Human Rights in China (HRIC) is deeply concerned over the July 18 violence reported in Hotan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which resulted in at least 18 reported deaths, and official depictions of events that contradict eyewitness accounts.
Official Chinese media reports have referred to the incident variously as a premeditated act of terrorism, religious extremism, or rioting. Government officials assert that Uyghur men attacked a police station, took hostages, killed four people, and injured four others. Official reports also indicate that police shot 14 “rioters” and rescued six civilian hostages.
An independent and full investigation is essential, however, in light of witness accounts reported by the World Uyghur Congress that contain facts contrary to those asserted by the authorities. These reports suggest that the violence was initiated by police against Uyghurs who had peacefully gathered to protest the disappearance of relatives while in police custody. The World Uyghur Congress also reports that over 70 people were arrested in the wake of the violence, while at least 20 Uyghurs were killed and 12 injured.
Media reports indicate that martial law and Internet restrictions have since been imposed in Hotan, raising serious questions about transparency and access to information regarding the actual situation on the ground.
Any official characterization of this incident as terrorism is particularly grave and requires a clear and demonstrated basis in the facts and the law. Authorities cannot shield government actions from international scrutiny by simply invoking the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism. Yet the government’s reliance on the “three evils” doctrine, which also forms the basis for its regional security efforts within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, has for many years only served to justify repressive measures and prevent accountability.
HRIC urges the Chinese authorities to immediately account for the current whereabouts and well-being of the individuals arrested after the July 18 incident, and to conduct an independent, public investigation into the root causes and facts of the incident. HRIC also calls upon the Chinese government to demonstrate its compliance with its obligation to respect human rights while countering alleged terrorism, as set forth in the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and international counter-terrorism framework.
For more information on the July 18 incident in Hotan, see:
For more information on the human rights impact of the SCO, see: