The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called for an investigation into events in Xinjiang Province, China, following the complete shutdown of the internet in Kashgar, and the blocking of reports of a deadly riot for three days.
State-owned news agency Xinhua reported on July 30 that “dozens of Uyghur and Han civilians were killed and injured” early on the morning of July 28. The report said a number of assailants attacked the police station and other government buildings in Elishku Township, Yarkand County. Thirty-one cars were smashed and six vehicles were set alight. According to the BBC and the Radio Free Asia Uyghur service, police shot into the crowd, killing a large number of people. At least 13 policemen were killed during the riot, and 67 people were arrested.
The Uyghur American Association, a US-based advocacy group, cited local reports that the Uyghurs were protesting against a heavy-handed crackdown by Chinese security forces that started at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, and against recent extra-judicial killings.
A Uyghur living in the UK told the IFJ: “It is not only that the internet was shut down. I tried numerous times to call my family members . . . Finally the signal was connected but it was very difficult. My family members did not even dare to say anything about it over the phone.”
Xinjiang is almost completely cut off from the outside world. No independent media outlets or journalists are able to report on events in the province. In 2009, a riot involving Uyghurs and Han Chinese in Urumqi left almost 200 people dead. At that time, the Xinjian authorities began shutting down the internet across the region. In recent years, many deadly incidents in Urumqi, Beijing, Yunnan and Guangdong Province have been described by authorities as “terrorist” attacks without backing evidence.
The IFJ said: “It is clear that Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia have been isolated from the outside world almost completely. Not a signal independent mainland reporter or foreign journalist is able to enter the region when incidents do occur. It is even more concerning that that the only information available is coming from the authorities.”
The IFJ has urged the President of China, Xi Jinping, and Premier Li Kiqiang to call for a full report on the incident from the Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang, Zhang Chunxian and demands that those responsible for the incidents be held accountable.
“The United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should appoint a special rapporteur to conduct an independent investigation into these disturbing reports coming out of Xinjiang. We also urge the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, to demand that China allow the media to enter the region and investigate the recent incidents.”