National Press Club

Uyghur Leader Urges Investigative Reporting on Xinjiang Unrest

July 23, 2009 | By Peter Hickman |

Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur American Association, urged Western journalists at a July 20 Newsmaker to report what the Chinese government does not want them to know about the unrest in the Xinjiang region of the country, called East Turkestan, by the ethnic Uyghur people who make up the majority of the population in the area.

Beijing has accused Kadeer of being the mastermind behind the unrest.

Kadeer, who was expelled from China and lives in Northern Virginia, said that while "the Chinese government has been vocal about the fact that it allowed the Western media into (the capital city of) Urumchi to confirm its version of events in order to create a veneer of legitimacy...scratching beneath the surface, a careful media management strategy is evident."

She said that "through this strategy, the Chinese government is attempting to conceal the events surrounding the Urumchi unrest, as it did with those surrounding the Shaoguan (in northern Quangdong Province) killings, which precipitated the Urumchi protests."

Kadeer said the "permission given Western journalists to report from East Turkestan is not all that it seems. Not only was the Western media carefully guided through its stay in Urumchi, but reporters also faced detention if they ventured out by themselves." She said journalists from the Associated Press, Agence France-Press, TV Tokyo and Radio Free Asia were expelled from or detained in the region "because the authorities felt they could not manage them sufficiently."

She said official Chinese media reporting on the Urumchi unrest misses the larger picture of repression of Uyghurs in China, which she said includes the forced transfer of young Uyghur women to Chinese sweatshops; the demolition of Uyghur cultural heritage in Kashgar (in northern Xinjiang); a monolingual language policy; discriminatory hiring practices; torture and execution on political charges; and curbs on freedom or religion.