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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China: Detainees 'Disappeared' After Xinjiang Protests

October 22, 2009

For Immediate Release
China: Detainees ‘Disappeared’ After Xinjiang Protests
Chinese Government Should Account for Every Detainee
Human Rights Watch
October 21, 2009

New York, Oct. 21 -- The Chinese government
should immediately account for all detainees in
its custody and allow independent investigations
into the July 2009 protests in Urumqi and their
aftermath, Human Rights Watch said in a new
report on enforced “disappearances” released today.

The 44-page report, "‘We Are Afraid to Even Look
for Them’: Enforced Disappearances in the Wake of
Xinjiang’s Protests," documents the enforced
disappearances of 43 Uighur men and teenage boys
who were detained by Chinese security forces in the wake of the protests.

"The cases we documented are likely just the tip
of the iceberg," said Brad Adams, Asia director
at Human Rights Watch. "The Chinese government
says it respects the rule of law, but nothing
could undermine this claim more than taking
people from their homes or off the street and
‘disappearing’ them – leaving their families
unsure whether they are dead or alive.”

Last week, Xinjiang judicial authorities started
trials of people accused of involvement in the
protests. Nine men have already been sentenced to
death, three others to death with a two-year
reprieve, and one to life imprisonment.

Human Rights Watch research has established that
on July 6-7, 2009, Chinese police, the People’s
Armed Police, and the military conducted numerous
large-scale sweep operations in two predominantly
Uighur areas of Urumqi, Erdaoqiao, and
Saimachang. On a smaller scale, these operations
and targeted raids continued at least through mid-August.

The victims of "disappearances" documented by
Human Rights Watch were young Uighur men. Most
were in their 20s, although the youngest reported
victims were 12 and 14 years old. It is possible
that some Han Chinese also became victims of
“disappearances” and unlawful arrests. However,
none of the more than two dozen Han Chinese
residents of Urumqi interviewed by Human Rights
Watch provided any information about such cases.

According to witnesses, the security forces
sealed off entire neighborhoods, searching for
young Uighur men. In some cases, they first
separated the men from other residents, pushed
them to their knees or flat on the ground, and,
at least in some cases, beat the men while
questioning them about their participation in the
protests. Those who had wounds or bruises on
their bodies, or had not been at their homes
during the protests, were then taken away. In
other cases, the security forces simply went
after every young man they could catch and packed
them into their trucks by the dozens.

Twenty-five-year-old Makhmud M. [name changed]
and another 16 men "disappeared" as a result of
one of these raids in the Saimachang area of
Urumqi. His wife and another witness told Human
Rights Watch that at around 7 p.m. on July 6 a
group of some 150 uniformed police and military
sealed off the main street in their neighborhood:

"They told everybody to get out of the houses.
Women and elderly were told to stand aside, and
all men, 12 to 45 years old, were all lined up
against the wall. Some men were pushed on their
knees, with hands tied around wooden sticks
behind their backs; others were forced on the
ground with hands on their heads. The soldiers
pulled the men’s T-shirts or shirts over their
heads so that they couldn't see."

"Police and the military were examining the men
to see if they had any bruises or wounds. They
also asked where they had been on July 5 and 6.
They beat the men randomly, even the older ones –
our 70-year-old neighbor was punched and kicked
several times. We couldn't do anything to stop it
– they weren't listening to us.”

In this and other cases documented by Human
Rights Watch, the families’ attempts to inquire
about their relatives proved futile. Police and
other law enforcement agencies denied having
knowledge of the arrests, or simply chased the families away.

Human Rights Watch called on the Chinese
government to immediately stop the practice of
enforced disappearances, release those against
whom no charges have been brought, and account
for every person held in detention. Human Rights
Watch urged the Chinese government to allow for
an independent, international investigation into
the Urumqi unrest and its aftermath and called on
the United Nations Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights to take the lead in such an investigation.

"China should only use official places of
detention, so that everyone being held can
contact family members and legal counsel," said
Adams. "‘Disappearing’ people is not the behavior
of countries aspiring to global leadership."

The protests of July 5-7, 2009, in Xinjiang’s
capital, Urumqi, were one of the worst episodes
of ethnic violence in China in decades. The
protests appear to have been sparked by an attack
on Uighurs in the southeast part of the country,
which became a rallying cry for Uighurs angry
over longstanding discriminatory policies toward
the Uighur minority. The initially peaceful
Uighur demonstration quickly turned into a
violent attack against Han Chinese, leaving scores dead or injured.

Instead of launching an impartial investigation
into the incidents in accordance with
international and domestic standards, Chinese law
enforcement agencies carried out a massive
campaign of unlawful arrests in the Uighur areas
of Urumqi. Official figures suggest that the
number of people detained by the security forces
in connection with the protests has reached well over a thousand people.

Under international law, a state commits an
enforced disappearance when its agents take a
person into custody and it denies holding the
person or fails to disclose the person’s
whereabouts. "Disappeared" persons are often at
high risk of torture or extrajudicial execution.
Family members and friends experience ongoing
anxiety and suffering, as they do not know what has happened to the person.

"They should not let trade relations or other
political considerations lead them to treat China
differently than other countries which carry out this horrific practice."

To read the Human Rights Watch report, "‘We Are
Afraid to Even Look for Them’: Enforced
Disappearances in the Wake of Xinjiang’s Protests," please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/node/86106
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