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China: President Should Ease Tension by Acknowledging Grievances

July 9, 2009

(New York, July 8, 2009) - Chinese President Hu Jintao, who on July 7, 2009
abruptly left the G8 Summit in Italy to return to Beijing to cope with the
Xinjiang protests, should break with past practice and acknowledge Uighurs'
grievances, Human Rights Watch said today. Analysts expect that Hu will
speak publicly about the developments in the coming days.

The Chinese government has never admitted to human rights abuses in the
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), home to 8 million Uighurs. Human
Rights Watch has documented egregious restrictions on religious, political,
educational, linguistic, and economic rights in the region
( ).

"It's increasingly clear that both Uighurs and Han have engaged in violence
in recent days," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human
Rights Watch. "But the cycle of violence will only erupt again if the
government doesn't even acknowledge its repressive policies' role in
creating the volatile atmosphere of resentment in Xinjiang."

On July 5, Uighurs took to the streets of Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, to
protest abusive treatment by the Chinese government. It remains unclear how
the protests became violent, and unclear how many Uighur protesters were
killed by Chinese security forces or how many Han Chinese were killed by
Uighur rioters. By July 6, the Chinese officials reported 156 deaths and
more than 800 casualties.

Since that time, Chinese officials and state media have blamed Rebiya
Kadeer, the leader of the Uighur diaspora, for organizing the protests, and
promised to execute those found to have been involved in the Urumqi
protests. Although the Chinese government has permitted foreign
correspondents to remain in the region - an unusual and positive
development - it has at the same time moved swiftly to censor information
domestically about the protests.

Similar protests erupted in Tibet in March 2008. Following those
demonstrations, the Chinese government pledged to deal with any illegal
activity in a manner consistent with the rule of law. Yet within months
Human Rights Watch documented hundreds of arbitrary arrests and dozens of
cases summarily pushed through the legal system, minimal access to defense
counsel, and several sentences criminalizing peaceful expression. The
Chinese government then launched a large-scale political indoctrination
campaign across the region, and credible reports of torture and
"disappearances" of Tibetans have continued to emerge.

Human Rights Watch said that the Chinese government must avoid making the
same mistake by guaranteeing all Uighur protesters access to defense counsel
of their own choosing, to all the evidence against them, and to appeal any
verdicts against them.

Should the Chinese government fail to fulfill these obligations, which are
guaranteed under international law, the United Nations Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights should undertake an investigation into the
protests and their aftermath. The European Union, United Nations
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights Navanethem Pillay, and the United States have called for restraint on
both sides of the dispute.

"President Hu has an enormous opportunity not only to improve China's
international standing, but also to actually mitigate the crisis in
Xinjiang," said Richardson. "Admitting that serious problems exist is the
way to start."

To read about Xinjiang in Human Rights Watch's World Report 2009, please
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