The Ilham Tohti Initiative commemorates the 20th Anniversary of the Guldja (Yining in Chinese) Massacre and pays respect to its more that 100 victims in the Uyghur Autonomous region.
The Chinese security forces had arrested peaceful demonstrators on the 5th February 1997, and then opened fire in the streets of Guldja until the 8th of February as demonstrations became more vocal, asking for the release of the Uyghurs arrested by the police.
The demonstration was held to call for an end of the religious repression and ethnic discrimination. The Chinese authorities repressed the demonstrations brutally, and subsequently detained and arrested up to 4 000 people. It is considered more than 200 of them were sentenced to death in show trials and executed during the following two years. At least 90 Uyghurs were sentenced to long prison terms.
Ever since the Chinese authorities have pursued their heavy handed policy of repression. Especially during the last three years, under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the international community has witnessed a significant downward spiral in human rights protections for the Uyghur community. Despite continued efforts from Human rights organizations, activists, academics and politicians, the rights of the Uyghurs in China and abroad are being trampled upon with even more severity.
We have also witnessed China’s adoption of the National Security Law and the Anti-Terrorism Act over the past year. The Anti-Terrorism Act has been recognized by Human Rights Watch and other groups as a tool to further repress the Uyghur and Tibetan people in particular. The incredibly broad specter of this legislation will now allow the government to legally use the threat of terrorism as a justification for the violation of the Human rights of all Uyghurs.
On the ground in East Turkestan, Uyghurs are faced with restrictions on cultural and religious expression as well as freedom of movement, a nearly complete lack of legal rights, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances by the State. Under the new laws the rights of the Uyghur people are being further eroded. Discrimination leads to poor economic outcomes when compared with those of the Han population living there.
Prof. Ilham Tohti, who encouraged dialogue among ethnicities, including Uyghurs and the Han, had called for the implementation of the existing Autonomy Laws to ease the tense situation, was arrested in January of 2014 and subsequently sentenced to life time prison. Mr. Enver Can, president of the Ilham Tohti Initiative, called the Chinese authorities to stop arbitrary persecution of Uyghur people in general and to immediately release all prisoners of conscience including Prof. Ilham Tohti who had asked for the implementation of the constitutionally guaranteed Autonomy right.
Enver Can, President of the ITI
5 February 2017, Karlsfeld – Germany