Weekly Brief January 26th
World Uyghur Congress, 26 January 2018
120,000 Uyghurs Detained in ‘Re-education’ Camps in Kashgar
This week it was reported that 120,000 Uyghurs were being held in ‘re-education’ camps around the city of Kashgar alone. Radio Free Asia obtained this number from a security official in Kashgar and the WUC and Human Rights Watch have found this figure to be credible. The total number of Uyghurs detained in these camps across East Turkestan estimated to be over a million people, with almost every Uyghur family being affected by these mass detentions in some way.
The sheer scale and scope of these mass arrests and detentions, as the Chinese government under Xi Jinping continues to brutally crackdown on the Uyghur people, is truly staggering. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Uyghurs are being subjected to arbitrary detention, indoctrination, cramped and squalid conditions and enforced disappearances due solely to their ethnicity, religious beliefs or association with human rights activists. The camps are a central part of a broader campaign of assimilation and repression aimed at eroding the basis of the distinct Uyghur identity. The international community must speak out about these flagrant and serious mass human rights violations or the Chinese government will continue to round-up and oppress Uyghurs unabated.
WUC Issues Press Release Calling for Transparency on the Disappearance of Prominent Uyghur Religious Leader and Scholar, Muhammad Salih Hajim
In light of numerous reports of the disappearance and possible detention of a prominent religious leader and academic in the Uyghur community, Muhammad Salih Hajim, the WUC issued a press release this week calling for clarification from the Chinese government about the status and whereabouts of Mr. Hajim. Given the widespread roundup and arbitrary detention of Uyghur academics, religious leaders and prominent figures in the community, the WUC is very concerned that Mr. Hajim may have been arrested or disappeared by the Chinese police.
The WUC is very concerned for Mr. Hajim’s health and well-being. The Chinese government’s mistreatment and neglect of its political prisoners is well documented. Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo died in a Chinese prison in July 2017 after his medical condition was allowed to deteriorate without sufficient care and he was not permitted to seek more effective treatment overseas. In December 2017, it was reported that 2 young Uyghurs died in Chinese custody in uncertain circumstances after voluntarily returning to China while studying in Egypt. As Muhammed Salih Hajim is 82 years and in poor health, he is at particular risk.
Mr. Hajim’s disappearance has occurred in the midst of a massive crackdown by the Chinese authorities on the Uyghur people in general and especially on their right to freedom of religion. Hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of Uyghurs have been arrested across East Turkestan and sent to ‘re-education’ camps for peacefully practicing their religion, expressing themselves freely, or for having any dissident relatives or associates. Sweeping new legislation has effectively given the Chinese government control over every aspect of religious practice in East Turkestan. This year alone, we have seen bans on wearing a hijab, growing a beard or even naming children with traditional Muslim names.
The WUC joined the Uyhgur Human Rights Project in calling on the Chinese government to clarify whether Mr. Hajim has indeed been arrested and, if so, to disclose his alleged crimes, whereabouts and well-being. The continuous arrests and disappearances of innocent Uyghurs in East Turkestan must not go unnoticed. The WUC appealed to the international community to raise these cases publicly and to push for transparency and accountability.
Governor Reveals Plans for China to Build a ‘Great Wall’ Around East Turkestan Border
Efforts by the Chinese government to limit freedom of movement and to cut Uyghurs in East Turkestan off from any communication or ties with anyone abroad have continued this week as the Chinese-backed governor of the Uyghur Autonomous Region, Shohret Zakir, announced plans to build a ‘Great Wall’ around the region. The pretence for the proposed wall is to help provide ‘security’, but it will serve to further isolate the Uyghur people and make them easier to control.
In 2017, the Chinese government took many steps to cease all communication between Uyghurs in East Turkestan and the Uyghur diaspora. Many Uyghurs in the diaspora have suddenly lost all contact with family members and friends still in East Turkestan, as Chinese police routinely search through phones and punish those who communicate with anyone living abroad. The Chinese government has put anyone with foreign ties in ‘re-education’ camps and has sought for the forced return of Uyghurs studying and living abroad. The building of a wall around the region would be a physical manifestation of this approach of control and repression.