September 1, 2009 / 3:25 PM / 9 years ago

EU parliament rights head calls for Uighur inquiry

* Human rights head wants independent international inquiry

* Inquiry should be conducted by U.N. with EU backing



BRUSSELS, Sept 1 (Reuters) - The head of the European Parliament’s human rights committee backed a call on Tuesday for an independent international inquiry into deadly riots in northwest China’s Xinjiang region in July. "We have got some quite worrying information about events of July 5," Heidi Hautala told a joint news conference with Rebiya Kadeer, exiled leader of China’s largely Muslim Uighur ethnic group who earlier addressed the parliamentary committee.

"I believe that there is a case for an independent international investigation so that all human rights violations from all sides can be cleared and investigated," Hautala said.

She said such an inquiry should be conducted by the United Nations with the backing of the European Union.

In Xinjiang’s worst ethnic violence in decades, Uighur rioters attacked majority Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5 after taking to the streets to protest against attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in south China in June in which two Uighurs died. Han Chinese in Urumqi sought revenge two days later.

The violence left 197 people dead, mostly Han Chinese, and wounded more than 1,600, according to official figures.

Uighurs, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia, make up almost half of Xinjiang’s 20 million people.

Kadeer said some 10,000 Uighurs were missing following the riots and accused the Chinese Communist government of pursuing a policy resembling "cultural genocide" in what Uighurs call East Turkestan.

She called in July on the international community to send an independent investigative team to the site of the riots.

"The arrests and detentions continue," she told the news conference, adding that most were teenage students who, she said, were being tortured in detention.

Kadeer accused the Chinese authorities of using the international battle against Islamist militancy and the global economic downturn as pretexts to repress the Uighur people. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Louise Ireland)



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