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A massacre, not a demonstration

  • Source: Global Times
  • [08:18 July 10 2009]
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By Karmia Chan Cao

Editor’s Note:

The following is the text of a letter sent to the Global Times Wednesday by Urumqi native Karmia Chan Cao, who lost four relatives in the violence in the capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region on July 5.

I am a junior at Stanford University, born and raised in Urumqi as a Han Chinese, currently residing in Beijing. On July 5, rioting Uygurs near Erdaoqiao Market murdered four members of my extended family. Two of my childhood friends were gang-raped in the shops they ran on Tuanjie Road.

My baby cousin was thrown from a fifth-floor window by two men. They also stabbed her mother, who is now clinging to life in the ICU of Urumqi Women and Children’s Hospital. It is these victims I am writing for, against those who are attempting to wring crude anti-Communist or anti-Chinese political sentiments out of the situation.

This was a massacre, not the “peaceful demonstration” the World Uyghur Congress claims it to be. It was a brutal act of ethnic cleansing prompted by Uygur Islamic fundamentalists against Han civilians.

The situation involved four distinct and independent groups: the Uygur extremists, the vast majority of ordinary Uygurs who had no part in the riots; the Han civilians and the government. The government stepped in and locked down the city early Monday morning in order to prevent more Uygurs or Hans from getting into Urumqi and further escalating the violence between the two groups. The communications system is down for the same national and regional-security reasons, not as a shameless show of power.

If these same perpetrators were “demonstrating” with indiscriminate slaughter in the UK or the United States, this event would be called what it was: a terrorist attack. The scores of witnesses I have spoken to saw neither banners nor peaceful protesters.

“There were thousands of Uygurs waving knives. They suddenly began screaming and gushing into the Big Bazaar region down Erdaoqiao Road, and down two other streets that lead there, attacking every passing Han who couldn’t hide in time,” said Meng Yuanli, a retired factory worker who was biking home from the farmers’ market.

“They were mostly teenagers; some of their voices were still cracking from puberty as they screamed. I couldn’t run away in time and one young man kicked me off my bicycle and hit my face three times with a brick,” Meng said, adding that his 82-year-old mother was beaten into a coma while taking out trash.

Ms. Hai, an Inner Mongolian, said, “They beat people first, then those who followed looted, then another group torched cars. My child and I were hiding under the bed behind our shop counter when they kicked open the door, took all the drinks and cigarettes and, finding us, chopped off my right hand and smashed one of the bottles over my daughter’s head. We couldn’t even make it to the hospital for fear of being killed.”

Her neighbor, Liu, was permanently blinded in the attack, and her shop burnt down.

“I lost eight years of hard work,” she cried, “Everything I own is gone and they also took my sight. They were yelling ‘Kill all Han!’ I don’t know what I ever did to them.”

Neither did my 16-year-old friend, attacked on the 901 bus after taking her final exams.

Her father, surnamed Zhou, called us, weeping, for her face was so severely slashed that she will be disfigured for the rest of her life. “Four layers of transplanted skin with ten stitches on each layer couldn’t hold my little girl together,” he said.

Few of the journalists churning out articles for major media outlets are informed about the background to the violence. Western media is used to producing stories about government oppression and minority victims in China.

Ignorant of the social zeitgeist and cultural history of the region, and with an atmosphere of both anti-Muslim and anti-Chinese sentiment in the West, reporters, such as the New York Times’ Edward Wong, have chosen to make the easy attack on the Chinese government yet again. They turn to easy quotes from the “Japanese Uygur Organization” and similar groups, rather than speaking directly with victims to find the truth. This was not a political protest, but mass violence fueled by fundamentalism and stemming from ethnic discrimination against the Han.

But these perpetrators do not by any means represent all Uygurs. Most of the original rioters were teenagers, child victims chosen as easily malleable tools by underground fundamentalist groups based in Turpan.

Mr. Meng hid in his Uygur friend’s home, two blocks from the site of the attack. “Uti Kuar kept apologizing, hour after hour, as we watched the atrocities from his window. They received text messages from their other Uygur friends not to go out into the street after dinner. But Uti had no idea this was in store or he would have warned us.

Uygurs are not all in this. It’s just the extremists. I wish the government could act now before this becomes a full racial war. I would lose my friend for good.”

As I write, on the evening of July 7, his fear is becoming a reality. Thousands of Han victims have now banded together and are re-entering the streets, red-eyed from loss. If the government does not bring about a “crackdown” on all violent parties, there will be bloodshed in Xinjiang for as long as the memories of this horror remain.

If this act was not terrorism, I don’t know what was. I ask, on behalf of all the Han and Uygur people ignored by the West, that the world look closer at the truth of Xinjiang.