Weekly Brief September 29
World Uyghur Congress, 29 September 2017
WUC Expresses its Deep Concern Over the Disappearance of 16 Uyghur Students in Egypt
Following reports that 16 Uyghur students had disappeared in Egypt, the World Uyghur Congress issues a press release calling on Egyptian authorities to immediately reveal the whereabouts of the students who have been forcibly disappeared in Cairo. The recent disappearances merely exacerbate already-present violations against Uyghur students who have been arbitrarily detained since early July.
Recent reports have indicated that those disappeared, who made up a larger group of Uyghurs detained in Egypt since July 4th, were whisked away in black hoods by armed police to an unknown location. Such an action heightens fears that they may be forcibly returned to China in the coming days–a move in clear violation of international law and one that could leave the victims at serious risk of arbitrary detention and even torture.
At least 22 Uyghur students have already been forcibly deported from Egypt as 12 were returned on July 6th from the Cairo airport while attempting to flee to Turkey according to the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), and another 10 were returnedbetween July 11 and 14, as reported by Amnesty International.
The detentions in Egypt come on the heels of a broader campaign targeting Uyghurs overseas in which thousands of students have been forced home by the Chinese government from Turkey, France, Australia, and the United States. Upon return to China many have been immediately arrested, with some being sent to re-education camps where they are subjected to propaganda promoting Chinese identity.
As it now stands, all those who remain in detention are at serious risk of return to China, particularly those whom the international community is unable to contact or determine their whereabouts. Uyghurs who have been forcibly returned in the past are very often imprisoned, tortured or disappeared with nearly no information or communication from victims.
Chinese Authorities Jail 6 Uyghur Students After Return From Turkey
Six Uyghur student who had been studying abroad in Turkey were arrested by Chinese authorities on their return to East Turkestan and were sentenced to jail terms from 5-12 years in August 2017. The 6 students, consisting of 3 males and 3 females, were reportedly sent to a reeducation camp immediately upon their return in June 2017, before their sentencing, to “implement correct thought”. According to a source for Radio Free Asia, an official investigation had been carried out by Chinese authorities which determined that the students had never been involved in “abnormal activities” and “their only intentions were to study”.
Muslims in East Turkestan Ordered to Hand Over All Copies of the Quran to Chinese Police
A new order from the Chinese police has told all Muslims in East Turkestan to hand in all copies of the Quran to the police or face harsh punishment if they are found later, according to Radio Free Asia. Announcements sent by Chinese police via the mobile application WeChat have called on Muslims to voluntarily hand over all Qurans, prayer mats, any religious reading material and any products from Kazakhstan to the police. The announcements stressed that these items should be handed over voluntarily, but if anyone was found with them in their possession at a later date, they would face harsh punishment.
This comes after strict amendments to the Regulation on Religious Affairs were passed at the beginning of this month, giving the Chinese authorities even further control over religious institutions and increasing punishments for the peaceful practice of religion. The Chinese government has been ramping up efforts to control every aspect of religious practice in East Turkestan. The confiscation of Qurans is another very worrying development in this trend of religious persecution.
Human Rights Groups Call on China to Stop Misusing Interpol
As Interpol convened its 86th General Assembly this week, from 26-29 September, in Beijing China, human rights organisations called on China to stop from using Interpol to harass and target dissidents and human rights defenders. Human Rights Watch wrote an open letter to Interpol’s Secretary General Jürgen Stock, expressing their deep concerns over China’s abuse of the organisation, especially related to their misuse of Interpol’s ‘red notice’ system. The ‘red notice’ system is essentially a means by which a country can request that other states arrest a named individual. Despite the fact that new regulations in Interpol have stipulated that the red notice system should not be politically motivated, China has ignored these and has repeated used the red notices to harass human rights defenders and political dissidents and hamper their freedom of movement.
The General Secretary of the World Uyghur Congress, Dolkun Isa, has been the target of a politically motivated red notice, which has made it impossible for him to travel to many countries and has resulted in a number of distressing incidents. Most recently, Isa was prevented from speaking at a press conference at the Italian Senate, where he was invited by Italian Senators to speak, and was detained by Italian police for 3 hours. The Italian police informed him that he was detained because he was the subject of an Interpol red notice. Although he was later released, he was not able to speak at the Italian Senate.
Furthermore, there are major concerns about Interpol’s ability to adhere to human rights obligations under the leadership of the new president, Meng Hongwei. Meng Hongwei is also the vice minister of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, which is controlled by the CCP and is instrumental in keeping their grip on Power. Meng Hongwei is also the head of China’s Office of the National Counterterrorism Working Group and focuses on East Turkestan. In this capacity, the Working Group has consistently falsely conflated peaceful political advocacy with terrorism in East Turkestan. Therefore, Meng Hongwei’s neutrality must be questioned and his motivations for politically motivated actions against Dolkun Isa and other human rights activists are apparent.