Uyghurs As Indigenous People; A New UHRP Report Highlights Chinese Government Violations of Uyghurs’ Indigenous Rights

Press Release — For immediate release
5 October 2009
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or

Sixty years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), more than six decades have passed since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the unrest that has taken place in East Turkestan since July 5, 2009, stands as a grim reminder that Uyghurs in East Turkestan continue to experience human rights abuses in nearly every aspect of their lives. Sixty years of Communist rule have left Uyghurs a voiceless, powerless population in their traditional homeland, despite official guarantees regarding the implementation of autonomy. A new report by the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) details the PRC’s violations of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in the case of the Uyghur people.

On September 13, 2007, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), along with 142 other countries, voted to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. By voting for the Declaration, the PRC recognized that indigenous persons are a particularly vulnerable group in general and specifically supported the principles outlined and rights explicitly enumerated in the articles of this long awaited essential human rights Declaration.

In practice, the PRC government violates almost every article of the Declaration that it supported at the UN, routinely violating the fundamental rights of the Uyghur people. Uyghurs’ culture, religion and language are all under attack by the PRC government. Uyghurs do not have substantive control over their own education, media, or employment, and they have no voice in the region’s government. Uyghurs are also denied access to or benefit from East Turkestan’s land and resources.

“While UNDRIP guarantees Uyghurs’ rights across a spectrum of areas, the reality is that Uyghurs are marginalized in their own homeland,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. “Uyghurs also lack access to any mechanism with which they can seek redress for violations of their rights.”

UHRP’s report begins by briefly reviewing the development of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and demonstrating that the Uyghurs are the indigenous people of East Turkestan. The main body of the report then examines the Articles of the Declaration with respect to the Uyghur case, by discussing violations of articles in categories such as Fundamental Rights, Life and Security, and Culture, Religion and Language (among others). The report highlights some of the most egregious ways in which Uyghurs’ fundamental, social and cultural rights are violated by the Chinese government, with respect to international law and often domestic law as well. For instance, in the area of Culture, Religion and Language, the report examines the ways in which the PRC controls the freedom of religion for Uyghurs in East Turkestan, effectively undermining Uyghurs’ identity. In conclusion, the report offers suggestions to address the situation, both to the United Nations and the Chinese government.

The full report can be downloaded here.