European Interest

The World Uyghur Congress: Remember the Ghulja Massacre!

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC)
Uyghur protesters face Chinese security forces in Ghulja, in February 1997. Screenshot from a video illegally smuggled out of China.

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) commemorates the 26th anniversary of the Ghulja Massacre, during which Chinese security forces arrested, wounded, and killed thousands of peaceful Uyghur protesters. As the freedom of speech and assembly in Xinjiang (East Turkistan) have been fully eroded as part of the Uyghur genocide, the WUC reminds the international community of the need to take firm action to restore Uyghur human rights.

“The events in Ghulja in 1997 were a sign on the wall for what would eventually turn into a full-scale genocide”, WUC President, Dolkun Isa, said. “The Chinese government’s attempts to silence Uyghurs now affect every Uyghur person, both in East Turkistan and the diaspora,” he added.

On February 5th, 1997, thousands of Uyghurs gathered the Ili prefecture city of Ghulja in Xinjiang (East Turkistan) for a peaceful protest against the continued Chinese aggression and the prohibition of the Uyghur Meshrep, a social gathering that celebrates Uyghur culture which is one of the important Uyghur traditions. Responding to the Uyghur outcry, the Chinese authorities violently cracked down upon the peaceful protesters, resulting in at least 100 dead and many more injured. Nearly 4,000 demonstrators were arrested of which 200 were subsequently handed the death penalty.

26 years ago, the thousands of Uyghurs protestors in Ghulja chose to speak out against decades of oppression by successive Chinese governments. Since then, the Chinese government has continued its attack on all fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Uyghur people. Starting in the early 2010’s under the leadership of Xi Jinping, this situation drastically deteriorated, with the arbitrary arrests of leading Uyghur cultural and religious figures, and the widespread destruction of Uyghur cultural heritage. Since 2017, these human rights abuses have developed into nothing less than crimes against humanity and genocide. Now, the Uyghur people in Xinjiang (East Turkistan) have no means to speak out against the Chinese government’s atrocity crimes, in fear of being sent to one of the many concentration camps. Outside of Xinjiang (East Turkistan) as well, the Chinese government’s repression is getting increasingly serious, as many Uyghurs continue to be harassed, threatened, or intimidated.

In remembrance of the victims of the Ghulja massacre and the millions of Uyghurs currently suffering from the ongoing genocide, the WUC reiterates its calls on the international community to take the lessons of the Ghulja massacre to heart. Rather than allowing the Chinese government to continue its atrocities with impunity, world governments must urgently support and lead justice and accountability efforts.

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