Niyazi has been held since 1 October 2009 after he gave an interview to a Hong Kong weekly in which he blamed Chinese police and military for clashes between ethnic Uyghurs and Han Chinese in July 2009. His trial lasted a day, reportedly without a defence lawyer present.
“The idea that Niyazi’s interview somehow ‘endangered’ state security and warranted 15 years in prison is incomprehensible,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “This is an extremely harsh and unjust action on the part of the Chinese court, and a clear violation of rights guaranteed by the Chinese constitution.”
The predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang is one of China’s most troublesome areas. Indigenous Muslim Uyghurs complain that the central government is engaged in a virtual policy of colonisation at their expense, openly discriminating against them in favour of ethnic Han Chinese who benefit from government economic and social policies.
The situation boiled over in July 2009 when violent clashes broke out between the two groups in the regional capital of Urumqi, with more than 200 dead and 1,700 injured.
Even now, the total number of people arrested or detained remains unknown. According to the Uyghur resistance, the number runs in the tens of thousands.
When the first anniversary came on 5 July, Chinese authorities placed the capital under a tight security blanket. This included putting in place more than 40,000 cameras in public buses, stations, 4,000 roads, 270 schools and 100 supermarkets.