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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

An Uygur's Letter To America

China Human Rights: Uygur prisonersThe following is the text of a letter sent by an Uygur man to US Secretary of State Colin Powell. It needs no analysis or comment suffice to say that in knowing the Uygur as I do the sentiments expressed are true and widely held.This "Uygur Letter" was printed today on the Uygur english language message board Uighur-L. a member entry board. Turdi (whose surname is witheld for security reasons) is well known for his advocacy of the Uygur situation.

There are many who believe that everyone incarcerated in Guantanamo is a terrorist this obviously is not the case considering the large number slotted for release. Many, undoubtably like some of the Uygurs, were impressed into the service of the taliban or were of no difference to any foot soldiers of any nation in the world that sends it's people to war.

The Honorable Colin Powell, Secretary of StateDepartment of State2201 C Street, NW, Washington DC 20520

Dear Secretary of State:

I am deeply concerned about the fate of the Uighurs in US military custody in Guantánamo Bay. According to the Amnesty International, they are at risk of forcible return to China or to third countries where they might face return to China. People who are familiar with the Uyghur situation in China will not doubt for a second that those men detained in Guantanamo will be tortured and executed should they be returned to China.

They were captured in the context of the armed conflict in Afghanistan and transferred to US custody around January 2002.
An Associate Press report published on Nov 25, 2003 quoted a senior US defense official as saying,

"Washington is quietly discussing with China the terms under which an undisclosed number of Chinese Muslim separatists would be released from Guantanamo and returned to China. The Uighurs at Guantanamo Bay were captured in Afghanistan, but the United States has no further interest in holding them because they are not believed to pose a threat to U.S. interests. Their main aim is to return to Xinjiang and fight for independence — a goal they apparently sought to further by training in Afghanistan."

On 13 May 2004, a US State Department spokesman said that the USA has "identified some who might be eligible for release… We have talked to the Chinese and other governments about this situation."
There is absolutely no reason to believe that China will honor its promise and will not mistreat these Uyghurs. Once those Uyghurs set their feet in China, they will become "the internal affair of China." It is well documented that the Chinese government has systematically tortured and executed suspected Uyghur separatists. China has executed a number of Uyghurs in recent years including asylum seekers and refugees repatriated from neighboring countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Nepal in total disregard to the strong protests of the international community and human rights organizations.
Those people were originally political dissidents or religious students who went to Pakistan to escape Chinese persecution.

After Pakistan forcefully returned some Uyghur dissidents to China where they were executed, the rest of the Uyghurs in Pakistan escaped to third countries. Some who did not have passport and other proper documents ended up in Afghanistan since it was the only country willing to accept them. That misfortune led them to a combat that they apparently had no desire to take part in as it as clear from the RFA interview of Hasan Mehsum,(see Ed Note) the leader of the Uyghurs in Afghanistan.

There is no evidence that they committed any terrorist activities or other crimes in China or anywhere else. On the Nov 26, 2001, the Chinese Government announced the details of all the alleged violence happened in the previous 10 years in connection to the Uyghur independence movement. There is no evidence or reason to link any of those (sic) violence to those men in Guantanamo.

In fact, the reason why the Chinese authorities want them back is not just to punish them opposing their rule but also to intimidate the whole Uyghur population. If they succeed to bring them back to China, they will be able reinforce that they can carry out their oppressive policy against the Uyghurs as they please and the Uyghurs have to accept it without complaining no matter how unfair it is since they can do nothing about it and even United States, whom the Uyghurs look up to for support, can do nothing about it.

It is no secret that China has long been carrying out a repressive policy against the Uyghurs, who, having been inspired by the US intervention in Kosovo and Bosnia, look to US for moral support. China has been quite annoyed by that. They have been using every opportunity to tarnish the image of US in eyes of Uyghurs and to smash the hopes of Uyghurs. Rebiya Kadir, a prominent Uyghur businesswoman, was harshly punished and sentenced for 8 years on the suspicion that she planned to complain about the Chinese treatment of Uyghurs to a visiting US official. If she really had sensitive documents to send to US or anywhere else, there were numerous ways to do that and she certainly had the means. But the truth behind her harsh punishment is Chinese authorities wanted to exploit the US connection of her case to sent out an intimidating message to Uyghur population by punishing her in disregard to the opposition of US government. For the same reason, the efforts of the international community and US authorities to get her released has yielded no significant result. The issue of the Uyghur detainees in Guantanamo is highly publicized among the Uyghurs. I hope US government will not give China another opportunity to intimidate the Uyghurs by reinforcing their message that not only the Uyghurs could do nothing about the way they treat them the whole world could do nothing about it and that even the only remaining super power yields to China's demands.

If those Uighurmen have committed any crime against the US interests, the US government has a right to punish them in any way they see fit, but sending them back to China should not be one of them. Because, it would not serve just as a punishment for these men alone, it would serve as a punishment for all the Uyghurs who believe in the moral integrity and justice system of the US government and the international community. This issue is extremely important for Uyghurs because what is at stake is not just the fate of those men but the dignity and self-image of the entire Uyghur people. Their feelings would be greatly hurt if those men are turned over to China for its cruel disposal.

Uyghurs probably are the most pro-US Muslims in the world. China is trying hard to use the Iraq war to damage US's image among Uyghurs. If the US returns those men to China, China may succeed.
As a concerned Uyghur, I strongly urge the US government not to return them to China.


Turdi (surname witheld)

Note: Hasan Mehsum was identified by the Chinese Government as the terrorist leader of the then little known East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and was top of China's "Most wanted list". ETIM at the pushing of China and with the support of America was named as an international terrorist organisation in 2002 in the wake of "9/11" despite there being absolutely no evidence other than China's say so as to it's crimes.

Mehsum in a radio interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) in early 2002 denied catagorically that he or any members of ETIM had ever conducted terrorist activities in China or anywhere else. Mehsum was killed by Pakistan security forces in October 2003 having fled Afghanistan where he had originally escaped to from China.

Despite his death and China being involved at the time in the official identification of his body a government press release in December 2003 requested forign countries to support them in capturing him. A large gaffe which totally contradicted Mehsun's supposed terrorist leader status and the danger he posed to China or the world.