The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Ghulja Massacre, during which thousands of Uyghurs who took part in a peaceful protest were arrested, wounded, or killed by the Chinese security forces. As the world is focusing on the Beijing Olympics, the WUC remembers the victims of these events, and calls upon the international community to take steps so that atrocities like this will not happen again.
“25 years ago, the Ghulja massacre was exemplary of the treatment of the Uyghur people by the Chinese authorities and its crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly”, WUC President, Dolkun Isa, said. “Now, the Chinese government’s genocidal policies are ensuring to prevent the Uyghur people from ever speaking out again”.
On February 5, 1997, thousands of Uyghurs gathered for a peaceful demonstration in the Ili prefecture city of Ghulja in East Turkistan in response to continued Chinese aggression and the prohibition of a Uyghur social gathering, known as Meshrep, a celebration of Uyghur culture and the most important carrier of Uyghur traditions. The protests were immediately quashed by Chinese security forces leaving at least 100 dead and many more injured. Nearly 4,000 demonstrators would be arrested of which 200 were subsequently given the death penalty.
‘The Ghulja Massacre marks the beginning of the Chinese government’s attempt to commit genocide against the Uyghur people”, WUC Vice-President Zubayra Shamseden said. “The brutal massacre of innocent, unarmed young Uyghur protesters in Ghulja marked another version of China’s genocide next to the mass detainment of Uyghurs in concentration camps.”
In 1997, the thousands of Uyghurs that gathered in Ghulja protested against decades of oppression by successive Chinese governments. In the decades that followed, the most fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Uyghur people would be gradually stripped away. As East Turkistan has been transformed into a police state based on intrusive high-tech surveillance, Uyghurs no longer speak out in fear of being sent to one of the mass concentration camps. Moreover, the Chinese government’s crackdown on freedom of expression is no longer limited to its own borders; China’s transnational repression targeting Uyghur dissidents overseas has increased dramatically in recent years.
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 governments and multilateral institutions to take meaningful action to end China’s atrocity crimes. Rather than celebrating the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, the international community must pay heed to the lessons of February 5th 1997, and put an end to China’s impunity to systematically violate human rights.