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Amnesty International Says New Testimonies Reinforce Call for China to Investigate Xinjiang Riot
WASHINGTON - Amnesty
International is urging the Chinese government to launch an independent
investigation into last year's riots in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous
Region, after new testimony obtained by the organization has cast further
doubt on the official version of events.
A new report released today,
entitled "Justice, justice": The July 2009 Protests in Xinjiang, China
includes newly gathered testimonies from Uighurs who fled China after the
unrest, which centered on Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi. Interviewees
described unnecessary or excessive use of force, mass arrests, enforced
disappearances, and torture and ill-treatment in detention that occurred
on July 5, 2009 and during the ensuing government crackdown.
"The official account leaves
too many questions unanswered. How many people really died, who killed
them, how did it happen, and why?" said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International's
Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.
Ahead of the July 5 anniversary,
security in Xinjiang has been tightened, with reports of restrictions on
freedom of movement and expression, and on Uighur community organizations.
"Instead of stifling inquiry,
blaming outside agitators and generating fear, the Chinese government should
use the anniversary to launch a proper investigation, including into the
Uighur community's long-simmering grievances that contributed to the unrest"
Eyewitnesses to the July 5
events confirmed that the protest against government inaction in the face
of killings of Uighur factory workers in southern China started peacefully,
but was met with violence by security forces. One 29-year-old woman
from Urumqi said:
"...some 20 military vehicles
arrived. The security forces carried automatic rifles and started to push
the demonstrators. The woman walked towards them. A policeman shot her.
She died. It was shocking, and I was very frightened. Everything then became
Rioting erupted later in the
evening, particularly in the southern, Uighur, part of the city, resulting
in numerous deaths and injuries. Chinese officials said that 197 people
died in the violence on July 5. Of the killed, 156 were described as "innocent
people" who included 134 ethnic Han Chinese, 11 Hui, 10 Uighurs and one
A 22 year-old male eyewitness
described the chaos and violence in Urumqi:
"At about 8pm [on July
5], a group of Uighurs went past our house towards the south, smashing
cars and other property. Then, about 30 minutes later there was another
group of Uighurs. They were running, the army was behind them. The
army shot at them as they fled, in the back. I think maybe three of them
died, they were shot in the back."
"It's unclear whether authorities
were adequately prepared to protect all citizens, and whether they had
the right training and equipment to control the situation without resorting
to lethal force," said Baber.
Violent attacks were reported
in the city throughout the week, with eyewitnesses reporting to Amnesty
International that in some cases police failed to protect Uighurs attacked
by Han Chinese on July 7.
China has recently approved
a development package for Xinjiang to promote social stability, but Amnesty
International is urging the government to deliver both equity and justice
in Xinjiang, and ensure broad community consultation in all future planning
"The Chinese government hopes
to stabilize Xinjiang by directing money at the problem, but without a
credible independent investigation of the Urumqi riots and underlying grievances,
resentment and mistrust will continue," said Baber.
Over a thousand people were
detained in the aftermath of the unrest and possibly hundreds subjected
to enforced disappearances. According to official statistics, at least
198 people have been sentenced, following trials that Amnesty International
considers to have fallen short of international fair trial standards. Nine
people are known to have been executed and at least 26 more sentenced to
Amnesty International is calling
on China to set up an independent and impartial inquiry into the human
rights abuses committed by all participants in the Urumqi unrest, and to
ensure a transparent judicial process for all those facing charges linked
to the unrest, including fair trials in accordance with international standards.
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