Weekly Brief August 4th

World Uyghur Congress, 4 August 2017

WUC General Secretary Briefly Detained in Rome, Italy

On 26 July 2017, Dolkun Isa, General Secretary of the World Uyghur Congress and UNPO Member, was arrested by 15-20 General Investigations and Special Operations Division (DIGOS) officers outside the entrance of the Italian Senate. Isa was scheduled to speak at a conference organised by UNPO in collaboration with the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty and hosted by Senator Luigi Compagna, entitled “SOS Rule of Law: The Uyghur Emergency“.

Isa went to the offices of the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty at around 10:30 and was stopped by police on the way to the Senate. He was then taken to a police station for an identity check. Isa was then released  around 15:00 and brought directly back to the offices of the Party. Following his release, Isa was told that his information was run through the INTERPOL database and that the action was requested by Chinese authorities.

The incident was unfortunately not the first faced by the WUC’s General Secretary as he has encountered problems travelling in the past to attend international fora. Isa was recently  was recently escorted out of the UN premises in New York during the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues without justification. In each case, the Chinese government has played a significant role in putting pressure on governments and institutions.

China Bans Uyghur Language in Hotan Prefecture

Radio Free Asia reported on July 28 that the Uyghur language has been banned at all education levels up to and including secondary school in Hotan prefecture. Although the policy covers only schools in the single prefecture, it may be extended across the entire region in the future considering China’s continued efforts at eroding the Uyghur language.

Hotan’s Education Department argued that eliminating the Uyghur language will actually, “strengthen elementary and middle/high school bilingual education,” which may seem paradoxical, but given the actual meaning of ‘bilingual education’ in this context, it’s completely understandable. For the regional government, ‘bilingual education’ has never meant to maintain both Mandarin and Uyghur at the same level in terms of teaching, but to transition Uyghur students at all levels from education in their mother tongue to education in Chinese.

We can see this in the increasing funding for the program as well as the drastic increases in number of Uyghur students who are now enrolled. In 1995, 5,533 students were enrolled in ‘bilingual’ schools, by 2007 it was 294,000, by 2010, 994,300 and by 2012, 1,410,000. The regional government has now set a target of 2,600,000 students in East Turkestan by 2020 which constitutes nearly all non-Chinese students.

Article 37 of the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law also explicitly guarantees language rights for ethnic minority students: “Schools (classes) and other educational organizations recruiting mostly ethnic minority students should, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use these languages as the media of instruction.”

Ten More Uyghur Students Returned to China

Amnesty International reported on August 1 that another 10 Uyghurs were returned to China from July 11-14 from detention centers in and around Cairo. Despite condemnation from human rights groups and Uyghur exiles around the world, Egypt’s sweeping crackdown on Uyghur students continued as even more were rounded up and detained in July.

According to Radio Free Asia, at least 200 Uyghurs, many of them religious students at Al-Azhar religious university, have been detained by Egyptian authorities. Those who have been detained now are at serious risk of being forcibly deported to China. According to the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) 12 Uyghur students were already deported to China on July 6.

Turkey to Block Anti-China Media and Strengthen Security Relationship

China and Turkey have agreed to strengthen their security relationship and “root out militants plotting against China” as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with Chinese officials in Beijing from August 2-3. In addition, Cavusoglu alluded to bizarre restrictions on criticism of China in the media, stating that, “We will take measures to eliminate any media reports targeting China”.

12 Year Old Uyghur Boy Forced to Undergo Political Re-education

Chinese authorities have detained a 12-year-old Uyghur boy and have reportedly forced him to  undergo political re-education after his parents were arrested after returning home from Egypt five months ago. Buzorigul Rishit and her husband, Memet Abla, took their 12-year-old son home from Egypt to Kashgar prefecture where they were arrested by Chinese authorities while their son was placed in the custody of the local government for surveillance.