World Uyghur Congress 6th General Assembly Opens in Munich, Germany

World Uyghur Congress, 11 November 2017

The 6th General Assembly of the World Uyghur Congress opened yesterday on 10 November 2017 in Munich, Germany. The meeting began with an opening ceremony in which the leadership of the World Uyghur Congress and distinguished guests gave opening remarks expressing support for the Uyghur struggle for human rights and democracy in China and discussing the challenges and opportunities ahead. The ceremony started with speeches from the WUC leadership, including a video recorded speech from WUC President Rebiya Kadeer and followed by remarks from the WUC General Secretary, Dolkun Isa and Vice-President Omer Kanat.

Following these introductory remarks, distinguished guests including Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), MPs from the German national government, politicians from the Bavarian regional government, academics and representatives from civil society and human rights NGOs delivered speeches expressing support, solidarity and advice for the Uyghur cause.

The first to speak was Margarete Bause, who was elected to the Bundestag for the Green Party in the recent national elections. Margarete Bause spoke on her experience learning about the Uyghur struggle for human rights during the past 11 years in Munich and said that she would use her new position in the Bundestag to advocate for the rights of the Uyghur people and human rights in general.

Bernd Posselt, a German politician, former MEP and current member of the executive board of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU), then took the floor. He emphasised that the situation in China has deteriorated rapidly and that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that human rights are respected

Helga Trüpel, a German MEP and member of the Uyghur Friendship Group in the European Parliament expressed her support for the WUC’s struggle for human rights, rule of law and cultural autonomy in China.

Norman Baker, President of the Tibet Society and former UK Minister of State at the Home Office, expressed solidarity with the Uyghur cause and noted the deteriorating human rights situation facing the Uyghur and Tibetan people in China. He stated that “Your struggle is our struggle. When one of us isn’t free, none of us are free.”

Louisa Greve, formerly the Vice-President of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the United States, outlined how grave the situation in East Turkestan was becoming. She offered advice for the World Uyghur Congress, saying there must be a step up in efforts to counter Chinese ‘influence operations’ overseas, a recommitment and reinforcement of democratic principles and that the WUC must unite with like minded organisations concerned with human rights in China to advocate for human rights and democracy in a unified voice.

The General Secretary of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), Marino Busdachin, took the floor to speak about the great challenges organisations such as UNPO and the WUC face in the contemporary climate. He also highlighted the activities and achievements that UNPO and the WUC have been able to achieve together in the past few years, especially the recent formation of a Uyghur Friendship Group in the European Parliament.

The next speaker was Thubten Wangen, a member of the Tibetan Government in Exile, based in Barcelona. He spoke about the Tibetans struggle for freedom and human rights and expressed solidarity with the Uyghur people. He ended his remarks with a message to Xi Jinping: “everything is impermanent, power will not last forever… economy is important, but not as important as human rights and people”.

Laura Harth from the Nonviolent Radical Party then spoke on the need for the world to know what was happening to the Uyghur people in East Turkestan. We all have a responsibility to stand up for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, she stated.

Hanno Schedler from the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) spoke on advocacy efforts in the United Nations and challenges posed by an increasingly assertive China. He underlined this by pointing China’s attempts to intimidate the German city of Weimar from giving its human rights award to Ilham Tohti, saying, “”We need to stop the Chinese Communist Party from hacking public opinion”.

Ilham Tohti Initiative President and cofounder of the WUC, Enver Can, concluded the Opening Ceremony by reflecting on the past and thinking about the future of the WUC. He asserted that: “the WUC General Assembly must see this as a turning point to improve and energize its advocacy”.

In the afternoon session, the Uyghur delegates presented their activity reports for the past year. Uyghur activists and community leaders from across the world took the opportunity to inform those in attendance of the Uyghur-related advocacy activities being conducted in their respective countries and to discuss the most pressing issues for the Uyghur communities in their respective countries.

Day 2 of the General Assembly begins today, 11 November 2017. Elections will be held to determine the new leadership of the World Uyghur Congress and the delegates will discuss the future, direction and strategy of the organisation.