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Demand China respect rights in crackdown on Xinxiang violence

As the Chinese government attempts to quell the recent violence in Xinjiang province with droves of police and mass arrests, political protestors and journalists are especially vulnerable to excessive force, arbitrary detention, surveillance and censorship.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), authorities are tightly vetting movements of journalists in and around the Xinjiang province and are punishing those who try to independently gauge the situation. At least one journalist was detained in the past week for breaking away from a government-organised media tour, confirmed CPJ, and reports from the Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents Club of China say TV crews and reporters are being jailed and security forces are confiscating equipment in the province.

In addition, journalists reporting in the region risk being targeted by armed mobs that have not been daunted by the high security presence. According to IFJ, seven journalists and two drivers with the Communist Party-owned "China Daily" were ambushed by at least 100 armed protestors in the northwest region of Xinjiang on 8 July. The protestors smashed the journalists' two vehicles with iron bars and hammers.

Adding to the lack of clarity about what is happening in the region is that local people are unable to make long-distance calls and all Internet references to the protest have been blocked by the government in a legal move deemed necessary for security.

"There is widespread concern about the death toll and escalating violence in Xinjiang, particularly as worried families, friends and colleagues are unable to access information about the situation," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

At least 184 people were killed after Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim, minority ethnic group in China, launched a protest that became violent on 5 July in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. The Uighurs were protesting the killings of two Uighurs in a fight with Han Chinese co-workers in another region. As both Han Chinese and Uighurs were responsible for killing members of the other ethnic group, the numbers killed on each side have been highly disputed.

While the violence in Urumqi has been quelled in the past week, the situation remains tense. The devastating eruption of violence in July is raising questions about China's policies in its ethnic minority areas. The Uighurs, who desire full independence from Beijing, claim China's police and judiciary reinforce the political and economic superiority of China's Han majority.

Official media reports say 1434 people have been detained for alleged connections to the riots, but the number is likely higher, according to Amnesty International.

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) is especially concerned about the detention of prominent Uighur writer and academic Iham Tohti, who was reportedly arrested on 6 July. Tohti's arrest followed the publication of his online report criticising Nur Bekri, the Chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regional People's Government for his perceived support of Han Chinese during the ethnic unrest.

Sign on to Amnesty International's petition demanding the Chinese government ensure that security forces are abiding by international standards and that the human rights of those rounded up in the government's crackdown are not being violated. The appeal also calls for an immediate, impartial inquiry into the events leading to the protests and the resulting deaths.

China: Investigation must be launched in Xinjiang
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