The claim by Rebiya Kadeer that more than 10,000 Uygurs disappeared in the wake of the July 5 riots, believed to have been arrested or killed, is groundless, a spokeswoman of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region told the Global Times yesterday in reaction to the World Uygur Congress (WUC) leader's speech during her visit to Japan.
Kadeer, accused by the Chinese government of being a separatist and masterminding the riots that left about 200 people dead and more than 1,600 injured, told a Tokyo press conference yesterday during the second day of her visit to Japan that nearly 10,000 people “disappeared in one night” following the riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.
“If they are dead, where are their bodies? If they are detained, where are they?” she said.
Hou Hanmin, spokeswoman of the regional government, said the claim was so groundless that it was “not even worth a counter reaction.”
“If there were more than 10,000 missing, how many more of them would have taken part in the riot?” Hou asked.
According to an AP report shortly after the riot, “police showed up to disperse a crowd of between 1,000 and 3,000 demonstrators,” which is close to the estimates of reports by other media organizations, both Chinese and foreign.
Urumqi police yesterday announced that they had arrested 253 more suspects allegedly closely connected to the riots, following the initial arrests of 1,434 suspects by July 7, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Police said most of the latest arrests were made from tip-offs provided by local residents, including one report in which a family of five burned to death after rioters locked the door of their store selling grain and edible oil and set it on fire.
“I felt uneasy for at least two nights. Once I closed my eyes, I would picture the scene of the raging fire shrouding the store,” a Uygur man who did not give his name told the police July 7. “I would never find peace if I didn't inform the police of it.”
Some of the suspects arrested earlier have been released after police found they did not commit serious crimes, Hou told the Global Times.
In response to a Global Times' inquiry as to how Kadeer set the number of disappeared at 10,000, Dilshat Rashit, spokesman for the US-based WUC, said the organization has been following the situation in Xinjiang via foreign reports.
“When Uygur women were interviewed by foreign media, they said more than 1,000 Uygurs were killed and nearly 10,000 were arrested,” he said. “As far as we know, the arrest of Uygurs is continuing, so there are definitely more than 10,000 arrested.”
Howevr, he didn't explain how those “Uygur women interviewed by foreign media” put the total number of those arrested.
He suggested that the United States, which “has always been concerned with China's religious and human rights issues,” take tougher measures against China, including economic sanctions.
Earlier in July, Mu-Card Deiss, a member of the WUC, circulated online a video clip of a “Uygur girl” being beaten to death.
“It was actually a piece edited from footage of a CNN video showing a girl killed in Iraq on April 7, 2007,” Xinhua pointed out.
Kadeer's remarks also backfired among Uygur residents in China. Rustan, manager of a Muslim restaurant at the Beijing Language and Culture University said, “When I was young, I just thought she was a very rich woman, and I admired her a lot. But I never expected that she would attack China with ridiculous remarks while staying overseas.”
He said he doesn't understand why Kadeer does all these “evil things” to China.
“We're all Chinese, and I don't want to follow what she's talking about,” he said.
Tuson Nizam, a Uygur from Kuqa County, Xinjiang, who now sells jade in Beijing, expressed his indignation at the riots, saying the Uygurs who participated in the riots are nothing but “lazy bones.”
“I treat all Han and Uygur people equally well, so they will treat me well in return,” he said.
The Foreign Ministry summoned Japan's ambassador in Beijing, expressing its “dissatisfaction” with Japan's treatment of Kadeer, believed to be a “criminal” by China.
Kadeer's visits to Australia and Japan have put those countries' ties with China to the test.
Yang Bojiang, a researcher at the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said: “Kadeer's ‘separatist activities' would have an impact on the overall situation of China's relationship with the US, Japan and European countries.”