World Uyghur Congress Conference Unveils China’s Silenced Crimes Through Dialogue
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, 25 April 2014
UNPO – From 13 to 16 April 2014, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), and Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), with the financial support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), convened a conference entitled ‘The Silenced Crimes Against Humanity: Enforced Disappearances, Arbitrary Arrests and Extra-Judicial Killings of Uyghurs in China’ in Munich, Germany. The aims of the conference were to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the violent, systematic and widespread violations of minority human rights, to raise awareness about the growing practice of enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings as a tactic of silencing dissent, and finally, to create a platform for dialogue on the opportunities for ways forward.
The conference commenced with an Uyghur cultural evening; a show of colorful Uyghur dances, moving musical performances, and captivating poetry reading organized by the Uyghur diaspora community. On 14 April, the conference was officially opened with remarks by Iva Petkovic on behalf of Marino Busdachin (UNPO), Ulrich Delius (STP) and Louisa Coan-Greve (NED), who collectively stressed the importance of defending the defenders, and finding new strategies of raising peaceful Uyghur voices. An intervention was delivered by Marco Pannella (Non-Violent Radical Party) later in the day, further expressing solidarity with the Uyghurs in East Turkestan.
During Panel I, entitled ‘Under the “Reformer”’s Gaze: Xi Jinping and Growing Resentment of Human Rights Violations in China’, Enver Tohti (Expert of the ‘Lop Nor Project’), Vittorio Pagliaro (Second University of Naples) and Umit Hamit (WUC) discussed current inter-ethnic relations in China, State-sponsored discrimination and the minority human rights violations faced by Uyghurs in East Turkestan. Panel II continued with Peter Irwin’s insights into the complex forces, which have underpinned Chinese policies in East Turkestan following the Urumqi incident, Ethan Guttman’s presentation in which he shared his field research and expertise in the areas of organ harvesting, and an emotional and heart-breaking witness testimony by Gulbahar from the 5 July 2009 uprisings.
On April 16, the conference continued with Panel III, as Alim Seytoff (Uyghur American Association) discussed the fate of the disappeared, noting that the number of documented cases is just the tip of the iceberg. He was joined by Erkin Emet (Ankara University), who discussed the history and politics of migration and deportation of Uyghurs, raising the question of the limited power of Uyghur diaspora and allies to influence Governments, media and civil society to create public pressure abroad. Aileen Bacalso’s (Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances) intervention ended on a positive note; “let us turn fear into courage in the continuing struggle for truth, justice, reparation for those who disappeared and whose memory must never ever be forgotten,” she encouraged.
Panel VI addressed the China’s tactics of divide and rule, systematic promotion of fear and intimidation, ruthless assimilation, lack of representation, lack of rule of law or democratic values with speeches by Iva Petkovic (UNPO), Ulrich Delius (STP) and Perhat Muhammedi (East Turkestan Union In Europe). The themes touched upon during Panel III and VI, ranging from enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings, were reinforced by an evocative photo exhibition and documentary about enforced disappearances of Uyghurs in East Turkestan. The audience benefitted from hearing the story of Patigul, an Uyghur mother whose son had been disappeared, on Radio Free Asia.
The last panel opened the discussion about concrete strategies for ending crimes against humanity with contributions from Nury Turkel (Uyghur Human Rights Project) and Aileen Bacalso (AFAD), which inspired Louisa Coan-Greve’s (NED) closing remarks, in which she highlighted the need for further research, education, awareness raising, and strengthened coalition work.
The conference, which was attended by more than 60 participants ranging from international experts, politicians, international NGOs, and Uyghur human rights advocates from more than 15 countries, highlighted the need for renewed and strengthened efforts, and a world-wide action plan to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the 5 July 2009 incident.