Weekly Brief May 11th

World Uyghur Congress, 11 May 2017

Uyghur Students Overseas Ordered Back to China

After weeks of speculation, the World Uyghur Congress has learned that thousands of Uyghur students studying abroad have been ordered to return home before May 20 by the Uyghur Autonomous Regional government. Thus far, students studying in Egypt, Turkey, France, Australia, and the United States have already been affected by the orders.

The orders have apparently come in an effort to investigate the political views of the students overseas. In some cases, relatives of the students have been detained for months in an effort to force the students home, as Radio Free Asia reported that a Uyghur student returned to East Turkestan because his parents, brother and sister were all detained. Reports have also indicated that many of the students have been detained since their return.

Uyghur students remain the primary target group of assimilationist policies aimed at eradicating religious practice and the use of the Uyghur language at a young age in favour of Communist ideals. It is unsurprising that actions have been taken against those studying seemingly outside the watchful eye of the Chinese government. China has also used intimidation and threats towards family members of Uyghurs working or studying overseas as a means of controlling dissent for years.

China detains Uyghur Woman Over Social Media Posts

Radio Free Asia reported on May 10 that a young Uyghur woman in East Turkestan was taken into custody for sharing social media posts quoting the Quran and other religious content. The woman was detained in Korla City on May 7 on suspicion of promoting “extremist religious thought.”

The content of the post was considered “extremist religious content” by police which resulted in the arrest. The reaction is likely reflective of the regional government’s recently passed “Regulation on De-extremism” that took effect on April 1 that broadly defines ”extremism” and prohibits bearing “symbols of extremification” as well as “irregular beards or name selection.”

An employee at the  government-backed website Licheng Online Police said that, “People who read this sort of extremist content can undergo personality changes over the long term, so if we don’t nip it in the bud, she could become unrecognizable.”

Police initially received a tip off on the woman’s activity by a local resident, reflecting a new regional policy reported in November 2016 in which residents are required to “report” on any religious activities practiced by fellow residents. In September, the regional government established religious committees and residential communities to manage religious practices of the region’s inhabitants.

Other News:

Sixteen NGOs Release Statement after Expulsion on WUC General Secretary

On May 9, sixteen NGOs joined a statement headed by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) in response to the expulsion of WUC General Secretary Dolkun Isa from the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) on April 26.

China Introduces Drones, Other Measures to Enhance Border Security in East Turkestan

China has planned on deploying drones along with additional surveillance cameras and barbed wire in an effort to “curb infiltration of Uyghur militants.”