Rabiye Kadeer

In Eastern Turkistan (Xinjiang to China), another tragic disaster has occurred. Dozens and maybe hundreds of our Uyghurs died in a fire in front of the world.

By their very nature, the Chinese authorities showed no mercy in this incident. No officers broke into the building or the locks for hours, as the fire roared out of control. The official reason was that the road was narrow, and parked cars blocked the way to the building. It took three hours for them to attempt to extinguish the fire, despite firefighters arriving at the scene within five minutes. Where were the skills and courage of Chinese police who had previously stormed into buildings at lightning speed and dragged suspects from their beds into the street during the July 5th Urumqi incident? During a violent incident, the Chinese Special Forces can clear the area within five minutes, but they need three hours to extinguish a fire? 

Clearly, they did not want to save residents who were burning in the building because they were Uyghurs. Those who were crying and begging did not speak the national (Chinese) language. Perhaps the residents were even afraid to be rescued, knowing that the firefighters were waiting for orders from higher authorities in Beijing to take action against the current lockdown policy. The women and children bid farewell to the world as they stood and wept until the order to break the locks came.

Of course, this is not the saddest tragedy that Uyghurs are facing, but it is the most obvious, and China is unable to hide it. We have heard of and felt even more tragic scenes in prisons, camps, and starving communities over the past three months in the lockdown area. However, China is ignoring and hiding these facts with media restrictions.

In a press release about the disaster, China also put forth numerous lies. Statements from residents of the burning building never left their homes. Chinese officials used this opportunity to circulate the following statement on the Internet: “This was a light  COVID-19 area, and the residents were able to leave the building.” This lie is a clear indication of the falsehood of the information that only 10 people died and only 9 were injured.

From the information we received, we know that at least 40 people died, and more than 60 people were injured in the disaster. Three floors of the building were burned, and the other four floors were filled with smoke. The fire lasted for hours. It is clear that the damage was not limited to the 19 people mentioned in the official account.

One of the stories about the victims is that while a woman named Qembernisa was burning to death with her three children, her husband and eldest son, who were sentenced to 10 and 12 years in prison, respectively, were not with them. Her burned five-year-old   daughter  was born while her father was in prison, and her father had not seen her yet. The grill was counting the months and years until she saw her father and older brother. 

Chinese authorities, at the 7th days of the incident, still hiding identities of victims, mainly because of they were Uyghurs.

The Chinese government should immediately disclose list of victims and provide an accurate report on the number of dead and injured in the disaster, take responsibility for the disaster, and publicly apologize to the families of the victims. I know that Chinese authorities who are committing genocide in our homeland will not take responsibility for this on their own, so I call on the international community to demand an independent investigation in the region to determine the facts of the situation and to appropriately punish China.

On this occasion, I would like to express my gratitude to the Turkish government for calling on the Chinese to report the details of the incident and  I requesting that other countries, such as the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and India, not turn a blind eye to this tragedy, which was caused by China’s zero COVID policy. I appreciate their call to others to show a righteous attitude and position on such human tragedy!