Xinijang: Months in prison for praying in jamaah

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2002 15:02:38 -0000

China: Extensive Crackdown on Uighurs to Counter "Terrorism" Must Stop
   
Since September 11, the Chinese government has stepped up its harsh
repression of ethnic Uighur opponents of Chinese rule and others branded
as "separatists" in the name of countering "terrorism", Amnesty
International said today in a new report. 

The report describes new anti-terrorism provisions in Chinese law and
the crackdown against "terrorist, separatist and illegal religious
activities" currently underway in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region
(XUAR). 

"The Chinese government has claimed that 'ethnic separatists' are linked
with international 'terrorists' and has called for international support
for its crackdown. However the subjective yardstick of 'terrorism' has
been used to detain a broad range of people, some of whom may have done
little more than practice their religion or defend their culture," 
Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International is calling on the international community to use
the opportunity of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva to urge
the Chinese authorities not to justify human rights violations in the
name of the "war against terrorism". 

Although hardly any "terrorist" acts have been committed in the XUAR
over the past few years, the authorities have detained thousands of
people over the last six months, and imposed new restrictions on freedom
of religion and cultural rights. Some people have been sentenced to long
prison terms and others have been executed. 

The Islamic clergy has been subjected to heavy scrutiny and "political
education." According to official sources, by the end of last year, 8000
imams had been "trained" to give them "a clearer understanding of the
party's ethnic and religious policies". Some Muslim clerics have been
detained for teaching the Koran. 

Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan was banned in schools,
hospitals and government offices. One teacher in Khotan said that
students might face expulsion if they refused to break the fast. Mosques
have been closed down because they were located near schools and deemed
to be a "bad influence" on young people. 

Earlier this year the crackdown was expanded to include other sectors of
society. "Study classes" for key personnel in literature and art, the
media, cultural management, social science research and other fields
have been introduced. "All potential dissent and opposition activities,
including peaceful expression of views via poems, songs, books,
pamphlets, letters or the Internet have been targetted," Amnesty
International said. 

There have been a number of reports that "separatists" have been
sentenced at "public sentencing meetings". Some were reportedly
sentenced to death and executed immediately after the meetings. Amnesty
International's report cites several cases, including one on 15 October
2001 where 12 Uighurs received sentences ranging from five years
imprisonment to death. Two people were executed immediately after the
rally. 

Amnesty International's report also details recent amendments to the
Criminal Law. The new provisions enlarge the scope of the application of
the death penalty and may criminalise peaceful activities, freedom of
expression and association. The law makes it a criminal offence to be a
member of a "terrorist organization" but as there is no definition for
such an 
organization, the law could be interpreted as referring to political
opposition or religious groups. 

Amnesty International's report makes several recommendations, calling on
the Chinese government to end the extensive human rights violations
resulting from the current political crackdown in the XUAR. It also
calls on governments to refrain from returning to China anyone who is
allegedly associated with any radical Islamist movement. Such
individuals are likely 
to face torture or the death penalty on their return. 

Background: 

In the continuous political crackdown in the XUAR over the past ten
years, the authorities have detained tens of thousands of people, held
many of them in complete secrecy, preventing all independent
investigation into the cases, while periodically releasing selective
information about a few of those who have been prosecuted. Many of those
prosecuted have been held incommunicado for months on end, subjected to
torture, and sentenced after grossly unfair trials, most of these either
held in secret or in front of large crowds during "mass sentencing
rallies". In this context, there are reasons to doubt the credibility of
the government's information about those it accuses of involvement in
"terrorist" activity.

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