies. It is not surprising
then, that in the traditionally Uyghur areas of Southern Xinjiang, the line
between anti-government and anti-Han discontent is thoroughly blurred. When
expressing grievances, it is not uncommon for Uyghurs in the South to name the
Han (khӑnzulӑr), the government (hökümӑt), or even the Communists (komunistlӑr)
interchangeably as the targets of their anger.
In many ways, the increasing ethnicization of
Uyghur grievances is not surprising. A small number of the state policies
that anger Uyghurs, such as the ban on religious education before the age of
eighteen and strict regulation of speech, technically apply across ethnic
boundaries, though they are enforced more vigorously for Uyghurs. However,
most of the controversial state policies are, in fact, ethnically defined.
Police confiscated the passports of Uyghurs (and not Han) in 2007, and
continue to require enormous cash deposits from Uyghurs who want to travel
abroad. New educational policies have been announced, and partially
implemented, that will force Uyghur children to receive all of their
elementary schooling, including subjects like math and science, in the Chinese
language, while Han children in Xinjiang have no requirement to learn any
minority languages. Although state policies toward Islamic practices among
the Hui have loosened up dramatically in recent years, Uyghur Islamic
practices are increasingly circumscribed. In the last ten years, for example,
the major shrines of Orda Padishahim (near Yengisar), Khüjӑ Padishahim (near
Yengisar), and Üjmӑ (near Khotӑn) have been closed to worshippers. The hajj
has become much more difficult for Uyghurs, while the number of Hui hajjis has
skyrocketed. Meanwhile, the two major policies that benefit minorities alone
– exceptions to the one-child policy and lower university admission standards
for students who did not attend Chinese-language schools – stoke Han
resentment. Further complicating ethnic policy is the fact that the powers
that design these policies are disproportionately Han, as Uyghurs, who are
underrepresented in the ranks of officialdom anyway, tend to occupy lower
Yet somehow, in spite of all the entanglement
between ethnic and policy grievances, acts of resistance over the last two
decades have been remarkably focused on the government, rather than ethnically
specific targets. The initially peaceful anti-government protests that took
place in Baren (1990) and Ili (1997) both escalated into clashes with security
forces, but no reports of anti-Han actions have emerged. Politically
motivated bombings, shootings, and knife attacks over the last two decades
have tended to be directed against police stations, party officials (very
often Uyghur), and infrastructure. Relatively rare attacks on civilians, such
as the Urumqi bus bombings of 1997, have claimed Han and Uyghur victims, at
least according to official accounts. The overall pattern of resistance
suggests that, until now, mobilized Uyghurs have viewed the government as the
primary source of their frustrations.
Thus, the brutal July attacks on Han
civilians represent a new form of Uyghur resistance. The causes for this
shift are unclear. It is hard to imagine that violence on such a scale can be
explained simply as a response to the Shaoguan incident, in which Han factory
workers beat to death two Uyghur coworkers near Guangzhou. This is even more
doubtful considering that the Urumqi uprising started as a peaceful protest
against the government’s handling of the Shaoguan incident.
Whatever the reasons for the shift, the
ramifications are troubling. Since the uprisings, both Han and Uyghur
residents of Urumqi have been carrying out informal boycotts along ethnic
lines, showing that some members of both groups continue to act on ethnic
animosity in the wake of the violence. However, for each of the two groups,
increased ethnicization has different implications. Uyghurs in Urumqi, who
were less predisposed to lump the Han and the government into a single enemy,
and more skilled at navigating the intersections of Han and Uyghur society,
are now more alienated than ever. Urumqi has for decades, if not centuries,
been a place where Uyghurs came to participate in a Han-dominated world, an
endeavor which always involved some measure of compromise and even
assimilation. Yet there are thousands of Uyghurs who are increasingly
recognizing that no matter how well they speak Chinese or how well they toe
the party line, they will always be Uyghur. Now more than ever, Urumqi
Uyghurs are sensing that they are, by virtue of their ethnicity, suspected as
Perhaps more significantly for the future of
Xinjiang, the ethnicization of Uyghur discontent has widened the scope of
conflict by drawing in the Han population at large. The Han demonstrations
that took place in September in Urumqi are the work of a newly disgruntled
segment of Xinjiang’s population, which had until now remained relatively
silent. The state now finds itself confronting two conflicting pressures from
its citizens, with Uyghurs demanding greater freedoms, and Han citizens
insisting that the violence was a result of government laxity toward the
The mobilization of both Han and Uyghur
ethnic anger also threatens to spread beyond the capital, for if the focus of
the trouble was Urumqi, inhabitants throughout Xinjiang have felt the
effects. On July 30th, wanted posters appeared in towns throughout the
province, promising to bring the “fearsomeness of the dictatorship’s power” to
bear on anyone involved in the Urumqi uprising. Roadblocks, random searches,
and identification checks are now commonplace. For over one month after the
uprisings (and likely still today), parades of army trucks full of armed Han
soldiers circled the streets of even small towns like Qaghilik (Ch. Yecheng)
and Shule (Uyghur: Qӑshqӑr Yengishӑhӑr). For the Han they mean security, and
for the Uyghurs they represent tightening government controls, but they also
advertise to both Han and Uyghurs a continuing state of conflict, which is
assumed to involve members of both ethnicities throughout the province.
Worst of all, the ethnicization has made the
very policies that could have prevented such violence that much harder for the
government to enact. Over the last ten years there have been no signs that
either Beijing or the Xinjiang government were considering positive moves like
the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws or the elimination of those
cultural, speech, and travel restrictions aimed only at Uyghurs. Now such
policies seem even more unlikely, as crowds of Han demonstrators demand that
their government take a tougher stance against the Uyghurs.
The controversy over the Uyghurs’ place in
China remains much more than an ethnic conflict. To write it off as simple
us-versus-them hatred, a phenomenon viewed in the West as irrational and
barbaric, would obscure many legitimate grievances. Unfortunately, though,
the ethnic vector of discontent is now an increasingly important feature of
Xinjiang’s political landscape.
Rian Thum is a PhD candidate in the Inner
Asian and Altaic Studies program at Harvard University.
China Beat) Islamic Fundamentalism: An Ignored Specter in the
Xinjiang Riot By Liang Zheng. October 6, 2009.
It’s been three months since the city of
Urumqi was plunged into chaos and terror by the deadliest ethnic bloodletting
in the history of the People’s Republic. The riot on July 5th this
summer erupted right after a mostly peaceful demonstration organized by Uyghur
youths in Urumqi called to demand the government thoroughly investigate a
brawl in southern China, which had left two Uyghur workers dead and dozens
more injured. At that point, no one anticipated the demonstration would be
followed by a horrible massacre in Urumqi that took at least 197 innocent
lives, most of them members of the Han ethnicity (a group to which the vast
majority of PRC citizens belongs). There have been scores of
headline-grabbing stories about these events and a variety of different kinds
of explanations, but an important dimension of the massacre of Han Chinese–the
role that Islamic fundamentalism played in it–has been ignored so far by both
the Chinese government and most of those writing for the Western press.
Demonstrations are not uncommon in China
today. The country’s breakneck economic growth and rampant corruption
involving ignorant and greedy local officials combine to create a breeding
ground for local discontent, which usually targets economic marginalization,
environmental degradation and acts of official malfeasance. However,
attributing the root cause of this violent crime in Urumqi to the same mix of
grievances is to miss a crucial part of the real situation on the ground. This
misleading generalization also reinforces a simple government versus the
people dichotomy (very popular in the West), which neither helps us fully
understand the situation in Xinjiang nor contributes to the effort to find
meaningful solutions to the problems there.
Xinjiang today is facing the same problems as
other provinces, problems generated by the modernization drive that features
mass migration of peasant workers, pollution of the environment, and economic
marginalization of the socially vulnerable, problems that have been critical
ones for China since the1980s. Uyghurs living in Xinjiang not only have to
deal with the downsides of the modernization drive; they also suffer from a
systematic discrimination in employment and obstacles placed in the way of
practicing Islam. These real issues, too, cause upset among Uyghurs in
Xinjiang. As citizens of the PRC, Uyghurs certainly are entitled to speak out,
have their voices heard and their concerns addressed. However, the killing of
innocent people should not be justified as a way to express discontent or
anger. The unfair state policy and the indiscriminate killing of innocent
people are matters of entirely different natures, and the loss of innocent
lives can’t be justified by any political arguments.
July 5th shocked Urumqi, the most
prosperous city in Central Asia. Organized riots broke out at the same time in
50 different places across the city, according to the Chinese police emergency
110. Local residents, who live in apartment buildings along the streets,
recorded those bloody moments with their cell phones and cameras. Those images
and videos have yet to make it to the world simply because all communications
with the outside have been cut off since the riot, especially the Internet.
Those who have witnessed violence or watched the video clips taken by
surveillance/personal cameras are seriously traumatized and some had to seek
counseling to get to sleep. People have to ask who could actually commit such
One Uyghur interviewee on television
suggested that people on the street that day sounded different because they
spoke Uyghur with the accents of southern Xinjiang. This suggestion is
confirmed by many of my Uyghur friends, who believe that the Uyghurs of Urumqi
could never have committed acts like decapitation, throwing pregnant women off
overpasses, or setting innocent people on fire, because the Uyghur and Han of
Urumqi had lived together peacefully for decades. Another Uyghur interviewee
told a reporter that rioters not only beat up and killed Han Chinese, they
also behaved in a way that suggests their fundamentalist beliefs when they
roughed up Uyghur women merely because those women were wearing skirts and
In an interview with a Hong Kong newsweekly
Yazhou Zhoukan, Heyrat Niyaz, a Uyghur journalist and AIDS activist
from Urumqi, suggested that the terror on July 5th showed the
fingerprints of Hizb
ut-Tahrir, an Islamic fundamentalist organization that is active in
Central Asia. As a witness of the violence, Heyrat also notes the strong
Kashgar accent of rioters and that they were chanting slogans like “Kill off
all Hans” and “ We want an Islamic State; we want Sharia Law.”
Several days before the riot, many Urumqi
taxi drivers also reported a sudden increase of new arrivals from cities in
southern Xinjiang like Kashgar and Hotan at the Urumqi transportation center.
Round-trip tickets to Urumqi were found in pockets of many detained suspects
after the riot, according to local police.
Looking at a map of Central Asia, southern
Xinjiang shares a border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, hotbeds of Islamic
fundamentalism. Extremists have been trying to infiltrate southern Xinjiang
for decades to widen their influence and recruit young operatives. It is
highly likely that the disillusioned youths in southern Xinjiang took example
from their counterparts across the border. When it comes to the Urumqi riot,
this dimension has been downplayed or ignored by both the Chinese government
and Western media. As an authoritarian government, the top priority of the
Chinese government is to maintain social stability and multi-ethnic unity and
in turn its legitimacy. Two days after the deadly riot, the state media was
mobilized to propagate stories of how Uyghurs saved Hans from killers and at
the same time to ignore the threat of fundamentalism. On the other hand,
Western media continued reporting the event as a confrontation between a
repressive government and members of an oppressed minority who lost out in a
rapidly changing economy. Two months after the riot, the Chinese government is
still imposing an information blackout and only letting government-sanctioned
stories out, which renders it impossible to know what really happened. The
Western media’s own ideological frameworks, coupled with the Chinese
government’s information blackouts, illustrate the limits of the international
media’s ability to clearly and accurately portray the July events.
Based on some of the indicators I have
mentioned above, it does not appear that the vicious killers in Urumqi were
local. The indiscriminate killings of Hans (usually non-Muslims), the crimes
committed against skirt-wearing Uyghur women, and the appeal for an Islamic
state with Sharia Law appear to be messages from fundamentalists. When China
is battling against the infiltration of Islamic fundamentalism on its
western-most border, the background of this riot is certainly not as simple as
“government vesus the people”, and further investigations are seriously needed
to ascertain the role of Islamic fundamentalism in the Urumqi riot. Uncovering
such dimensions is critical not just to the security of China but to that of
the diverse peoples of Xinjiang, Han and Uyghur alike. As one of my moderate
Uyghur friends said at a dinner party, “When they kill off all Hans in
Xinjiang, they will come after us.”
China Beat) Response to “Islamic Fundamentalism: An Ignored
Specter in the Xinjiang Riot”. By Mark Elliott. October 16, 2009.
China Beat has
run several pieces recently on the Xinjiang riots. On October 2, we featured
Rian Thum’s “The Ethnicization
of Discontent in Xinjiang,” which argued that the riots had raised
ethnic tensions in the region. A few days later, we published ”Islamic
Fundamentalism: An Ignored Specter in the Xinjiang Riot,” written by Liang
Zheng. Zheng argued that the foreign media had ignored indications that the
riots were instigated by fundamentalists from southern Xinjiang, an argument
that preserves the notion of ethnic harmony in Urumqi itself.
Today we run a response to
Zheng’s argument from
Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History at Harvard University. Further
responses may be sent to thechinabeat <AT>
By Mark Elliott
With great interest and no little concern I
read the recent post by Liang Zheng (“Islamic Fundamentalism: An Ignored
Specter in the Xinjiang Riot,” 6 October), arguing that Islamic
fundamentalism is behind the violent protests that took place in Urumqi this
past July. If Mr. Zheng’s claims were true, that would indeed be cause for
alarm on more than one level. Yet, because this is such a contentious point
– dovetailing as it does rather neatly with the government’s line on
discontent generally in Xinjiang and the justification given for “striking
hard” against Uyghur dissent – the evidence should be examined extremely
carefully. As far as I can tell, the evidence presented by Mr. Zheng seems
to be little more than hearsay.
Disregarding the argument that Xinjiang’s
shared border with Afghanistan and Pakistan is prima facie evidence
of fundamentalist influence, the assertions in the post regarding the spread
of Islamic extremism to Xinjiang and the July violence are based mainly on
the comments of the journalist and blogger Gheyret Niyaz,
quoted in an interview in the August 2 issue of Yazhou zhoukan
here). Gheyret says first that during one street protest in Urumqi he
heard slogans being shouted for the imposition of Shari’a law and the
establishment of an Islamic state. One would like to have independent
verification of these claims, and to know whether similar calls were made at
other locations. I myself am unaware of any confirmed accounts that this was
the case, but perhaps other readers of China Beat have information
they can provide? Gheyret goes on to say that since these goals coincide
with those of Hizb ut-Tahrir (Islamic Liberation Party, or ILP), that
organization must have helped to organize the protests. This seems to be
mere inference. As further evidence of this involvement, he points to the
fact that the people in the crowd of one hundred he observed that day were
all wearing tennis shoes; that “they came together and dispersed in unison,
in a highly organized way”; and that they spoke with accents identifying
them as coming from Kashgar and Khotan. On this last point he is tentative,
since, as he says, “I could not see if they had knives” (!). None of this
seems convincing to me as evidence of a link to outside fundamentalist
organizations. (A perusal of ILP’s UK website turns up no indication of any
special interest in events in Xinjiang or support for the Uyghur cause.
Quite the contrary: it approvingly reports the Pakistani president’s praise
of the Chinese government’s handling of the unrest.)
It is well known that people often resort
to conspiracy as a way of explaining how otherwise inexplicable and terrible
events come to pass. That earlier in the same interview Gheyret alleges that
Rebiya Kadeer was also involved in helping to organize the protests (this,
of course, being another claim made by the government, which so far also
lacks independent confirmation) demonstrates, I think, his susceptibility to
this very tendency. I will say that I have heard, but cannot confirm, that a
broadcast on Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur language service shortly before the
violence included remarks by Rebiya that might be characterized as
provocative. Even if this were so, it is hardly proof that she or those
around her helped organize the protests; indeed, had she been so directly
involved, it seems unlikely that she would have taken the trouble to
advertise the fact on the radio.
Mr. Zheng also cites local witnesses among
his friends and acquaintances to the effect that there were a lot of people
from Kashgar (or elsewhere in Altishahr) in Urumqi at the time. I suspect
that others may also have heard these rumors. But as Mr. Zheng must know,
there are always many people from the southern part of Xinjiang in Urumqi at
any given time. Who is to say if the number was higher than usual? Assuming
it were, how are we to know whether these people were there in response to a
call from fundamentalist imams to take to the streets, protest the treatment
of Uyghur workers in Guangzhou, and exact a bloody retribution? If many of
Urumqi’s Uyghurs deny involvement in the violence, this is to be expected.
For one thing, doubtless relatively few indeed
were involved; for another,
it would make sense for them to shift the blame to people from outside (“It
wasn’t us!”). All these considerations encourage skepticism of reports that
Urumqi was secretly infiltrated by organized columns of extremist
Kashgarliks in early July.
While Mr. Zheng is doubtless well-informed
as to the situation generally in Xinjiang, his observations on the July
unrest as reported in China Beat appear to be based on unconfirmed
reports and second-hand information. He does not seem to have been in Urumqi
when the events occurred or to have witnessed anything firsthand. While the
post is largely sympathetic to the plight of Uyghurs, it seems to me that it
serves also as a Trojan horse for a more sinister interpretation of the
situation in Xinjiang and the “danger” there of Islamic fundamentalist
influence and terrorism, an interpretation that ultimately only facilitates
government policies of repression.
No one approves the violence, obviously.
One can concede the likelihood that there has been some increase of
fundamentalist beliefs in segments of Xinjiang society. But spreading
unsubstantiated stories about the ties of fundamentalist organizations to
the July demonstrations adds nothing to our understanding of events. On the
contrary, for the reasons stated here, I see it as quite harmful. In my
view, this post falls short of the usual high standards maintained by
Daily) 108 stand accused in Urumqi riot October 9, 2009.
Accusations have been brought against 108
suspects allegedly involved in the riot in Urumqi in July, the capital of the
Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the city's deputy chief procurator said.
Among accused suspects connected with 55 cases, only 21 suspects involved in
six cases were charged with homicide, arson and robbery and will be prosecuted
in the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi. The 21 will be the first batch
of riot suspects to stand trial, Liu Bo, the city's deputy chief procurator,
"The police and procuratorate have made a lot
of effort to collect solid and legitimate evidence against each suspect
allegedly involved in criminal activities in the riot. The effort includes
crime scene investigation, collection and analyzing evidence as well as
identifying victims," Liu said. "It's a time-consuming task for the police
force due to the number of people and the amount of evidence involved," Liu
said. "That's why we have only instituted public prosecutions against 21
suspects so far, but the procuratorate will speed up the process of public
prosecution for the rest of the suspects."
In response to the July 5 riot, which left
197 people dead and more than 1,600 injured, local police have so far
requested the procuratorate approve the arrests of 575 suspects thought to
have been involved in 366 cases. Among the 575 requests, 430 have been
granted, Liu said. Police have previously said that 825 people have been
detained so far in connection with the riot. The procuratorate also published
brief details of the first six prosecuted cases, which left 25 people dead.
All 21 suspects involved are charged with intentional homicide, which could
lead to death sentences.
In one case, Abdukerim Abduwayit is charged
with intentional homicide and arson for kicking and stabbing five people to
death at Tuanjie Road and torching several buildings. In another case, four
suspects, led by Gheni Yusup, were alleged to have beaten five people to death
in four different locations. The group also torched a grain and oil
distribution center, which caused five people who were trapped inside to burn
to death. They are charged with intentional homicide, arson and robbery.
Liu also cleared the rumor that suspect Han
Junbo's wife was brutally killed in the riot and that was why Han killed one
person as revenge. "Han's wife and three children are safe and sound," said
Liu. Han is charged with intentional homicide.
Police have also confirmed the arrest of the
suspect who killed armed police Wan Jingang during the riot. The suspect was
detained on Sept 19 and will be prosecuted as soon as possible, said Su
Yanbing, the vice-chief of Urumqi public security bureau.
Meng Jianzhu, state councilor and public
security minister, has urged no leniency in the punishment of those who took
part in the Urumqi riot.
Three months after the worst ethnic violence
in Xinjiang for 12 years, tens of thousands of troops remain on duty in cities
across the region that accounts for one-sixth of China's land area. The
transport of security forces from different provinces was so large that it
caused cancellations and delays of civil air flights.
On September 26, Beijing announced the first
charges against those involved in ethnic riots that struck the regional
capital Urumqi from July 5, killing 197 people. Twenty-one people were charged
with murder, arson, robbery and damaging property. The city's Communist Party
chief and the regional police chief were fired to take responsibility for the
In late July, Beijing announced spending of 4
billion yuan (HK$4.5 billion) on poverty relief and economic development in
the three districts of southern Xinjiang where most of the rioters came from.
But nothing else has changed. The worst ethnic violence in 12 years - since up
to 100 were killed in anti-government protests in Yining in February 1997 -
has resulted in no change of policy or self-reflection. Beijing has left in
place Wang Lequan, the party chief of the region since 1994, the
longest-serving leader of any part of China.
"Through the past decades, our ethnic
policies have proved to be correct and effective, and we must stick to them
for a long time," Yang Jing, minister of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission,
said on September 21.
Many Uygurs do not agree, saying that the
violence reflected long-standing grievances over employment, education and
religion that would cause similar protests again.
Hailaite Niyazi, one of two moderate Uygur
intellectuals who present the case of their people to the Chinese public
through their Putonghua websites, said two grievances lay behind the July
"One is the movement of Uygurs to the east to
work and the other the introduction of double-language education. Both were
opposed by many Uygur officials, but anyone who dared to say 'no' was
immediately dealt with. It is no laughing matter to send Uygur girls of 17 and
18 away to work," he said.
It was the killing of two of these migrant
workers, at a factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong province, on June 26 that was the
spark for the July 5 protest.
"The second policy is double-language
education," Niyazi said. "This will mean dismissal for tens of thousands of
minority teachers whose Mandarin is not good enough, and has shaken people's
faith in grass-roots education."
For Ilham Tohti, formerly a professor of
economics at the Minorities University in Beijing, the key issue is
employment. In an interview with Radio Free Asia this year, he criticised the
policy of encouraging Han Chinese to migrate to Xinjiang. "When I was doing
research for the government in the 1990s, I found that there were 1.5 million
unemployed out of a population of 20 million in Xinjiang. But 1.3 million
migrant workers went to Xinjiang in 2008. There are abundant employment
opportunities in Xinjiang, but why not for Uygurs?"
On July 8, the authorities detained Tohti at
his home in Beijing and released him on August 23 after intense lobbying on
his behalf at home and abroad.
The government's most detailed response to
these grievances came in the white paper issued on September 21, a passionate
defence of its policies since the People's Liberation Army took over Xinjiang
in 1949. Since then, it said, the central government had invested 386 billion
yuan in Xinjiang. Last year, the income of a farmer reached 3,503 yuan
(HK$3,980), 28 times the level of 1978, and that of an urban resident 11,432
yuan, up 35 times.
"Before 1949, Xinjiang did not have one metre
of railway and no large-scale agriculture. Its industry was of a very small
scale. Last year its GDP reached 420.3 billion yuan, an average annual
increase of 8.3 per cent since 1955. It has 3,000 kilometres of railway and
eight major expressways, with a total of 147,000 kilometres of roads. It is
self-sufficient in grain, China's top producer of cotton and sugar beet, the
top exporter of tomatoes, the biggest producer of gas and second-largest of
It said that last year the average rural
resident had 22.8 square metres of living space, up from 10 in 1983, and that
the average urban resident had 27.3 square metres, up from 12.
The white paper presented the movement of
Uygur labour to cities in the east as an important step to fight unemployment,
especially in rural areas, and raise incomes and skill levels. It started in
the early 2000s, with fewer than 300,000 in 2002 and rising to 1.5 million
last year. The white paper cited the county of Jiashi , which had since 2006
sent 19,000 workers to firms in the rest of China, earning nearly 200 million
yuan and increasing the average income to more than 7,000 yuan a year. At the
same time, it said, hundreds of thousands of migrants went to Xinjiang each
year from other parts of China to work on the cotton crop.
While such migrant work brings in more money
for Uygurs, it is a challenge to conservative Muslim families who want to keep
their children, especially their daughters, close at hand and not expose them
to an unfamiliar life thousands of kilometres away.
"Anger over unemployment was the biggest
factor behind the July 5 riots," said a report in August in Nanfeng Chuang,
one of China's boldest weeklies. "Minority families were large in the 1980s,
with less strict birth control. Xinjiang does not have a private economy like
Guangdong and Zhejiang . Uygurs are handicapped by poor language and
scholastic standards. In the past, minority quotas on employment were strict
but have become increasingly lax. Every minority family we interviewed
complained of a shortage of jobs. There is a big gap in the unemployment level
between the different races."
Education and language are also points of
friction. "Of the 10 million minority people in Xinjiang, 70 per cent do not
understand Chinese characters, which is disadvantageous to them and the
region," the white paper said. "From 2004, the government introduced
double-language education in minority schools. An increasing number of
minorities want to learn Chinese; 24,000 minority students are attending
secondary schools in 28 cities" in other parts of China.
This switch to Putonghua threatens the jobs
of tens of thousands of older teachers whose Chinese is not good enough to use
as a teaching medium. Putonghua is the dominant language of government,
education and business; mastery of it is essential to a successful career.
The white paper also said different races
were living closer to one another. In the southern areas of Kashgar, Hotan and
Aksu, the Uygur proportion of the population had fallen from 84.6 per cent in
1944 to 71.5 per cent in 2007. In Yili , the Kazakh proportion of the
population had fallen from 83.4 per cent in 1944 to 76.8 per cent in 2007.
Religion is another point of friction. The
white paper said Xinjiang had 24,800 mosques, churches and temples, with
29,000 professional religious and two religious schools. Since the 1980s, more
than 50,000 people had made the pilgrimage to Mecca and 47 people had gone to
Egypt, Pakistan and other Muslim countries for higher study.
The state had printed more than a million
copies of the Koran and last year spent 33 million yuan to repair an important
mosque and cemetery.
But critics reply that official controls on
Islam are too rigid - the state does not allow public officials and students
to enter mosques and does not allow private activities in running religious
schools, constructing religious buildings, printing religious material or
accepting donations from abroad; everything must be approved and controlled by
the state, which proclaims itself atheistic.
Intermarriage among the races is increasing
but rare. In Urumqi, there were 218 such marriages in 1980, accounting for 2.1
per cent of the total, rising to 811, or 5.9 per cent, in 2003, the white
paper said. Intermarriage between Han and Uygur is rare, mainly because of
family opposition and the difference in religion.
Six sentenced to death over Xinjiang riot October 12, 2009.
Six men who were convicted of murder and
other crimes in the July 5 riot in
Xinjiang were sentenced Monday to death after
a first-instance trial, and another man was jailed for life. Abdukerim
Abduwayit, Gheni Yusup, Abdulla Mettohti, Adil Rozi, Nureli Wuxiu'er, and Alim
Metyusup were sentenced to death at the Intermediate People's Court in Urumqi.
Tayirejan Abulimit was given life imprisonment, a lesser punishment as he
confessed to crimes of murder and robbery and helped the police capture Alim
Metyusup. All seven men had been convicted of murder, and some of them were
also convicted of arson or robbery. The seven were the first to be sentenced
over the riot, which left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 injured in
Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang
Abdukerim Abduwayit killed five innocent
people with dagger and pipe wrench during the riot. He also set fire to a
downtown building, forcing 13 people to jump off the building to escape and
causing an economic loss of more than 260,000 yuan (38,067 US dollars). In the
second case, Gheni Yusup led Abdulla Mettohti, Adil Rozi and Nureli Wuxiu'er
in beating four people to death and injuring another. Abdulla Mettohti and
others also set a grain and oil shop ablaze, killing five people who were
hiding inside and causing an economic loss of 1.37 million yuan. Alim Metyusup
and Tayirejan Abulimit together killed three people and seriously injured one
person. Alim Metyusup together with other mobs also killed another two people
and set fire to houses, resulting in an economic loss of more than 50,000 yuan.
(CCTV 1 in Chinese)
York Times) China court sentences 6 to death in rioting.
By Edward Wong. October 13, 2009.
A Chinese court sentenced six men to death
and a seventh to life in prison on Monday for their roles in the deadly ethnic
rioting that convulsed the western regional capital of Urumqi in July,
according to Xinhua, the state news agency. All seven had names that suggested
they were Uighurs, the largest ethnic group in the vast region of Xinjiang.
All were convicted of murder, and some were also found guilty of arson and
robbery, Xinhua reported.
The sentences were the first to be handed
down by a court in response to the rioting of July 5, in which enraged Uighurs
went on a rampage against Han, the dominant ethnic group in China, in the
streets of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. At least 197 people were killed,
most of them Han civilians, and 1,600 injured, the government announced. The
ethnic rioting was the worst in decades in China and prompted cycles of
retaliation as well as protests against the regional government.
Uighurs in Xinjiang have long complained of
discrimination against them and of mass migrations to Xinjiang by the Han that
have changed society in parts of the region they once dominated.
The six sentenced to death by the
Intermediate People’s Court in Urumqi were Abdukerim Abduwayit, Gheni Yusup,
Abdulla Mettohti, Adil Rozi, Nureli Wuxiu’er and Alim Metyusup, according to
Xinhua. The seventh, Tayirejan Abulimit, was given a life sentence because he
had confessed to murder and robbery and helped in the arrest of Alim Metyusup,
The English-language version of the Xinhua
report did not provide details of the crimes. However, the Chinese-language
version said that Abdukerim Abduwayit killed five people by stabbing them or
beating them with an iron pipe, and that he helped set fire to buildings that
forced 13 people to jump from their windows. Most of the men were convicted of
similar crimes, according to the Xinhua report.
The trial on Monday was held without any
prior announcement. In late August, China Daily, an official English-language
newspaper, reported that trials would start that week, but regional
authorities quickly said after the article appeared that a trial date had not
The sentences in Urumqi were handed down just
two days after two courts in southern China sentenced 11 people for their
roles in the ethnic melee at a toy factory that served as a spark of the
Xinjiang rioting. Xiao Jianhua, a Han man identified by a court as the
“principal instigator” of that brawl, received a death sentence, another man
received life in prison and nine others were given shorter prison terms.
Earlier this week, courts in Xinjiang
sentenced six men to death and a seventh to life imprisonment for murder,
arson and robbery during riots that swept the region in early July, leaving
nearly 200 persons dead. Paul Mozur, a Taiwan-based correspondent, traveled
through the area shortly after the riots. This is the first of a three-part
Xinjiang has become one of the worst parts of
the world to have your bank account frozen. The Autonomous Region of China is
now in its fourth month without text messages, internet and international
calls, and I found myself in Kashgar with a security hold on my American bank
account. At first I thought there must be some recourse, the Uighurs have
dealt with brutal competition for their land from Mongols, Kyrgyz, Chinese and
Russians for more than 1,000 years. Surely they could get around the
communication shadow the government has cast over the province since the July
fifth riots left 197, mostly Han Chinese, dead.
Within 45 minutes I found a contact who "knew
a friend who might be able to help." Another half-hour later and I was in
brightly lit office adorned with a large map of Xinjiang with a tour guide who
knew a number in Guangdong through which he had been able to connect to the
internet two weeks before. He began the connection, but after two cigarettes
and a call to his wife about dinner, he turned and shrugged his shoulders.
"I'm sorry, I don't know if this is legal or not, I tried once and it worked
two weeks ago, but maybe they have shut it down. I don't want to try again."
Unlike the United States these days, my
credit was satisfactory enough for a cash advance from Bank of China and I was
able to go on my way. But Xinjiang's communication breakdown has affected the
fabric of business in the region, crippled the tourist industry and changed
the way information and rumors make their way across the province. Between
cigarette one and two the helpful tourist agent complained of the bitter
reality for Xinjiang's tourist season in the past two years.
"Last year was bad, you know, because of the
Olympics, but we thought this year would be better and now, who would want to
come to a place where we have to live like this," he motioned resignedly to
his laptop. "The people in the old markets don't mind, but how am I supposed
to run a business without internet?"
By all observations small businesses ran
surprisingly smooth in this historically entrepot land, but the steady stream
of tourists, both Han Chinese and foreign, that annually make it to this
horizon of the Middle Kingdom had no doubt slowed to a trickle. Bargaining
harder than ever, the many Han hotel owners across the province all admitted
it had been a summer of vacancy. From Hami and Urumqi to Hotan and Yarkand,
the bikes at guest houses collected cobwebs, the Western bars were silent and
the karaokes loud and empty. And due to China's restrictions on journalism in
Xinjiang, too few press cameras were around to snap these tumbleweeds of the
Although there's no indication yet just what
toll the blackout will have on the region's economy as a whole, the sad
reality is it means a desperate financial situation could still get worse for
many Uighurs who, due to discrimination or lack of opportunity are unemployed.
Over the past six decades a large influx of Han immigrants - in 1949 about 6
percent of Xinjiang's population was Han Chinese compared with over 40 percent
today - enticed with incentives such as easy access to land, better education
for their children and subsidized housing have driven many Uighurs from jobs.
In mid-afternoon a laghman vendor in Hami's market motioned to a group of
Uighurs whispering around four sweaty beers, "they are all unemployed, so they
stay around the market and try to make some money as middlemen." Clearly on
this day spending eclipsed earning. Tellingly the Xinjiang Production and
Construction Corps or Bingtuan, a government-run organization used to first
establish infrastructure in the region in the 1950s, counts 88.1 percent of
its more than 2,500,000 workers as Han Chinese.
Though the Bingtuan is part of a long-term
Sinicization campaign to drown out Uighur culture and by extension in CCP-think
"separatism," very little actual integration has occurred. One Han proprietor
of a Kashgar liquor shop and a tangle of underground rooms where both Uighurs
and Han alike drank could not name one Uighur artist in the box of VCDs he
regularly gave his Uighur patrons to play on his shop's televisions. "I don't
actually know anything about the music, I can't even understand the language,"
As senior Asia researcher for Human Rights
Watch Nicholas Bequelin explains, Han migrants in Xinjiang today are more
clueless than ever. "Whereas Han settlers previously had a strong sense that
they were newcomers in an indigenous territory, many Han people who have moved
to urban centers in Xinjiang over the past 10 years are oblivious to the
recent character of Chinese migration into the region. This makes it very
difficult for them to understand why Uighurs may feel disenfranchised and
aggrieved." It's this cultural ignorance in potent combination with
joblessness and draconian restrictions on Uighur cultural practices that has
stoked tensions in Xinjiang for so long. And now in the critical months after
July's riots Chinese policies are unsurprisingly errant anew, unnerving and
aggravating both Uighur and Han alike.
Just as many small businesses in Xinjiang
seemed to have grudgingly but easily retreated to telephone and post, the
spread of information also reverted to this surprisingly antiquated
early-1990's way of life. The proudly Sichuan owner of a computer store in
Yarkand, a city inhabited primarily by Uighurs, updated me about the
"situation" in Urumqi affirming Han protests were still going on and that "the
Uighurs are stabbing people with needles infected with HIV." With no texting,
let alone Twitter, he relied on his distributors in Urumqi for information.
"If my orders come late I call Urumqi, they tell me what's going on." More
shipments than usual had been delayed recently so he was a well-informed man.
As he shuffled to a cluttered backroom where
he had been watching a movie with three friends also from Sichuan, he warned
me, "be careful, if you're going to the Uighur part of town." On September
third, Han Chinese had protested over reports that Uighurs had been stabbing
Han Chinese with needles. The protests, which left several Han Chinese dead,
resulted in the sacking of Urumqi party secretary Li Zhi and Xinjiang regional
chief of police Liu Yaohua.
Though it took a day or two for the news to
fully spread around Kashgar and southern Xinjiang, those words, "be careful,"
became as common a farewell from the Han Chinese as the traditional "go
slowly." Since then the Chinese government has announced that none of the
reported 400 plus cases of needle stabbings resulted in poisoning or illness
and have already rounded up 75 suspects and efficiently sentenced seven to 7
to 15 years for involvement. Two other suspects also admitted they had been
trying "to create panic in society." Given China's history of forced
confessions, this should be taken with a grain of salt, but it should also be
noted that if the accused were attempting to create panic, it was an exercise
in restraint given most Uighurs carry knives.
Notwithstanding the tale of a British kitchen
hand who used a needle filled with acid to defend her consulate during an
outbreak of assassinations in Kashgar in 1912, the Chinese have maintained a
paranoia about needle stabbings since 2002 incidents in Beijing and Tianjin.
Gruesome rumors of AIDs-stricken Uighurs pouring blood into food at Uighur
restaurants in Beijing have also been reported as far back as 2005. Still the
response, in which residents of Urumqi called for the notoriously ruthless
party regional secretary Wang Lequan to step down because he has not been
punitive enough, has been paranoid at best. Tensions that have simmered for
years have come to a full boil, and for Han settlers in Xinjiang the
government's response has not brought any relief, in fact it has made things
Living in the darkness of a communication
black hole where cherubic PLA soldiers leer and grunt on every corner, it's no
wonder the Han so protested so radically in early September. Though there is
word that the internet may come back online soon, the damage done to the
economy will not be so easy to redress. Combine this with recent threats from
Al Qaeda regarding China's treatment of the Uighurs and the hopelessly tense
situation in Xinjiang looks set to continue well into the future.
Sentinel) Han Chinese Uproot Uighur Culture. By Paul Mozur.
October 15, 2009.
Kashgar's old city can be deceiving. Its
airy, mud-brick courtyard houses show the dilapidation of their 400-year
history, but many abodes are in fact quite comfortable. Still, unpatched
cracks mark the outside of many walls and Spartan comforts are the rule. The
Chinese government has cleverly cashed in on this perception to bulldoze whole
blocks of the old city under the pretense of enhancing living conditions and
providing earthquake-safe housing for the Uighurs.
But the stucco flaking from new apartment
blocks outside the city where many have been or will be moved inspires little
confidence in a policy many analysts have said is designed to continue to
uproot Uighur culture and tighten security. Though it was unclear how severe
an earthquake Merhum's house would survive, its luxuriant interior outdid the
dim, stained hotel rooms that sit in unthreatened buildings in the city's Han
For now Merhum is not worried about his
house, which is well away from the areas being razed. After catching my
attention as I walked by the open entrance to his courtyard, he motioned me
inside, opening a plain wooden door to reveal a room stippled with niches
holding golden-framed, black-and-white photos, lushly colored pillows, copper
teapots and other elegantly displayed baubles. Unmistakable on a
minaret-shaped pillar in the center of the room were matching East Turkestan
symbols, a crescent moon cradling a star. I pointed questioningly.
"East Turkestan," he nodded and assented to a
Appropriated from the flag of the short-lived
1933-34 first East Turkestan Republic, the symbol is strictly forbidden in
Xinjiang and is alleged to be the emblem of pro-independence "separatist"
groups. Given that troops were routinely checking tourist cameras for pictures
of sensitive most wanted signs and troop installations, allowing me to take a
picture was about as risky as distributing Tank Man photos in Tiananmen
Square. As I was about to press him about his behavior, his daughter finally
emerged in response to earlier shouts up to the second floor. Unlike Merhum,
she was unhappy and curtly refused to help translate for him.
For a few brief minutes of muffled argument
the two disappeared from the room, when he returned he apologized in his
halting Mandarin, "she does not want me to talk to foreigners. I do not
normally invite guests like you into my home, but the situation is just so bad
right now, we must speak out." As Merhum explained that he was a retired
carpenter in his late 50s, his daughter dutifully but coldly returned to
present the dastarkhan, or tablecloth, on which fruit, in my case nearly a
full watermelon, is put out for guests to eat. After she parted he sternly
asked: "Do people in the West know about our problems here? Do they know about
the situation? You must tell them when you go back."
"I've seen too many people die, at least
50,000 are dead or in prison since the July 5th riots. We Uighurs are good to
people who are good to us, but to those who wrong us," he broke off, "but we
only have knives, if we had guns we could fight them." Although a number of
Uighurs I spoke with reported this 50,000 statistic, most reliable sources
estimate Uighur detentions since the riots between 1,000 and 2,000. But Merhum
was insistent about his numbers, claiming to have heard them from a Uighur
When I asked where else he obtained
information over the past months he drew close and mischievously motioned at
the floor. "I have a radio I use to get the news, but I have to keep it hidden
from the police," he replied, likely referring to the extra antennas or pieces
of tin required to receive signals from media sources like Radio Free Asia, a
U.S. government-run Uighur news service whose broadcasts are blocked in China.
During our conversation Merhum had grown more emotional and finally fighting
back tears he shook his head: "Many of my friends have been arrested, too many
have died, and America, Germany, England what can they do? We have no hope."
As I stepped out from the cool darkness of
his house to the blinding alley, he told me: "Keep the photo and show it to
people abroad, they need to know about what is happening here." Merhum was not
alone in his vocal denunciation of China, nor was he the first to admit he
didn’t normally speak out. Shop owners, taxi drivers, tour guides and even a
few state employees made clear in ferocious language their disgust with the
current situation, often within earshot of dozens of passersby. When a bus I
took from Hotan to Urumqi across the Takalamakan was stopped on the desert's
edge for six hours until dawn, several men openly cursed the government to me
as they clustered in a group, slurping down instant noodles and joking through
On the other hand the large and undisguised
presence of the People's Liberation Army at almost every cultural site did
little to intimidate Uighurs. One old man, with the aid of his grandson for
translator bristled at soldiers drilling in front of a new theater dedicated
to Uighur Mukam music. "They're here to intimidate us," he shook, "but they're
scared too, they know that we will not back down." When I asked him about the
history museum next to the theater and how Chinese official history differed
from his own understanding of it, he mounted his pedicart and laughed,
"anything I say about that would be separatist," and without waiting for an
answer he rode away with his grandson perched in the back.
That this strategy of occupying cultural
spaces inflames as much as it intimidates seems to have eluded the
authorities. In Urumqi a Uighur cab driver who had grown irate when he saw a
public bus being searched by PLA grew angrier, when arriving at the Xinjiang
Provincial Museum, he saw troops drilling in front. Thankfully for his sake he
was long gone when later in the afternoon, due to rain, the troops took
shelter inside the museum. While my bottle of water had to be disposed before
entering, teargas canisters and dagger bayonets were blithely displayed as
troops clogged the facilities and crowded around the exhibits - including the
Beauty of Loulan a 3,000-year-old mummy whose long nose has been (against all
scientific evidence) claimed by Uighurs as proof of their Indo-European roots
and originary presence in the region.
In Hotan's central square in front of its
anatomically questionable statue that shows a thick and tall Mao bending
slightly to shake the hand of a short and emaciated Uighur, PLA troops
rehearsed Kung Fu routines, their shouts echoing several blocks away. Even the
signs the provincial government put up were more provocative than informative.
Warnings of severe prison sentences for those who falsely reported being
attacked by needles rang false beneath most-wanted signs that listed only a
few Han fugitives amongst dozens of Uighurs. The only noticeable difference
between Urumqi before the Han protests and after were more troops. Where about
30 troop transport trucks had sat in the city's People's Square before, after
there were more than 60. Formerly empty corners were marked by new attachments
of soldiers standing stolidly behind sand-bag barricades.
As the Chinese government not only continues,
but intensifies the policies that have left it on edge for several months,
more tragic flare-ups like July 5th will be the inevitable result. Han and the
Uighurs alike are vexed and spooked. And when ragtag lines of Uighur and Han
Chinese Militia, many of whom are sparsely trained State Owned Enterprise
employees, patrol the streets of Urumqi with truncheons, one gets the
distinctive feel that the government is smoking too close to the dynamite, and
no significant change in policy must represent an at best complacent and at
worst apathetic lack of executive imagination.
(CCTV in Chinese)
Sentinel) Xinjiang's Bleached Bones and Turquoise Tombs.
By Paul Mozur. October 16, 2009.
For all practical purposes Iparhan might have
been better off studying the Abakh Khoja mazar for four years. Though the
26-year-old graduate of Beijing Normal University has an undergraduate degree
in chemistry and can seamlessly jump between English, Mandarin and Uighur, she
has been unable to find a steady job since graduation. Instead she makes money
to help her family by taking tourists to the tomb of the powerful 17th century
Kashgar ruler Abakh Khoja. She lit up when she learned I used to live in
Beijing, "I really wanted to stay there after graduation, the opportunities
are better, but there aren't any jobs there for Uighurs."
"It's better this way anyway, I get to be around my family." She frowned when
I put forth the prospect of finding a job in Xinjiang. "There's too much
discrimination for me to find a job, even before July 5th people did not want
to hire Uighurs." She admitted most of her Han classmates had found jobs by
now, but tried to strike a positive chord claiming to be lucky to meet
foreigners through her English and part-time job as a tour guide in Kashgar.
Still she admitted, "right now the situation is very bad, whenever we see Han
or Uighurs who have come to the city we do not know why they are here, we
wonder if anyone is coming to start trouble."
Throughout our conversation Iparhan broke off to joke with her Han friend Mei,
whom she had brought for an excursion outside the city. Iparhan is typical of
more and more Uighurs, who are educated in Mandarin at an increasingly younger
age and leave Xinjiang to attend college in eastern China. Though on the
surface their integration would seem to neutralize them as potential threats,
in many ways they are the greatest threat to China. As Human Rights Watch's
Nicholas Bequelin explains: "The source of political and religious radicalism
in Muslim societies has often been people who were both educated and
Iparhan said there were many others like her. "It is this way everywhere,
there is no chance of success opened to us." It is this fact, she told me,
that helped her to see through the propagandistic side of her education. "Many
of my Han classmates simply believe what the teachers or the government tells
them. If they hear it is foreigners who caused a problem in Xinjiang, they
believe it, they don't ask for proof and they don't ask why," she complained.
"I think because growing up we know we are a minority and then we see
discrimination everyday we learn not to listen to the government."
Even if the economic realities on the ground are addressed, Bequelin still
believes the region will remain restive. "The promotion of economic
development cannot make up for restrictions on cultural expression, and there
is no look to change these cultural policies. Ultimately the party leadership
is still clenching onto ideological clichés that encourage ethnic
polarization." Across Xinjiang's urban areas young Uighur kids have become
reliable speakers of crisp Mandarin. If in a matter of a decade the Chinese
government can succeed in forcing the province's education system to switch
from Uighur to Mandarin, it doesn't seem unrealistic that it could at least
partially succeed in teaching cultural understanding, instead of falling back
on banal socialist phrases.
But for now the government has shown itself content to simply squelch violence
and retain stability at all costs. In doing so it is increasingly alienating
an already incensed population of Uighurs and an unhappy majority of Han. And
to make matters worse in shutting down communications, setting up checkpoints
on roads, and placing militia and military on the streets it has multiplied
Right now it is up to the PRC government whether future Uighurs will build
secret mazars (tombs) for martyrs or malls for their children. If the Chinese
lose the Iparhans of Xinjiang, the newest generation of middle-class,
eastern-educated young Uighurs, it will have passed a critical opportunity to
inaugurate change in the region. And considering Al Qaeda's recent grumblings
about the treatment of Uighurs, it may not even be the traditionally moderate
Sufi-influenced minority who act in reprisal for this failure.
Xinjiang is already a land covered with the dead, Mummies and tombs are some
of its greatest attractions and tales of horrible violence pepper its history.
Unfortunately the 60-year history of the PRC, which in many ways rivals
Xinjiang's own for brutality, has taught its leaders little regard for
restraint and less for tolerance. Instead the Chinese government seems dead
set on continuing the region's wealthy legacy of violence, and so it will
remain a land of bleached bones and turquoise tombs.
(CCTV half-hour news story in Chinese; in
Times) Six more get death penalty. By Liang Chen.
October 16, 2009.
Fourteen more people, including two from the
Han ethnic group, were Thursday given penalties ranging from death to many
years in jail, for murder and other crimes in the deadly riots in July in the
city of Urumqi. This is the first time that rioters of the Han ethnic group
caught in the Urumqi unrest were held responsible, following the sentencing of
six people of the Uygur ethnic group to the death penalty and another to life
imprisonment three days ago.
Last Saturday, local courts in South China's
Guangdong Province sentenced one Han man to death and another to life in
prision over a toy factory brawl that left two Uygur workers dead.
While overseas dissidents criticized the
verdicts of fulfilling the government's "political need," people in China
applauded the fact that the criminals "got what they deserved" under the law,
whether they were Han or Uygur.
Of the two Han people sentenced, Han Junbo
was sentenced to death. His accomplice, Liu Bo, was sentenced to 10 years in
prison, according to the Urumqi Intermediate People's Court. Han was found to
have beaten an Uygur with a steel bar, and Liu helped beat the Uygur's body
with a stick and a bar, causing his death, according to the Xinhua News
Agency. The two were among the Han residents who took to the streets two days
after mobs of Uygur rioters killed 195 people and injured nearly 2,000 on July
5, in an apparently vindictive move.
Several Uygurs, led by Ahmatjan Moming, were
convicted of murder, robbery, arson, and vandalism. They used bricks, stones
and sticks to beat two men to death, and robbed the victims of their cell
phones, bracelets and other belongings, the court said. Other mobs drove a bus
to break into a Geely Auto sales store to vandalize and burn more than 40
cars, resulting in economic losses of more than 1.6 million yuan ($235,000).
Of the 14 sentenced Thursday, three were
given the death sentence. Another three were given the death penalty with a
two-year suspension, a sentence usually commuted to life in prison. The rest
were given life imprisonment or shorter jail terms.
Hou Hanmin, the spokeswoman of the Xinjiang
Uygur Autonomous Regional Government, told the Global Times that more trials
and public hearings would continue for the remaining detained suspects,
without giving specific dates.
Police have detained nearly 700 suspects
related with the riot that erupted on July 5, earlier reports said, in which
197 people died, mostly Han Chinese, and more than 1,600 were wounded,
according to official figures.
Xiong Kunxin, a professor of ethnic policy at
the Minzu University of China, said there was a fair trial for the violent
law-breakers. "Only harsh penalties could comfort the families of the victims
and display the authority of the law," Xiong said. "The law is meant for
justice and will not discriminate against ethnicity, no matter whether they
are Han or Uygur," he said.
Dilshat Reshit, a spokesman of the World
Uygur Congress (WUC), said the death penalties handed down to Han criminals
are only out of the government's political will to demonstrate equality,
adding that "all the Uygurs who stood trial so far have been denied a fair
hearing." However, local authorities said that the two trials were fair
practices that accord with laws and were carried out under public supervision.
"Nearly 500 people attended the public
hearing of Thursday's trials, including defendants' families, plaintiffs'
families, members of the provincial People's Congress, citizen representatives
and the Chinese media," Wang Wenhua, deputy secretary of the regional
committee of political and legislative affairs in Xinjiang, told the Global
Times. He said each defendant was allocated a lawyer to protect the rights of
defense and appeal, and the evidence would also be released later. Public
prosecutors presented testimonies of witnesses, autopsy reports and other
evidence at the court, and played videos of crime scenes, according to Xinhua.
To some extent, the sentencing of the mobs
has offered general relief to most of the people in Xinjiang.
Shi Jinyang, a middle-age local taxi driver,
said he believes that the harsh sentences are helpful to maintain order and
stability in post-riot Xinjiang. "Local people have longed for the sentencing
for quite a while, and the rulings are justified and convincing," he told the
Global Times, suggesting that the government continue to play tough in
ensuring stability following the harsh punishment.
Ai Shanjiang, 33, a Uygur van driver in
Kashgar, said those rioters deserve capital punishment, "otherwise, those
criminals may continue to wreak havoc on society."
Li Zhifeng, an official at the Stability
Maintenance Office in Xinjiang, said the number of armed forces has not been
reduced, but they have more mobility, he said. The Internet is still blocked,
but the local network within the Xinjiang district is unimpeded.
A week after 7-5, three Islamic agitators tried
to foment unrest in an Urumqi mosque. They were told to leave, became violent,
and were then shot by the Police. The Han in Urumqi are talking about how
incompetent these special force police, from Liaoning Province, appear to have
been - panicking when faced with three idiots wielding sharpened bits of
metal, firing off loads of ammo, having to be told by the squad leader not to
point their guns at each other. The feeling is these clowns could hardly
protect themselves against three terrorists, let alone a full-on riot. Words
used: 'disappointing', 'embarrassing' and 'no hope'. There is anger that these
'special forces' are being put up in expensive hotels and eating in expensive
restaurants - at the expense of the Urumqi taxpayers! Watch the footage and
judge for yourself, but note that a) this video was probably leaked by the
authorities, in a move that has backfired, and b) why would they feel the need
to put a camera in a mosque...?
The first several seconds of the incident in
Urumqi seemed almost lighthearted, considering the previous week. And they
revealed nothing about what would follow. A cool front had swept over the city
on this particular day in July, drawing people from their homes. Some shops
stayed closed because their windows had been shattered, but food vendors
pushed their carts out onto the street. A week earlier an ethnic clash had
broken out here, killing almost 200 people in one of China’s most deadly
protests since the Tiananmen Square massacre two decades ago. So the Chinese
government had sent tens of thousands of security forces into the city, the
capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, to restore order between the
Han and the Uygurs. The Han dominate Chinese society, but the Uygurs
(pronounced WEE-gurs), a Turkic-speaking Central Asian people, claim this
western borderland as their ancestral home.
Han security forces stood in ranks along every
street in the city's Uygur quarter. They bristled with riot gear and
automatic weapons. The only sound came from loudspeakers mounted on trucks
that trawled the market streets, broadcasting the good news of ethnic
harmony. If Urumqi had an edge of unrest on this Monday, it was sheathed in
Most Uygurs are Muslims, and about noon I
stood on the street in front of a central mosque wondering how many people
might be inside. As if in answer, a mass of humanity came pouring out,
hundreds of people tumbling and plunging into the street.
Bystanders watched, puzzled, but the
emerging crowd offered only odd and inscrutable clues: Many hadn't had time
to pull on their shoes and ran in just their socks. They cried out with
alarm or possibly in celebration, and their faces glowed with either fear or
joy. If they were fleeing from danger, there was no sign of it, and the
group split and flew north and south. In the flicker of a moment they had
Now three men stepped from the mosque,
holding what looked like wooden sticks. One wore a blue shirt, one a black
shirt, and one a white shirt. They shouted and smiled, which gave their
faces a buoyant quality. Their tiny rally seemed brash: Did they not see the
Chinese police on every corner or hear the amplified news about manifest
They turned southward. All three walked
with peculiar long strides and waved their sticks overhead, like three
baton-twirling drum majors whose marching band had run ahead of them. They
passed rows of market stalls where people shouted to them to stop whatever
they were doing. Shop owners slammed shut their stall doors. After two
blocks the men stopped and turned back north; just before they reached me,
they crossed the street. They still held up what were, more likely, rusted
Once across the street, they burst into a
run, heading toward a group of armed Chinese. The man in blue sprinted
ahead; he seemed to catch the government forces off guard, because they
turned and ran. The details of the next moment—the angle of the running man,
his shirt billowing behind him, the strange coolness of the air—were etched
by a sound: a gunshot. But the three Uygurs did not stop in the face of
destruction. They tilted toward it.
The Tibetan struggle for independence from
China has long captivated the West. Fewer people are familiar with an
arguably more critical struggle in a neighboring hinterland: that of the
Uygurs. Their anonymity is ironic because the West has played an unwitting
role in their current crisis—and because the Uygurs, whose culture is fading
toward obscurity, once occupied the center of the known world.
Xinjiang sits in the middle of Asia, encircled
by some of Earth's highest mountains, as though a drawstring had cinched the
top of the world like a coin purse. Passes through those snowy mountains
funneled ancient traders and travelers along paths that became the renowned
Silk Road. "They say it is the highest place in the world," Marco Polo wrote
of climbing the Pamir mountains from the Afghanistan side. When he emerged
from the pass, he found the Uygur homeland and marveled: "From this country,
many merchants go forth about the world."
The territory became the fulcrum on which
Asia and Europe balanced. Turkic raiders and later Genghis Khan, Buddhists
and then Muslims, traders and tribesmen, missionaries and monks—all passed
through this hemispheric crossroads, and each group left something of
itself. I saw a Uygur woman wearing a Muslim head cover and holding her
baby, whose head she had shaved into phantasmagoric designs, a pre-Islamic
shamanistic practice to frighten away baby-stealing evil spirits.
Xinjiang's history is also written in the faces of its people: dark faces
with oval eyes. Also fair faces with narrow, jet eyes. And sometimes blue
eyes with blond hair.
Geography itself protects the mosaic of
Uygur culture in Hotan, in far southwestern Xinjiang. A range of snowcapped
mountains rises at the town's back, and before it lies the Taklimakan, a
desert larger than Poland, which people sometimes call the Sea of Death.
Hotan's inhabitants are mostly farmers, and many of them come together each
Sunday outside the town for a bazaar where children eat sweetened ice shaved
from chunks that float down the Karakax (Black Jade) River, women browse
tents full of silk, and men gather to have their beards trimmed while they
It's an old scene, although there is an
occasional sign of technology: Knifemakers sit in long rows on ancient
bicycles they've reconfigured to spin grindstones, looking like an invading
horde of spark-spitting cyclists. A young Uygur man named Otkur (the names
of Uygurs in Xinjiang have been changed for their protection) shared his
bowl of sheep's lung with me, and afterward we approached an astonishing
device: a two-story-high swing set with a seat big enough for two people to
stand on. Otkur smiled. "For playing," he said. Two women climbed onto the
ends of the seat and swung so high they disappeared into tree branches.
In town I met Dawud, a music master who
teaches a small group of students. In his school a large mural showed a
mashrap, a traditional all-male gathering—now closely regulated by the
Chinese—where Uygurs convene to play music, recite poetry, and socialize.
Dawud fashioned a fingerpick from a piece of wire and some twine, flicked
his fingers across the five strings of a tambur, and launched into a series
of complex songs with roots that reach back at least five centuries.
Those patchwork elements of Uygur life
underscore something crucial about the Uygurs as a whole: Centuries of
living at a great Eurasian way station have made them a complicated people
who defy careless classification. But in time the world forgot this, with
As the Silk Road
began to fray and trade took to the seas, both East and West lost interest
in the Uygurs and their mountain fastness. For generations China saw little
promise in this remote land—Xinjiang means "new frontier"—because the
Chinese prized agriculture, and the wild west offered only dust and stones.
People there ate mutton, not pork. In 1932 a British officer traveling in
Xinjiang wrote with dark foresight, "Perhaps an awakening China, wondering
where to settle its surplus millions of people, may have the good sense to
call in the science of the West and to develop [Xinjiang]." But through the
early 20th century, the Chinese government did not extend its influence to
the distant region, and the Uygurs twice declared their own independent
country. The second attempt at self-determination, in 1944, lasted five
years, until the rise of Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, which sent in
military forces and later established a nuclear testing ground, Lop Nur, in
Xinjiang to eliminate any confusion.
Realizing that, if nothing else, its big,
empty territory provided a buffer against foreign influence, Mao's China
instituted a program called the Xinjiang Production and Construction
Corps—combining farm, military garrison, and prison—in which settlers from
other Chinese provinces would work the soil and watch the borders. The first
arrivals, in 1954, included more than 100,000 demobilized soldiers. Some
were coerced, but the flow gathered momentum as the government extended a
railroad west to Urumqi in 1962 and used promises of food and clothing to
entice residents from overcrowded cities like Shanghai.
Meanwhile the Chinese were discovering that
Xinjiang offered far more than just a border cushion: It held something
vital to their very survival as a nation. Xinjiang contains about 40 percent
of China's coal reserves and more than a fifth of its natural gas. Most
important, it has nearly a fifth of the nation's proven oil reserves,
although Beijing claims it holds as much as a third. Never mind the massive
deposits of gold, salt, and other minerals. Xinjiang isn't empty. It's
strategic. And with that realization, other things came sharply into focus
for China's leadership: Xinjiang is the largest, most far-flung region. It
borders more countries than any other. And it's home to an ethnic group that
has tried twice in living memory to make a break for freedom.
In 1947, during the second incarnation of
Uygur independence, about 220,000 Han Chinese made up 5 percent of
Xinjiang's population. Uygurs numbered about three million, or 75 percent,
the remainder being a mix of Central Asian ethnicities. By 2007 the Uygur
population had increased to 9.6 million. But the Han population had swelled
to 8.2 million.
Some Uygurs found opportunity in the influx.
In the 1980s in burgeoning Urumqi, a laundress named Rebiya Kadeer grew her
business into a department store, then built that into an international
trading empire. She became one of the wealthiest people in China and an
inspiration for her compatriots—a Uygur woman who appeared in Asia's Wall
Street Journal and met with such businessmen as Bill Gates and Warren
Buffett. In many ways she seemed emblematic of Xinjiang: In the last two
decades of the 20th century the region's GDP increased tenfold.
But many more Uygurs languished. The big
business in Xinjiang is oil, but all that oil is controlled from Beijing by
state-owned energy companies. Many of the good jobs in Xinjiang are
government jobs, and employees can advance more readily if they join the
Communist Party, which requires renouncing their religion. And most Uygurs
won't do that. The result is an ironic and combustible symmetry: As Han
settlers pour in, Uygurs, unable to find work in their fantastically wealthy
and spacious homeland, migrate east to work in privately owned factories in
crowded coastal cities.
In the past few decades local resistance
has flared up around Xinjiang, fluctuating in scale and violence. During the
1980s Uygur students protested treatment by police in a handful of
incidents; in 1990 a disturbance south of Kashgar against birth limits ended
in perhaps four dozen deaths. In 1997 hundreds of people in a city called
Gulja marched to protest repression of Islamic practices and were arrested;
the number of casualties is unknown. Other examples abound, including bus
bombings and assassinations.
The Chinese government realized that it had
a problem in Xinjiang, much as it had a problem in neighboring Tibet. Along
with regulating mashraps—those traditional gatherings—the state monitored
services at mosques, afraid they might provide a platform for dissidents. In
general, officials downplayed the unrest as the work of isolated "ruffians"
in a Uygur population that was otherwise blissful. In early September 2001,
Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Wang Lequan announced in Urumqi that
"society is stable, and people are living and working in peace and
A few days later Beijing received a potent
and unexpected propaganda tool: September 11.
As America and much of the West launched
the "war on terror," China recognized the momentum of global public opinion
and chose a new tack. The shift happened so fast it came with an almost
audible crack. On October 11 a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry
described China as "a victim of international terrorism." Then the
government issued a report on unrest in Xinjiang blaming none other than
Osama bin Laden. "It's an effective strategy," says James Millward, a
professor at Georgetown University and an expert on Xinjiang, "because in
America we see Muslims somewhere who are unhappy and maybe even violent, and
we assume it's because of religious reasons."
And just like that, the Uygurs—with the
complexity of their culture, the richness of their past, the fullness of
their grievance against the Chinese state—fell into a tidy classification.
China asked the United States to include a group of militant separatist
Uygurs on its list of terrorist organizations but was rebuffed—at least at
In December 2001, 22 Uygurs
were captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they may have received
weapons training with the intent of battling the Chinese military back in
Xinjiang. The men were rounded up by bounty hunters, handed over to U.S.
forces, and sent to Guantánamo Bay. (Years later a U.S. court would order
their release.) In August 2002 Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage
traveled to Beijing to discuss, among other issues, America's upcoming
mission in Iraq. While there, he announced a reversal in the U.S. stance: A
militant Uygur group called the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement would now
be listed as a terrorist organization.
The heart of Uygur tradition is the ancient
capital of Kashgar. Today its Old City looks much as it must have when Marco
Polo spied it after descending through the mountain pass—a warren of
passageways and ancient mud-brick homes that resemble a jumble of oversize
children's blocks. Early this year the Chinese government undertook a bold
step: They began systematically bulldozing the Old City block by block and
moving the inhabitants into a new compound on the edge of town.
Uygurs don't discuss the subject in public
for fear of imprisonment, but one man who lives in the Old City, Ahun,
agreed to talk with me in his home. A rendezvous would not be easy, because
for days the Chinese security services had been following me. I was to wait
in the main square during the busy midday until I saw him pass under Mao's
statue, then follow at a distance without acknowledgment.
As we walked through city streets, he
stopped casually to take a drink of water at a cart and later to tie his
shoe. Finally we entered the Old City. The Chinese government's ostensible
reason for demolishing the neighborhood is that it's too old to withstand an
earthquake. But there may be another motive. As Ahun and I wove our way
deeper into the warren, I watched his shoulders relax and his gait loosen.
He was hard to trace in here. The Old City is a refuge.
The homes are adjacent and interconnected,
and each is two stories high and arranged around a central courtyard. I
followed Ahun up a flight of stairs, and when he flung open the door, it
struck me that these homes are like oysters: On the outside they're drab and
crude, but on the inside whitewashed plaster walls gleam, and many-colored
rugs complement painted ceilings. "I pray. When I worship, I ask Allah,
'Rescue me my house,' " Ahun said. From his house he has a clear view of a
government wrecking crew at work on a nearby home. According to the
demolition schedule, they'll arrive at Ahun's home in three years.
He was born in the house, he said. So was his
father. So was his grandfather, after his great-grandfather built it on
family land. "I have two sons," he said. That's five generations who have
lived in the same house.
represents Xinjiang's past—with a Uygur majority that gathers to sharpen
knives, trim beards, sing songs—then Kashgar is its present. Uygurs still
make up most of the city's population, but their culture here is embattled.
The government is working fast to tear it down.
Given enough time, Ahun said, China's
economic development will bring political change, and hope for his people.
"China will be obliged to receive a democratic system," he said. But right
now, for a man who prays each day for the survival of his family home, no
act is too desperate. "You do not understand our rage," he said. "In the
Middle East there are human bombs, who connect their bodies with bombs. But
with our rage, we don't need bombs connected. We ourselves explode."
In June of this year, a disgruntled worker
at a toy factory in Shaoguan, near Hong Kong, reportedly claimed that Uygurs
had raped two women. A melee followed. The violence lasted several hours and
left scores injured. Angry Han workers in the factory's dormitory beat to
death two Uygur co-workers.
This spark lit a fire 2,000 miles away, in
Xinjiang. On July 5 thousands of Uygurs—the numbers reported varied
widely—took to Urumqi's streets to protest the treatment of the Uygur
workers. The authorities were caught off guard.
I spoke to a young woman named Arzigul, who
had attended the protest. She said it started off peacefully as young people
circulated around the capital's public square. "They were screaming the name
'Uygur! Uygur! Uygur!'" she said. When security forces arrived, something
happened—exactly what is unclear. Each side says the other struck first, but
at some point the authorities tried to quell the crowd, which apparently
devolved into a mob attacking Han on the street. Two days later a group of
Han—apparently numbering in the thousands—took to the street with meat
cleavers and clubs and knives. They in turn attacked Uygurs.
Chinese officials say they're protecting their citizens from terrorists. In
July, Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei called the riots "a grave and violent
criminal incident plotted and organized by the outside forces of terrorism,
separatism, no comma after separatism in original source and extremism."
James Millward, the Xinjiang expert, says many Han—even officials—sincerely
believe Xinjiang faces a threat from terrorists and interlopers. "It's what
they are constantly told." Eventually military forces and police clamped
down on Urumqi, and there seemed no possibility of further unrest. That's
when the three men emerged from the mosque in the Uygur quarter, scattering
people in every direction.
them stride up the street and back, then run at the Chinese forces. First
came the single shot, which missed. The Uygurs continued their charge, and I
realized that the running men with their rusted swords did not expect to
prevail. They expected to die.
A moment later another officer released a
burst of automatic fire. The lead Uygur—the man in the flowing blue
shirt—fell with the sudden slackness of a thrown rag doll. His body hit the
pavement, but the momentum of his sprint sent him tumbling, and his feet
flew up and over his head.
For a few seconds the incident played out
in tableau on the opposite sidewalk. The remaining two Uygurs ran into the
street, and the scene became three-dimensional, with bullets flying in my
direction. I ran into a nearby building and found myself in the lobby of an
enormous department store. People pressed themselves into corners and behind
clothing displays; women wailed, and two men improvised a door lock by
shoving a metal bar through the door's handles. Beyond the building's glass
doors, all three of the Uygur men now lay in the street, one injured and two
dead. Soldiers, police, and plainclothes security officers were firing
upward, into the windows of surrounding buildings.
The department store held special
significance for the Uygurs. It belonged to their heroine Rebiya Kadeer, the
laundress turned mogul who had become beloved after she began to speak out
against China's treatment of the Uygurs. In 1999, as an American delegation
arrived in China to meet Kadeer, security officers arrested her. She spent
the next six years in prison, then joined her exiled husband in the U.S. Her
imprisonment only raised her status among her people, who regard her as the
"mother of all Uygurs."
She's a grandmother, just over five feet
tall, and she terrifies the Chinese authorities. Mentioning her name in
Xinjiang brings swift and severe punishment. When I went with Ahun to his
home in Kashgar's Old City, he spoke freely of rebellion against China's
government, but when I mentioned Rebiya Kadeer, he froze. "If China finds
this," he said, pointing to my voice recorder and then reaching for my
throat in mock vengeance, "on Judgment Day I will catch your neck."
After the July riots, trucks with loudspeakers
circled the public squares of Urumqi, proclaiming that the unrest had been
organized by Kadeer from her office in Washington, D.C. Chinese officials
accused her in news reports around the globe and were said to be planning to
tear down her trade centers. "The Chinese authorities are fearful of me
because of what they have been doing to the Uygur people," she told me
recently. In her office an enormous East Turkistan flag—symbol of a free
Uygur nation—hangs on one wall, and photos of her 11 children, two of whom
are in prison, hang on another.
The Western world knows of the struggle for
freedom by Tibetans largely because the Dalai Lama presents a warm and
charismatic embodiment of his people. The Uygurs have remained obscure, in
part, because they have no such figure. But the Chinese government's recent
efforts to demonize Rebiya Kadeer have lifted her into a representative
role. "I keep advocating for my people, for the self-determination of Uygurs,"
she told me. Whether that means autonomy within China or a push for full
independence depends on the government's reaction, she said. "At the moment
I'm trying to invite the Chinese authorities to come to the dialogue
Even as Kadeer spoke, another round of
strife loomed in Xinjiang—rumors, allegations, protests—and she acknowledges
that a peaceful resolution may be impossible. After seeing the region's past
and present through Hotan and Kashgar, we may be glimpsing its future in
Urumqi: a sprawling city that serves Han migrants drawn by Xinjiang's
natural resources, where a Uygur minority stays confined to its quarter.
And on an otherwise silent Monday
afternoon, men detonate on the street from the sheer force of their rage.
Times) Five get death for July 5 Xinjiang riots
December 3, 2009.
Five death penalties and two
life-imprisonment sentences were handed down Thursday for murder and other
crimes in the deadly July 5 riots in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur
Autonomous Region, according to the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi. On
October 12, six people were sentenced the death penalty and another life in
prison. Three days later, six more were sentenced to death and three others
handed life sentences. Nine people have been executed so far for their
involvement in the riots.
Times) Three sentenced to death for murder in Urumqi riot
December 4, 2009.
Three people were sentenced to death for
murder and other crimes committed in and after the July 5 riot in Urumqi,
capital of west China's
Autonomous Region, on Friday. The defendants were Heyrinisa Sawut, Ruzikhari
Niyaz and Li Longfei. Another one was sentenced to life imprisonment by the
Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi, while three others were given jail
terms. The trials were heard in open sessions with presence of relatives of
the defendants and the victims. On Thursday five people were sentenced to
death by the court, two others were sentenced to life imprisonment while
another six were given jail terms.
China Morning Post)
Xinjiang's frustrated internet users still cut off from the Web
Choi Chi-yuk and Ng Tze-wei
December 11, 2009.
More than five
months after the ethnic riots in Urumqi that killed almost 200 people, the
internet remains inaccessible to the majority of Xinjiang's 20 million
population. The situation has become so frustrating that some internet users
have travelled out of the region to log on.
Xia Ya, a 26-year-old from Urumqi who
recently quit her job, travelled to the Yunnan capital, Kunming , in August
just to catch up with online friends and play games for the first time since
the internet was shut down. "I had a couple of group chats and I spent the
whole day surfing the internet in my hotel room," Xia said. "My friends told
me they were extremely excited when I showed up online. They were so worried
about me because I disappeared for a month. I felt like I had been liberated
when I could play my favourite online game, chat with friends and browse news
While the common perception is that the
internet was simply blocked out entirely in Xinjiang, an online service of
sorts remains. It has in effect become a form of intranet, with access to
internally hosted websites, such as government websites, permitted, but access
to the World Wide Web denied.
At least 197 Uygur and Han Chinese were
killed in riots on July 5 and the following reprisals, and authorities accused
"separatist elements" of organising the unrest online. "We cut internet
connection in some areas of Urumqi in order to quench the riot quickly and
prevent violence from spreading to other places," Li Zhi, the Communist Party
chief of Urumqi who was subsequently sacked, said at the time.
An Urumqi resident called Chen Yun said: "A
friend of mine took an overnight train to Dunhuang [a tourist city in Gansu]
simply to access the internet. He booked into a hotel and locked himself in
for days playing games." Instead of using internet portals and forums for news
and information, Chen had to rely on Xinjiang regional government websites -
which left him feeling "cut off from the rest of the planet". In addition to
being unable to use search engines such as Baidu and Google, watching online
video on sites like Youku was also out. "It is so frustrating when you can
hardly download a favourite song," he said.
There are also more practical concerns - Chen
was unable to download a new version of his anti-virus software when it
expired. "To a certain extent, I've got used to life without the internet,"
Chen said wryly. "I'm afraid I may struggle to cope when the internet service
For small businesses, the loss of internet
service has been a disaster. They have been unable to communicate with clients
overseas or even in other parts of the country, meaning missed transactions
and a loss of profit. Internet cafes have been particularly hard hit - there
were more than 600 cafes in Urumqi before the riots, and many have shut down.
They received little or no compensation for the disruption.
The internet is not blocked off for everyone,
however. Some major companies have been permitted access. "All the major
companies must sign a security agreement with the authorities before they are
entitled to use the internet in connection with their business," said an
Urumqi employee with knowledge of the regulations.
The terms of internet use were simple: not a
single piece of information or photograph of the riots can leak out. "I am
aware of one employee at a company with internet access who was detained for
15 days by security officials," said the employee, who declined to be named.
"He uploaded some video clips of the July 5 incident using a computer in his
The question on the minds of all internet
users in Xinjiang is a very simple one: when will service be resumed? So far
the Xinjiang government has not answered.
York Times) Chinese Court Sentences 5 to Death in Xinjiang
Mayhem Andrew Jacobs. December 24, 2009.
A Chinese court has handed down death
sentences for five people convicted of participating in the ethnic violence in
July that killed nearly 200 people in the far western region of Xinjiang, the
authorities there announced Thursday. The sentences, after a series of trials
this week, bring to 22 the number of people given the death penalty since
trials began in September. The court, in the regional capital, Urumqi, gave
five other people suspended death sentences, which are often equivalent to
life in prison. Nine of those sentenced have already been executed, according
to the state media. The sentences were announced by the Xinjiang regional
government and distributed to news outlets.
In recent months, public security officials
have detained more than 800 people who they say played a role in rioting
that pitted the region’s Han Chinese majority against the Turkic-speaking
Uighurs. Officials say more than 1,600 people were wounded during the three
days of unrest, which deeply unnerved the ruling Communist Party. Those
convicted in trials on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the statement,
were guilty of “extremely serious crimes.” It described several defendants,
all with Uighur names, who attacked Han residents as they drove or bicycled
through the city, bludgeoning and stoning them. Most of the dead were Han,
although a small number of Uighurs were killed during retaliatory violence
in the days that followed.
In addition to those given death sentences
this week, eight others were given life imprisonment and four others were
sentenced to 10 or more years in prison.
Uighur exile groups and rights advocates have
criticized the judicial proceedings as lacking transparency. They also say
that scores of Uighurs have been held incommunicado and without legal
In recent weeks the authorities have
detained 94 additional people whom they describe as fugitives. Not included
in that number are the 20 Uighurs repatriated to China last week after
seeking political asylum in Cambodia. Those Uighurs, including three
children, told the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees that they feared long prison terms or the death penalty if they
returned. Two days after they were forcibly sent home, China signed 14
business deals with the Cambodian government worth about $1 billion.
Citing “official sources,” an editorial
published Thursday in China Daily, the state-run English-language newspaper,
described seven of the Uighurs as fugitives. It criticized the United States
for calling them political refugees and for suggesting that they would face
peril if they were returned to China. “Based on the professionalism of past
judicial hearings on the July 5 massacre in Urumqi, it gives us confidence
that the 20 members of the Uighur minority group just extradited from
Cambodia would not be mistreated,” it said.