Hinckley forum discusses Turkish minority’s lack of rights in China

Published on the Uyghur American Association, by Andreas Rivera, Sept. 24, 2010. – Linked on our blogs with Uyghur American Association UAA, with Hinckley Institute of Politics, and with Oslo Freedom Forum – a conference for human rights.

Rebiya Kadeer spoke to a full caucus room at the Hinckley Institute of Politics on Wednesday about being a Uyghur, an ethnic group of Turkish decent living primarily in northwestern China.

The forum, titled “Minorities in China: The Case of the Uyghurs,” showcased the unique culture and language of the Uyghurs, as well as the injustices Kadeer witnessed done to her people by the Chinese government.

Kadeer was a prominent businesswoman in China, said Janet Theiss, director of the U’s Asia Center. She owned a major trading company and was at one point one of the top five richest people in China … //  

… Kadeer estimates he Uyghur population to be about 30 million people in China, but the Chinese government claims there are only 9.3 million living there, she said.

The Uyghurs are a primarily Islamic people, so after 9/11 they were discriminated against even more, she said.

The government portrayed the Uyghurs as radical Muslims and used that to justify policies such as banning the Uyghur language, the assimilation of Uyghur children into Chinese culture and forced labor of citizens.

She said the Uyghurs’ land is rich with resources such as oil and uranium, and the government does not allow them to work their own land, instead transferring Chinese workers to harvest the resources.

On July 7, 2009, Uyghurs began to peacefully protest the government’s unjust policies. About 25,000 troops were dispatched to counter the protests.

“We believe some 10,000 Uyghurs who took to streets disappeared, many of them killed, wounded and many were imprisoned-the exact number is unknown,” she said.

The attack was covered up by the Chinese government and the bodies of the dead taken away, she said.

Kadeer’s five children in China have been imprisoned, beaten and put under house arrest. They were released after she had gained international recognition.

After the protests in 2009, the government blamed her for inciting violence and forced her family to publicly disown her. One of her sons had refused to publicly speak against her, and Kadeer now fears for his life.

The treatment of the Uyghur people is not the only injustice in China, she said. The treatment of the Tibetans, followers of Falun Gong and any Chinese dissidents are other examples, including the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989, she said.

“To the Chinese government, our unique identity is considered a threat to China’s territorial integrity, so that why we are persecuted by the Chinese government, for being different,” Kadeer said. “I do not consider myself as an enemy of Chinese government or its people, I have raised all of these issues so that people can live in peace and harmony in an equal sense.” (full text).

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