Uyghur American Association on China
Stephen Sulejman Schwartz
Center for Islamic Pluralism
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496
The People's Republic of China (PRC) Ministry of Public Security has released the name of the woman arrested in a March 7 incident involving a passenger airplane flying from Urumchi to Beijing. A Ministry spokesperson stated that 19 year-old Guzalinur Turdi had confessed to attempting to hijack and crash China Southern Airline flight CZ6901. Reuters reports that PRC officials claim Ms. Turdi and an unidentified man boarded the plane using Pakistani passports. When contacted by Radio Free Asia journalists, PRC officials refused to give further details about the incident or the detainees.
"The Uyghur American Association (UAA) unequivocally condemns all acts of violence. We also urge extreme caution when evaluating any PRC claims of 'terrorism'," said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. "In the era of the 'global war on terror,' PRC authorities have used the threat of 'terrorism' to justify the repression and forced cultural assimilation of the Uyghur people of East Turkestan. Ms. Turdi should be tried according to international legal norms, in a free and transparent court system. She should have access to a lawyer, her trial should be open to domestic and foreign press, and she should be well-treated by government authorities while in their custody. Unfortunately, in the PRC, the legal system is often used as a tool of repression. Non-transparent trials, lack of independent counsel, forced confessions, and mistreatment of those detained by the government are all common."
In recent years, using 'terrorism' as a justification, Beijing has undertaken a renewed, systematic, and sustained crackdown on all forms of Uyghur dissent in East Turkestan (designated as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by the Chinese government). Amnesty International has documented that, since 2001, "tens of thousands of people are reported to have been detained for investigation in the region, and hundreds, possibly thousands, have been charged or sentenced under the Criminal Law; many Uighurs are believed to have been sentenced to death and executed for alleged "separatist" or "terrorist" offences." According to a scholarly paper from a 2001 Ministry of Justice compendium, one out of eleven convicted Uyghurs are in prison for "state security crimes." The state-run Xinjiang Daily reported that, in 2005 alone, 18,227 individuals were arrested in East Turkestan for endangering state security, a jump of 25 percent from the previous year.
Uyghurs in government custody frequently suffer from physical abuse and other maltreatment. In late 2005, after making his first visit to China, during which he visited prisons in Urumchi, Lhasa, and Beijing, Mr. Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, confirmed that "torture was widespread" in China, especially in East Turkestan and Tibet. Forms of torture he documented included the "use of electric shock batons, cigarette burns, guard-instructed beatings by fellow prisoners, submersion in pits of water or sewage, exposure to extreme heat or cold, being forced to maintain uncomfortable positions, deprivation of sleep, food or water, (and) suspension from overhead fixtures by handcuffs."
Human rights groups have noted that the Beijing regime's recent amplification of a Uyghur terrorist threat on the eve of the 2008 Olympics has provided it with the opportunity to deflect attention away from its repression in East Turkistan and project an exaggerated image of Uyghur terrorism on the world stage. Just as it has used the "global war on terror" to justify the intensified persecution of Uyghurs, it has used an emphasis on the Uyghur terrorist threat to justify its human rights abuses against Uyghurs in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics.
Official PRC government documents and statements frequently use vague and generic terms such as "East Turkestan terrorist organization" or "East Turkestan terrorist force," implying that a unified and strong group of terrorists exists. Hundreds of official speeches, reports, and news articles discussing East Turkestan use the "terrorist" designation. However, almost all independent observers have rejected the legitimacy of these types of government claims. Domestic experts have also expressed doubts. In an interview with the AFP news service in early March, Zhang Jiadong, a counter-terrorism expert at Shanghai's Fudan University stated, "When it comes to Xinjiang, the terrorist threat is not too serious."
PRC continues to exaggerate "terror" threat
State Department report highlights human rights abuses against Uyghurs
Political persecution of Uyghurs in the era of the "war on terror"
* * * * *
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) works to promote the preservation and flourishing of a rich, humanistic and diverse Uyghur culture, and to support the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, democratic means to determine their own political future.
The UAA has undertaken the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) for the purpose of promoting improved human rights conditions for Uyghurs and other indigenous groups in East Turkistan, on the premise that the assurance of basic human rights will facilitate the realization of the community's democratic aspirations.
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Uyghur American Association
1700 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20006
Tel: +1 (202) 349 1496
Fax: +1 (202) 349 1491