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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.