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Uyghurs Are Told to Confess Political ‘Mistakes’ in Mass Meetings February 14, 2017

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In scenes reminiscent of China’s Cultural Revolution, ethnic Uyghurs in the country’s Xinjiang region are being called to meetings to confess their “crimes,” with punishment threatened for those whose misdeeds come to light in other ways, RFA’s Uyghur Service has learned.

The meetings, conducted as part of a campaign called “Revealing Errors,” are being held in Xinjiang’s Aksu (in Chinese, Akesu) prefecture to uncover behavior considered politically destabilizing in the restive, mostly-Muslim region in China’s far northwest, sources say.

“Village residents from 18-65 years of age are being brought to their village office every day to admit to their mistakes or to point out mistakes they have seen others make,” according to a letter from an Aksu resident received by RFA.

Residents are called to a podium one by one to confess these errors after they have listed them on a 39-question form, the letter says, adding, “They are also told they will face legal consequences if they attempt to cover up their own or anyone else’s anti-state activities.”

Speaking to RFA on condition of anonymity, a police officer in Aksu’s Shayar county said, “The central question asked at these meetings is, ‘Have you ever watched, saved, or forwarded harmful religious or separatist postings or [media] clips, or have you ever seen anyone else do this?’”

Uyghurs are also asked if they have ever made politically “harmful” statements in public or in smaller gatherings of family, neighbors, or friends, or if they have heard anyone else do so, the officer said.

Persecution of Tibetans and Uyghurs: EP Conference Sheds Light on Chinese Counter-Terrorism Policy February 10, 2017

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On 8 February 2017, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) in collaboration with the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) held a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, kindly hosted by MEPs Ilhan Kyuchyuk (ALDE) and Thomas Mann (EPP). The conference, entitled “Chinese Counter-Terrorism Policy: Impacts and Dangers for Tibetans and Uyghurs”, offered an opportunity to engage in an in-depth discussion about the adverse effects China’s counter-terrorism policy has on minority groups, in particular Tibetans and Uyghurs. Moderated by Tommaso Nodari, Programme Director of the UNPO, the conference allowed experts to assess various aspects of the Chinese government’s attempts not only to continue repressing these communities, but to legitimise their tactics on an international stage.

In their introductory remarks, Members of European Parliament Ilhan Kyuchyuk (ALDE) and Thomas Mann (EPP) stressed the necessity of bringing awareness to these human rights issues through the platform of the European Parliament, which has to be a forum for human rights. Mr Marino Busdachin, UNPO General Secretary, then addressed the critical role the international community should play in advancing democratic ideals, the rule of law, and human rights for all.


The Chinese State’s Siege on Uyghur Ways of Worship January 4, 2017

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The tomb of the Muslim saint Imam Asim lies in China’s Taklamakan Desert, at the end of a long walkway lined with poplar trees. An elevated mud structure, the shrine would easily be camouflaged by the sand if not for the flags, rams’ skulls and strips of cloth decorating it. It is located near the town of Hotan, in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, in the country’s northwest— the homeland of the Turkic-speaking Uyghur Muslim community. For centuries, Uyghur Sufis would journey through the desert between shrines such as this one, stopping at each to recite poems celebrating religious heroes.

“Chinese people don’t come here,” said Tudi Mohammad, a 50-year-old sheikh who is the shrine’s guardian. “It’s not a tourist site.”

Mohammad has lived near the shrine for most of his life; his father was also its guardian. He remembered how thousands of people would visit the shrine in May, when locals commemorated the anniversary of the saint’s death. But now, he said, the government has prohibited that ceremony, and Uyghurs come to the tomb in tens, at most. Before he could elaborate, a police car arrived at the shrine. Several personnel entered the building with large batons in hand, demanding that we leave.

Mohammad turned around and returned to his room near the shrine’s entrance, glancing pointedly at a security camera hanging above his door.

Xinjiang is one of China’s most politically tense regions, and the government maintains a heavy security presence here in the name of countering extremism and separatism. In June, China’s State Council Information Office released a white paper praising what it claimed were unprecedented levels of religious freedom for Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Its claims ring true at some level: select religious and cultural sites—including some state-constructed ones—are open and functioning. Others, however, such as the shrine of Imam Asim, are heavily policed. Some are even closed completely; the Orda Padishahim shrine, about 60 kilometres from the city of Kashgar, which used to attract hundreds of thousands of pilgrims annually, has been shut for a decade. When I told locals I hoped to visit the shrine, they said that doing so was illegal, and warned that I would be stopped by the police.


Xinjiang: Uighurs Grapple With Travel Restrictions December 28, 2016

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Ethnic Turkic-speaking Uighurs in China have long faced restrictions relating mainly to the practice of their religion, Islam. Now, under new regulations implemented last fall, their ability to travel apparently is being restricted, with residents of western Xinjiang province required to hand over their passports to police for “safekeeping.”

When Xinjiang residents want to travel, they now must now obtain permission before retrieving their passports, according to news reports aired by the British Broadcasting Corp. Uighurs reportedly have sometimes been denied passports for travel by officials.

Uighurs, who now comprise about 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population, can also be subjected to other onerous procedures. In June, for example, police in Xinjiang ordered residents of Yili to provide DNA samples when applying for travel documents. Residents were also requested to provide a blood sample, fingerprints, a voice recording and a three-dimensional image.

By forcing the residents of Xinjiang to surrender their passports, the Chinese leadership is probably hoping to better control the movement of militant Uighurs. Unconfirmed reports circulating in the region claim that militants who have carried out attacks in Xinjiang and in other Chinese regions in recent years earlier received training in Pakistan and in Central Asian states.

Trial of suspects in Bangkok bombing again postponed October 26, 2016

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Judges at Bangkok’s military court have again postponed the trial of two ethnic Uighur men on charges of involvement in last year’s Bangkok bombing in order to track down a Turkic language speaker to translate for the duo.

A court official told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that the trial of Adem Karadag and Yusuf Mieraili will be postponed until mid-November.

It is the third such postponement after the men’s original translator, Uzbek man Sirojiddin Bakhodirov, was arrested by Thai police on drugs charges, and the court refused a defense request to bring in someone from the London-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC).

Uzbek and Uighur are dialects of the Turkic language family spoken by Turkic peoples from Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China.

According to its website, the WUC’s focus is to promote the right of the Uighur people to use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine the political future of East Turkestan, however China has designated the WUC and affiliates as terrorist organizations.

Many people refer to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region — home to many ethnic minority groups, including Turkic Uighur people — as East Turkestan, a name the Chinese government actively discourages.

The official — who did not wish to be named citing court policy — said Wednesday that the court has been unable to find suitable translators as Uighur was not a common language, and it will now ask for help from China’s embassy in Bangkok. (more…)

China: Uyghur scholar jailed for life wins top human rights award October 17, 2016

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Hong Kong (CNN)Chinese officials have denounced the award of a prestigious human rights prize to jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti.

Tohti was found guilty of “separatism” in 2014 and sentenced to life in prison.
On Tuesday, he received the Martin Ennals Award, the winner of which is selected by a jury of 10 activist groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Speaking at a regular media briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang accused Tohti of openly making “heroes of terrorist extremists that conducted violent terror attacks.”
“Ilham Tohti has nothing to do with human rights,” he said.


East Turkestan: Regional Government Unleashes ‘Uyghur Suppression Law’ August 8, 2016

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On 5 August 2016, regional authorities in Xinjiang passed another controversial anti-terrorism law, which – as human rights groups and activists deplore – is an “Uyghur Suppression Law” in disguise. Being a region with a history of gross human rights violations committed in the name of counterterrorism and the criminalization of peaceful political movements, the law could provide regional security forces with a justification for its ongoing crackdown on the ethnic Uyghurs population in Xinjiang and facilitate future abuses.


Authorities Detain Uyghur Web Masters And Writers in China’s Xinjiang July 7, 2016

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Authorities in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region detained five web administrators and writers for two months before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to keep them from criticizing Chinese regulations that restrain Uyghurs’ activities during this time, sources inside the region said.

Just before Ramadan, when Muslim Uyghurs fast during daylight hours for 30 days, news appeared on social media and on Uyghur-language websites that police had apprehended several website owners and managers in the region.

Through telephone interviews, RFA’s Uyghur Service was able to confirm that at least five Uyghurs were held between March and May—Tursunjan Memet, Omerjan Hesen, Ababekri Muhtar, Akbarjan Eset, and an online writer whose name could not be confirmed.


China Restricts Ramadan Fast For Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang July 7, 2016

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In spite of assurances by Beijing that ethnic Uyghurs living in China’s mostly Muslim Xinjiang region enjoy full religious freedom, government workers routinely block their right to fast during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, sources in the region say.

On June 2, China issued a white paper lauding “unprecedented” levels of religious freedom in Xinjiang, adding that “no citizen suffers discrimination or unfair treatment for believing in, or not believing in, any religion,” according to official media.

However, several local government departments and middle or high schools in the Uyghur region have posted notices online in recent days ordering restrictions on the Muslim duty to fast during Ramadan, local sources told RFA’s Uyghur Service.


In western China, authorities grapple with how to handle Ramadan July 5, 2016

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Years into the high-profile “war on terror” in the country’s far northwest, China’s officially atheist ruling party wants the world to know that it respects and honors Muslims — and that the feeling is mutual.

Across Kashgar’s refurbished Old City, there are signs extolling the state’s respect for faith. China’s minorities “warmly welcome the Party’s religious policy,” reads one at Id Kah.

The state says the violence is the product of religious extremism, and it has increased security and surveillance across the region, putting soldiers on the streets, establishing checkpoints, and policing how Uighurs conduct business, worship and dress.

Their tactics have drawn ire at home and outrage abroad — a fact that infuriates Beijing. After stories about Ramadan “fasting bans” made headlines in Indonesia and Pakistan, China invited officials from both countries to the far northwest for government-guided tours. (more…)