“2011: The Uyghur Human Rights Year in Review”

Uyghur Human Rights Project manager Henryk Szadziewski has a piece up on HuffingtonPost summarizing how last year passed in Xinjiang. It wasn’t good:

Calls for independent and international investigations into Chinese claims of Uyghur terrorism receive very short shrift from Beijing. It therefore follows that whenever a serious incident occurs in East Turkestan (Xinjiang), which Chinese officials blame on a coordinated Uyghur terror threat, skeptics are never far away. That China uses the Uyghurs’ Islamic faith to engineer accusations of terrorism in order to justify unremitting crackdowns only compounds the doubt.

The incident became another example of the lack of clarity in Chinese government accounts of Uyghur terrorism, as well as an illustration of the binary nature in interpreting such disturbing events. What seems to be agreed upon is that another violent and bloody chapter in the region’s history has been played out and that we are nowhere nearer to resolving Uyghur issues. This conclusion could also be applied to two violent attacks that happened in the dusty summer streets of Khotan and Kashgar.

A growing number of countries surrounding China found it acceptable to forcibly repatriate Uyghur refugees in 2011. Prior to 2011, Uyghurs were refouled from a variety of states in China’s vicinity, such as Cambodia, Laos, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Burma and Nepal. In 2011, it was the turn of four other countries. On May 30, Ershidin Israel was forcibly repatriated from Kazakhstan despite an offer of settlement from Sweden. Israel had fled from China on foot in September 2009 after informing Radio Free Asia reporters about the beating to death of Uyghur Shohret Tursun. Tursun was beaten to death in September 2009 while in detention for his alleged involvement in the July 2009 unrest in Urumchi. Chinese authorities accused Israel of involvement in terrorism and demanded his return.

In all these cases nothing has been heard of the refugees since their return to China. In a September 2 Human Rights Watch press release, Refugee Program director Bill Frelick said, “Uighurs disappear into a black hole after being deported to China.” He added that “China appears to be conducting a concerted campaign to identify and press for the return of Uighurs from countries throughout Asia…China should stop pressuring other governments to violate the international prohibition against forced return.”

With such a long reach across the Asian continent and dominance over society in the Uyghur region, 2012 brings little to dismiss the fear that Uyghurs will find any respite from Chinese government attention, even across international borders. The pressure that China has exerted on surrounding governments to forcibly repatriate fleeing Uyghurs seems ever more irresistible given current political and economic realities. The possible evolution of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization into an economic grouping should keep Central Asian states firmly focused on the assistance China requires to keep activist Uyghurs silent.


Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, exile, human rights, Xinjiang

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s