Uighurs Back in the News- How Much Do We Really Know?

We posted about the plight of the Chinese Muslim minority group the Uighurs some time ago. Then, the question was whether the US would resettle a small number of them freed by the courts in this country.

Now, they’re back in the news, and again, American media is largely playing catchup. This time, the Uighurs are making news in their homeland as they clash with Han Chinese in the western desert region of the country.

The violence, which flared over the weekend, has left 156 dead and more than 1000 injured. The Chinese government, apparently fearing whatever governments fear when people freely express themselves, have locked down the regional capital of Urumqi. They’ve also taken the trouble to cut off cellphone and Internet service. They want accounts of what’s been going on to be their accounts. However, things reportedly aren’t going exactly as the government has planned.

Hundreds of Uighur men, woman, and children are defying police and crashed a state run tour of the riot torn area for Chinese and foreign journalists.

Sometimes stage managing of human misery doesn’t work.


The protestors want the government to release Uighur men they say have been detained after the violence started. Make no mistake. This is the worst ethnic violence in China for some time. And what is at its root? Could it be the inability of Uighurs to freely practice their Islamic religion without government interference?

There’s also the issue of continuing tense relations between the Uighurs and the Han. The Uighurs charge the Chinese government favors the Han when it comes to jobs and services. In fact, the rioting that took place last weekend reportedly began as a peaceful protest demanding an investigation into a deadly brawl between Uighurs and Han that took place thousands of miles away. Despite the paucity of information western news media have had access to, new technology has played as great a role in this situation is it has in Iran.

Published reports say the calls for protest by Uighurs were spread through Web sites and the most popular instant messaging program in China.

That would explain why the government prioritized shutting down cell service in the region, as well as cutting off Internet service. Hopefully, it won’t work.

Despite our ignorance and suspicion about Uighurs living in the US, their situation in China cries out for our scrutiny and concern.

Violence, be it religious, ethnic, racial, whatever, ought to be condemned. Despite the secretive nature of the Chinese government, they’re not immune to international calls for justice and fairness.

What’s happening to the Uighurs makes you wonder. What other people around the world are crying out for a level of basic humanity from their government and their fellow citizens?


I’ll bet there are more than a few we don’t know about.

The question is, do we care?


One Comment Add yours

  1. sanda says:

    I thought Pres. Obama’s recent joke about Uighurs was in poor taste. DemocracyNow
    had a good segment this morning, putting the Uighurs in context in China and Guantanamo Bay, by a Uighur-American (as he was identified by Amy Goodman in her intro) http://www.democracynow.org We certainly are learning lots of spelling of names of groups. I like your article, Mr. Riley.

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