At the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. today, Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer delivered a statement to the press regarding recent unrest in Urumchi and other cities in East Turkestan:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Today is a very dark day for the Uyghur people. Yesterday, in the regional capital of Urumchi, Chinese police and paramilitary forces cracked down on thousands of Uyghur demonstrators, killing hundreds and injuring hundreds more in a massacre that is unprecedented in East Turkestan under the rule of the People’s Republic of China. Witnesses have confirmed that demonstrators were shot and beaten to death by Chinese police, and some were even crushed under armored vehicles. Today, we have heard reports that more than 100 people have been killed in the southern city of Kashgar, and troops are out in force to suppress demonstrations that occurred in both Kashgar and the nearby city of Hotan.
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) condemn in the strongest possible terms the Chinese government’s use of excessive force against the protestors in Urumchi and Kashgar. We call upon the international community to denounce the brutality used by the Chinese government to suppress the Uyghur demonstrators.
We urgently call for peace, justice and the end of all violence. We call for the Chinese government to ensure the safety of everyone living in East Turkestan. We ask the Chinese government to end its brutal suppression of Uyghurs throughout East Turkestan, and to fully and fairly report on all of the deaths and injuries to demonstrators that have taken place. We ask the Chinese government to release the demonstrators who were arrested for engaging in peaceful protest.
We also condemn, in no uncertain terms, the violent actions of a number of Uyghur demonstrators that have been reported. We absolutely oppose violence in any form. Most of all, we want to condemn China’s six-decade long state-sponsored violence against peaceful Uyghurs.
The violence that has taken place in Urumchi and throughout East Turkestan reveals deep-rooted, serious problems that the Chinese government has failed to address or mitigate. The killings and beatings belie the constant proclamations of Chinese government officials that Uyghurs are treated fairly and that all ethnic groups live in harmony in East Turkestan.
The immediate cause of the protests in Urumchi and other cities was the lack of government response to the deaths and injuries of Uyghur workers in Guangdong Province on June 26. There has been no official indication that the perpetrators of these deaths and injuries have or will be held responsible for their crimes. According to unconfirmed reports, there were many more deaths than was reported in the official Chinese media.
However, Uyghur demonstrators were doubtless expressing discontent over the severe and comprehensive repression they have suffered for years in East Turkestan. Uyghurs face arbitrary detention, torture, and execution; severe discrimination in the areas of healthcare and employment; religious repression; forced abortion; the removal of Uyghur as a language in schools at all levels of instruction; and the forcible transfer of young Uyghur women and men to eastern China, as millions of Chinese migrants are encouraged by the government to come to East Turkestan to work.
No mechanisms exist by which Uyghurs may express their grievances in response to this repression. Any Uyghur who dares to express the slightest protest, however peaceful, is immediately met with brutal force, instead of any attempt to deal responsibly with the real problems they face.
The Chinese government must change its policy of using only force to deal with all dissent. Uyghurs, Tibetans and Chinese are all victims of Chinese government policy. Until the Chinese government engages in real dialogue with its citizens, and uses the rule of law instead of rule by force, there will be no real peace in China.
I would also like to address accusations leveled against me in the Chinese media regarding my alleged involvement in instigating the protests in East Turkestan. These accusations are completely false. I did not organize the protests or call on people to demonstrate. My only contact with any Uyghur inside East Turkestan in recent days was a call I placed to my brother in Urumchi on Saturday evening Washington time, in which I told my brother that my daughters had seen announcements being circulated widely on the Internet regarding plans to demonstrate in Urumchi on Sunday. I urged my brother to stay at home that day, and to ask my other family members to stay at home as well, fearing that they may be subject to violence at the hands of the authorities if they ventured outside. In no way did I call on anyone, at any time, to demonstrate within East Turkestan.