Protest marks Xinjiang 'massacre'

Uighur exiles say China must account for hundreds missing after 1997 crackdown.

    Uighur activists accuse China of committing "cultural genocide" in Xinjiang [GALLO/GETTY]

    She said China had done nothing to explain the events at Gulja, now known as Yining, and some 8,000 there had "disappeared without a trace."
    "Ten years have passed but the Chinese authorities have still not accounted for the innocent lives lost and those missing following the Gulja massacre," she said
    External links

    Amnesty International: Rebiya Kadeer's personal account of Gulja after the massacre

    "What is worse is China continues to oppress our people."
    Kadeer, formerly a successful Xinjiang-based businesswoman, was jailed by China for passing on state secrets.
    She was released into exile in the US in 2005 after serving five years of an eight year sentence.
    She has accused China of committing "cultural genocide" against the Uighur people as it seeks to develop the rich energy and mineral resources in the vast western region of Xinjiang.
    Xinjiang and the Uighurs

    Xinjiang is officially an autonomous region


    Has large reserves of oil, gas and minerals


    Formerly a key area on the ancient Silk Road linking China to Europe


    Beijing sees Xinjiang as gateway to resource-rich Central Asia


    Turkic speaking Uighur population numbers around 8 million


    Uighur activists say migration from other parts of China is part of official effort to dilute Uighur culture in their own land


    Uighur separatists have staged series of low-level attacks since early 1990s


    China says Uighur separatists are terrorists and linked to al-Qaeda

    According to Amnesty International, hundreds if not thousands of people were killed or seriously injured in the Gulja crackdown after police moved to break up a peaceful demonstration by Uighurs in the city.
    T. Kumar, Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific advocacy director, said many of those arrested were beaten and tortured, and dozens remain unaccounted for.
    "No-one has been held accountable to this massacre and we are calling on the international community to take steps to investigate this abuse and other abuses against the Uighurs," he told AFP.
    Xinjiang had a brief period of independence in the 1940s as the Republic of East Turkestan, before it became part of the People’s Republic of China.
    Since the early 1990s there have been a spate of small-scale attacks blamed on violent Uighur separatist groups.
    Beijing says the attacks stem from a rise in separatist sentiment in the region, fuelled by radical Islam linked to al-Qaeda.
    But Uighur activists such as Rebiya Kadeer says such attacks come from only a tiny minority and most Uighurs want simply to have the right to practice their religions and customs freely.
    They say China has used the attacks and its support for the US-led war on terror as a justification for suppressing Uighur culture, particularly the practice of Islam.
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    SOURCE: Agencies


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