PRESS RELEASE: WUC CALLS ON FRENCH PRESIDENT MACRON TO RAISE HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS DURING VISIT
Ahead of his official visit to China next week from January 8th – 10th, the World Uyghur Congress would like to call on the French President, Emmanuel Macron, to raise human rights concerns, especially the numerous violations perpetrated against the Uyghur people, with his counterparts in Beijing.
This last year has seen a dramatic deterioration in the human rights situation in East Turkestan, as the Uyghur people in particular have been subjected to increasingly harsh and sweeping restrictions. The Uyghur identity is now under direct threat on account of openly assimilationist policies.
East Turkestan saw an unprecedented crackdown in the region in 2017. Restrictive legislation, ethnic discrimination and pervasive surveillance and security have made life very difficult for the Uyghur people. Draconian restrictions have banned and criminalised even the most quotidian religious practices and new legislation has sought to establish state control over all religious organisations. This year, thousands of Uyghurs have been detained and sent to “re-education” camps for exercising their right to freedom of religion or merely associating with dissidents and human rights activists. Chinese authorities have also used increasingly invasive measures to monitor and track the Uyghur population. It has been widely reported that the Chinese authorities have conducted a massive program to collect the DNA samples and biometric data of the Uyghur people and Chinese dissidents.
In 2017, we also witnessed the extensive targeting of human rights defenders and Chinese dissidents. Over 30 relatives of Uyghur activist Rebiya Kadeer were arrested by Chinese police, only due to their association with her. Internationally recognized Uyghur professor Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life in prison for writing about the situation of the Uyghur people, remains imprisoned with little access to his family. Despite being nominated for the Sakharov prize in 2016, his situation has not improved and will likely get worse if countries like France do not continue to raise his case.
We have reached a real threshold in terms of China’s approach to difference. Each week new policies serve to further constrain and control Uyghurs through schools, the workplace, the mosque and extending into the home. Unless this is immediately acknowledged and substantively addressed, we fear that the future of Uyghurs as a distinct people will be tenuous.
It is the duty of the international community to respectfully call out those states that fail to live up to international human rights norms. France continues to stand as a pillar of democracy and respect for human rights in Europe and should ensure that those values continue to be reflected in its foreign relations. The Uyghur people look to President Macron to publicly raise these serious human rights concerns, so they are not forced to suffer in silence.