China: Uyghurs face jail for speaking out

Issue 

A Uyghur man is serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting separatism”, allegedly for translating Chinese-language news related to Kashgar City, in a newly revealed case reported by Uyghurbiz.net.

The Uyghur people, whose traditional lands are in the north-west of the Chinese state, have been denied national rights and suffer severe repression.

In 2009, Mirhemitjan Muzepper began serving as a translator for Phoenix Weekly, an overseas-based Chinese website. Muzepper was later taken into custody, and a court found that the network’s journalists were posting information online from him that resulted in “producing very bad effects”.

Although Muzepper was sent to prison with a lengthy sentence while working with Phoenix Weekly, authorities did not pursue any charges against the website, which has never provided information or reported on his case.

It was another big shock to me, which has caused me much sadness, to lose another friend to jail. A journalist friend of mine whom I interviewed in 2008 was sentenced for 15 years jail in 2010. The crime the Chinese government claimed 18-year-old Noor was guilty of was seeking to split the country.

The case was actually driven by the fact the journalist had criticised the local government’s discriminatory policies towards Uyghurs in an interview with Hong Kong-based media.

After Noor tragically died in a Chinese prison at the end of 2011, I lost any hope in the brutal Chinese government. How could I imagine what sufferings this young man had been through in his almost two years in jail?

How could I imagine what pain his mother, who I met in early 2010, was suffering due to the actions of this ruthless government?

The case of these Uyghur individuals is a small part of the suffering of my people, the Uyghur, who are indigenous to East Turkistan ― or so called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In the past 60 years of Chinese occupation, the Uyghur have become a minority, strangers in our own land.

Even though, China has legislation that clearly states the government’s obligation to protect freedom of expression, it still holds large numbers of Uyghur political prisoners.

I have been telling Chinese people that if China was willing to open a venue for us to express ourselves freely, we really would like you to think about why Uyghurs are disproportionally unemployed, living in extreme poverty while the new migrants from China have gotten rich in a very short period of time?

How come if our writers, journalists and activists speak about this injustice towards Uyghurs, they risk losing their freedom, perhaps forever?

We are a people who would love to live in peace, so long as we are treated like full human beings. We should have the right to express ourselves and live without fear in the land we love so much.

We are a people who could make great contributions to the diversity of human culture by preserving our culture ― as it belongs to all humanity and embraces Mother Earth.

Many Uyghurs are trying to make our voices heard by telling the government we should be respected as people with dignity, as people who own the land they are ruling with terror.
They might be able to force us into exile, or force us to be caged, but the dictators and their unjust system will never win the heart of freedom-loving Uyghurs.

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