PRESS RELEASE: WUC CONDEMNS CHINA TARGETING UYGHUR FAMILY SPACE TO SILENCE ACTIVISTS ABROAD
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) strongly condemns the Chinese government’s practice of targeting the Uyghur family space in order to silence Uyghurs abroad. Over the past months, Chinese authorities have intensified their targeting of Uyghurs abroad, threatening to detain or imprison their family members in East Turkistan if they do not stop speaking out.
“Tearing Uyghur families apart is a skill that the Chinese Communist Party has mastered over the past years, adding intense grief and guilt to the repression we are already suffering”, WUC President, Dolkun Isa said. “By detaining Uyghur parents, siblings, and children, or forcing them to denounce their relatives abroad, the Chinese government exploits innocent people to crack down on Uyghurs abroad, attempting to prevent them from speaking out on the Uyghur genocide.”
In recent months, the Xinjiang Overseas Friendship Association in Central Asia and in Russia has facilitated a virtual gathering between Uyghur students living in Central Asian countries and their relatives in East Turkistan. The WUC has received information from some students in these countries who have refused the invitation of the Association, whose relatives were consequently detained by the Chinese authorities. The right to normal family life is an internationally recognised and protected right. No state must be allowed to intrude the private lives of citizens, and retaliate against them if they refuse the state’s intrusion.
For Uyghurs in the diaspora, it is not uncommon to be contacted by the Chinese authorities and be urged to return to China. Especially in Central Asian countries, Chinese consulates have been actively attempting to convince Uyghurs to return under the promise that Chinese authorities would facilitate reunification with family members. However, such requests are done in a coercive manner, as they are usually accompanied by threats that family members in East Turkistan will be detained if a return to China is refused. The guilt following such refusal, which thus might have grave consequences for loved ones in East Turkistan, adds further psychological harm to the trauma Uyghurs are already experiencing.
Uyghurs in exile that are outspoken on the Uyghur genocide are targeted with particular ferocity by the Chinese government. Next to threatening to detain their family members and loved ones, the Chinese government has been increasing its use of hostage diplomacy over the past months. In press conferences or other public events, Uyghurs’ family members have appeared, where they are forced to make public statements or confessions that denounce the credibility of Uyghur activists or witnesses. One of the latest examples has been the smearing campaign rebutting the fact witnesses of the Uyghur Tribunal, who shared their experiences of being arbitrarily detained in one of China’s mass internment camps.
The case of how WUC President, Dolkun Isa, has been targeted by the Chinese government through his family in East Turkistan, presents another case that shows that the Chinese government is not afraid to follow up on its threats. In the last three years, Mr. Isa lost both of his parents under mysterious circumstances. After his mother died in a camp in May 2018, Mr. Isa learned of his father’s death from a CCP propaganda article in January 2019 that featured other family members denouncing Mr. Isa’s activism. Recently, Chinese authorities sentenced Mr. Isa’s younger brother to life imprisonment.
While strongly condemning these practices by the Chinese government, the WUC similarly calls upon national governments around the world to protect Uyghurs living in their jurisdictions from China’s threats and harassment.