A testimony at the Human Rights Subcommittee of European Parliament by WUC Representative to the EU

WUC, 5 Dec 2011

Below a statement by WUC Representative to the EU, Mehmet Tohti, on 5 December 2011 during the Public Hearing on Human Rights in China and the role of the European Union following the last meeting of the EU China:

Dear Chairwoman

I would like to express my gratitude to Human Rights Subcommittee of European Parliament and to Ms. Barbara Rockbihler, chair of HR subcommittee, for providing us this opportunity to testify today.

I have testified before the House of Commons in Canada in 2006 with regards to Chinese dismal human RIGHTS RECORD and Sino-Canada Human Rights dialogue.  Since then world has tremendously changed, and still is changing. China is not exception, indeed. Unfortunately the changes have taken place in China with respect to Human Rights is moving to opposite direction, especially when Uyghurs Human Rights situation is the case. China is getting more repressive, more authoritarian and more aggressive than ever in cracking down peaceful activism of Uyghur dissidents in compare to situation in 1980-1990 by using all means, including violent military force to their own citizens.  In addition, China is now a leader of exporting authoritarianism and dictatorship to other countries around the world and posing great threat to world order and stability. Therefore we have to talk more about China and its treatment of other people.

I am representing World Uyghur Congress here and working for promotion of democracy and human rights for Uyghurs in East Turkistan under Chinese rule.

Our President Ms. Rebiya Kadeer has testified before this subcommittee and paid visit number of times to European Parliament.

Dear Chairwoman,

China’s long record of human rights violations has been reached in alarming proportions with regards to ethno-cultural minority groups, especially for Uyghur community inhabiting in East Turkestan or renamed as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China’s northwest since 1955.

Despite their living area’s official designation as ‘Autonomous Region’ and China’s official commitment to the promotion of ethnic equality, prevention of discrimination and assistance with culture-sensitive development (Article 4, Chinese Constitution), the Uyghurs are suffering long-standing governmental repression in all areas of life.

Physical security for Uyghurs in East Turkestan is almost non-exist or very low with long continued and non-stopped strike hard campaigns intensified since 1991, and also repeated incidents of violent crackdowns on the peaceful population culminating in the 1997 Ghulja and 2009 Urumqi massacre, and most recent Hoten and Kashgar suppression.

Arbitrary arrests and state punishment of Uyghur dissidents on political, religious and cultural grounds demonstrate the lack of legal justice through politically motivated implications of Chinese criminal code, especially in the application of ESS charges. Han-Chinese settlement programmes have procured social marginalisation of the Uyghur community in East Turkestan, and Beijing’s religious restriction and cultural re-education strategies have alienated Uyghur youths from their cultural sphere, education and employment in their own homeland. Economic exploitation and mass Chinese transfer policy has led to progressive desertification of unique grasslands, and the regional population continues to suffer the consequences of China’s nuclear testing activities confined to the Lop Nur Testing Site in East Turkestan.

Containment under the cover of security

3 key issues should be noted as part of government’s ongoing” security” measures in East Turkistan targeted at Uyghur specifically.

One is destroying Uyghur neighborhoods such as Horse Race square residential areas in Urumqi, traditional Uyghur cities and cultural heritage and scattering Uyghur population into the area of Chinese dominance.

Speedy transfer of Chinese population into region and acceleration of compulsory relocation program of Uyghur youth to Mainland China.

Finally extraordinary number of security cameras that have been installed in traditional Uyghur neighborhoods, streets, any intersections, and highways.

According to the report by Congressional Executive committee on China, “in January 2011, authorities had added almost 17,000 security cameras in the previous year to existing 60,000 surveillance cameras in the city of Urumqi.

Following the demonstrations and sever military repression in Urumqi in July 2009, authorities maintained repressive security policies that targeted peaceful dissent, human rights advocacy, and independent expressions of cultural and religious identity, especially among Uyghurs, which was regarded as “threats” to the region’s stability. Chinese government is continuing to block and cover up information about people tried, disappeared in connection to the July 2009 demonstrations, despite constant reports by overseas media on cases of people imprisoned for peaceful speech and assembly during that time.

Steps that have been taken after “Xinjiang Work Forum”, without participation of any single Uyghur, on May 2010 and implementation of such policies have further strengthen Mandarin education, mass transfer of Chinese immigrants from mainland China to the region, tougher control of religion and set a target to accomplishment of “bilingual education: from Kindergarten to all education system by 2015.  Harsh repressive policies and measures like this have created less space for Uyghurs to maintain their social, linguistic and cultural life, being pushed to further marginalization.  Tight control over religion continued to be reinforced by maintaining much wider restrictions on religious practice such as door-to-door surveillances, person-to-person control and harsh ban on publication and public gatherings.

According to report by Barbara Demick, from Los Angeles Times on September 11, 2011, Authorities reinforced man-to man control system and in some schools forced Uyghur teachers to escort their students for lunch during this year’s Ramadan and took all measures to make sure that students were eating rather than fasting.

Authorities defined ‘‘23 kinds Of illegal religious activity,’’ including ‘‘letting students pray,’’ conducting certain Islamic practices pertaining to marriage and divorce, holding private religious instruction classes, ‘‘distorting religious doctrine,’’ etc and applied punishments for those who are failed to follow.

CECC report highlights that “Villages within Hoten district and other localities implemented and expanded a system of ‘‘voluntary pledges’’ to regulate villagers’ behavior and to fine villagers for noncompliance, placing special emphasis on the pledges to curb ‘‘illegal religious activity.’’ In January 2011, Court in Shihenze (Shihezi in Chinese) municipality sentenced Muslim religious leaders Qahar Mensur and Muhemmed Tursun to three years’ imprisonment in connection to storing and distributing ‘‘illegal religious publications,’’ which Shihenze residents described as retaliation after Qahar Mensur refused to comply with government demands such as bringing government documents into the mosque where he worked.

Also Uyghurs today continues to be subjected job hiring discrimination in public and private sectors.

Tough Security Measures and public uprising for survival.

Blind-folded military and security crackdown by Chinese government on Uyghur population in East Turkistan has not solved any problems, instead created more discontents and angers among Uyghur population against both Chinese government and Chinese immigrants. Traditional homes and lands where Uyghurs used to live and work over the centuries are now being taken away by government and distributed them as welcome gifts to newly arrived Chinese immigrants for free. Railroad connection to Kashgar has resulted in increased number of Chinese immigrants in the city and destruction of the Uyghur neighborhoods and traditional cultural centers like 2000 years old Kashgar city. Recent connection of railway to Hoten and mass Chinese transfer initiatives of government to Hoten has opened the similar door of land and property grab from Uyghur residents. Many Uyghurs lost their lands and properties by force without proper compensation. Recent regional law that guarantees free land for all Chinese developers has already motivated and accelerated the speed of Chinese immigrants flow to the region. Kashgar and Hoten incidents took place on July this years has no better explanation than out bursting anger of Uyghurs towards both government and Chinese immigrants.

Different application of laws and tougher Controls Over Free Expression

Today all Uyghur activists around the world have to pay heavy price for the policy of Chinese government taking their family members as hostage to pressure upon them to stop their activism. Our President Rebiya Kadir’s two sons are in jail today for their mother’s peaceful campaign for the right of Uyghurs.

Same can be said to the application of ESS (Endangering State Security) to Uyghurs. Especially after July 2009, government authorities and people’s court issued “guidelines” for trying cases connected ESS, including “3 evil forces”, cases of “influencing ethnic unity and social harmony and stability”.  Issued order also called for dispatching “politically steadfast” judges to Uyghur region. Number of prosecution on the base of ESS has been sharply rising among Uyghurs and with latest conviction of Uyghur bloggers and webmasters, ESS charges now are applying widely to independent writers, Internet publishers, bloggers and any one associated with web design to management for severe prosecution.

Gulmira Imin, Gheyret Niyaz, Nijat Azat, Dilshat Perhat, and Nureli are some of the Uyghur names that have received life and long-term imprisonment for being webmasters and bloggers of various Uyghur websites. Uyghur journalist and Webmaster Memetjan Abdulla received a life sentence in April 2010 in apparent connection to translating an announcement calling on Uyghurs to hold demonstrations in July 2009 and in connection to interviews he gave to foreign journalists.  In March 2011 of Uyghur webmaster Tursunjan Hezim sentenced seven-year following his detention in the aftermath of the July 2009, demonstrations.

Language Policy and Bilingual Education

“Bilingual” education has started in 2002 and expanded rapidly throughout East Turkistan. Nearly 10 years of this policy Mandarin language has become only language of instruction starting from Kindergarten to Universities and caused all Uyghur schools to merge with Chinese schools. According to CECC report “the regional government and Party Committee issued a 10-year education reform plan in January 2011 that provides “bilingual education’’ to non-Han students and reach a coverage rate of 75%.  Minimum of 1,000 elementary school teachers dismissed since 2010, according to one report.

And in some cases, authorities detained teachers for protesting ‘‘bilingual’’ policies or dismissals from their teaching posts.

Forced Return of Uyghur Asylum Seekers and Migrants

Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia are now known to be deporting Uyghurs to China. International community has paid some attention on Uyghur refuges issue after 20 Uyghurs deported from Cambodia to China despite repeated effort of US and UNHCR, December 2009.

Deported Uyghur refuges to China simply disappeared without any clues or reports so far. Chinese government is consistently refusing to provide any information about whereabouts of Uyghurs refuges. Most striking development is that the Chinese government is using its rising power and economical clout as a tool to force neighboring countries to ignore and violate their international commitments and laws they signed on to extradite Uyghur refuges back to China. Thus Uyghur refuges are now being treated as commodities by some neighboring countries to appease China to get financial and other benefits. The forceful return of Uyghur asylum seekers by those countries violates the principle of non-refoulement as stipulated in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The forced returns from Cambodia, Laos, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Thailand are among several documented cases of forced deportation in recent years, highlighting the ongoing risks of refoulement and torture that Uyghur asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants have faced in neighboring countries under the sway of China’s influence and its disregard for international law.

Dear Chair

There are plenty of areas of gross and systematic violations of Human Rights for Uyghurs we can discuss in details.  Due to time limitation I am unable to go one by one.

As summary I request European Parliament:

Stand firm in upholding and reinforcing the basic values of humanity, principle of Human Rights, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and democracy when dealing with China, specifically put the Human Rights situation of Uyghurs at the core of its agenda,
Use all possible and available venues and resources to put enough pressure on to China for stopping mass transfer of Chinese settlers into region and changing already broken demographics there. Constantly remind them that Uyghur Autonomous Region means that Uyghurs should be the one who exercises autonomous right by Chinese constitutional definition.

Call on Chinese government to respect the right of Uyghurs, including the right of worship, rights to use and develop their own language, maintain their cultural and historic legacies and heritage in their own homeland.

To nominee Ms. Rebiya Kadeer for Sakharov Peace prize in 2012.

To push Chinese government to release all political prisoners, provide exact information on already extradited Uyghurs refuges and their whereabouts.

Thank you

The programme of the hearing is available here.

See also:

Video recording of the Public hearing on Human Rights in China and the role of the European Union following the last meeting of the EU China Human Rights Dialogue
Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), European Parliament, 5 December 2011

Yawropa parlaméntida uyghurlar heqqide guwahliq bérish yighini ötküzüldi
RFA, 5 Dec 2011

DROI Hearing on Human Rights in China
UNPO, 14 December 2011