World Uyghur Congress Holds Successful Demonstration at the UN, Geneva
The World Uyghur Congress along with the International Campaign for Tibet and the Tibetan Community in Switzerland and Liechtenstein held a successful demonstration march in Geneva, Switzerland, last Friday, September 16th. The group was made up of around 2000 people who marched from Palais Wilson to the Broken Chair Monument across from the Palais des Nations to highlight ongoing human rights violations against the Uyghurs and the Tibetans in China.
World Uyghur Congress Secretary General, Dolkun Isa, in a statement told reporters that, “The demonstration comes amid tremendous pressure against the Uyghur community in East Turkestan in terms of religious freedom and freedom of movement. Uyghurs continue to be detained and sentenced simply for religious practice conducted in their own homes – religious practice outside state-sanctioned mosques is now considered illegal.”
Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet in Germany’s Kai Müller told reporters in an interview that, “The United Nations must be very-very clear vis-a-vis the Chinese Government in terms of the restrictions and the freedom of religion in particular. Countries must seek access to Tibet and also that United Nations Expert should have clear access to Tibet and the Chinese Government must allow this because it’s their duty.”
Müller also added that, “Tibetans and their supporters want to show and demonstrate to the world that this is an important issue and must not be overlooked”.
The primary purpose of the march and demonstration was to bring attention to ongoing human rights violations against Uyghurs and Tibetans, and more specifically, China’s efforts in Geneva to silence civil society from speaking out at international fora like the UN Human Rights Council.
The demonstration also targeted China’s continued and worsening restrictions on religious practice taking place in both Tibet and East Turkestan. Uyghurs have been sentenced to inordinately long jail terms simply for undertaking quotidian religious practices like basic prayer at home or fasting during the holy month of Ramadan – ostensibly protected by China’s own Constitution.
The recent introduction of discriminatory “counter-terror” legislation that targets the Uyghur and Tibetan populations in their entirety also remains troubling as well as the introduction of its repressive Foreign NGO Management Law, considered by most to stand as an instrument to further curtail the work of civil society in the country.
The demonstration has been accompanied by greater efforts in Geneva at the UN as well as at European Parliament – where Ilham Tohti was nominated for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought just the day before the march.