Weekly Brief February 2nd

World Uyghur Congress, 2 February 2018

WUC Deeply Saddened by the Death of Uyghur Religious Leader and Scholar, Muhammad Salih Hajim, in Chinese Custody

The World Uyghur Congress issued a press release expressing its deep sadness at the news that the prominent Uyghur religious leader and scholar, Muhammad Salih Hajim, had died in a Chinese ‘re-education’ camp. Muhammad Salih Hajim had reportedly been arrested 40 days ago for peacefully practicing his religion and detained in a Chinese ‘re-education’ camp. The WUC has been informed that he was subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment during his imprisonment, which may have contributed his death. 

Muhammend Salih Hajim was born in 1936 in Atush, East Turkestan. He was a prominent Uyghur religious leader and scholar and a well-respected figure in the Uyghur community. He had worked to translate the Quran into the Uyghur language, with the permission of the Chinese government, and his translation was published in 1986. Many assumed that his cooperation with the Chinese government would allow him to peacefully practice his religion and ensure his safety, but this has sadly not been the case.

Deaths in custody of political prisoners, dissidents as well as innocent civilians in Chinese prisons and ‘re-education’ camps are happening with alarming regularity. 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.

The WUC remains very concerned for the hundreds of Uyghur political prisoners currently serving lengthily prison sentences and the estimated 1 million Uyghurs being held in ‘re-education’ camps across East Turkestan. The massive number of Uyghurs detained, the routine abuse and human rights violations and the increasing number of deaths indicate a crime against humanity is being orchestrated by the Chinese government.

WUC Urges UK Prime Minister Theresa May to Substantively Raise Human Rights Concerns During China Visit

The WUC issued a press release this week in anticipation of UK Prime Minister ’s first official visit to China, calling on her government to stand firm on the UK’s outward expression of values like human rights and democracy in its foreign policy.

Prime Minister May is concluding her official visit to China today, which lasted from January 31 to February 2 and  co-hosted the first bilateral annual prime ministerial meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. She had pledged to publicly raise human rights issues and we hope this is followed through on

With Brexit looming, the British government is entering a period of uncertainty, and the strategic importance of the partnership between the two countries remains significant. If the UK government wishes to be taken as a reliable partner following this decision, it is in their best interest to live up to professed values and to not ride roughshod over issues of human rights.

Foreign leaders have longed claimed to raise human rights concerns in private with their Chinese counterparts, but this has clearly not worked as the situation continues to get worse for Uyghurs, Tibetans, Southern Mongolians and the Chinese people themselves. We look to leaders like Theresa May for support and when they fail to speak publicly about these issues, their silence is deafening.

It is the duty of the international community to respectfully call out those states that fail to live up to international human rights norms.The UK continues to stand as a pillar of democracy and respect for human rights  and should ensure that those values continue to be reflected in its foreign relations.

Human Rights Watch Highlights China’s Harassment of Families of Overseas Activists

On 31 January 2018, Human Rights Watch published an article highlighting the intense harassment of overseas activists by the Chinese government. The article demonstrated the way the Chinese government punished family members of activists, restricted their finances and freedom of movement and abused Interpol’s red notice system to force these individuals to return to China. The case of WUC President Dolkun Isa was mentioned in the article, noting how China has put a red notice on Mr. Isa for 10 years, to harass and restrict his ability to travel freely.

Survey of Journalists Indicates Shrinking Press Freedom in East Turkestan

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China took a survey of journalists and correspondents working in China. The survey indicated that in 2017, 73% of respondents who travelled to East Turkestan were told by Chinese officials that reporting was prohibited or restricted. In 2016, 42% of respondents reported these prohibitions and restrictions.

This increase in press censorship has corresponded with a dramatic increase in repressivion and human rights violations perpetrated against the Uyghur people and other ethnic groups in East Turkestan. It clearly demonstrates the Chinese government’s attempts to stop the world from knowing about what is happening in East Turkestan and of the oppressive crackdown the #Uyghur people are being subjected to.