Opinion

What exactly happened in Urumchi on July 5? Ethnic clash or something else?

 

Photo: Guly Mashut

 

 

By Abduweli Ayup

 

Thirteen years ago, on July 5 2009, what started as a peaceful demonstration in Urumchi, turned into an ethnic clash, as international media likes to describe it. In reality, it was a protest against inequality, discrimination and segregation. Yes, it ended up as an ethnic clash - not because of the protestors - but because the police attacked peaceful demonstrators with bullets and gas. 

 

After the demonstration became chaotic, some thugs used it as an opportunity to loot, kill and burn. The Chinese soldiers attacked a lady and caused her to lose her conscience. Mass arrests took place. The police targeted Uyghurs on the streets. 

 

My cousin had travelled to Urumchi from Kashgar for business before July 5. The police arrested him at his home in the middle of the night. He received a sentence of five years. 

 

On July 6, immediately after the protests, the police arrested at least ten thousand Uyghurs in the Uyghur neighbourhoods and sentenced most of them to prison.

 

The Chinese government has used July 5 as an ongoing excuse for oppression against the Uyghurs. According to leaked documents called "Xinjiang Police files" they intentionally re-interned those that had been arrested on July 5, 2009.

 

Chinese public security minister, Zhao Kezhi, had also ordered that the government should not release the formerly arrested prisoners even if they had already completed their prison terms.

 

My cousin, Tohti Qadir, who was arrested and sentenced to five years after July 5, was re-arrested in 2016. He received a sentence of seven years, according to the Xinjiang Police files.