Saturday, January 7, 2012

Comment: 2011: The Uyghur Human Rights Year in Review

Henryk Szadziewski in his Huffington Post article looks back at 2011 and examines some of the incidents that made the year such an "annus horribilis" for the Uyghur ethnic minority of China.

Not since the riots in Urumqi in 2009 have the Uyghur people been subject to such a bloody year. 

In terms of the number of separate incidents that resulted in deaths and injuries as a result of clashes with Chinese officials, it rates as the worst, at least as far back to 1997 when the Ghulja incident and several others violent clashes occurred. 

2011 saw incidents resulting in seven Uyghur deaths in Kashgar City (2 ) and 25 in Hotan Prefecture (2). It must be noted that these are only "major" incidents that have made their way into the western media. The World Uyghur Congress states that since Urumqi 2009 there have been some 20 other bloody incidents that have gone unreported in the western media. I will make note here that it has not only been Uyghurs that have died in these incidents as many, apparently innocent, Han and two Uyghur policemen have also perished.

Apart from deaths and injuries Szadziewski also refers to the upsurge in Uyghur refugees reaching Europe, the hounding of refugees outside of China and enormous pressure being brought to bear on neighbouring countries resulting in refoulments.

Without revisiting and analysing each 2011 incident why are we seeing such apparent levels of discontent among the Uyghur and such heavy handed, seemingly remorseless hounding and lethal response by the Chinese?

The general line taken by the Chinese government is that this is as a result of an increase in religious fundamentalism among the Uyghur resulting in terrorist clashes.

The line taken by Uyghur expatriate organisations and some media, is that it is as a result socio-economic pressures generally, and strike hard campaigns continually being undertaken by the Chinese government, combining to push the Uyghur closer and closer to the brink.

Regardless of these disparate viewpoints the fact remains that the Chinese response would appear to be shoot first, ask questions later and totally disregard international opinion.

In the Kashgar incident there were reports of ex-judicial killings. Two of the dead were apparently found hiding in a field armed only with knives before being gunned down and killed. In Hotan City incident eighteen Uyghurs were killed, again, reportedly, not with a gun in their possession. The recent Pishan incident involved the deaths of men, two women and the wounding of children, apparently members of a family group, who were attempting to flee the country as religious refugees.

There is, it  would appear to be, an unstated, but seemingly official, policy at work in Xinjiang and China post the Urumqi riots. 

It is  called "payback"

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