Government Should Carry out an Impartial Investigation, Not a Witch Hunt
Published on Human Rights Watch HRW, July 10, 2009.
(New York) – Developments in Xinjiang over the past three days indicate that the Chinese authorities are poised to launch a widespread, politicized crackdown on Uighur communities across the region, rather than undertake an impartial and objective investigation into the violence, Human Rights Watch said today.
Since the violence erupted in Urumqi, the regional capital, on July 5, 2009, following what appeared to be initially a peaceful protest organized by Uighur students, the government has proceeded to deploy at least 20,000 troops in and around the city. National and regional authorities have also announced that they will seek the death penalty for protest organizers and those who committed violence …
… “If Hu and Meng are serious about their stated commitment to justice, the coming days should see the first steps toward credible investigations,” said Richardson. “But much of the rest of the rhetoric undermines that goal, and instead suggests a witch hunt.”
Human Rights Watch also said that it had growing concerns about the fate and whereabouts of the detainees the government said it had taken into custody and the authorities’ failure to notify their relatives. The government has announced that more than 1,400 people have been arrested since July 5. Although security officials have maintained that all the detainees had been arrested while protesting, there have been reports of police conducting sweeps in Uighur neighborhoods after the protests in which men were taken away. State media also reported arrests, accompanied by pictures of Uighur men who allegedly were seeking to cause “disturbances” near the railway station on July 7, two days after the last reported riots.
Human Rights Watch said that such massive security build-ups, arbitrary arrests, and lack of due process are consistent not only with the aftermath of the 1997 protests in Yining and the 2008 protest in Tibet, but also with the “anti-separatist” and “Strike Hard” campaigns to which the region has been periodically subject for decades.
“It’s ironic that the government claims ‘hostile foreign forces’ were behind the protest, but that an investigation into it must be a ‘purely domestic affair,’” said Richardson. “At this point, the only credible investigation is by definition an international one.” (full text).