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The World Uyghur Congress is active in raising Uyghur-related issues on a number of ways in many different national and international fora. This page provides a detailed overview of the activities that the WUC engages in, what actors or organisations it works with and what we hope to accomplish with these activities.
The World Uyghur Congress engages regularly with the United Nations system to raise human rights violations against the Uyghur people. Engaging with the UN bodies and mechanisms gives the WUC the opportunity to raise these issues before representatives from national governments and international human rights experts.
Human Rights Council
One of the main ways the World Uyghur Congress engages with the United Nations, is by regularly attending the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council is The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. As the epicentre for addressing human rights concern at an international level, it is essential that the Human Rights Council is aware of human rights violations against the Uyghur people and that they hold China accountable for these violations.
There are a number of activities that the WUC conducts to raise awareness of Uyghur-related issues and push for action to be taken with regards to the Human Rights Council.
One of the primary means for doing with is by cooperating with accredited National Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to make oral statements in the General Debate of the Human Rights Council. An Oral Statement is a one and half to two-minute spoken statement about an urgent situation that requires the Council’s attention. It is one of the primary means by which NGOs and human rights advocacy groups can engage with the Council and provide them with important information.
The WUC regularly works with accredited NGOs to make oral statements to the Human Rights Council on pressing issues facing the Uyghur people. In the past, we have delivered oral statements on a number of topics, drawing the Council’s attention to issues such as internment camps, mass forced labour transfers and the COVID-19 pandemic in East Turkestan. Recent Oral Statements can be found below:
- On the COVID-19 pandemic putting especially detainees in the camps at risk – 43thsession of the HRC
- On the arbitrary detention of 1.8-3 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others – 43thsession of the HRC
The WUC also uses the occasion of the Human Rights Council sessions to meet with representatives from the member states Permanent Missions. Representatives from the WUC meet with the Permanent Missions to brief them on the latest developments in the Uyghur human rights situations and what pressing issues need to be addressed. We present the missions with our latest reports, briefing notes and any another relevant information and discuss ways that we can work within the UN system to improve the situation for the Uyghur people.
In cooperation with other NGOs and CSOs, the WUC organizes and participates in many side events at HRC sessions. The side events are focused on particular issues and themes and gives an opportunity to present and learn about important issues that there may not be time or space for in the agenda of the Human Rights Council itself. The WUC has used side events, along with our partners, to raise issues from religious persecution to challenges to participation in the United Nations. Some recent activities with regards to side events include:
- WUC Program Manager Peter Irwin spoke at the side event “Rule of Law’ or ‘Rule by Law’: Criminalization of Dissent in China”, which was organized by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2019.
- WUC representatives attended a side event at United Nations Human Rights Council during its 40th Session in March 2019. The event “Protecting Fundamental Freedoms In Xinjiang” was organised by the permanent missions of the USA, UK, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands.
The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are a very important and unique human rights mechanism that the WUC engages with on human rights issues and specific violations. Unlike other mechanisms and UN bodies, Special Procedures has a degree of independence from the UN system. It consists of independent human rights experts with a mandate to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. There are 44 thematic mandates and 12 country mandates, as of 1 August 2017.
Special Procedures undertakes a number of activities to support human rights, including going on country visits, sending communications on individual cases and broader situations, conduct thematic studies, convene expert consultations and present and annual report to the Human Rights Council.
The WUC engages with Special Procedures in a number of ways. Its complaint and communication procedure is very important for addressing specific cases of human rights violations. The WUC communicates with many of the Special Rapporteurs and mandate holders, submitting information about specific Uyghur human rights abuses and trying to get specific cases of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, harassment of human rights defenders, etc. addressed. The communication procedure raises these specific violations directly to the offending state, in an official communication from the Special Rapporteur. This way, states must answer for specific violations directly. The information provided by the WUC to the mandate holders may also be used in their annual reports or contribute to the Special Rapporteur requesting a country visit to China to investigate allegations of human rights violations.
UN Treaty Bodies are specialised committees made up of experts that are tasked with monitoring the implementation of the core human rights treaties for those states who have ratified. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Each State party to a treaty has an obligation to take steps to ensure that everyone in the State can enjoy the rights set out in the treaty.”
Each committee is then charged with clarifying the scope of the state’s obligations under the treaty and monitoring and evaluating the state’s progress on implementation through regular reviews. Committees can also accept complaints and communications from individuals, and in some cases, initiate country inquiries if serious, grave or systematic violations of the conventions in a State party have taken place.
As of 2017, China is a party to six UN human rights treaties (date of ratification in parentheses):
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) 
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) 
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 
- International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) 
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) 
China has engaged to varying degrees with all of the above Treaty Bodies and the World Uyghur Congress has submitted Alternative Reports and engaged with Committees overseeing CEDAW, CERD, CAT, CRC and ICESCR.
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
China ratified CEDAW in 1980 and has since been reviewed by the Committee five times and will be up for review again on November 1, 2018. All relevant documents from each previous review can be found with the OHCHR here.
China Combined 7th and 8th Cycle Review
Although the WUC did not engage directly through the submission of an Alternative Report to the Committee, a report was submitted by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) in collaboration with the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) that was considered at the 59th session of the Committee on October 23rd, 2014.
The UNPO/UHRP Alternative Report can be downloaded here.
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
China ratified the CERD in 1981 and has since been reviewed by the Committee six times and its next review has yet to be scheduled. All relevant documents from each previous review can be found with the OHCHR here.
CERD 96th Session
The World Uyghur Congress submitted a Parallel Report for consideration by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for China’s review in August 2018.
The report takes a broad look at the issues facing Uyghurs in East Turkistan and analyses the discriminatory policies that undermine the most basic human rights protections that China’s continues to flout.
China Combined 10th-13th Cycle Review
The WUC also submitted an Alternative Report to the Committee for consideration during its 75th session that took place from August 3-28, 2009.
The submission provides evidence in terms of China’s failure to uphold primary elements of the treaty including the lack of legal accountability on the part of the Chinese government for harsh interrogation practices, the restrictions on free travel for Uyghurs in particular, restrictions on Uyghur language education, restrictions on religious practice, and restrictions on employment opportunities.
Committee against Torture (CAT)
The Committee against Torture monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.
China ratified CAT in 1988 and has since been reviewed by the Committee four times and is currently in its fifth review cycle. All relevant documents from each previous review can be found with the OHCHR here.
China 5th Cycle Review
The WUC submitted an Alternative Report to the Committee for consideration during its 56th session that took place from November 9th to December 9th, 2015.
The submission outlines some of the most concerning details of alleged instances and threats of torture as well as issues with China’s implementation of the Convention itself since China’s last reporting period. Major areas of concern addressed in the report include the definition of torture under Chinese law, police and security training/methods, pre-trial detention and forced confessions, violence and intimidation aimed at lawyers and human rights defenders, the impact of draft laws on terrorism and anti-extremism, and documented cases of torture of Uyghur detainees.
As a whole, the report fills a major gap in reporting in terms of torture in China. Although past reports from NGOs have spent some time on Uyghur cases, many lack the appropriate depth necessary to illustrate the major issues Uyghurs face in terms of torture in detention.
The report can be downloaded here.
In addition to the submission of an Alternative Report, the WUC also sent two delegates to the session in Geneva to meet with NGOs to coordinate our collective activity there. The session also allowed for meetings with Committee members to brief them on our primary concerns and direct their attention to Uyghur cases in particular so as to include the details in the Committee’s Concluding Observations.
China 4th Cycle Review
The WUC submitted an Alternative Report to the Committee for consideration during its 41st session that took place from November 3-21, 2008.
The report was co-authored by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and focuses on the lack of a definition of what torture consists of in national PRC law, China’s insufficient preventive measures and the lack of impartial investigation when acts of torture are suspected.
The report can be downloaded here.
Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and its optional protocols.
China has been reviewed by the Committee three times and is currently in its 4th review cycle and its next review is scheduled for March 2019. All relevant documents from each previous review can be found with the OHCHR here.
China 3rd Cycle Review
The WUC submitted an Alternative Report to the Committee for consideration during its 64th session that took place September 27th, 2012.
The report details a number of key issues related to the rights of Uyghur children in particular including language rights in school, freedom of religion and the ability of parents to pass on religious teachings to their children, the detention of Uyghur children and other mistreatment, and the forced transfer of Uyghur minors.
The report may be downloaded here.
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
China ratified the ICESCR in 2001 and has since been reviewed by the Committee twice Its next review is scheduled for May 2019. All relevant documents from each previous review can be found with the OHCHR here.
China 2nd Cycle Review
The WUC submitted an Alternative Report to the Committee for consideration during its 52nd session that took place May 8th, 2014.
The detailed report touches on nearly all aspects of the Treaty including issues of self-determination, the right to work and social security, the protection of family, mothers and children, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to health, the right to education and the Uyghur language, and freedom of religion.
The report may be downloaded here.
Universal Periodic Review
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is one of the key elements of the Council which reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. States are obligated to undergo the UPR every 5 years. China was last time reviewed at the 31st session in Oct-Nov 2018. The World Uyghur Congress submitted a parallel report to be considered ahead of China’s 3rd Cycle Universal Periodic Review in November 2018. China is due to be reviewed next in 2023.
The UPR is based on information from the state under review in the form of a national report, a compilation of UN information on the state prepared by the OHCHR and a summary of information submitted by other stakeholders, including civil society actors. It is through this last means that the World Uyghur Congress is able to raise the human rights situation of the Uyghur people in China and engage effectively with the UPR.
Each time that China is up for review through the UPR, the World Uyghur Congress, and many other organisations concerned with human rights in China, submits a report detailing all of the information about human rights violations affecting the Uyghur people, recent developments during the past 5 years and the current situation. The OHCHR compiles this information into a summary, which is then used in the review itself.
Another way in which the WUC engages with the UPR is through our lobbying and advocacy activities with the Permanent Missions of the member states. Each state submits recommendations to the state under review about particular situations or areas in which their human rights record must improve.
It is very important that human rights violations against the Uyghur people are adequately represented in these recommendations. They are published on the UN website after the country is reviewed and available to the public as an indicator of a country’s human rights record and reputation. As such, much of the WUC’s work in meeting with the Permanent Missions of Member States consists of informing them of human rights violations in East Turkestan and lobbying for their inclusion in the UPR recommendations.
UN Minority Forum
The United Nations Forum on Minority Issues is a 2-day meeting convened at the end of November in which participants, which include Member states, minority representatives, civil society, national and regional organizations and international organizations, discuss and identify a number of action-oriented recommendations on a specific topic of relevance for minorities.
The Forum is guided by the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues and focuses on a specific thematic topic each year. It aims to provide a platform for dialogue, cooperation and networking for participants and gives the participants the opportunity to discuss issues important to minority groups in a multilateral international setting.
The WUC engages with the Minority Forum in a number of ways. Much like our activities in the UN Human Rights Council, representatives from the WUC make Oral Statements about specific human rights violations against Uyghurs or about generally concerning situations. WUC representatives also organize, attend and speak at side events at the forum, in cooperation with other minority rights organisations, to address specific issues related to minority rights.
The WUC also uses this opportunity to again meet with the Permanent Missions of the Member States, UN officials and other NGOs. This is a particularly important time for lobbying, as the Permanent Missions and UN officials are typically more available during this time, than during the UN Human Rights Council sessions. The Forum also facilitates networking and cooperation between different minority rights groups to work towards common goals.
The European Parliament is the primary EU institution that the WUC engages. It is a very important institution to the work of the WUC as it provides the opportunity to raise the human rights situation of the Uyghur people before European politicians and policy makers and to ensure that the situation of the Uyghur people is on the EU human rights agenda. Primarily, the WUC works, in collaboration with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), to meet and establish working relationships with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), the elected officials to the European Parliament. Representatives from the WUC engage with the MEPs and the institution itself in a number of ways, to provide information about the human rights situation of the Uyghur people and to fulfill advocacy and human rights objectives
Work with MEPs
The primary advocacy activity of the WUC in the European Parliament is meeting with and maintain relationships with sympathetic MEPs who are willing and able to raise the Uyghur issue in the European Parliament and support WUC activities in the institutions of the European Union. These meetings seek to inform MEPs of the numerous human rights violations perpetrated against the Uyghur people and to discuss solutions within the EU framework to improve their situation.
Events at the European Parliament
With the assistance and sponsorship of sympathetic MEPs, the WUC is able to hold events on pressing issues effecting the Uyghur people in the European Parliament. These events are open to MEPs, ambassadors in Brussels, EU officials and civil society representation to draw attention to important Uyghur-related issues. In the past, the WUC, in cooperation with UNPO and other like-minded organisations, have held events on topics such as religious persecution in East Turkestan and the threat to the Uyghur language, amongst others. The WUC has also worked with its partners to hold official hearings in the European Parliament, organise human rights advocacy training seminars for Uyghur youth in Europe through the European Parliament and has held Uyghur cultural events.
Uyghur Friendship Group
As a result of the advocacy activities of the WUC and UNPO, as of 19 October 2017, there will be a Uyghur Friendship Group in the European Parliament. The friendship group brings together like-minded MEPs who strongly concerned with Uyghur cause and have decided to voluntarily organise themselves to promote Uyghur-related issues in the European Parliament. It is the culmination of years of advocacy activities and gives a significant voice to Uyghur related issues in the European Parliament.
While the WUC has no direct involvement in the drafting and passing of the resolutions of the European Parliament, our advocacy activities, efforts to raise awareness of Uyghur issues and relationship with MEPs help to put Uyghur related issues on the agenda for resolutions. A number of resolutions of Uyghur-related issues have been adopted in the past, including a resolution passed which called for the immediate and unconditional release of Ilham Tohti.
In December 2019, the European Parliament passed a strong resolution on the Uyghur crisis by an overwhelming majority. This marks the third time in just over a year that the European Parliament has addressed the crisis in a resolution and demonstrates its and the EU’s resolve to take meaningful action to stop China’s crimes against humanity against Uyghurs.
In October 2018, the European Parliament adopted an Urgency Resolution by a group of Members related to China’s use of internment camps holding over one million Uyghurs and Kazakhs in East Turkistan.
In April 2018, the European Parliament passed an important resolution on the situation of ethnic and religious minorities in China which addressing political indoctrination and the camp system in East Turkistan.
Addressing Committees & Sub-Committees
The WUC occasionally speaks on Uyghur related issues directly to the committees and sub-committees of the European Parliament, to provide them with information and a detailed account of particular Uyghur human rights situations. On 27 March 2017, former WUC General Secretary, Dolkun Isa, spoke before the EP Human Rights Sub-Committee (DROI) on the educational, economic, political and cultural repression that Uyghurs are subjected to.
Ilham Tohti Awarded with the Sakarov Prize
Through diligent work from UNPO, the Ilham Tohti Initiative, ChinaChange.org and the WUC, Ilham Tohti was awarded with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2019 in recognition of his work towards interethnic harmony, respect and understanding. The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is an annual award delivered by the European Parliament to those who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the world. It aims to support the laureates and their cause, and to draw attention to human rights violations. The award brought significant attention to Tohti’s case and the Uyghur struggle for their basic rights, more generally.
The European Commission & the European External Action Service (EEAS)
While the WUC is not as active in engaging with the Commission and EEAS as it is with the European Parliament, both institutions are very important for the WUC’s advocacy efforts and for achieving recognition of human rights violations against Uyghurs
Briefing European Officials
Representatives from the WUC regularly meeting with officials from the Commission and the EEAS to brief them on the latest developments and pressing situations facing the Uyghur people in East Turkestan. As the Commission and EEAS have significant influence over the decision making and foreign policy direction of the EU, these meetings are crucial to the WUC.
The WUC is active in working with other civil society groups to collectively work towards mutual goals and to support human rights related causes. Representatives from the World Uyghur Congress regularly attend and give the Uyghur perspective at conferences and other events organised by civil society. The WUC engages with other groups concerned with minority related issues, especially when concerned with China, as well as human rights NGOs and diaspora groups.
Regular engagement with civil society is not only an activity in itself, but also helps to support and facilitate the our other activities. The WUC’s work in the UN and EU is often done in tandem and cooperation with fellow NGOs and civil society organisations. We often organise joint protests and conferences, recognising that our advocacy activities are stronger and we have a larger impact when we speak with a united voice on human rights and other issues. Therefore, our work with engaging with civil society and the relationships we form with other NGOs and civil society groups is an essential component to the work of the WUC.
As the World Uyghur Congress is based in Munich, Germany and Germany itself is home to a large Uyghur diaspora population, the WUC has made great efforts to maintain positive and productive relationships with politicians and policy makers in the German government and the regional Bavarian government. The WUC regularly meets with German politicians to brief them on the evolving situation in East Turkestan to ensure that Uyghur-related issues are raised in Bundestag and other governmental bodies.
The World Uyghur Congress is active in providing the future generations of the Uyghur diaspora with the knowledge, ability and capacity to engage in human rights advocacy on Uyghur related issues and speak out on the Uyghur cause. In this regard, the WUC, in cooperation with our partners, regularly organize training seminars for Uyghur youth across the world to teach them skills and strategies to engage in human rights advocacy at the local, national, regional and international levels.
The training seminars aim to combine providing a background and conceptual knowledge of the human rights situation of Uyghurs in East Turkestan and the pressing issues they face, with an emphasis on practical and concrete tools and methods that the participants can use to be active on human rights. A number of international experts brief the participants and lead them in discussion to better their understanding and abilities on a number of issues, such as communicating effectively and local human rights advocacy tools. Participants are also briefed on the role and components of UN and EU human rights mechanisms as well as the role of international law more broadly.
Our training seminar in Stockholm, Sweden on 12-16 October 2017 will mark the 13th training session organized by the WUC, as we have proudly held workshops each year since 2007 in cities as far as Sydney, Washington, Tokyo, Brussels, Berlin, Geneva and the Hague.
The WUC regularly organises demonstrations and mobilises the Uyghur diaspora across Europe to draw attention to important issues, to remember past events or to ensure that the Uyghur voice is known to policy makers.
Past demonstrations have been organised in Brussels, at the institutions of the European Union, at the UN in Geneva, across Germany and in Washington D.C. in the USA. Protests form an important part of collective action by the Uyghur diaspora community, that the WUC helps to organise and facilitate.
The WUC also collaborates with German politicians to organise conferences, trainings and cultural events and to facilitate Uyghur-German friendship and dialogue. As the base of the WUC, the WUC’s engagement with German authorities is an important part of the WUC’s work.