China's Uighur Petitioners Face Abuse in Beijing

The Los Angeles Times tells the story of a group of Uighur petitioners camped out in Beijing who are seeking justice for discrimination they faced at home in Xinjiang:

For more than two years, a small group of Uighurs upset in one way or another by Chinese officials has lived under bridges that span the narrow, murky Hucheng River paralleling the Second Ring Road, one of Beijing’s busiest highways. Under the bridges, people are eager to have an audience and provide a glimpse of the hardships faced by Uighurs.

They come from villages thousands of miles away to petition the central government for compensation or other resolution of grievances suffered at home. Many complaints stem from the rapid development of the Xinjiang region, as part of the country’s economic expansion, and from the accompanying Uighur resentment of the influx of Han Chinese, who they say receive preferential treatment when searching for jobs and opportunities.

Tohti, 41, said that in 2004 the government seized and demolished the house her father left to her and her brothers on the outskirts of Kashgar.

” ‘This is not your place any more…. Go back to wherever you came from with your family,’ ” Tohti said she was told by the local Communist Party secretary, a man named Lee, when she complained.

Tohti said she replied, “I was born here. My ancestors were born and raised in Xinjiang. How can you make us move?”

Their encampment was raided by police soon after the anniversary of the 1009 riots in Urumqi, according to the LA Times report:

Mattresses and clothing were confiscated. Mud ovens the petitioners had built in the traditional Uighur style were smashed. The police tossed their flour, sugar and cooking oil into the river.

“We walk every day to the police station and wait, asking to get our stuff back,” said Tohti, showing her swollen feet clad in red rubber sandals because she doesn’t have shoes.

“If they hadn’t taken our possessions, if they hadn’t taken our homes and our land, we would have gone back and fasted there,” she cries. “There is no place for us, not in Beijing, not in Xinjiang.”

August 21, 2011 9:49 PM
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