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Protests Against the Urumqi Fire Extend to Amsterdam

The “lonely Uyghur protester” gathered some 300 Uyghur and Cantonese to demonstrate in Dam Square.

By Abdurehim Gheni Uyghur, with G.Y.

December 5, 2022

A moment of the demonstration in Amsterdam. All pictures courtesy of photographer Rootsman Bob.

On November 27, 2022, in Amsterdam, demonstrations were held to commemorate the forty-four Uyghur who died in the apartment building fire in Urumqi. Many more suffered injuries. The Dam Square demonstration was organized by me, Abdurehim Gheni, as the founder of the “Uyghur Support” Organization. The protest participants included more than 300 Uyghurs and Cantonese. The event was also attended by members of the “Alliance Against the Chinese Communist Party.”

What follows is my opening statement in condemnation of the Chinese government’s responsibility for the death of forty-four Uyghurs.

“Today, we Uyghurs in the Netherlands are protesting at Dam Square in Amsterdam against China’s ongoing genocide, forced starvation, and biological terrorism against Uyghurs in occupied East Turkestan under the guise, today, of ‘COVID lockdown.’

The genocide continues. Zero-COVID lockdown has lasted for more than four months. On November 24, an apartment building caught fire and, we are told, the fire ‘went out of control.’ The building was sealed off, had doors sealed from the outside, perimeter fenced off, and no freedom of movement into or out of the building. Every building code and fire code was violated. The Chinese authorities had the nerve to publicly blame the residents. This Zero-COVID policy is about pure control—not about a virus only.

It does not end here: who will be the next target and victims? We cannot be silent in front of these crimes against humanity.

The author speaks in Dam Square.

The Chinese government must be held accountable for the forty-four Uyghurs who died, and more who were injured, in the Urumqi fire as a result of its lockdown policy.”

In relation to the Uyghurs. the pretext of the Zero-COVID lockdown is used both for control and as a distraction from the still existing genocide: concentration camps, government terrorism, organ harvesting, torture, rape, forced marriages, children taken, families destroyed. The pandemic has been used to put the genocide on the back page. In addition, the building that caught fire was in the Tangritag area, labeled a high-risk zone for perceived “terrorists” by the Chinese authorities, and was subject to systemic and state-sponsored action of increased surveillance.

An apartment building caught fire at an upper-level unit. We heard that the fire quickly “went out of control.” The building had no apartment balconies. “Out of control” is a misleading expression in this case because there was no effective firefighting action to “control” the fire for at least two and maybe three hours, as no access to the building was open. The building was in Zero-COVID mode. The fire trucks could not get close to the building and the residents could not exit their apartments.

The Chinese authorities then had the cowardice to publicly blame the residents for the disaster—it was their fault. The head of Urumqi’s fire department, during a press conference, stated that some residents’ preparedness to rescue themselves was too weak. The government’s count of ten casualties only is aimed at avoiding an official investigation.

According to the law, any incident that involves more than ten deaths should be investigated by the Beijing Central Government. The horror of the people caught in this inferno and the witnesses on the ground was unimaginable.

Flowers to remember the victims.

This incident / crisis has been the trigger for the multitude of mass protests within China proper, expressing discontent with the government. The Chinese people could see that their own lockdowns might end up with similar tragedies. It is even possible that their tolerance and submission to the CCP tyranny is reaching its limit. The protest participants held up blank white paper sheets as a statement of the censorship and restriction on free speech. There were calls for Xi Jinping to step down and chants of “Give me liberty, or give me death.”

Protesters walking around Dam Square.

The Dam Square demonstration lasted about three hours, and was held in a lively atmosphere. All representatives of Uyghur organizations and Chinese political activists had their say. Women lit candles and put flowers on the Square, and a remembrance vigil of the fire victims was held.

Protesters then walked around Dam Square with the photographs of those who died in the fire disaster, presenting them to the attention of locals and tourists. Then various chants and slogans were shouted against the Chinese Communist government. The details of the fire in Urumqi were explained, in different languages, to many visitors to the Square.

Another image of the author (left) during the protest.


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