Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Uighurs protest outside Chinese consulate in Sydney

(SMH) - Uighur protesters have rallied outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney, demanding freedom and justice for their Muslim countrymen in China.

They chanted "freedom to Uighurs" and "shame on you murderers" in front of the closed consulate in Camperdown.

Some carried banners reading "World listen to our plea" while others draped themselves in chains symbolising the oppression of their people in China.

The rally was in response to the deaths of 156 Uighurs in a Chinese military crackdown in Xianjing in western China at the weekend during what was intended to be a peaceful protest.

Retaliatory attacks have continued and ethnic tensions remain between the Uighurs and Han Chinese.

Australian Uighur Association spokesman Kuranda Seyit contrasted the Sydney protest with the Chinese rally.

"We are gathered here today at a peaceful protest," Mr Seyit told the crowd.

"There's nobody shooting us. There's nobody hitting us with sticks. There is nobody oppressing us.

"We want our freedom and democratic rights to express our disappointment and anger with the Chinese authorities.

"This is how a free and open society can be and this is what we want in China ... for the Uighur people."

However, police tackled and arrested one protester after he threw an egg at the consulate gates.

The 41-year-old was issued with a court order for throwing a missile in a public place, police said.

Mr Seyit called on the international community to pressure China after it supported Beijing's successful bid to host the Olympic Games.

"With one hand they open their palms to welcome the people of the world and with the other they are beating and killing Uighur people," he said.

"How on earth can the rest of the world tolerate this injustice against the Uighur people?"

The Uighur association's general secretary Mamtimin Ala said about 2,000 Uighurs live in Australia.

"I strongly urge the Australian government to put diplomatic pressure on China to exercise maximum restraints to handle this problem in a more ration and moral and legal way," Mr Ala said.

Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Ikebal Patel said he deplored the attacks in China's only region with a Muslim majority.

He said a longstanding relationship between Muslims and Chinese for more than 1,400 years should not be allowed to be overtaken by violence and injustice.

"Australian Muslims appeal to the Chinese government to realise that persecution of its Muslims will not go unnoticed nor uncommented upon," Mr Patel said in a statement.

South Australian independent MP Kris Hanna has organised a rally in Adelaide on Thursday calling for the military crackdown in Xianjing to be condemned.

"Just as in Tibet, this is a disturbing case of old-fashioned imperialism by a repressive autocracy intolerant of cultural diversity," Mr Hanna said in a statement.

"In spite of our economic relationship with China, we need to tell Beijing that brutal violence and unjustified killing on ethnic or religious grounds is wrong and an offence to humanity."

AAP - July 8, 2009 - 5:21PM

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