European Parliament Conference: Is the Chinese Leadership Ready For Dialogue? Perspectives on the Uyghur Issue
UNPO, 28 November 2013
Brussels – The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), in collaboration with Niccolò Rinaldi MEP and the World Uyghur Congress, convened a conference entitled ‘Is the Chinese Leadership Ready for Dialogue? Perspectives on the Uyghur Issue’ at the European Parliament, Brussels. The aim of the conference was to address important regional minority human rights and security challenges, and to create a platform for dialogue on the opportunities for ways forward. Also present to support the initiative were Csaba Sógor and Cristiana Muscardini MEP.
The bravery of Uyghur human rights activists deeply contrasts with the lack of bravery of the international community in pressing Chinese authorities for dialogue and reform, noted Marino Busdachin, UNPO General Secretary, who opened the conference. Inspired by moving Uyghur poetry read by Enver Can of the World Uyghur Congress, the convener of the conference Niccolò Rinaldi MEP, noted that culture is a powerful rallying force and that the very rich Uyghur poetry tradition reflects their spirit of resistance. The “people of East Turkestan are far from resigned, they are there to fight” showing no sign of unwillingness to continue to protect their identity, he explained. It is hard to achieve sustainable stability without human rights considerations, he added.
Rebiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress, drew attention to the unbearable perpetual suffering of the Uyghurs, but also to the profound fragility of China caused by ethnic tensions. Only once China stops using divide and rule tactics will China experience democratic change, she added. “Are Uyghurs not entitled to this dream?” she questioned. In China, human rights have not developed at the same rate as the rapid economic growth, but the human rights abuses could have been avoided had the international community displayed interest and exerted appropriate pressure on China, said Haluk Ahmet Gümüş, member of the Turkish Parliament. “The more China opens up to the international community, the more it increases the pressure on ethnic groups inside the country”, he observed. Speaking from the Indian perspective, Mahesh Ranjan Debata, a scholar from New Delhi, introduced the audience to the historical, cultural and civilizational ties between India and East Turkestan and called upon the Uyghur community to start talking and raising the issue among the Indian public.
As an academic, Bruno De Cordier, Professor at Ghent University, analyzed the lack of European or global mechanisms for dealing with minority rights violations and ethnic conflict resolution. According to him, independence is not the solution; instead East Turkestan should remain a de facto autonomous province, with rehabilitation of language, entrepreneurship, as well as redistribution of income from oil and gas industries. “When will the EU understand we are sitting on a time-bomb in East Turkestan?”, asked Ulrich Delius, of the Society for Threatened Peoples, who was critical of the European Commission, the European Council and EU member states for remaining silent on the persecution of Uyghurs. The last speaker, Kilic Bugra Kanat from Penn University argued the international community should not forget the need for a more strategically relevant campaign for spreading information about violations and concluded that “there is some homework for the Uyghur diaspora and human rights activists”.
With around 60 participants, hailing from the Uyghur community and the EU institutions, the conference was a definite success, giving voice to a pressing issue and re-affirming the need for the EU to consider it in its relations with China.