A group of Uyghur petitioners from China’s northwestern Xinjiang region have faced beatings and harassment by police since bringing their grievances over ethnic discrimination to central authorities in Beijing.
The group of some 10 Uyghurs who set up camp outside the Central Politics and Law Commission offices in China’s capital say police were sent to break up their peaceful demonstration on Tuesday.
One of the group, Rehim Yusup, said they had been camping outside the building for about three days when police came and beat them.
“About 100 police officers, both armed and undercover ones, were sent to remove us from here. When we refused to leave, they began ruthlessly beating us,” he said.
Another petitioner, Ghazi Hamud, said two women in their group had also suffered beatings.
“The undercover Han Chinese police officers dressed in casual civilian clothes also violently attacked us Uyghur protesters. They even started beating the women…. Of course they didn’t spare the men either,” he said.
The police included armed police officers, undercover police officers dressed in civilian outfits, and regional police officers sent from Xinjiang to escort the group of Uyghurs back home, the group said.
“I told [the police] that they had no right to mistreat us like that because we are not criminals; they are the ones committing the crime for beating innocent peaceful protesters,” Ghazi Hamud said.
After the group refused to leave, dozens of police remained and continue to harass them, the petitioners said Friday.
The group is petitioning authorities over longstanding ethnic discrimination cases in Xinjiang, where Uyghurs say Beijing's policies favor Han Chinese migration into the region and unfair allocation of resources to the Chinese.
The Chinese government receives millions of complaints every year through its “letters and visits” petitioning system, which traces its roots to Imperial China, but for Uyghurs to take their grievances through Chinese channels in the faraway capital is less common.
“We have all come from far away asking for justice, but no government institution here wants to listen to us or help us,” Ghazi Hamud said.
Ghazi Hamud, 62, is in Beijing to raise the case of his son who was murdered by a Han Chinese person in northern Xinjiang’s Shihezi city in 2001. The accused was only given a three-year jail term while Uyghurs who are similarly charged face execution, Ghazi Hamud said.
Protesting alongside him is Anargul Yusup, 40, who wants to highlight her "unfair" job termination by her Han Chinese boss at the Aksu Public Transportation Company in Xinjiang.
Her brother Rehim Yusup, 42, is accompanying her.
In an earlier altercation in May, police beat Anargul Yusup and another petitioner, Amina, who came to Beijing from a small village in western Xinjiang’s Kashgar to show her discontent with the authorities for allowing a Shanghai-based company to buy her house and land without her consent.
Around three to five other Uyghurs and one Hui are also petitioning with them.
Refusing to return
Police, including some dispatched from their hometowns, have been trying to get the petitioners to return to Xinjiang, the group said.
“The police officers have been here since this morning and they have been constantly trying to force us into their automobiles,” Amina said on Tuesday.
“Five police officers were sent from Kashgar just to take me back. Among them are the secretary of the village where I am from, a female police officer named Tursungul, and other police officers from Kashgar city,” she said.
Ghazi Hamud also said that police had tried to force them into cars and leave the scene.
“But we were unyielding and refused to get in their automobiles despite their threats and attacks,” he said.
By Friday, uniformed police officers had left the group, but dozens dressed in civilian clothes remained to watch them, they said.
To deal with petitioners, China employs a system of dispatching local authorities to provincial capitals and to Beijing, where they detain, beat, and otherwise harass petitioners in a bid to make them drop their cases.
Han Chinese petitioners
Police made attempts to separate the Uyghur group from other petitioners outside the Politics and Law Commission offices, the group said.
They said they had received sympathy from over 100 local Beijing residents who witnessed their harassment by police on Tuesday and from Han Chinese petitioners.
One Han Chinese petitioner, a handicapped woman surnamed Li from Zhejiang province, said she had witnessed the brutal treatment of the Uyghur group.
“What they did to these poor Uyghur elderly individuals and women has triggered anger in all of us around. I personally saw a female undercover police officer violently attacking Ms. Amina, and I was force to get involved despite being in a wheelchair,” she said.
Reported by Mihray Abdilim for RFA’s Uyghur service. Translated by Shirinay Arslan. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.