Rebiya Kadeer: China's Second Tibet - WSJ.com For Americans, this week is occasion to celebrate their independence and freedom. But for the Uighurs who live primarily in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China, this week serves as a grim reminder of our continued oppression. On July 5, 2009, an initially peaceful Uighur protest in the regional capital, Urumqi, descended into bloodshed. Chinese Communist authorities estimated 197 people were killed. My sources on the ground as well as research conducted by independent human-rights groups suggest that the toll was much higher. In the following days authorities rounded up thousands of men and boys, some as young as 12. Human Rights Watch reported that 43 men and boys disappeared without a trace. The true figure is likely much higher. Why did the demonstration turn violent? Beijing blamed me, as head of the World Uyghur Congress, for stirring up the protesters. That was a lie. The responsibility for the violence lies with the policies of the Chinese authorities. Beijing has deliberately assaulted the Uighur identity of our region by compelling millions of ethnic Han Chinese to settle in the area while coercing Uighurs to move to other parts of the country, citing labor shortages as justification. Several days before the police attacked peaceful protesters on the streets of Urumqi, two Uighur migrant workers were killed at a toy factory in Shaoguan, a city in southern China. This came after accusations began flying that Uighur men had raped Han women. The rumors turned out to be false but by then the damage was done. Once news of the murders reached Urumqi, there were violent clashes between Uighurs and Han Chinese. Then came the July 5 demonstration. Since then Xinjiang has become a second Tibet, occupied by Chinese paramilitary police who harass Uighurs constantly. Human-rights abuses are rife, repression of free speech has increased and access to outside information is severely limited. There is cause for concern that the third anniversary of the Urumqi clashes will further cement China's existing policies. In anticipation of protests, the Chinese authorities have already announced that the temporary residence permits enabling workers from the countryside to remain in Urumqi have been revoked. Every day there are fresh reports of Chinese police raids on Uighur schools and other religious and cultural institutions. Just as Beijing persecutes Christians and Falun Gong followers, it has tried to eliminate the Islamic religion which the majority of Uighurs adhere to. Last month, a 12-year-old boy was killed at an Islamic school that Chinese authorities deemed illegal. To add insult to injury, China defends this discrimination as necessary to fight Islamic extremism. Last year in early July, Beijing declared that the situation in Xinjiang was "good and stable." A fortnight later, 14 people were killed in the town of Khotan after police opened fire on protesters. Since the root cause of Uighur anguish is China's determination to control our region permanently, it follows that stability can only grow from the barrel of a gun. For many years, I have campaigned for Uighur freedom. I have also worked to develop and advance Uighur society. Just before I was incarcerated in a Chinese prison for six years, my main project involved assisting Uighur women to run their own businesses, just as I had done. My experiences brought me to the conclusion that Uighurs will only taste democracy when the outside world understands that there is a moral and strategic imperative to curb China's brutal reign. A recent Council on Foreign Relations report observed that the Uighurs live in a "tough neighborhood." Nonetheless, in an area scarred by religious and ideological fanaticism, we are well-positioned to engender a society ruled by tolerance and the rule of law. Sadly, the world's democracies are moving in the opposite direction. In the last year, New Zealand announced deeper military cooperation with China, and Israel has supplied the regime with new military technology. None of that will stop legitimate Uighur protests. But if we are to move beyond protest to a fair political solution, the world needs to understand that China will continue stirring ethnic and religious hatred in order to persuade outsiders that its continued rule is necessary. How much longer, we Uighurs ask, will the countries whose democratic systems we seek to emulate continue to fall for this line?