The fate of the Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group living in China was under the spotlight in the Parliament this week. Monday (1 September) saw Rebiya Kadeer, the leader of the World Uyghur Congress address MEPs on the human rights sub-committee and call for dialogue with Beijing over what she termed “six decades of repressive policies by a Chinese Communist administration”. Unrest in the autonomous region in July left nearly 200 people dead and ten times that number injured.
In recent days renewed violence has flared again in the regional capital Urumchi.
MEPs in the outgoing Parliament debated the rioting in July and Monday’s hearing was a follow up meeting.
Ms Kadeer denounced the Chinese version of events of the riots in and around Urumchi in July. She said that Beijing’s line that it was Uyghur “plotters” who went on an orgy of plunder was, “as is so often the case with Chinese reporting” – simply untrue.
“Demonization of Uyghurs protestors”
The Uyghur leader – who has twice been nominated for the Nobel peace prize – told MEPs: “The Chinese government, through its proxies in the official media, is obscuring the truth in order to conceal a mass killing of Uyghurs by Chinese security forces. Furthermore, through its demonization of Uyghurs protestors in the official media, it is attempting to justify the impending mass executions of Uyghurs as promised by Chinese officials.”
Ms Kadeer condemned the use of violence of both sides. “I feel pained by the loss of so many lives, Han Chinese and Uyghur, and condemn the violence which took place in Urumchi.”
She went on to explain: “The real context for the unrest is six decades of repressive policies by a Chinese Communist administration which has long sought to dilute Uyghur (Turkic ethnic Muslim minority) identity”.
Parallels with Tibet
Drawing parallels between the plight of the Uyghurs (what she termed “cultural genocide policy”) and Tibetans, the 62-year-old Uyghur leader and businesswoman said: “It is time for the Chinese government to sit and talk with me, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and all those leaders of non-Han Chinese communities who have been vilified, imprisoned and slandered just because we happen to disagree with a bankrupt official policy”.
Concluding, Ms Kadeer demanded the EU put pressure on the Chinese authorities in order to allow an independent and true investigation that will state the correct figures regarding the number of arrested, detained and killed persons.
She stressed the need for a peaceful path, hoping that the Chinese government would under pressure from international, European and Islamic world respect the rights of her people.
Ms Kadeer’s call for an independent inquiry of the July events was supported by committee members, including Chairwoman Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA, Finland), who believed “there’s a case for an independent international investigation”. Speaking later at a press conference with the Uyghur leader, Hautala confirmed that China and human rights will be an issue that remains high on the EP agenda.