07/11/2009, 00.00
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Tibetan exiles: Xinjiang today, just like Tibet a year ago

by Nirmala Carvalho
Groups of Tibetans in exile underline the similarities between what is happening today in Xinjiang and the crackdown in Tibet after the March 2008 protests. Fear of disappearances, death sentences and life imprisonment, a constant fact of martial law.
Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - Tibetans in exile are in solidarity with the Uyghur population, over the tragic events of recent days with the police firing on the crowd protesting in the capital Urumqi, causing hundreds of deaths and an unknown number of wounded. An unreal calm is now maintained by over 20 thousand soldiers who patrol the city. Last night the government updated the death toll from clashes between Uyghurs and police and between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. According to Beijing the dead were 184 (up from 156), of which 137 are Han Chinese, the injured over a thousand. But according to exiled Uyghurs there are thousands of Uyghurs victims.

Five of the largest groups of exiled Tibetans have asked Beijing to release those who have been arrested for protesting in a peaceful manner, to restore telephone and internet communications with Urumqi, to allow media access, to stop the propaganda campaign that lays the blame on the demonstrators, thus encouraging further violence, to allow an independent United Nations investigation.

The groups note how Beijing handles the situation with exactly the same procedures adopted against peaceful protests in Tibet in March 2008. Then as now, the Chinese authorities: clamped down on foreign press, cut all communication via internet and mobile phones to prevent any spread of news from noon-official sources, carried out continuous night raids with the arrest of hundreds of people for merely being outdoors, flooded television with images and statements that show only violent protests in ethnic conflicts. Moreover, in both cases the responsibility for the protests, without any proof to back up the charge, were laid at the feet of a "hostile foreign forces": referring to the exiled leader Rebiya Kadeer and the World Uyghur Congress, while in the case of the Tibetan revolt the Dalai Lama was charged with the responsibility.

Rebiya Kadeer, a wealthy entrepreneur, spent years in prison for years because of her struggle for the freedom of the Uyghurs. Released for medical reasons, she now lives in exile.

Ngawang Woeber, spokesman of the initiative, echoes “Rebiya Kadeer's urgent call for peace, justice and the end of all violence and appeal to the Chinese government to end its brutal suppression of Uyghurs throughout East Turkestan " (the Chinese Xinjiang). He recalls how the president Hu Jintao left the G8 summit taking place in Italy in a hurry, “to avoid facing the international media and being swamped with questions, projects utter failure in the policy adopted by Chinese government in East Turkestan and for that matter in Tibet as well."

The groups point out that the Uyghur and Tibetans have not accepted the domination of China, despite the hardships of the past 50 years, and continue to ask for essential freedoms and human rights. In this situation, the Chinese policy undermines social stability: in Tibet, 16 months after the bloody suppression of protests, there is still de facto martial law, with more than 1,000 people arrested whose fate is still unknown. In the Tibetan protests, there were about 200 dead and hundreds arrested, at least 5 of which were then sentenced to death. The Tibetans fear is that in Xinjiang more "disappearances", beatings of demonstrators arrested and harsh sentences are taking place. To avoid this, they are appealing to the international community to intervene.




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See also
Tension in Urumqi. "Al Qaeda" threatens China
Mosques closed in Urumqi while China fights "terrorism"
More protests in Urumqi and other cities in Xinjiang
Tibetans non-violent protests go on. Monks and students Arrested
Death sentence for a Chinese Han, at the origin of Xinjiang clashes


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