PRESS RELEASE: WUC Calls for Action on the International Day for Human Rights
Today, on the International Day for Human Rights, the World Uyghur Congress remembers the great importance of human rights in leading to a better world. Today is a critical moment, as the human rights situation for the Uyghur people and many others across the world has been rapidly deteriorating and the concept of human rights is under attack from repressive governments. It is vital that we all reaffirm our commitment to human rights and speak out about the many human rights violations occurring across the world.
Seventy years ago, when the concept of human rights was formally recognized and codified in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the international community took a big step to ensuring all the world’s citizens could live lives free of fear, violence and repression. It was founded on principles of universality, immutability and the recognition of the inherent value of human life and of our common humanity. It drew on the, at the time, radical notion that people should care about the lives, happiness and well-being of individuals who live on the outside their communities, in different countries and settings.
However, in recent years the human rights situation of many peoples, especially the Uyghurs, has deteriorated rapidly. Due to restrictive legislation, ethnic discrimination and repressive policies, Uyghurs routinely find themselves subjected to serious human rights violations. In East Turkestan, Uyghurs are not allowed to peacefully practice their religion, to speak or move freely or even to be to be educated in their native language. The situation is as bad as it has ever been, as many Uyghurs are arbitrarily detained, confined in re-education camps or disappear in Chinese custody.
The concept of human rights itself is under threat due to sustained attacks by the Chinese government and other repressive regimes. The Chinese government in particular has made significant efforts to undermine the concept of human rights by attacking the very principles that it was founded on. It is no secret that the Chinese government does not respect human rights domestically, but it is increasingly attacking human rights in international fora. In the UN, they have been spearheading a conception of human rights that recognises the right to development and poverty eradication as fundamental and having priority over all other rights. The Chinese government have also repeatedly claimed that human rights are different and the same standards are not applicable in every country.
These efforts have tried to erode the universality and immutability of human rights, which underpin the entire concept. We must look back to the origins of human rights in the UN and remember the recognition of common humanity that it was founded on: universality is essential to human rights. The Uyghurs, the Tibetans and the Han Chinese are not different than any other people in the world and are entitled to their fundamental rights, due to their humanity.
Human rights are not something that can be bestowed or taken away by a government, but something intrinsic in every person. The Chinese government does not have the right to dictate which rights its citizens get to enjoy. Governments gain their legitimacy from ensuring the welfare and well-being of their citizens and protecting their fundamental rights. The Chinese government is failing to do this and is denying the Uyghur people their humanity for the sake of ‘stability’, geopolitical power and economic gain.
Therefore, on the International Day for Human Rights, we want to highlight the importance of human rights for the Uyghur people. We call on the international community to not be silent about human rights during this critical time. It should not be controversial to want the basic rights and freedoms that makes life worthwhile and meaningful. We ask the international community to remember the importance of human rights, especially for those who are deprived of them. We ask people from all over the world to recall the origins of the concept and to care about the lives and well-being of the Uyghur people.