Uighurs to China: Post a video of my missing relatives, too

Turkey on Saturday called China’s treatment of Uighurs “a great cause of shame for humanity.” (File/AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019

Uighurs to China: Post a video of my missing relatives, too

  • The campaign follows the release of a state media video showing famed Uighur musician, who many believed had died in custody
  • China has come under increasing scrutiny for the camps holding an estimated 1 million minority Muslims in its far west Xinjiang region

BEIJING: Members of the Uighur Muslim ethnic group are calling on China to post videos of their relatives who have disappeared into a vast system of internment camps.
The social media campaign, launched early Tuesday under the hashtag #MeTooUyghur, follows the release of a state media video showing famed Uighur musician Abdurehim Heyit, who many believed had died in custody.
“China, show us their videos if they are alive!” Halmurat Harri, a Finland-based Uighur activist, wrote on Twitter. He urged the government to also release videos to prove that others believed detained are in good health amid reports of neglectful and sometimes brutal conditions in the camps.
China has come under increasing scrutiny for the camps holding an estimated 1 million minority Muslims in its far west Xinjiang region. Former detainees who fled overseas say that while they were held captive, they were ordered to renounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the ruling Communist Party through indoctrination tactics reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.
Beijing, which long denied the existence of such facilities, now says they are vocational training centers where Uighurs, Kazakhs and others receive free skills education. Surveillance cameras, security checkpoints and riot police have become ubiquitous in Xinjiang in recent years, but the government maintains that such measures are necessary to combat separatist violence and latent religious extremism.
In a rare show of public criticism from a majority Muslim nation, Turkey on Saturday called China’s treatment of Uighurs “a great cause of shame for humanity.” Citing reports of Heyit’s death, the Turkish foreign ministry condemned the “concentration camps” and “systematic assimilation” to which Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang are subject.
At a regular press briefing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called Turkey’s statement “a very bad mistake.”
Hua said the video of Heyit, released by the state outlet China Radio International, showed that claims of his death were an “absurd lie.” She said the renowned musician and poet was being investigated for allegedly endangering national security.
The video shows Heyit in a gray sweater against a nondescript, gray wall. He states his name and gives the date as Feb. 10, 2019, then says that he is in good health and has not been abused.
The authenticity of the video could not be verified, and it was not clear where and by whom it had been filmed.
Many Uighurs outside of China have said they are unable to contact relatives still in Xinjiang . Fearing that their loved ones have been ensnared by the security dragnet, they say they do not even know whether their family members are dead or alive.
The mere act of communicating with someone overseas could spur detention, Uighurs say, and as a result many of their relatives in China have blocked them on social media. On Twitter, Uighurs abroad posted photos of themselves holding up images of their missing parents, children and siblings.
If they are still alive, the posts said, the Chinese government should release videos of them too.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.