Thousands of Uyghurs turned out in protests in cities around the world at the weekend to demand an end to what they called Beijing’s repression of the mostly Muslim ethnic minority group in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Uyghurs’ historic homeland.
The protests, which were held in countries as far apart as Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, the U.K, Australia, Turkey, and Japan, will be followed on Feb. 5 by a demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Washington D.C. calling for the release of over a million Uyghurs now held in political re-education camps in China.
February 5 marks the 22nd anniversary of a 1997 massacre by Chinese state security forces of hundreds of Uyghur protesters in the Xinjiang city of Ghulja, which was observed with a commemorative gathering this weekend in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan.
In a statement released Monday, Uyghur Human Rights Project Director Omer Kanat said that following the 1997 killings in Ghulja, China’s moves to eradicate Uyghur identity and culture in the Xinjiang region have spread “in an alarming fashion.”
“The internment of over one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims means all families today live in a constant state of fear. They do not know the whereabouts or condition of their loved ones, or even if they themselves will be spared from the camps.”
“The psychological trauma will be with us for generations,” Kanat said.
Speaking on Monday to RFA’s Uyghur Service, Ilshat Hassan, president of the Uyghur American Association, said that conditions for Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region are growing steadily worse.
“If the Chinese government was shooting peaceful Uyghur protestors in the streets 22 year ago, today China is simply putting innocent Uyghurs into concentration camps for brainwashing, torture, and even death,” Hassan said.
“Today’s China under Xi Jinping is openly challenging the international norms and principles of human rights in the world by extrajudicially detaining up to two million Uyghurs in the concentration camps not seen since the WWII.”