Uighur struggle continues, in streets of Urumqi and Internet

Two Uighur men were shot dead and a third wounded after an apparent attack on police in Urumqi, Xinjiang, July 13. The next day, authorities raised the death toll in the recent Urumqi violence to 192 people and 810 injured. The rise in the toll had been expected as authorities earlier said many of the critically injured were near death. The previously announced death toll was 184, of whom more than 130 were Han Chinese. Uighurs say up to hundreds of their dead are not being counted. (UPI, July 15; BBC World Service, July 14; The Telegraph, July 13)

Chinese writer Wang Lixiong and his wife, the Tibetan writer Woeser, have meanwhile launched an online campaign calling for the release of Uighur economist Ilham Tohti. A professor at Beijing’s Central Nationalities University, Tohti went missing after he reported police had summoned him from his Beijing home following the July 5 riots in Urumqi.

Wang published his petition on the Internet July 12, and has collected more than 250 cyber-signatures, mostly from Han Chinese. Beijing-based Wang Lixiong is best known for his novel Tian Zang (Sky Burial), which explores the Tibet question from an unorthodox perspective.

Tohti was accused of inciting unrest with his blog, Uighur Online. Days before his arrest he told Radio Free Asia he was aware the authorities were closely watching him. “They are calling me now, and I have to go. I may be out of touch for some time,” he said. His website is now apparently being blocked in China.

Woeser said the call for Tohti’s release has generated a response from Chinese of several different ethnicities. “Wang Lixiong is a Han Chinese, and I am a Tibetan. The people who signed the letter include other minorities such as Hui, Mongolian, Korean, and others,” Woeser told RFA. “The appeal is not limited to one or two peoples. It is hoped that there will be a better future for all peoples.” (RFA, July 14)

See our last post on China and the Uighurs.

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  1. China: security forces killed 12 in Xinjiang unrest
    Chinese authorities for the first time gave a figure for the number of people killed by security forces in the street clashes in Urumqi. Xinjiang governor Nur Bekri said police killed 12 people after first firing into the air, according to the official news ervice Xinhua. Bekri, who called the victims “mobsters” and “thugs,” did not identify their ethnicity, but they were presumably Uighurs. In the past two weeks, talk has spread among Uighurs in Urumqi that Chinese security forces killed many during the unrest. (NYT, July 20)

    Citing accounts from local residents, the New York Times reports that hundreds of Uighurs have been quietly rounded up in police sweeps in Urumqi since the unrest. (NYT, July 19)

    Chinese state media is also alleging Islamist militants instrumented the unrest, quoting security officials who said surveillance videos showed women in burqas issuing orders to rioters. One woman was said to have given out clubs. “Such dressing is very rare in Urumqi, but these kind of women were seen many times at different locations on surveillance cameras on that day,” one official told China Daily. (LAT, July 21)