In February 1997, thousands of Uighurs demanding equality, religious freedom and an end to repression by the government peacefully protested in the Ghulja region of East Turkestan, an area designated the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region by the Chinese government. Armed paramilitary police confronted the unarmed demonstrators and bystanders, killing dozens on the spot, including women and young children. In the aftermath of the protest, thousands of Uighurs were detained on suspicion of participating in the demonstration. Tragically, hundreds of Uighurs were executed.
Just as I grieved with and for the families of the Uighurs killed in the Ghulja massacre, I grieve for the families of peaceful Tibetan demonstrators who have been killed or detained by Chinese police, perhaps never to be seen again. I have seen firsthand the suffering of parents who have lost their sons or daughters to an executioner’s bullet or a dark prison cell.
Because of our shared experience under the Chinese regime, Uighurs stand in solidarity with the Tibetan people and support their legitimate aspirations for genuine autonomy.