PRESS RELEASE: WUC Calls on US President Trump to Substantively Raise Human Rights Concerns During Upcoming Visit
The World Uyghur Congress calls on US President Trump, during his upcoming visit to Beijing next week, to stand firm on past principles of openness and tolerance as well as public support for human rights at home and abroad. Trump should make explicit the United States’ longstanding commitment to supporting the vulnerable and the voiceless in any society – this time he must call on China to cease its unending campaign against the Uyghur population in East Turkestan.
President Trump’s visit to China will mark his first official visit to the country and the third time he and Chinese President Xi Jinping will sit down for formal meetings. The first such meeting did little to inspire confidence among civil society working on human rights in China – to the contrary, the two leaders spoke primarily about the importance of trade and investment.
President Trump’s visit will set the tone for future relations between China and the United States. So far, the administration has stopped noticeably short of even mentioning rights issues as Trump failed to even mention the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Such near total silence on human rights in China has left civil society uneasy as to its perceived importance from the American perspective under the current administration.
East Turkestan has seen an unprecedented crackdown in the region in 2017 including the enforcement of draconian restrictions on religious practice, language rights and freedom of movement. Even the most quotidian religious expression has been criminalised, the Uyghur language has been banned in Hotan prefecture schools, and thousands have been reportedly detained and sent to “re-education” camps in recent months.
The United States remains a critical voice on the world stage and next week’s visit must present an opportunity to push back against Chinese efforts to undermine civil society, jail human rights lawyers, decimate religious and cultural rights for millions, and reach far beyond its borders to influence the treatment of activists overseas and at international institutions.
Continued silence on human rights concerns will merely serve to embolden Chinese leadership and their approach to domestic dissent. The 19th Party Congress last month seemingly affirmed Xi’s vision for the country – a vision that has led to one of the most devastating campaigns against challenges to his own rule and challenges to the Party.
The appointment of Party Secretary for East Turkestan, Chen Quanguo, to serve as a member of the Politburo does well to explain the much harsher policies enacted in the region since the beginning of his tenure. Because sacrificing a chance at positive reform for political gain within the Party remains a powerful component to Chinese politics, the Uyghur population will continue to suffer and develop a deepened sense of resentment.
The world has witnessed the Chinese government brazenly and openly challenge the prevailing narrative of human rights and rule of law as a basis for a just world. The universality of agreed upon and recognized human rights norms has been affirmed by the UN and its member states, so we must stand firm to a principle that sees openness and inclusion as something to be defended at home and abroad.
Whomever occupies the White House has an obligation to call on the Chinese government to protect and respect the rights of their own people. It is therefore incumbent upon the Trump administration to match its rhetoric with a concrete approach that shows that the United States will not sit idly by while millions are deprived of their right to basic cultural expression, children are deprived an education in their mother tongue, prominent academics endure life sentences for baseless charges, or Nobel Peace Prize laureates die in detention.