Weekly Brief December 1st

World Uyghur Congress, 1 December 2017

WUC Participates in 10th UN Forum on Minority Issues

Representatives from the World Uyghur Congress travelled to Geneva last week to participate in the 10th session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues. The central topic of this year’s Forum was ‘Minority Youth: towards inclusive and diverse societies’ and discussion were organised into 4 thematic panels focusing on the importance of  education in ‘minority’ communities, youth public participation, strategies for using the digital space and empowering ‘minority’ youth as agents of change for peace and stability.

The WUC participated in the Forum’s discussions and put forward the concerns and difficulties that Uyghur youth face due to increasing restrictions and assimilatory policies enacted by the Chinese government. WUC Project Manager, Peter Irwin took the floor to speak about language rights among the Uyghur community in East Turkestan during the panel discussion on the importance of Education in minority communities. His intervention instigated a discussion amongst the panelists, with the UN Special Rapporteur assuring the participants that the right to language and education were priorities for his mandate.

On December 1st, the WUC, in cooperation with the Society for Threatened Peoples, held a successful side event entitled ‘Native Languages in a Contemporary World: Threats and Challenges for Youth‘ at the Minority Forum. The event gathered together speakers from diverse backgrounds to speak about the problems faced by ethnic minorities and restrictions on the use of their mother languages in particular. The event was attended by a number of participants to the Minority Forum and allowed for important discussion of some of the most relevant issues regarding language rights in China in particular. The World Uyghur Congress will continue to raise the Uyghur language issue in international fora to ensure that the international community is well aware of the developing problem.

Jailed Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti Awarded ‘Prize for Freedom’ in the Hague

Prominent Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti who was jailed for life by the Chinese government, was honored on 30 November 2017 at a ceremony in the Hague, where he was awarded Liberal International’s Prize for Freedom. Ilham Tohti is widely known for his efforts in highlighting the difficult situation of the Uyghur people in East Turkestan and calling for peaceful interethnic dialogue. Liberal International, a federation of 100 liberal and progressive parties and affiliates, sought to recognise Ilham Tohti’s work fighting for democracy and rule of law in China and highlight his unjust imprisonment by awarding him the Prize for Freedom in abstensia.

WUC President, Dolkun Isa, attended the ceremony and called Tohti’s award ‘a powerful response to China’s brutal repression of the Uyghur people’. It showed that the international community had taken notice of the plight of the Uyghur people in East Turkestan and their call for freedom and fundamental human rights. The case of Ilham Tohti is just one stark example of the increasingly dire human rights situation in East Turkestan, as the Chinese government cracks down further on the Uyghur people.

WUC Calls on Canadian Prime Minister to Raise Human Rights Issues on Visit to China

The World Uyghur Congress joined other human rights organisations in calling on Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to raise human rights concerns and to call for the release of political prisoners during his visit to China. In recent past, the Canadian government has adopted a policy of ‘quiet diplomacy’, voicing its human rights concerns to the Chinese government in private. With this policy seemingly achieving little to no results and with the human rights situation in China rapidly deteriorating, the WUC believes it is imperative for national governments to publicly pressure the Chinese government on its human rights violations.

Ethnic Kazakh Man Sentenced to Over 16 Years in Prison for Having Quranic Audio Files

It was reported last week that a 45 year old Kazakh man was sentenced to a 16 and a half year jail term last may on charges of ‘ethnic hatred’ for having audio files of Quranic recitations on his computer. He was sentenced in a secret trial with no access to family visits or a lawyer. The arrest is a further indication  of the Chinese authorities’ efforts to restrict the freedom of religion of the Uyghur people and to control every aspect of religious practice.

Uyghur Asylum Seeker in Dubai Feared Deported to China

A Uyghur asylum seeker who had applied for protection in Dubai with UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, is feared to have been deported to China, where he would be at risk of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention or torture. His wife, who lives in Turkey, has had no contact with her husband since October 12th and fears he had been arrested and sent back to China. Through calling her husband’s roommates, she was able to confirm that he had been arrested, but despite repeated calls for information and a visit to the UAE embassy in Istanbul, she has been unable to get any more information about her husband’s well-being or whereabouts.