Australia, please raise the Uyghurs' plight during the general debate on Item 4 at the 14th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2010
- Minister Stephen Smith and Ambassador Peter Woolcott
The Uyghur people are indigenous to East Turkestan [also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China]. For many years, the Chinese government has waged an intense and often brutal campaign to repress all forms of Uyghur dissent, crack down on Uyghurs' peaceful religious activities and independent expressions of ethnicity, dilute Uyghurs' culture and identity as a distinct people, and threaten the survival of the Uyghur language. The authorities have routinely equated Uyghurs' peaceful political, religious, and cultural activities with the "three evils" – terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. The authorities have also economically marginalized the Uyghurs in East Turkestan through intense and blatant racial discrimination in employment.
This is a petition addressed to two Australian officials: The Honorable Stephen Smith MP, Australia's Minister of Foreign Affairs; and His Excellency Mr. Peter Woolcott, Australia's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. The petition asks that during the general debate on Item 4 ("Human rights situations that require the Council's attention") at the 14th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2010, Australia raise the grave human rights violations that the authorities in China committed during -- and have committed in the aftermath of -- the peaceful Uyghur protest and the ethnic unrest in July 2009 in Urumchi, the regional capital of East Turkestan. These human rights violations have included, but have not been limited to, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary sentencing of individuals to death after trials plagued with politicization and intense strangleholds on due process, and arbitrary executions.
This petition is open for signatories who live in Australia. Copies of the petition with signatures will be transmitted to Minister Smith and Ambassador Woolcott, as well as to other officials in the Australian government.
We, the undersigned, respectfully request that during the general debate on Item 4 (“Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention”) at the 14th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2010, Australia discuss the grave and egregious human rights violations that the Chinese government committed during – and has committed in the aftermath of – the peaceful Uyghur protest and the ethnic unrest that occurred in July 2009 in Urumchi, the regional capital of East Turkestan [also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China].
These human rights violations have included but have not been limited to the following.
(1) The Chinese authorities brutally suppressed the peaceful Uyghur protest that was held on July 5, 2009. Numerous witness accounts provided to human rights organizations abroad (including but not limited to Uyghur organizations) -- as well as witness accounts provided to the media – have indicated that security forces committed extrajudicial killings of protestors.
(2) The authorities have detained thousands of people in connection with the July 2009 events and arrested many of these people during mass detentions, including mass roundups of young Uyghur men. The authorities have subjected an untold number of Uyghurs, including minors, to enforced disappearances. Human Rights Watch documented the enforced disappearances of 43 young Uyghur men and boys who were detained in large-scale sweeps and in targeted raids, but noted that the number of disappeared is likely significantly higher than 43. In fact, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “The cases we documented are likely just the tip of the iceberg.”
(3) The authorities have ensured that defendants prosecuted in connection with the July 2009 events have been denied due process and the right to legal representation of their choice. The authorities’ actions in this regard have included: giving prosecutors and judges special instructions on how to handle the July 5th cases; hand-picking the judicial personnel assigned to the trials according to political criteria; warning human rights lawyers against taking protest-related cases; and making public statements that have put political pressure on courts to mete out death sentences and other severe sentences.
(4) The Intermediate People's Court of Urumchi has arbitrarily sentenced at least 24 Uyghurs to death and at least 8 Uyghurs to death with a two-year reprieve, for murder or other crimes allegedly committed during the July 2009 events. Many Uyghurs have also been arbitrarily sentenced to life imprisonment and varying jail terms. All of the Uyghurs sentenced thus far have been sentenced after non-transparent trials plagued with the aforementioned politicization and lack of due process. The appellate courts have upheld all of the sentences on which they have rendered decisions thus far and have done so after non-transparent reviews. Eight of the Uyghurs sentenced to death were arbitrarily executed less than four weeks after they were sentenced.
(5) The authorities have conflated peaceful protest on July 5th with rioting, which is consistent with the government’s routine criminalization of Uyghurs’ peaceful exercise of freedom of expression. Official statements and state media reports have suggested that some acts of peaceful protest would be formally subjected to criminal prosecution. An XUAR official acknowledged that the authorities were holding in custody people who had protested peacefully on July 5th.
(6) The authorities have implemented an information blackout in the region since July 2009, which among other things, has obstructed residents’ internet and e-mail access and international phone calling and text messaging capabilities.
(7) Legitimate concerns exist that Uyghurs who have been detained in connection with the July 2009 incidents have been subjected to brutal torture in detention. In September 2009, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that the family members of Shohret Tursun, a Uyghur who was detained in connection with the July 2009 events, informed RFA that the police returned Tursun’s body to them covered in wounds and bruises and claimed to them that Tursun, a relatively young man in good health, had died of a heart attack. RFA also reported that the family had told RFA that a standoff ensued between the police who wanted Tursun buried immediately and the family who demanded an inquiry, and that the family was ultimately forced to bury Tursun without an inquiry. For many years, the authorities have routinely subjected Uyghur detainees and prisoners to torture and other forms of ill treatment.
(8) In December 2009, the Chinese government arbitrarily detained 20 Uyghurs upon their forcible return to China by Cambodia. The Chinese government had pressured Cambodia to violate international law and forcibly return these 20 Uyghurs who were seeking asylum in Cambodia and were at risk of torture and persecution based on their membership in protected classes if returned to China.
Furthermore, we respectfully request that during the general debate on Item 4 at the 14th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2010, Australia call on China to take one or more of the following actions:
(1) Ensure that those accused of crimes related to the events of July 2009 are afforded due process, tried in an open and fair court, and given access to legal representation of their choice;
(2) Impose a moratorium on executions and on the imposition of death sentences;
(3) Immediately and unconditionally release all those who are only alleged to have protested peacefully on July 5th;
(4) End arbitrary detentions and provide a full account of all of the detentions that have been carried out since July 5th, inform family members of detainees’ whereabouts, and release detainees who have been held without evidence;
(5) Allow foreign media independent, unrestricted access to conduct reporting throughout East Turkestan and to report on trials of defendants accused of crimes related to the July 2009 events;
(6) Allow an independent investigation into the July 2009 incidents and invite the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the various UN Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts to visit East Turkestan;
(7) Immediately restore complete internet/e-mail access and international phone calling/text messaging capabilities in East Turkestan;
(8) Ensure that detainees and prisoners are not subjected to torture and other forms of ill treatment, thoroughly investigate reports of torture, and bring those suspected of using torture to justice;
(9) Address the root causes of the July 5th protest and the ethnic unrest, including the severe political and religious repression and economic discrimination to which Uyghurs are subjected and the dilution of Uyghurs’ language and culture.
Thank you very much for your time and attention to our requests.