Ethnic Unrest Persists in Xinjiang on Third Anniversary of Urumqi Riots
Three years after the Chinese government’s harsh crackdown on Uyghur demonstrators, Freedom House remains deeply troubled by the continued assault on human rights in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China. Many of those abducted in large-scale sweeps after the 2009 clashes remain unaccounted for, while Uyghur journalists and bloggers still face frequent detention and lengthy incarcerations, often following dubious trials.
On July 5, 2009 tensions in Xinjiang came to a head when Chinese troops confronted a crowd of peaceful Uyghur protesters who had gathered to demand an investigation into a skirmish between Uyghurs and Han Chinese factory workers. The crackdown resulted in the widespread imprisonment, execution, and enforced disappearances of Uyghurs.
An estimated nine million Uyghurs live in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China, most of whom are Muslim. Political indoctrination programs, curbs on Muslim religious practice, policies marginalizing use of the Uyghur language in education, and government efforts to alter the region’s demography have continued, and in some instances worsened, since 2009, contributing to ongoing tensions.
The latest clash occurred on June 6, when twelve children in Xinjiang's Hetian city were injured after police entered an Islamic school. The authorities claimed they were putting out a fire in an “illegal religious study center," while exile groups claim that police had sprayed tear gas at the children. The incident occurred just a few days after Radio Free Asia reported that an 11-year-old Uyghur boy died in police custody after being arrested on May 20 for taking Islamic prayer lessons at another home school in the city of Korla. Police told his mother that he had committed suicide, but his body reportedly showed signs of torture and strangulation. They instructed her to bury the body immediately and refrain from speaking about the case. Another youth was subsequently sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention for circulating information about the case online.
China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom of the Press 2012 and Freedom on the Net 2011. China is one of the world’s worst human rights abusers according to Freedom House’s Worst of the Worst 2012 report.