Uighurs

Uighur leader Ilham Tohti accused of 'separatism'

Detained Uighur scholar and activist Ilham Tohti was accused by Chinese authorities of "separatism" in Jan. 25 statement, and formal charges against him are expected imminently. The Bureau of Public Security in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang province, said Tohti recruited followers through his website to incite ethnic hatred and spread separatist ideology. In an online statement, the bureau charged that Tohti told his students that Uigurs should use violence and oppose the government as China opposed Japanese invaders during World War II. It also claimed Tohti told his students that those who attacked Xinjiang police in previous incidents were heroes. "Ilham Tohti made use of his capacity as a teacher to recruit, lure and threaten some people to form a ring and join hands with key people from the East Turkestan Independence Movement to plan and organise people to go abroad to take part in separatist activities," according to the statement posted to the bureau's official Weibo feed.

Last Uighur prisoners released from Guantánamo

The US Department of Defense announced Jan. 1 that three Uighur Muslim detainees were transferred to Slovakia from the Guantánamo Bay military prison. The detainees, Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper, were the last three members of the Chinese ethnic minority being held at the facility since their 2001 capture in Pakistan. US District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina declared in 2008 that the detention of the Uighurs was unlawful, though the US has delayed their release to find a country that would accept them. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby called the transfer "a significant milestone in our effort to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay."

Han-Uighur solidarity amid Xinjiang violence

New violence is reported from China's far western province of Xinjiang Nov. 16, when a group of Uighur youths attacked the police station in Siriqbuya (Chinese: Selibuya) township, Maralbeshi (Bachu) county, Kashgar prefecture. Two auxiliary officers were bludgeoned to death, and all nine of the attackers were reported to be killed. The youths were said to be armed with knives, swords and sickles The same town was also the scene of deadly clashes in April. Radio Free Asia, citing eyewitness accounts (presumably via cellphone), reported that "residents pleaded with the police not to kill the young Uyghurs"—implying at least some of the deaths may have been extrajudicial executions carried out after the attackers were pinned down or subdued. (Al Jazeera, Nov. 17; RFA, Nov. 16)

Uighurs recall independent East Turkestan

Ethnic Uighurs from around the world gathered in Washington DC this week to commemorate the anniversary of two short-lived independent republics set up by their forefathers within what is today the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. Around 100 Uighurs attended a ceremony Nov. 12 at Capitol Hill to remember the establishment of the East Turkestan republics on Nov. 12 in 1933 and 1944. Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, praised  those who founded the republics, and called on the Uighur people to remain strong in the face of what she called a policy of "repression" under the current Chinese government. "The Uyghur people have been suffering under the oppressive government of China since the destruction of the Uyghur republics; however, the level of repression has since been extended to our beliefs and customs," she said at the ceremony at the Rayburn House of Representatives Office Building

China: terror blasts in Shanxi; Uighurs feel pressure

A series of explosions outside the provincial Communist Party headquarters in Taiyuan, capital of China's Shanxi province, left one dead and at least eight wounded Nov. 6. National broadcaster CCTV said more than 20 vehicles were damaged. Coverage inevitably invokes last week's Tiananmen Square attack, which has been blamed on Uighur militants. But South China Morning Post notes that the blasts come a week after "a team of graft investigators from Beijing arrived in Taiyuan to conduct an in-depth review of the province's finances." Authorities have appealed to citizens with personal grievances not to overwhelm the team. There have been several bomb blasts in China over the past years apparently motivated by frustration with official corruption rather than any ideological or ethnic agenda. Shanxi has seen violence in recent years over labor unrest and land disputes.

Tiananmen Square suicide attack?

The Oct. 28 deadly incident in Tiananmen Square—in which an SUV ploughed into the crowd, leaving five dead and nearly 40 injured—appears to have been an act of terrorism. Police are reportedly checking hotels and vehicles for two men said to be ethnic Uighurs. It is unclear if the two suspects survived the crash or are thought to be accomplices. Accounts also do not make clear if the car's occupants were all killed in the crash; Reuters called the incident a "suicide attack," but also implied the attackers set the SUV on fire after driving it into the tourist-packed square. The Uighur ethnicity of the suspects has not been officially confirmed, but is based on surnames provided in police notes left with hotel management in the city to assist in the dragnet. Radio Free Asia cites reports from locals that police are checking ID cards of Uighurs on Beijing's streets and instructed hotels not to accept patrons from Xinjiang.

New deadly Xinjiang raid comes to light

Security forces in China's far western Xinjiang region last month shot and killed at least 12 men and wounded 20 others during a raid on what authorities described as a "terrorist facility," Radio Free Asia reported Sept. 17. Local officials told Radio Free Asia that the men had been building and testing explosives at a desert encampment near Jigdejay village, Poskam county (Chinese: Zepu), outside the city of Kashgar. One resident said the police were tipped off to the presence of the encampment after a rocket launcher the men were trying to build accidentally exploded, killing one of them.  

China: Uighurs imprisoned for online 'extremism'

Courts in China's far western Xinjiang province on June 20 sentenced 11 ethnic Uighurs to up to six years in prison for promoting extremism. Eight of those convicted came from the old Silk Road city of Kashgar, the Justice Ministry's official newspaper Legal Daily. Although the report did not mention ethnicity, all had Uighur names. In one case, the suspect visited "illegal" websites to download material that "whipped up religious fervor," "preached 'holy war'" and "whipped up ethnic enmity." Another eight received terms of up to 13 years for such crimes as "organizing a terrorist organization."

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