PRESS RELEASE: Uyghurs in exile urge an end to ‘business as usual’ approach with China, call for action for immediate closure of internment camps
In the face of mounting evidence of the extent of China’s internment camp system holding over one million Uyghurs and other Turkic groups, Uyghurs in exile have outlined eight immediate steps for coordinated action by governments.
At a conference held in Munich, Germany, over 250 Uyghur activists, academics and community leaders came together to build on the strategic approach of the Uyghur community around the world to directly address the camps, the comprehensive repression in East Turkistan and China’s persecution of Uyghurs abroad.
Expressing gratitude to states who are taking positive steps, the Conference zeroed in on what is now necessary to end the crimes against humanity underway in China.
Democratic governments should work in concert to:
- Call on China to immediately close the concentration camps in East Turkistan and release over one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic Muslim people who are being held in secret indefinite detention.
- Adopt a policy of conditionality for bilateral and multilateral agreements with China, requiring the closure of the concentration camps and release of all those in detention.
- Impose sanctions on the Chinese government and Party officials responsible for the ongoing crimes against humanity.
- Impose sanctions on Chinese and international companies complicit in this Crime, including the equipment and technology used in the detention centers and the total-surveillance apparatus throughout the Uyghur Region.
- Initiate a UN Security Council agenda item regarding the largest detention of a targeted ethno-religious group since the founding of the United Nations.
- Publicly affirm a policy of halting all deportations of Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers to China and expedite Uyghur political asylum and refugee applications.
- Prioritize humanitarian acceptance of stateless and at-risk Uyghur refugees currently exposed to reprisals or deportation in third countries.
- Urgently investigate and enforce domestic law to protect Uyghur citizens and asylum seekers who suffer constant harassment, threats, coercion, and reprisals by the Chinese government.
Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa, after the conference stated, “This has been a historic meeting of hundreds of Uyghurs in exile at the most critical time for Uyghurs in my life. All governments have a moral obligation to call on China to immediately dismantle this horrendous camp system.”
The Conference also focused on the need to protect Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers from deportation and to protect the rights of human-rights advocates who suffer harassment for their work. Uyghurs abroad have historically been targeted by the Chinese government, with hundreds having been returned over the lasts twenty years by China-friendly governments.
Omer Kanat, WUC Executive Committee Chairman, added that, “There is now tremendous momentum to push back on China’s violations of basic international norms, as we witnessed at China’s Universal Periodic Review.” Kanat continued by recalling that, “Inside the UN, member states delivered an unprecedented public rebuke to the Chinese government, and outside, Uyghurs, Tibetans and Southern Mongolians protested in large numbers against China’s human rights abuses.”
China underwent its 3rd Cycle Universal Periodic Review on November 6 at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. This peer-review process illustrated the willingness of some states to speak frankly about treatment of Uyghurs, but also the deafening silence of others not inclined to raise ongoing crimes against humanity, at a human rights review designed for that very purpose. Uyghur delegates expressed their sincere thanks to the 24 states who raised the persecution of Uyghurs, including 14 who raised the camps specifically.
In addition, the Conference called for much greater attention to be paid to international companies who continue to do business in the Uyghur region, including Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors, Heinz, Campbell Soup, Oracle and Thermo Fisher, among others.
At the same time, a group of around 40 young activists gathered in Munich to discuss impactful strategies for raising awareness of the internment camp system with the general public, and how best to engage with national governments where Uyghurs study and work.