Weekly Brief November 24th

World Uyghur Congress, 24 November 2017

WUC Expresses Concern Over Uyghurs Who Recently Escaped from Thai Immigration Detention Facility

The World Uyghur Congress issued a press release expressing its deep concerned over the treatment of Uyghurs who had recently escaped their immigration detention facility in southern Thailand. Consistent rhetoric from China has framed all Uyghurs escaping the country as criminals who should be immediately returned, renewing fears that Thailand may submit to such pressure, as in the past.

It was recently reported that 20 Uyghurs escaped their immigration detention facility in Thailand close to the Malaysian border, in the early hours of November 20th, using blankets as ladders to escape. As of Tuesday, November 22nd, ten have already been re-captured and reports indicate that others may have already crossed into Malaysia.

The Chinese government has already called on Thailand to “quickly bring to justice” those who escaped. Real concern remains over the use of problematic language in the past by China, who has largely framed the issue of Uyghurs escaping East Turkestan through Southeast Asia as one of criminality, despite no court ever weighing in on the case in that respect.

The WUC drew attention to the poor conditions endured by Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers, who had fled oppression in China, only to be detained and threatened with being forcibly returned to China in neighbouring countries. The press release also emphasised that it is utterly deplorable that no action has been taken and dozens of Uyghurs have remained in detention for nearly four years without charge. The international community and the UNHCR must press Thailand to relieve itself of the burden of holding the group and of the Uyghurs themselves who have waited far too long for deserved reprieve.

WUC Calls on French Foreign Minister to Raise Human Rights Concerns During China Visit

On the eve of his planned trip to China (23 November 2017), the World Uyghur Congress issued a press release calling on the French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to not shirk from raising the many serious human rights violations that have been perpetrated by the Chinese government with his counterparts in the Chinese government.

The human rights situation in China has been deteriorating rapidly in last few years. 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 WUC made clear that Uyghurs, Tibetans and Han-Chinese are reaching a critical point, with new policies being introduced each week, restricting their freedoms and violating their basic rights. With ever increasing repression in China and any dissent being met with force and violence, we rely on states who to speak up about human rights. It is the duty of the international community to respectfully call out those states that fail to live up to  international human rights norms. France continues to stand as a pillar of democracy and respect for human rights in Europe and should ensure that those values continue to be reflected in its foreign relations.

WUC Issues Press Release on the Arbitrary Detention of Relatives of Former WUC President

The WUC issued a press release this week condemning the arbitrary detention of number of relatives of former WUC President and Uyghur rights activist, Rebiya Kadeer. Among those detained have been Ms. Kadeer’s sisters, brothers, sons, grandchildren and extended relatives, amid much more broad and extensive detentions of Uyghurs who have been sent to political ‘re-education’ centers.

After speaking to three Uyghurs who were confined in such facilities, Human Rights Watch reported on the centers back in September, detailing their conditions. Detainees are subjected to propaganda promoting Chinese identity and are required to recite Chinese and Xinjiang laws and policies and are compelled to watch pro-government propaganda videos, and to renounce their ethnic and religious identities.

The Chinese government has failed to provide any credible justification for detaining these people, as one witness to the more broad campaign stated that they were not presented with a warrant, evidence of a crime, or any other documentation. Family members of those detained have also not been informed of their whereabouts. The dates of initial detention as well as locations remain unclear, compounding the risk of ill-treatment.

The WUC therefore called on the Chinese government to release the relatives of Ms. Kadeer and to immediately halt the operation of re-education centres, as they clearly do not comply with even the most basic legal rights of Uyghurs in East Turkestan and continue to substantially undermine the free expression on Uyghur identity.

Use of ‘Big Data’ Systems by Chinese Police in East Turkestan Violates Basic Rights & Targets Dissent

This week, Human Rights called on the Chinese government to stop building big data policing platforms at aggregate and analyse massive amounts of citizen’s information in the interest of security. East Turkestan in particular has been the testing ground of these ‘Big Data’ systems, as massive amounts of resources and personnel have been allocated to controlling the Uyghur people and quashing any dissent.

The ‘big data’ approach to security not only is very intrusive and violates the right to privacy, it is also used to try and predict future behaviour, which the Chinese authorities have acted on. Reportedly, many of the Uyghurs who have been sent to re-education centres in East Turkestan by Chinese authorities were identified by the system as a potential ‘problem’ and they were preemptively punished. This so-called ‘predictive policing’ is heavily reliant on reports and information that is biased against the Uyghur. Predictive policing only perpetuates these biases and results in the arrest and detention of innocent people. This dystopian approach to security  seriously violates the Uyghur peoples most basic rights: to privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of movement. The WUC echos HRW’s call for an end to this security system, which will only result in more oppression and discrimination for the Uyghur people.