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China: New testimonies reinforce call for Xinjiang riot investigation

Amnesty International is urging the Chinese government to launch an independentinvestigation into last year’s riots in the Xinjiang Uighur AutonomousRegion, after new testimony obtained by the organisation has cast furtherdoubt on the official version of events. A report released today, entitled “Justice, justice”: The July 2009Protests in Xinjiang, China includes newly gathered testimonies fromUighurs who fled China after the unrest, which centred on Xinjiang’s capital,Urumqi.   Interviewees described unnecessary or excessive use of force, mass arrests,enforced disappearances, and torture and ill-treatment in detention thatoccurred on 5 July 2009 and during the ensuing government crackdown. “The official account leaves too many questions unanswered. How many peoplereally died, who killed them, how did it happen, and why?” said CatherineBaber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.  Ahead of the 5 July anniversary, security in Xinjiang has been tightened,with reports of restrictions on freedom of movement and expression, andon Uighur community organisations. “Instead of stifling inquiry, blaming outside agitators and generatingfear, the Chinese government should use the anniversary to launch a properinvestigation, including into the Uighur community’s long-simmering grievancesthat contributed to the unrest” said Catherine Baber.Eyewitnesses to the 5 July events confirmed that the protest against governmentinaction in the face of killings of Uighur factory workers in southernChina started peacefully, but was met with violence by security forces. One 29-year-old woman from Urumqi said: “…some 20 military vehicles arrived. The security forces carried automaticrifles and started to push the demonstrators. The woman walked towardsthem. A policeman shot her. She died. It was shocking, and I was very frightened.Everything then became chaotic.” Rioting erupted later in the evening, particularly in the southern, Uighur,part of the city, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. Chinese officialssaid that 197 people died in the violence on 5 July. Of the killed, 156were described as “innocent people” who included 134 ethnic Han Chinese,11 Hui, 10 Uighurs and one Manchurian.   A 22 year-old male eyewitness described the chaos and violence in Urumqi:“At about 8pm [on 5 July], a group of Uighurs went past our house towardsthe south, smashing cars and other property. Then, about 30 minutes laterthere was another group of Uighurs. They were running, the armywas behind them. The army shot at them as they fled, in the back. I thinkmaybe three of them died, they were shot in the back.”“It’s unclear whether authorities were adequately prepared to protectall citizens, and whether they had the right training and equipment tocontrol the situation without resorting to lethal force,” said CatherineBaber. Violent attacks were reported in the city throughout the week, with eyewitnessesreporting to Amnesty International that in some cases police failed toprotect Uighurs attacked by Han Chinese on 7 July.China has recently approved a development package for Xinjiang to promotesocial stability, but Amnesty International is urging the government todeliver both equity and justice in Xinjiang, and ensure broad communityconsultation in all future planning and implementation.    “The Chinese government hopes to stabilise Xinjiang by directing moneyat the problem, but without a credible independent investigation of theUrumqi riots and underlying grievances, resentment and mistrust will continue,”said Catherine Baber.   Over a thousand people were detained in the aftermath of the unrest andpossibly hundreds subjected to enforced disappearances. According to officialstatistics, at least 198 people have been sentenced, following trials thatAmnesty International considers to have fallen short of international fairtrial standards. Nine people are known to have been executed and at least26 more sentenced to death. Amnesty International is calling on China to set up an independent andimpartial inquiry into the human rights abuses committed by all participantsin the Urumqi unrest, and to ensure a transparent judicial process forall those facing charges linked to the unrest, including fair trials inaccordance with international standards. Background On 5 July 2009, violence erupted in Urumqi, the capital of the XinjiangUighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwest China, following a policecrackdown on a peaceful demonstration over government inaction followingkillings of migrant Uighur factory workers in Guangdong, southern China.The protests took place against a back-drop of Uighur resentment, built-upover years of official repression and discrimination.Several UN Special Rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on Tortureand the Independent Expert on Minority Rights, have asked to visit theXUAR. To date, the Chinese authorities have not granted their request.

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