PRESS RELEASE: Chinese Government Threatens, Intimidates and Slanders WUC
In an effort to undermine the work of the World Uyghur Congress and to slow the growing momentum to release the 1-3 million innocent Uyghurs held in internment camps by the Chinese government and ensure human rights for Uyghurs, the Chinese government has increasingly been attacking the WUC. These have escalated into veiled threats and potentially more serious efforts to intimidate and threaten WUC staff.
Since December 2019, the Chinese government has published at least four articles spreading disinformation and lies about the work of the World Uyghur Congress and directly attacking and defaming the WUC and WUC President Dolkun Isa. This marks a notable escalation in the Chinese government’s attempts to hinder the work of the WUC and has raised concerns about the safety of WUC staff and their families.
At the beginning of December 2019, following a number of successful initiatives by the WUC in mobilizing the international community to take action on the Uyghur human rights crisis, two articles were published in Chinese on Xinhua and the Chinese government official website which denounced the WUC and spread lies and disinformation about the organization in an effort to hurt the WUC’s reputation.
Since then, the Chinese government’s English-language propaganda mouthpiece, the Global Times, has also published two similar articles. The first reiterated the same lies and slander as the first two articles and cited an unidentified German scholar ‘Weinsheimer’ and a ‘writer and conspiracy theorist’ as its two main sources.
On 10 January 2019, the Global Times published a second article, stating that a press conference was held by the CCP regional government of the Uyghur region to denounce and slander Mr. Isa and former WUC President Rebiya Kadeer. The article also included a propaganda film, which included two relatives of Ms. Kadeer who had been missing since 2017. In the clearly scripted video, where they are posed in front of luxury clothing stores, they seem to have been forced to claim that there were no problems for Uyghurs in East Turkistan and that Ms. Kadeer was lying about their disappearance.
The article also claims that Mr. Isa’s sister, Ms. Azgul Isa, who is still in East Turkistan, denounced Mr. Isa for his activism. While she was not shown in the video, which the article falsely states, it attributes a quote to Ms. Isa saying she was disappointed that Dolkun Isa used their deceased parents to ‘smear Xinjiang from overseas’. Dolkun Isa received verified information in May 2018 that his mother had died in an internment camp. He had received no further information about the fate of his father or other family members. This article from the Global Times seems to also suggest that his father has also passed away, which he had not been aware of. Mr. Isa has been unable to see his family members for over 20 years and has not been able to speak to them for 3 years. To see his family used against him in this way and to learn about the possible death of his father in a Chinese propaganda article is incredibly painful.
“This is the first time I have any news about my family members in East Turkistan since the death of my mother in an internment camp,” WUC President Dolkun Isa said. “It is cruel and inhuman for the Chinese government to use the death of my mother and my family members in East Turkistan to try to silence and defame me. Instead of listening to our calls for our basic rights and freedoms, the Chinese government kills and punishes our family members in shocking acts of reprisals that contravene international law and basic human decency.”
In another concerning development, the Chinese government’s efforts to stop the work of the World Uyghur Congress may now be going beyond words to more direct intimidation and threats. In the first article published by the Global Times, the author specifically mentioned the location and appearance of the WUC headquarters in Munich, in an apparent attempt to intimidate the staff of the WUC.
These concerns were further reinforced by a serious incident that occurred on 12 January 2020 in Munich, Germany where WUC President Dolkun Isa was threatened by family members of Shohret Zakir, the chairman of Xinjiang Regional Autonomous Region, at a memorial service in Munich, Germany. Mr. Isa was approached by the two individuals who demanded that Mr. Isa stop criticizing Mr. Zakir for helping to cover up and facilitate the crimes against humanity being perpetrated against Uyghurs in East Turkistan by the CCP. The individuals told Mr. Isa that if he did not stop speaking about Mr. Zakir, Mr. Isa’s family members in East Turkistan would be at risk. As these individuals became increasing hostile, they attempted to physically assault Mr. Isa, which was only prevented due to the intervention of other attendees at the memorial service.
“China has deployed different tactics in the past to try to intimidate and threaten me and the WUC, by issuing an INTERPOL red notice (which has since been revoked), obstructing WUC’s work at the UN, and with the recent attacks by propaganda papers,” WUC President Dolkun Isa stated. “I was shocked by this incident, as I don’t expect to be threatened in a democratic country. Although we are uncertain of the motivations of the individuals, we can’t totally exclude that it may be part of China’s strategy to silence human rights activists abroad.”
Despite these recent developments, the WUC will not be intimidated and will continue to advocate for the rights and well-being of all Uyghurs suffering in East Turkistan. China routinely tries to force Uyghur activists into making an impossible choice between the safety and well-being of themselves and their family members and doing what is right in raising China’s horrific persecution of the Uyghur people. We have witnessed that acquiescing to the Chinese government’s demands does not stop the threats or improve the situation for their family members in East Turkistan, but rather perpetuates China’s repression resulting in the prolonged suffering of many more people. Despite the pain and sacrifices, Uyghur activists must be resilient in the face of this violence and aggression in the hope our efforts lead to a brighter future for all people in East Turkistan who long for their basic rights and freedoms.