Taipei, July 5 (CNA) Several Uyghur representatives on Friday called attention to the plight of Uyghur Muslims living in the supposedly autonomous region of Xinjiang in China as they marked the 10th anniversary of major ethnic riots in the region.
"Today, nearly 3 million Uyghurs are detained in China's concentration camps. The prelude to this is what we called the 'July 5th Urumqi Massacre,' which resulted in the disappearance of many Uyghur people," Japan Uyghur Association Chairman Ilham Mahmut said at press conference in Taipei.
Ilham may have been referring to an estimate made by Randall Schriver, the head of Asia policy at the United States Department of Defense, in early May.
He said Chinese Muslims were being imprisoned in "concentration camps," and justified the term "given what we understand to be the magnitude of the detention, at least a million but likely closer to 3 million citizens out of a population of 10 million."
Ilham, who is also the World Uyghur Congress' representative for East Asia and the Pacific, said the world's failure to denounce China's role in the 2009 unrest sent Beijing a dangerous message that "it will not be stopped regardless of what it does around the world."
He was referring to large-scale riots between the minority Uyghurs and the Han Chinese majority that took place in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on July 5, 2009.
According to the World Uyghur Congress, a Munich-headquartered international organization representing the interest of Uyghurs in East Turkistan and abroad, the unrest was triggered by the government's inaction over the deaths of several Uyghur workers in a Guangdong toy factory the previous month.
China's official data suggest that 197 people died in the ethnic violence, among them 134 Han Chinese, while more than 1,500 people were injured. However, the Uyghurs believe more people from their ethnic group died in the conflict.
Many faced trials following the unrest. A 2009 report by the New York-based human rights group Human Rights Watch found that 43 Uyghur men and teenage boys had forcibly disappeared after the protests and were detained by Chinese security forces.
Paul Lin (林保華), chairman of the Taiwan Friends of Uyghurs, said a major cause of the ethnic unrest was the Chinese government's long-term attempt to "Sinicize" Uyghurs, whether through having more Han Chinese move into Xinjiang or bringing young Uyghurs to work in China's coastal cities.
In recent years, Uyghurs have been either sent to what the Chinese government terms "re-education camps" or forced to accept Han Chinese government workers sent to live in their homes to monitor them, Lin said.
"It is unfortunate that not only Western countries who claim to care about human rights have stayed quiet, but also Islamic states who share the same faith as Uyghurs," he said.
Chen Yi-ting (陳奕廷), director of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Department of Social issues, said deceit and violence are the two common tactics China has employed to deal with not only the Uyghur ethnic group, but also Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
"Taiwan's civil society, political parties and media should therefore work to let Taiwanese and people from other parts of the world know about what is truly happening inside China," Chen said.
Lawyer Ho Chao-tung (何朝棟), a Taiwanese, said he and dozens of other people who are concerned about the plight of the Uyghurs are working to establish an association, called the Taiwan East Turkistan Association, to raise public awareness of the issue in Taiwan.
The association is likely to be officially formed later this month at the earliest, Ho said.