Weekly Brief February 9th
World Uyghur Congress, 9 February 2018
WUC Urges Malaysian Government Not to Deport 11 Uyghur Refugees to China
The World Uyghur Congress issued a press release this week expressing its deep concern about reports that the 11 Uyghurs refugees in detention in Malaysia are at significant risk of being deported to China. If returned to China, they would be at significant risk of being subjected to severe human rights violations including arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance and death, due to their ethnic identity. We strongly urge the Malaysian government to abide by international human rights standards and refrain from returning 11 innocent people to a country which would subject them to irreparable harm.
The Uyghur refugees were arrested in Pahang, Malaysia by police on 4 January 2018 after escaping from a Thai Refugee Detention Centre in November 2017. They had been held in detention in Thailand since early 2014. Twenty Uyghurs in total managed to escape the detention center, but 3 were caught by police while still in Thailand and 6 were caught in Malaysia and deported to Thailand afterwards. The remaining 11 were hiding in Malaysia until they were arrested at the beginning of January.
In response to their escape, the Chinese government has called on Thailand to “quickly bring to justice” those who escaped. This week, multiple media outlets reported that the Chinese government has been pressuring the Malaysian government to return all 11 refugees back to China.
It is unconscionable that these 11 Uyghurs have been put in this position. Not only have they had to endure arbitrary detention in Thailand for over 3 years, for trying to flee persecution and repression in China, now they may be forced to return to country from which they fled in the first place. These 11 human beings only wanted a better life for themselves and their families where they could enjoy their basic rights and freedoms. They now find their very lives at risk.
Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department have joined the WUC in calling on Malaysia to not deport the 11 Uyghur refugees. We appeal to the international community to join us in urging Malaysia not deport these individuals and subject them to a miserable fate.
WUC Issues Press Release on 21st Anniversary of Ghulja Massacre
The World Uyghur Congress issued a press release this week to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Ghulja Massacre in which hundreds of peaceful Uyghur protesters were killed by Chinese state security forces in early February 1997. The date remains a watershed moment in terms of the treatment of Uyghurs in East Turkestan by the Chinese government, who would use excessive force to violently break up any form of demonstration since then.
On 5 February 1997, thousands of Uyghurs gathered for a peaceful demonstration in the Ili prefecture city of Ghulja in East Turkestan in response to continued Chinese aggression and the prohibition of Uyghur social organizations, known as Mäshräp, from gathering for cultural events. The protests were immediately quashed by Chinese security forces leaving at least 100 dead and many more injured. Nearly 4000 would be arrested and of those, 200 would subsequently face the death penalty.
The response to the demonstrations would prove crucial in understanding the intentions of the Chinese government in East Turkestan for years afterwards. We continue to witness an outright disregard for human life in many of these circumstances. Freedom of assembly and association are clearly enshrined in international law to ensure that the peaceful voice of the oppressed are able to speak out to their oppressors and demand equal treatment.
Unemployed Uyghurs Forced to Take Indoctrination Classes in East Turkestan
It was reported this week that unemployed Uyghurs across East Turkestan are being forced to take indoctrination classes by the Chinese government to ensure that they ‘avoid activities that affect social stability’. These classes reportedly last for several hours a day and are focused at promoting a ‘patriotic education’. Forced indoctrination classes are becoming the norm in East Turkestan as hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs are already being detained and subjected to indoctrination by Chinese police in the numerous ‘re-education’ camps.
Facial-Recognition Glasses Increase Surveillance of Uyghurs
The Chinese government use of advanced technology to monitor and control the Uyghur population intensified this week, as it was announced that Chinese police would now be equipped with facial-recognition sunglasses. The glasses are reportedly capable of picking individual faces out of a large crowd of people. While the Chinese government claims that will be used to combat criminality and terrorism, they will likely be used to monitor, arrest and harass Uyghurs, dissidents and activists.