Society For Threatened Peoples UN Human Rights Council Statement Re: Uyghurs

Society for Threatened Peoples, 13 March 2017

Thank you Mr. President,

I am speaking on behalf of the Society for Threatened Peoples to bring the Council’s attention to the worsening situation facing the Uyghur population from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.

As I am speaking midway through the holy month of Ramadan, the Chinese government has again implemented restrictions on religious practice seen almost nowhere else.

As for the past ten years, Uyghur students, teachers, government employees and party members have all been prohibited from fasting. On top of this, in Hotan prefecture, hundreds of Chinese Communist Party cadres have moved in with Uyghur families to make sure residents neither fast nor pray. Restaurants have also been forced to remain open during daylight hours.

In addition, over the past 6 months, thousands of Uyghur students studying overseas in Egypt, Turkey, France, Australia, and the United States have been forced to return to China.

In some cases, relatives of the students have been detained for months in an effort to force the students home. In one case, a Uyghur student returned because his brother, sister and parents were all detained. Reports have also indicated that many of the students have been detained since their return.

The Chinese government has extended efforts directed at Uyghur youth in 2017. Just this month, the Region’s Public Security Bureau posted an order requiring all Uyghur parents to change the names of children under the age of 16 if they are among the 29 names listed as “overly religious,” pursuant to a more vague ban announced in late April.

Names including Islam, Quran, Mecca and Imam have all been banned under a recently implemented “Regulation on De-extremification.”

The same Regulation has also led to the criminalsation of the growing of beards of an innappropriate length or clothing and symbols considered “too Islamic.” Wearing the crescent moon for example can easily lead to jail time.

On top of this China has destroyed thousands of mosques and continues to prevent those under 18 from entering those that still stand. All religious activities performed outside these venues are now considered “illegal religious practice” and subject to long prison terms.

So far we have not heard any objections from states professing the importance of religious and cultural freedom, nor have we heard from Muslim-majority states about protecting the most basic rights of Muslims during Ramadan.

Only through continued and constructive dialogue can genuine progress be made, and that’s something we urge China and all UN member states to enter into as a first step.

Thank you.