Two organizations representing Uyghur communities in America and Europe have spoken out against the Chinese response to the attacks in Kashgar, East Turkestan, that claimed the lives of 16 policemen on Monday 4 August. Both associations question the official version of events put forward by the Chinese authorities and fear China may now inflict greater repression on the Uyghur people. The criticism comes as Chinese authorities prevent two Japanese journalists from accessing the site of the attacks and internet access in the city of Kashgar.
In a press release issued by the Uyghur American Association (UAA), the organization observes that several aspects of the attack "remain unclear" and that "no independent sources have confirmed the details of the incident". The UAA has said it rejects all "violent action" because violence only serves to "increase suppression of the Uyghur people and exacerbate tensions between Uyghurs and Han Chinese". The association has asked the "international community" to take the Chinese version of events "with caution" as authorities "consistently fail to provide evidence" to back up their claims.
According to the East Turkestan Information Centre, which provides an informative website from Germany and is accused of "terrorism" by China, since 2001 the Communist authorities have used the 11/7 attacks "to justify its arbitrary crack-downs on Uyghurs". The group doubts that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement is responsible for the attacks - as China has insinuated through its state news agency, Xinhua - and suspects that the attacks were carried out by Uyghurs who "have run out of patience because of the harsh, oppressive regime".
Action taken by Chinese forces in Kashgar
As these initial condemnations of the Chinese response begin to circulate, Agence France Presse (AFP) has reported that Chinese police have ordered internet access in the entire city of Kashgar, where the attacks took place, to be suspended. AFP also reports that a group of policemen rushed into the room of an AFP photographer and "forced him to delete photos he had taken of the scene [of the attacks]". The Bloomberg news service, quoting the Kyodo News agency, claims two Japanese journalists who were covering the attacks have been beaten by Chinese police. Both men were allegedly led into a hotel where they were assaulted and detained for two hours.
A Turkic and Muslim minority
According to the last Chinese official census, the Uyghurs make up approximately 45% of the population of East Turkestan, which is officially known as "Xinjiang Uyghur" in China. They speak a Turkic language and are predominantly Muslim. Since China is a communist dictatorship, many Han Chinese have settled in East Turkestan, as they have in neighbouring Tibet. Uyghurs fear for the future of their cultural identity.
- Le Monde: Au Xinjiang, témoignages et questions sur l'attentat de Kashgar
- BBC: How big is the Xinjiang threat?
- EiTB: The most important border for China
- Courrier International: Chine: arrestations au Xinjian au lendemain de l'attentat dans l'ouest musulman