Weekly Brief January 19th

World Uyghur Congress, 19 January 2018

European Parliamentarians Issue Press Statement Calling on Bulgaria not to Deport Uyghur Asylum Seekers to China

Six Members of the European Parliament have signed a joint press statement calling on the Bulgarian Government not to deport 5 Uyghur asylum seekers to China. The five Uyghur asylum seekers were arrested by Bulgarian police on July 27, 2017 after crossing the border from Turkey and have been held in the Lyumbimets Detention Centre since then. Their initial asylum applications were denied by Bulgarian immigration authorities and they are currently appealing those decisions. The appeal hearings will be held on January 26th, 2018. If forcibly returned to China, the 5 Uyghurs would be at risk of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and death.

This week, a number of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also spoke out, calling for the basic human rights of the Uyghur people to be respected.

Member and Vice President of the European Parliament Fabio Massimo Castaldo voiced his concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation affecting the Uyghur people and for the 5 Uyghur asylum seekers detained in Bulgaria who are at risk of deportation to China. Oral statements were also made during the European Parliament Plenary Session debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law by MEPs Ilhan Kyuchyuk and Laszlo Tokes, amongst others, calling for China to immediately release human rights defenders, especially Ilham Tohti, from prison and to respect ethnic minority rights.

We sincerely thank these MEPs who draw attention to the plight of the Uyghur people and call for their basic rights to be respected. We hope that our combined efforts will lead to an improvement in the human rights situation of the Uyghur people.

WUC Calls Attention to the Continued Detention of Prominent Uyghur Professionals

The WUC issues a press release this week to call attention to the widespread and continued detention of Uyghur academics, businessmen and other professionals. In particular, the WUC remains gravely concerned over the detention of prominent Uyghur physician and academic, Halmurat Ghopur, who was reportedly arrested in November 2017 and taken to an unknown location on alleged “acts against the state.” Ghopur’s arrest comes at a time of particular uncertainty and anxiety over the Chinese government’s escalating campaign rounding up Uyghurs not adhering to increasingly narrow and acceptable forms of behaviour from the Communist Party.

His arrest also echoes that of Ilham Tohti – the prominent Uyghur academic who was arrested from his home 4 years ago this month and subsequently sentenced to life in prison for alleged separatism. Over the last decade, many Uyghur academics, journalists, writers and web administrators have faced harsh censure from Chinese authorities in an attempt to stifle dissent or the transmission of information to the general public.

Over the last year, we have witnessed a clear intensification in terms of the justification provided by the Chinese government for arrest and sentencing. Today, basic expression of Uyghur identity and the conditions for Uyghurs on the ground in East Turkestan has been criminalised. Prominent Uyghur community members and potential leaders have been increasingly targeted, likely as a means of discouraging collective action.

Rights Groups Call for Ilham Tohti’s Release on the 4th Anniversary of his Arrest

The WUC joined other human rights groups is calling for the immediately release of prominent Uyghur academic, Ilham Tohti, on the 4th anniversary of his arrest for alleged ‘separatism’. Despite calling for interethnic peace and promoting interethnic dialogue between the Han and Uyghur people, he was arrested for these efforts and sentenced to life in prison. He reportedly is allowed very few visits with his family and not permitted to have any contact with anyone else outside the prison.

WUC President Dolkun Isa marked the occasion saying, “He is not a criminal. He is a voice of reason and peace. China has no reason to fear this moderate Uyghur voice and has no justification to imprison him for life. The international community will not stay silent until the day he’s free.” The Amnesty International East Asia research director, Roseann Rife, expressed a similar opinion in an article in SCMP, stating that a police state in the Uyghur Autonomous Region where moderate voices are silenced is not what China needs to achieve stability.