Press Release: WUC Calls on International Community to Push Back on Chinese Efforts to Suppress Free Speech Overseas
In light of the brief detention of General Secretary, Dolkun Isa in Rome, Italy last week, the World Uyghur Congress calls on the international community to stand firmly to resist official attempts from the Chinese government to influence the actions of states and international institutions. Increasing pressure by the Chinese government on human rights defenders in recent years calls for a determined response from states who outwardly support internationally agreed upon human rights standards.
China’s most recent attempt to stifle the free speech and movement of human rights defenders came on July 26, 2017, when WUC General Secretary Dolkun Isa was detained by Italian officials outside the entrance of the Italian Senate in Rome, Italy.
Isa was scheduled to speak at a conference organised by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization in collaboration with the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty and hosted by Italian Senator Luigi Compagna, entitled “SOS Rule of Law: The Uyghur Emergency“.
Just prior to entering the Senate Building at around 11:45, Isa was approached by 15-20 General Investigations and Special Operations Division (DIGOS) officers and taken to a nearby police station for an identity check. Following his release at around 15:00, Isa was told that his information was run through the INTERPOL database and that the action was requested by Chinese authorities.
China continues to manipulate the INTERPOL system to its benefit, particularly since the election of China’s former Vice-Minister for Public Security, Meng Hongwei, as president.
The political manipulation of INTERPOL has been felt by many Uyghur activists. World Uyghur Congress General Secretary, Dolkun Isa, had a Red Notice issued against him on the advice of the Chinese government back in 1997 which has impeded some of his work in recent years.
In 2016, he had his visa rescinded for his expected visit to India in April 2016 to attend the 11th Interethnic Interfaith Leadership Conference in Dharamsala. Isa has also been unable to travel to Taiwan for his work and was also detained briefly in South Korea in 2009 and was unable to enter the country to attend the World Forum for Democratization in Asia on account of Chinese pressure.
Investigations into the use of Interpol’s Red Notice (an alert seeking the arrest of an individual wanted by a particular government) have shown serious issues with its use. An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that, “Interpol Red Notices are not only being used for legitimate law enforcement purposes, but to round up political opponents of notorious regimes.”
What has been truly disturbing has also been the blatant accusations by the Chinese Foreign Ministry of human rights defenders committing violence, despite absolutely no evidence to support the absurd claims.
Isa’s arrest in Italy is particularly concerning given that democratic countries lying seemingly outside China’s sphere of influence have, until now, resisted such blatant attempts at manipulation. It is in this context that it is now incumbent upon truly democratic states to ensure that human rights defenders are able to do their work freely without unnecessary impediments.