The official data is released just days after the Human Rights Watch report denouncing an increase in persecution in Xinjiang province. Uygur leaders critise the disinterest of other Nations, fearful of compromising trade.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agenzie) - In 2005 in Xinjiang China arrestated 18.227 Uygurs for "threatening national security". The data was recently confirmed by a local authority newspaper.
For more than a decade the Uygurs have been asking for autonomy for their mainly Islamic region. Beijing treats the activists as terrorists and arrests all those who speak with foreign press accusing them of revealing state secrets.
""Uygurs are scared. They can be arrested even for a slip of the tongue," said Dilxat Raxit, of the World Uygur Congress, a German-based organisation seeking more freedom for the region they call East Turkestan. "We have no rights. But we are also human beings," he said, adding that even more people - all Uygurs - were probably detained by police and not formally charged".
In March 2005 Beijing, under international pressure freed and exiled Uygurs activist Rebiya Kadeer, detained for years under the accusation of "having revealed state secrets", after he sent photocopies of newspaper articles abroad. " If anything, - accuses Raxit - the human rights situation in Xinjiang is getting worse. The world is not putting enough pressure on China because they are scared of affecting economic ties ".
This ethnic group, with their own traditions and language, makes up more than half of the 19 million inhabitants of the oil rich Xinjiang province, independent until 1955 (in October 2005 the 50th anniversary of its' annexation was marked) which is known as eastern Turkestan. The government maintains that there are active terrorists in the region citing 260 terrorist acts had been committed in Xinjiang in the past two decades, killing 160 and wounding 440. " In Xinjiang says Communist Party boss Wang Lequan, - the separatists, religious extremists and violent terrorists are all around us - they're very active. We deal with these criminals using the law. In China, endangering national security is the number one crime. We have to crack down on it severely".
Beijing is promoting immigration of the ethnic Han Chinese: in 1950 Urygurs were 94% of the population , now they are less than half and benefit little from the natural wealth of their land, the profits of which are destined for other regions.
The annual Human Rights Watch report, published recently, accuses China of carrying out systematic abuse against these people and their rights with a steep rise in persecution in Xinjiang. Beijing denies the reports accuracy, describing it as gossip mongering for political ends. Kong Quan, spokes person for the foreign ministry comments that it's not worth even reading.
"If China considers this report to be worthless observes Raxit than it should allow international human rights group to come to Xinjiang and investigate these claims, without limits". (PB)