Unlike in China, where police officers who kill or “disappear” Uyghurs such as Imammemet Ali are not punished, in the U.S. the officer who killed Floyd went to jail.
by Kok Bayraq
Whataboutism is becoming a daily shield for China when it confront criticism by western countries, especially by USA over the ongoing Uyghur Genocide. Russia uses the same arguments when accused of atrocities in Ukraine. I urge Chinese and Russian officials to accept the truth. Water is not an effective shield against the sun’s more harmful rays. Although the Russian arguments are similar, I will focus here on China.
On April 22, 2022, at a press conference on Xinjiang-related issues in Beijing, the spokesperson of the Government of Xinjiang, Xu Guixiang, raised the water shield again by saying, “The U.S. State Department tirelessly publishes country-by-country human rights reports year after year, accusing China of the human rights situation in many countries and regions. Human rights report, why don’t you talk about the human rights situation in your own country, why don’t you listen to the complaints of the people of the world about the human rights situation in the United States?”
China’s most senior diplomat, Yang Jiechi, the director of the general office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, has told the US that “it is not qualified” to “speak from a position of strength” when criticizing human rights in China, because of its own dirty record.
Sometimes, Chinese officials apply whataboutism to specific incidents. Chinese spokeswoman for the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying has tweeted last year “I can’t breathe” in sympathy with George Floyd. As we all know, the George Floyd case caused mass demonstrations in the USA. And Hua is right, George Floyd’s case is a mirror of the darkest side of American society. However, let’s compare this incident with the case of a “Uyghur George Floyd,” Imammemet Ali.
Last year, a verdict was reached in the jury trial of George Floyd’s killer, Dereck Chauvin, and justice was done. The result of the trial touched the hearts of millions of people around the world, not just in the United States. In February this year, other three police officers who had been involved in the case were found guilty in a federal civil rights trial.
The other George Floyd is Imammemet Ali, a 26-year-old Uyghur engineer who was likely killed by Chinese police in October 2009 at Midongchu Prison in Urumqi. Nobody knelt on the Uyghur prisoner’s neck, but the result was even worse: not only was he probably killed but his body was not returned to the family, which was not informed of the incident. Patigul Ghulam, Imammemet’s mother, received no word officially, despite going eleven times to the detention center in Urumqi where Ali was held and three times to Beijing asking what happened to her son.
A former fellow detainee of Ali has said to Patigul, “Imam was a very good boy; he came back from two interrogations safe and sound, he was very weak by the third time, and he couldn’t stand up when the police brought him back; He didn’t eat for a day, and the next day he vomited blood.” The former detainee continued, “I called the guards and told them Imammemet would be dead if he didn’t get treatment immediately. The next day he was taken away by the police, and he did not return ever. I do not know what happened.” This is the only message that Patigul Ghulam, Ali’s mother, ever got about her son for five years, until she was arrested herself in 2014.
From the available information, we only know that Imammemet was tortured, but we don’t know how. His neck may not have been kneeled on, but perhaps it was his chest or abdomen, because vomiting blood is not a result of pinching or slapping. We know that this Uyghur George Floyd was gravely injured, but we do not know what parts of his body received injuries, because there were no bystanders on the scene who dared to cry out “Stop!” to the Chinese Derek Chauvins. When Ms. Ghulam, who was heartbroken to hear of her son’s probable death, cried out, there were no reporters, because there is no CNN or Washington Post-like media in Urumqi, or even in all of China, that could listen to her story.
It has been almost 13 years since this Uyghur George Floyd was taken from detention after vomiting blood, but still there is no official information on his whereabouts or grave. His mother, who demanded at least confirmation of her son’s death and the return of his body, received no response. In 2014, she was herself detained for two years on charges of leaking state secrets, and in 2017, when the “vocational training centers” were built, she was sent to one of the transformation through education camps to learn how to better keep state secrets.
We believe that the killer of the Uyghur Gorge Floyd was a Chinese police officer, but the request to find out who he was and prosecute him to demonstrate China’s racism and violation of human rights has not been heeded. On the contrary, Imammemet’s de facto attorney Professor Ilham Tohti, who filed a complaint with the Chinese People’s Congress about Ali’s case, was himself detained and sentenced to life in prison on a charge of separatism.
The Uyghur George Floyd, Imammemet Ali, had no pre-existing conditions and was a healthy young engineer who had graduated in 2008 from the South China University of Technology. He had just begun a new job in Urumqi.
He was killed, or “was disappeared,” for his involvement in the July 5, 2009 protests in Urumqi. Prior to his detention, he had “confessed” to his mother, who had “interrogated” him. He had said, “Mom, I had no intention of taking part in the protest. I went to see it. It was the first demonstration I ever saw in my life. The people in front shouted, ‘If you’re a man, don’t just watch, join us now.’ I’m ashamed to go back. Actually, I know that demonstrating does not work in this country.”
When will there be a trial for the torturers or killers of the Uyghur George Floyd, Imammemet Ali? When will information on his fate be provided? When will his mother and de facto attorney Ilham Tohti be released?
If the apparent sense of humanity that Hua Chunying displayed in her tweet about the George Floyd case were sincere, we could expect from her just another tweet saying whether Imammemet Ali is alive or dead.
I know that Hua Chunying will not answer these questions, because Imammemet Ali is not the only Uyghur killed or “disappeared” by police in East Turkistan (Ch. Xinjiang). On one day alone, July 5, 2009, more than thousand detainees disappeared, leaving no bodies to examine, no videos to show what happened to them, no verdicts returned to administer justice. Today, Uyghur detainees are some three million. Only China knows their fate.