Chinese Government Must Allow Reporting and Investigation of Urumqi Violence

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Chinese Government Must Allow Reporting and Investigation of Urumqi Violence

Impartial Observation Critical to Ending Rights Abuses and Easing Ethnic Tension

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- July 6, 2009) In the aftermath of a day of violence sparked by the bloody suppression of protests in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, little is known of the specifics of the situation outside of a sobering toll of the dead and injured: 140 killed and over 800 wounded, according to Xinhua reports. At this critical time, CHRD calls on the Chinese government to ensure that the right of citizens to accurate, impartial information be protected, that the right to peaceful assembly and free expression of all citizens be respected, and that the right to a fair trial for anyone suspected of committing a crime during the protests be ensured.

“The government must provide unrestricted access for journalists to report freely”, said Renee Xia, International Director of CHRD, “and allow human rights organizations and members of the international community to conduct impartial and independent investigations into the cause and scope of the bloodshed and the actions of the protestors and police.”

CHRD also denounces the government’s moves to stifle independent accounts of the events, its continued blocking of websites like Twitter and YouTube within the country and reported restrictions on internet access in Urumqi.

In their reporting on the event, state television news broadcasts have run images of injured Han Chinese citizens and otherwise attempted to portray the violence as a premeditated attack on Han residents of Urumqi by Uyghurs. News reports have accused the World Uyghur Congress, an organization headquartered in Munich, Germany, and particularly its president, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, of “masterminding” the protests, a charge which Ms. Kadeer immediately denied. CHRD warns that these images and official accusations will serve to further aggravate ethnic tensions, and demands that the Chinese government refrain from issuing such statements without providing evidence to support their claims.

According to an AP report, protests on the afternoon of July 5 in Urumqi began as a peaceful 300-person sit-in at People’s Square to protest the deaths of at least two Uyghur workers killed in Shaoguan, Guangdong on June 25. The crowd reportedly grew to over 1,000 people, and turned violent after police confronted the protestors, who refused to disperse. CHRD demands the Chinese government fully investigate the responsibilities of the authorities in this event, as we have observed a similar pattern in countless cases of peaceful protests which resulted in violence after protestors were met with heavy-handed crowd-control tactics by armed police. In Urumqi, eyewitnesses reported seeing police use tear gas and fire weapons into the air as they faced protestors.

CHRD is also concerned that those detained and arrested in the wake of this violence will be subjected to torture or inhumane treatment and swift, harsh punishment. We call upon the relevant authorities to ensure that the rights of all citizens to a fair trial be upheld, and that all investigations and punitive measures taken be carried out according to the law. It is not yet known how many protestors were detained during the violence. Thousands were arbitrarily detained following protests across Tibetan regions of China in spring 2008.

“Parallels to the violence in Tibetan regions of China which erupted in March 2008 abound,” said Xia. “The Chinese government must not engage in the same abuses of human rights as it did in the wake of those events.”

Media contacts:

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin): +852 8191 6937

Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator and English Editor (English, Mandarin and Cantonese): +852 8191 1660

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