Overseas Uighur group fears ‘fierce’ repression after Olympics

August 23rd, 2008 - 6:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 23 (DPA) A US-based group of exiled members of China’s Uighur ethnic community issued a statement Saturday saying it feared the Chinese government will launch a “fierce” repression of Uighurs in its northwest Xinjiang region after the Olympics.Recent comments made by top Chinese officials and the tightened restrictions and many arrests following a spate of deadly attacks this month were indications that China may be planning a tough crack down once the Olympics end, the Uighur American Association (UAA) said.

The region’s Communist Party secretary Wang Lequan recently stated that all levels of government officials should understand that China faces a “life or death” struggle to quell Uyghur unrest.

China’s Political Consultative Committee head Zhu Hailun also stated at a televised news conference Monday that government forces must “strike hard” at the three evil forces (terrorism, separatism, and extremism), and mobilise the masses to guard against these forces at all levels of society, the group said.

It said another group, The Uighur Human Rights Project (UHRP), had heard reliable reports that all non-resident Uighurs in the city of Korla in Xinjiang had been detained and told they would be released after the Beijing Olympics were over.

The alleged detention of non-resident Uighurs in Korla reportedly began following a series of bombings China said were carried out by Uighurs in nearby Kuqa or Kucha county Aug 10.

UAA reiterated the Munich-based World Uighur Congress’ (WUC) recent reports that more than 100 Uighurs have been arrested in Kashgar following an attack on paramilitary police in the city Aug 4, which killed 16 officers.

In addition, at least 90 Uighurs, including several women, have reportedly been arrested in and near Kucha following the Kucha attacks, UAA said, also backing WUC’s claims.

“At present, Uighurs do not feel secure anywhere in China, including East Turkestan, as they are seen as political suspects by the PRC (Chinese) authorities,” the group said.

UAA quoted Rebiya Kadeer, leader of the Uighur freedom movement, as saying: “I am extremely concerned that the Chinese government will launch a “life and death struggle” on the Uighur people once the international community’s focus has shifted from China.

“Such a move will further destabilise the region and is not in the best interest of China. I urge restraint on the part of the Chinese government to not use the recent incidents in East Turkestan to persecute Uighurs.”

“I also urge the international community to speak out on behalf of Uyghurs and to prevent imminent and systematic human rights abuses against a peaceful people.”

Security and China experts have said China does face a threat from militant Uighurs, some of whom have been trained in Afghanistan, and the threat seems more pronounced with the recent attacks.

But they and human rights groups said the threat is not so great that it justifies China’s practice of indiscriminately arresting Uighurs simply for peacefully voicing dissent or favouring more autonomy or independence.

Beijing’s harsh rule of the region and its policies, including those that have encouraged an influx of Han Chinese into the area, breed resentment and could turn more Uighurs into militants, experts said.

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