March 16, 2011

European Parliament Calls to End Kashgar Demolition

Deputies from all political corners have today passed an urgency resolution calling upon Beijing to halt the destruction of the Uyhgur city of Kashgar and to find cultural sensitive methods of renovating the city

Below is an article published by UNPO:

On 10 March 2011 the European Parliament has adopted a joint resolution that calls on the Chinese authorities to halt the destruction of the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar.  The city, in the words of European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, represents the “Jerusalem” of Uyghur history and culture but since 2009 it has been steadily razed to the ground as part of the “Kashgar Dangerous House Reform” programme launched in the name of making the city safer in the event of earthquakes.

However the so-called reform programme has been used to resettle thousands of Uyghurs from the historic centre of the city to outlying apartment complexes, denominated as numbered ‘Cities of Happiness’ where Chinese authorities provide gas and electricity supplies but access to mosques and traditional communal activities are difficult.  The new apartment complexes follow grid layouts that will make crowd control and surveillance easier – gone will be the winding alleys and traditional courtyards of the Old City.

These changes and their impact were detailed in a conference held by Frieda Brepoels MEP in the European Parliament on 27 January 2011, 'The City of Kashgar: An Oasis of the Silk Road on the Brink of Extinction'.  Expert testimony and personal accounts culminated in cross-party support for an urgency resolution on the issue and only weeks later all political groups from the European Parliament united in the urgency resolution which will now become the official position of the legislature.

The European Parliament’s resolution calls upon the Chinese authorities to “carry out a comprehensive expert inquiry into culture-sensitive methods of renovation” amid a wider halt to the resettlement and marginalisation of the Uyghur population and provide adequate compensation to those forced to leave their homes.  In a significant move, deputies also reiterated their call on Beijing to enter into a genuine Han-Uyghur dialogue that could ensure equal and inclusive development of East Turkestan.

A call for dialogue was iterated by Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress, in a conference convened by Niccolò Rinaldi MEP and Ivo Vaigl MEP in April 2010 in the European Parliament.  The need for dialogue remains pressing two years after popular protests swept East Turkestan in 2009 and was swiftly crushed by state security forces with thousands detained and many Uyghurs executed after closed door trials.

The European Commission and European External Action Service will now have to find ways to act upon the call of deputies to see a more results–orientated human rights dialogue between the European Union and China and to examine new ways in which the rights of minorities in China can be protected.  Whether they will be successful will depend on the complex interplay between national interests and the human rights element to the EU’s foreign policy strategy after the Lisbon Treaty.  Fresh energy may also be given to the campaign to have Kashgar included in any designation of the Silk Road as a UNESCO world heritage site. 

Note:

To download a transcript of the resolution debate, please click here.  (PDF format, 510kb)

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Media Coverage of the Urgency Resolution

International Business News: MEPs Urge China to Stop the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Uygur Haber Ayansi: European Parliament Kashgar Resolution (Turkish language)

Deutsche Welle: European Parliament: Stop the Destruction of Kashgar (Chinese Language)

Radio Free Asia: Resolution Lacks Teeth

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