Uyghur Youths, Teacher Detained After School Brawl, Residents Say

2005-06-21
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The Chinese national flag takes center place in a classroom of the Koranic school run by the Islamic Association of Xinjiang, in the capital of Urumqi. Photo: AFP/Robyn Beck

WASHINGTON—Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have sentenced four Uyghur youths to junior reform camp and are still holding one of their teachers following clashes between Muslim and Han Chinese youths outside a school near Kashgar in March, local residents say.

Police in Poskam, 235 kms (145 miles) southeast of Kashgar, arrested 17 or 18 high-school students from the Turkic-speaking Uyghur nationality, together with four of their teachers March 12 after a fight outside the Poskam Petroleum No.1 Middle School, local residents told RFA’s Uyghur service.

"The kids just had a fight with some Chinese and they were arrested for that," one resident familiar with the incident told RFA. "Those kids were arrested on March 12 here. About 17-18 kids I think. Some of them were released but four of them were sent to juvenile camp."

The kids just had a fight with some Chinese and they were arrested for that.

Another Poskam resident said: "Those four kids were sentenced to jail terms when they were sent off...One was sentenced to three years and three were sentenced to two years."

Police also detained teachers at the school for alleged involvement in the incident. "There were four of them," the second resident told RFA. "One is Abdushukur, another one is Abdulla Jamal; he is still being held by the police."

"The others are Aynur Abdugheni and Aniqiz Ghurpur. They were being punished for influencing the friendship between China’s nationalities," the man added.

Police issue shaky denial

An officer who answered the phone at the Poskam prefectural police station denied any such incident had taken place. But when he heard that the caller was from RFA, he replied: "You guys already heard about this?"

Meanwhile, the school principal, who uses a single name of Ghayret, referred all enquiries to the police station.

Poskam and the nearby oasis of Yarkand, have a strong tradition of Islamic schooling and, more recently, of opposition to Beijing’s rule in the region.

Chinese oil companies have flocked to Xinjiang, which many Uyghurs wish to see as an independent state of East Turkestan, since 1989, employing tens of thousands of workers in the Tarim Basin alone, almost all of whom are Han Chinese. Poskam saw the opening of a new petrochemical plant in 1986, staffed by several thousand Han Chinese.

Uyghurs constitute a distinct, Turkic-speaking, Muslim minority in northwestern China and Central Asia. They have twice declared a short-lived East Turkestan Republic in Xinjiang in the 1930s and the late 1940s but have remained under Beijing’s control since 1949.

According to a Chinese Government white paper, in 1998 Xinjiang comprised 8 million Uyghurs, 2.5 million other ethnic minorities, and 6.4 million Han Chinese-up from 300,000 Han in 1949. Most Uyghurs are poor farmers, and at least 25 percent are illiterate.

Original reporting by RFA's Uyghur service, directed by Dolkun Kamberi. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and Sarah Jackson-Han.

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