Repressive laws demonstrate unwillingness of Xi Jinping to embrace lessons of Tiananmen Square Massacre Xi Jinping must meet present-day calls for democratic reform and freedom as embodied by the student movement of 1989 by The Uyghur Human Rights Project

The Uyghur Human Rights Project May 31, 2016

Note: The Center for Islamic Pluralism endorses this statement by the Uyghur Human Rights Project.]

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The flag of East Turkestan, Uyghur homeland occupied by China.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) extends its sympathies to the families of the victims of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. UHRP urges the Chinese government to offer a transparent account of the events in Beijing and to punish officials responsible for human rights violations committed against Chinese citizens.

UHRP is concerned the current Chinese administration has not internalized the lessons of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Instead of listening to the legitimate grievances of the Chinese people, Xi Jinping’s government has adopted a number of laws curbing a wide range of freedoms. UHRP believes such restrictions only escalate tensions and do not generate stability.

“We must never forget the students and individuals from Beijing who died at the hands of the People’s Liberation Army on June 4, 1989. These brave people took to the streets of the Chinese capital to express frustration at a deaf government that refused to acknowledge their aspirations for freedom and democratic reform,” said UHRP Director Alim Seytoff.

Mr. Seytoff added: “Xi Jinping is acting in the same repressive manner as his predecessors in 1989. He believes enacting authoritarian laws that curb fundamental human rights will stem the calls from across China for genuine and meaningful participation in the political system. His motivation is to keep the party, himself and his associates in power and not to serve the interests of Chinese citizens.”

In February 2015 UHRP released a briefing on China’s Counter-Terrorism Law outlining a number of grave concerns with the new legislation. The law was adopted on December 27, 2015, and effective as of January 1, 2016. UHRP concluded the vague definition of “terrorism,” lack of oversight placed on security forces and curbs on reporting of “terror” incidents contained within the law create a mandate for the Chinese government to commit human rights violations against the Uyghur people.

The adoption of the Counter-Terrorism Law is part of a legal push under Xi Jinping to shrink the space available to civil society in China. Instruments such as the National Security Law, Cybersecurity Law, and the Foreign NGO Management Law have concentrated power into the hands of the security apparatus and the Chinese Communist Party. Concern about these new legislative measures has been widespread, including from United Nations officials and human rights groups.

Among the student protestors at Tiananmen in the spring of 1989 was a young Uyghur student, Örkesh Dölet (widely known by his Chinese name, Wu’er Kaixi). Örkesh, who had been studying at Beijing Normal University, confronted Premier Li Peng on national television about the need for the central government to listen to the people and their demands for political and economic change. Following the government’s violent crackdown on demonstrators, Örkesh’s name was the second on a list of 21 most-wanted student leaders of the Tiananmen protests.

The preamble to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.” This statement on the universality of human rights applies as much to the authoritarian governments of 2016 as it did to the community of nations post-World War Two.

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The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is a human rights research, reporting and advocacy organization. Our mission is to promote human rights and democracy for the Uyghur people, raise awareness of abuses of Uyghurs’ human rights, and support the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, democratic means to determine their own political future.

UHRP was founded in 2004 as part of the Uyghur American Association (UAA), a Uyghur diaspora group which works to promote the preservation and flourishing of a rich, humanistic and diverse Uyghur culture. In partnership with UAA, in 2016 UHRP began operations as an independent group.