World Uyghur Congress and the East Turkestan Union in Europe Commemorate the Gulja Massacre and Organise Demonstration in Munich with Rebiya Kadeer
A World Uyghur Congress Press Release
1 February 2011
On 5 February 1997, a peaceful demonstration by fifteen to twenty thousand Uyghurs in the city of Gulja (in Chinese: Yining), Ili prefecture in East Turkestan was brutally and lethally suppressed by Chinese security forces. At least 100 Uyghurs were killed and hundreds were injured. Approximately 4,000 Uyghurs were arrested during and in the aftermath of the demonstration. Many remain disappeared today and are probably either dead or in prison. According to Amnesty International, more than 200 Uyghurs were sentenced to death in unfair trials for their alleged involvement in the unrest and then executed. About 90 Uyghurs were sentenced to long prison terms.
The Chinese authorities tried by every means to cover up the true extent of the massacre. They deployed more than 40,000 security forces to cut off Gulja hermetically from the outside world in order to prevent leaks of information. Those who still dared to pass on information and were caught doing so had to expect long prison sentences. After the suppression of the demonstration, the Chinese government intensified its repression of the Uyghurs, as well as its persecution of the Uyghurs. The government subjected Uyghurs to especially intense religious persecution and repression.
To date, 14 years after the massacre, the security forces who killed so many Uyghur demonstrators on 5 February 1997 and the government officials who ordered them to do so still have not been held accountable. The Chinese government still refuses to allow an independent investigation of the events or to publish the actual number of victims.
On 05 February 2011, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the East Turkestan Union in Europe will stage a demonstration in Munich (see details below) to commemorate the victims of the Gulja massacre and to ensure that the world does not forget the horrific tragedies of that day. Rebiya Kadeer, President of the WUC and former political prisoner, will also take part in the demonstration.
“I have great fear that the 05 July 2009 unrest in Urumqi, the capital of East Turkestan, in which an unknown number of demonstrators was killed, will become a second Gulja,” said Ms. Kadeer today. “The actions of Chinese security forces were equally brutal in both cases. Also in Urumqi, thousands were arrested, hundreds were killed, and so far – according to official figures – 376 people have been subjected to unfair trials in connection with the unrest. At least 24 Uyghurs have been sentenced to death and at least nine Uyghurs have been to death with two-year reprieve. At least eight of the Uyghurs sentenced to death have already been executed. Moreover, since the July 2009 incidents, an untold number of Uyghurs have been disappeared. “
In addition, since the July 2009 incidents in Urumqi, the Chinese government has tried very hard to prevent details of the government’s brutal suppression of the demonstration from spreading to the public. The government has instituted the most repressive information crackdown ever imposed on the Uyghurs. East Turkestan was hermetically cut off from the outside world for many months; phone and Internet connections were interrupted.
“The Chinese government’s brutal and lethal suppression of the July 5, 2009 peaceful protest and the repressive and persecutory measures that the government has taken in the aftermath of the July 2009 events have shown that the government has not learned anything in the years since the Gulja massacre. The government is still applying the most repressive measures against the Uyghur population, “said Ms. Kadeer. “The Chinese government speculates that its conduct in relation to 05 February 1997 and 05 July 2009 will simply be forgotten by the international community at some point. But the World Uyghur Congress will do everything it can to make sure that the world does not forget these terrible events.”
With this demonstration, the WUC and the East Turkestan Union in Europe appeal to the Chinese government to acknowledge the massacres of innocent, peaceful Uyghurs in Gulja and Urumqi, and to allow independent investigations into these terrible events. In addition, all responsible should be held legally accountable. Apart from that, innocently imprisoned Uyghurs must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Gulja 5 February 1997
The demonstration in February 1997 in Gulja was motivated by increasing suppression of Uyghur culture and religion in the region of Gulja, including the traditional Uyghur gatherings called meshrep which had again been banned by the Chinese authorities after having been officially allowed only in 1994. The Uyghurs in the area had revived themeshrep in an attempt to revive Islamic culture and to prevent social problems such as alcoholism and drug abuse. The leaders of the local Uyghur communities had also organized soccer leagues, which were also then banned by the authorities and the sports fields were destroyed.
The Uyghurs in Gulja demonstrated on the morning of 5 February 1997 to demand the release of hundreds of young Muslim believers who had been detained the night before (the holy night of Ramadan) while engaging in their traditional prayers in their homes. The demonstration was stopped by the police, who then began to shoot into the crowd without reason or provocation and killed demonstrators. Under the accusation of “extremism, terrorism or separatism” hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were arrested. In the afternoon, friends and relatives of those arrested in the morning organized a second demonstration to demand their release. Again, the security forces brutally suppressed the demonstration and again arrests of hundreds of people were arrested. According to eyewitnesses, the detained people were beaten, mistreated and tortured in custody which led to the death of some detainees.
The demonstrations continued on the next day. Thousands took to the streets to demonstrate against the Chinese government and the oppression of the Uyghur people. Again, many people were arrested.
The Chinese government has claimed that the protests were acts of “terrorism”. Routinely, the Chinese authorities equate peaceful Uyghur dissent with the so-called “three evils” (terrorism, separatism and religious extremism) in order to justify their human rights violations against the Uyghur people.
Urumqi 05 July 2009
The human rights situation of the Uyghur population in East Turkestan has been dire for decades and has even worsened since the July 2009 protest and ethnic unrest in Urumqi, the capital of East Turkestan. The July 2009 protest began with a peaceful demonstration by Uyghurs in Urumqi that was brutally and lethally suppressed by Chinese security forces. The Uyghurs were protesting against a lack of government action in regard to a deadly attack on Uyghur factory workers in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province in the south of China. The violent and illegal reaction of the Chinese security forces to the peaceful protest led then to ethnic violence and riots between Uyghurs and Han Chinese, during which hundreds of Uyghur and Han Chinese civilians were killed. According to data published by the Chinese Xinhua news agency, 197 people were killed, but the World Uyghur Congress estimates – based on eyewitness reports – that more than 1000 people died in the riots. However, until today, the exact death toll on both sides is not clear since so far no independent investigation of these events has been undertaken.