Uyghur exile leader Rebiya Kadeer called on Chinese authorities Friday to reveal more information about the fatal shooting last week of four Uyghur men they suspected of harboring terrorism intentions in Korla in China’s far northwestern Xinjiang region.
“We are concerned about the situation in Korla because the Chinese media’s silence is a sign of a tragedy being hidden, or a signal of an imminent harsh operation,” said the Washington-based Kadeer, head of the World Uyghur Congress.
Her call came in response to the March 8 raid by police who gunned down four men at a farmhouse near Korla city, in the central part of China’s ethnically troubled Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Police contacted by RFA said the raid was in response to an accidental bomb explosion the week before, caused by a man whose wife had been detained in a raid on an “illegal religious gathering” in February.
They later said that the killed men, while not linked to the alleged bomb-maker, had harbored terrorist intentions. Local residents denied the police claims.
“Although more than a week has passed [since the shooting], not a word has been published in China’s state-run media about the recent chain of events in Korla, including the Feb. 28 ‘illegal’ religious gathering, the March 4 bomb explosion, and the March 8 incident when men were shot dead,” Kadeer said.
“The Chinese media’s silence on the situation indicates how troubled the situation was and how brutal the operation was,” she said.
Beijing considers Xinjiang a terrorism hotspot, and the events in Korla have added to tensions in the region, where Uyghurs complain of policies favoring Han Chinese migration and the unfair allocation of resources to the Chinese.
Officials stress the importance of maintaining stability in the region, blaming violent incidents on the “three forces” of “separatism, extremism, and terrorism.”
The government has accused Kadeer and the World Uyghur Congress of orchestrating terrorism from overseas.
Kadeer charged that the absence of reports in state-controlled media shows that Chinese authorities have clearly wanted to suppress information about the events in Korla.
“Chinese media's selective approach to reporting events in Uyghur region has been proven many times,” she said.
“Sometimes they report news very fast, like the Kargilik incident that occurred last month; sometimes they report it weeks later, like the vinegar poisoning incident in Hotan [last August]; and sometimes they don't say anything until international media disclose it, like the women’s demonstration in Hotan in 2008.”
“We can see that political interests of the Chinese Communist Party have been a priority in publicizing [information], with no consideration for truth or justice, or local people’s safety,” she charged.
But she cautioned that hiding information about events like the shooting in Korla would create an environment of mistrust that could worsen ethnic tensions in the region.
“If [the Chinese government] continues to keep events in the region secret, this will create an environment of rumors.”
“Such rumors can trigger more tragic events between nationalities, as happened before in the Shaoguan Incident,” she said, referring to a bloody dispute in Guangdong province that sparked July 2009 ethnic violence in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, China's worst in decades.
“We call on Chinese media to respect human dignity and to maintain journalistic ethics, including objectivity and impartiality,” she said.
Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.