Uyghurs' anger flares up in Oslo
July 8, 2009
Two persons were injured and nearly a dozen arrested late Tuesday afternoon, when more than 100 people protesting recent violence against Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province vented their anger at the Chinese Embassy. They tried to get past police blockades of the embassy and also tried to attack a local Chinese restaurant.
It’s the latest incident of demonstrations held by local ethnic groups against embassies or the Foreign Ministry in Norway. So far this year, police have dealt with sometimes violent protests by Oslo residents supporting the Tamils in Sri Lanka, opposing military dictators in Burma and Chinese authorities in Tibet, or demonstrating against the outcome of elections in Iran.
This time it was as many as 150 Uyghurs in Norway who marched through downtown Oslo, burned Chinese flags and assembled outside the Chinese Embassy in Oslo’s fashionable Vindern district. They threw bottles and flag poles at the embassy building and police had to physically hold them back.
“The despair felt by many is so great that it gave way to this,” Semet Abla, leader of the Norwegian Uyghur Committee, told newspaper Dagsavisen .
“Many of the demonstrators have lost close family members in recent days,” he added, referring to the violence in what’s officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China.
Around 500 Uyghurs live in Norway “and feel powerless,” Abla said. “We demonstrated to encourage the Norwegian authorities to get involved. We must direct attention to the terrible situation in our homeland.”
He claimed the Chinese authorities are making “arbitrary” arrests of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and that “several hundred” Uyghurs have been killed.
Abla said he expected more protests in the days to come, in Norway and elsewhere. Demonstrations also broke out in Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands, where the Chinese Embassy in The Hague was forced to close and around 100 protesters were arrested by Dutch police.
The Uyghurs have received some support in Norway, not least after the Uyghur businesswoman and human rights advocate Rebiya Kadeer won the Rafto Prize, awarded annually by a foundation in Bergen, in 2004. Chinese authorities widely blame Kadeer for being behind the violence in Urumqi in Xinjiang the past week, much like they have blamed the Dalai Lama for protests in Tibet.