A Uyghur woman who says she was wrongfully shot by police in the aftermath of ethnic violence in northwestern China has demanded compensation from authorities because she is permanently disabled and is unable to provide for her family.
Rabigul Yasin, 55, said she was shot and wounded after police carried out house-to-house searches in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi following the July 5, 2009 clashes between Uyghurs and Han Chinese that resulted in China’s worst ethnic violence in decades.
Uyghur groups in exile say that as many as 10,000 Uyghurs disappeared in the weeks after the bloody July 5 incident, which left some 200 dead, according to official Chinese statistics.
At 1:00 a.m. on July 13, 2009, Rabigul said she was at home in her first floor apartment at the No. 64 residential complex across the street from Urumqi’s Autonomous Regional Bureau of Culture, when a squad of Chinese police smashed through the main gate and began rounding up residents.
“At the time, groups of Han Chinese were still roaming the city looking for retribution against Uyghurs,” she said.
“The noise frightened me so much that I climbed out of my back window and hid inside a dumpster along with a man named Ibrayimjan.”
During the ensuing chaos, she said, police searched 18 apartments in the complex and arrested 20 people, including her two sons.
“After raiding my apartment, a few police officers made their way to the back of the building and fired five shots from about 15 feet away into the trash container where I lay hidden, hitting me once in the leg,” she said.
She said that after getting hit by the bullet she began to bleed heavily and lost consciousness.
Later, she was taken for treatment to a hospital in Miquan Prison, located just outside of Urumqi, where she said she was subjected to constant interrogation by police while recovering from her wound.
She was restrained in a cot in the middle of a room with four beds, she said, with prisoners only a few inches away from her.
“I was handcuffed, and my feet were shackled to the hospital bed while I was being treated. My family members were never informed about my whereabouts,” she said.
“I was placed under 24-hour surveillance and was not permitted to speak to anyone. I was even watched by a prison police officer when I needed to use the bathroom.”
Rabigul Yasin said that she witnessed a number of prisoners being brought in and out of the room during her time in detention. She was unsure of how many prisoners were being treated in how many different rooms throughout the hospital, but she said she would often hear moaning sounds from down the hallway.
After spending nearly four months in detention, Rabigul Yasin was finally discharged and released by the authorities.
One of her sons had been released after spending three months in police custody, but when Rabigul Yasin was set free, she was forced to bribe a prison official to release her other son from detention.
Rabigul Yasin said a lack of adequate treatment has prevented her from making a full recovery, and that her lingering injury has left her immobile and jobless.
“Since my release I have had to use crutches. I struggle to walk and I can’t work,” she said.
She said that she began to develop complications from her injury recently and had sought medical care at the No. 3 Hospital in Urumqi, but that the municipal police only authorized 15,000 yuan (U.S. $2,350) for her treatment.
“The police informed the hospital that they would no longer reimburse my treatment costs, so the hospital stopped giving me the medication I needed. They told me they needed to discharge me, even though I wasn’t fully recovered,” she said.
She borrowed money from her relatives to continue her treatment, she said.
Rabigul Yasin said that although the police had unlawfully shot her, they have only provided her with limited medical care and never compensated her or offered an apology for their mistake.
She said that she was never told by prison authorities why she had been detained and held, or why she was released. She also was never provided any documentation of her injuries.
“When I asked for proof of my detention, injuries, and medical treatment, the prison authorities only threatened me with continued detention,” she said.
And when she asked for her medical history, treatment information, and medical receipts from her most recent treatment facility, No. 3 Hospital, the medical staff denied her requests.
“They said the hospital was not allowed to carry out my requests because the police had directed them not to provide me with any documentation,” she said.
“The police don’t want me to use documentation to bring my case to the upper-level authorities or to publicize it through the media.”
Making ends meet
Rabigul Yasin said that before her injury, she had been forced to support her four children on her own by selling snack food, such as sunflower seeds and peas, on the streets. She said that she sometimes worked as a street sweeper to put food on the table.
But since she was shot, she has been unable to work, and even though her older son has graduated from university, he has been unable to find a job.
Her youngest son, who was recently admitted to university, had to withdraw from school for financial reasons.
She said that she wants local officials to punish the police who wrongfully shot her and left her disabled, according to Chinese law.
“I am rightfully entitled to compensation for my injuries and suffering, according to the law,” she said, adding that she wants local authorities to pay for her treatment until her health is fully recovered.
“I am suffering because I have been left without a way to make my dreams in life come true.”
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.