Posted: 17 January 2011
Fears that individuals were punished purely for expressing their opinions
Amnesty International spokespeople available for interview
Amnesty International today cast doubt on the legitimacy of the hundreds of trials conducted by the Chinese authorities in connection with protests and violence in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in July 2009.
The Chinese authorities today revealed that 376 individuals were tried last year in connection to the protests.
Catherine Baber, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said:
“The Chinese authorities need to demonstrate that the 376 individuals tried in 2010 in connection to the unrest in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region received fair trials and were not punished for simply exercising their freedom of expression.
“According to information obtained by Amnesty International, many Uighurs have been punished with harsh sentences for ‘endangering state security’, when they did nothing more than grant interviews to the media or post articles to the internet.”
The figures announced by the Chinese today do not include break-downs for the number of individuals executed, sentenced to death, or sentenced to life imprisonment or long prison terms. The government has provided little information regarding the identity of the individuals tried, or the charges and sentences against them.
It is difficult to come by information regarding the trials through public sources. In many cases even family members of defendants are neither informed in a timely fashion about the trials of or are able to attend the trials.
Individuals, such as Hairat Niyaz, a Uighur journalist, who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, have been charged and sentenced for "endangering state security" for nothing more than exercising their freedom of expression, including giving interviews to the media and posting articles on the internet regarding the unrest of July 2009 in Urumqi.
Amnesty International calls on the Chinese authorities to conduct trials according to international fair trial standards, including allowing defendants to hire lawyers of their own choosing, allowing them access to their family and lawyers, and informing family members in a timely fashion of detentions, charges and trials.
Since the events of July 2009 the Chinese authorities have not allowed for an independent investigation into the violence, including the possible excessive use of force by the security forces against peaceful protesters.