News / Asia

Uighurs: China's Xinjiang a 'Police State' 3 Years After Riots

Armed police officers patrol an ethnic Uighur area in Kashgar, in Xinjiang province Aug. 4, 2011.Armed police officers patrol an ethnic Uighur area in Kashgar, in Xinjiang province Aug. 4, 2011.
x
Armed police officers patrol an ethnic Uighur area in Kashgar, in Xinjiang province Aug. 4, 2011.
Armed police officers patrol an ethnic Uighur area in Kashgar, in Xinjiang province Aug. 4, 2011.
An exiled Uighur group says Chinese authorities have turned the northwestern region of Xinjiang into a "police state," three years after the outbreak of deadly riots between ethnic Uighurs and settlers of China's Han majority.

A Washington-based spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, Alim Seytoff, Thursday said Xinjiang security forces have intensified street patrols of Uighur neighborhoods in recent days, making residents feel like they are living in a "war zone." He made the comments on the third anniversary of the start of the riots that the Chinese government said killed about 200 people, both Uighurs and Han Chinese.

Xinjiang Communist Party Chief Zhang Chunxian met with security forces in the regional capital Urumqi on Wednesday, urging them to use "iron fists" in crushing separatists, extremists and terrorists. Xinjiang is home to millions of Turkic-speaking and largely Muslim Uighurs who accuse Beijing of persecution and turning them into a minority in their homeland by flooding it with Han Chinese settlers.

Seytoff said Zhang has escalated the repression of Uighurs since succeeding Wang Lequan as Xinjiang's top official in 2010.

"Initially he came, he presented a smiling happy face to the Uighurs, trying to appease the Uighurs in a way and even create some preconditions for peaceful coexistence between indigenous Uighurs and Chinese settlers. But soon, he showed his true colors. He's actually not any different than Wang Lequan, if not worse and more skillful," Seytoff said.

Zhang has said it is Chinese government policy to protect the legitimate practice of religion. But he also has vowed to crack down on Uighur extremists whom authorities accuse of using Islam to incite violence.

The Chinese government has increased aid and investment in Xinjiang since 2009 to deal with what it considers to be the root cause of unrest: poverty. Seytoff said poverty plays a role in Uighur grievances, but accused Beijing of having a different motive for sending funds to the region, also called East Turkestan by some Uighurs.

"The development is really for the benefit of the Chinese immigrants who come to East Turkestan - their jobs, health care and everything is guaranteed for them, while the same thing is denied to the Uighur people. Yes, the Chinese government poured millions of dollars in the area ... but they did all of this to speed up the immigration of Han Chinese. That's the whole idea of their development push," Seytoff said.

A prominent Han Chinese activist in Xinjiang, Hu Jun, said Beijing's policies have created ethnic tension where it did not exist before. 

“My personal view is this: the ethnic groups in Xinjiang don't have problems to begin with, and many times it was the government that tries to emphasize the hostilities among the ethnic groups," said Hu. "On some issues, it was the government that purposely tried to overstate the ethnic hostilities. Through my years in dealing with Uighurs, Hazak, Kerkas and Hui, China’s Muslims, ethnic groups are easygoing people. They don’t have big conflicts with the Han. They are commoners as we Han people are.”

In a report released Thursday, rights group Amnesty International said Xinjiang authorities continue to silence Uighurs who speak out about alleged human rights abuses from the riots that began on July 5, 2009.

Amnesty said "dozens, if not hundreds" of Uighurs remain in detention after disappearing during the unrest, which erupted in Urumqi and went on for weeks, triggering a major security crackdown and arrests.

Amnesty China researcher Sarah Schafer said many family members of the missing have suffered harassment from authorities when trying to obtain information about their loved ones.

"We're demanding that the government comes clean on these cases of disappearances because this is absolutely unacceptable. It is incredibly difficult to get info from Xinjiang. These families are starting to speak out but at great risk to themselves," Schafer said.

Schafer said Patigul Eli, the mother of a missing Uighur man, reported meeting at least 30 other families who also have tried to get information from Urumqi authorities about relatives who had disappeared.

"For three years she hasn't known where her son is or even whether he is alive or dead, and she's begging for answers from the government. Unfortunately no answers have come," Schafer said.

The Amnesty researcher said some detained Uighurs have been denied a free trial because Xinjiang authorities consider them to be terrorists.

Graham White contributed to this report.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid