PRESS RELEASE: Uyghur Congress Urges Skepticism Over Shohrat Zakir Remarks

Press Release – For immediate release
30 July 2019
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
+49 89 5432 1999 or [email protected]

At a press conference this morning in Beijing, regional governor Shohrat Zakir suggested that the majority of those held in internment camps across the region have now been released and have signed work contracts with local companies. The Uyghur Congress urges the international community to remain deeply skeptical of these statements, given China’s history of false claims about the internment camp system.

Zakir’s remarks follow a predictable pattern of dubious statements that began with the outright denial of the camp system for more than a year and a half. When confronted by an independent UN Committee in August 2018, Party leaders launched a propaganda drive to reframe them as vocational training facilities, despite numerous mysterious deaths and widespread reports of torture.

Uyghur Congress President, Dolkun Isa, in response to the press conference remarked from Munich that, “It’s difficult now to believe anything Chinese authorities say about the camps. Although there may be a kernel of truth to what we heard this morning, it’s so buried in deception that it becomes unrecognisable.”

Zakir also suggested today that those detained in the facilities are able to “regularly go home” and that, while religious practice was prohibited in detention, Uyghurs and others are free to practice in their homes. The latter assertion is in direct contradiction to facts on the ground as well as concrete legislation that explicitly prohibits a long list of quotidian religious activities and expression.

In addition, the extensive compilation by human rights groups of Uyghur academics, scholars, writers, doctors and other professionals who continue to be held in the camps undermines claims that the facilities have anything to do with vocational training.

Moreover, the sister and several other relatives of Shorhat Zakir actually fled China to Germany, the United States and elsewhere to seek political asylum, openly contradicting his claims that the region is a peaceful, stable and safe place to live for Uyghurs.

It is also critical to note that, aside from the vast network of camps—reported by journalists, human rights groups and government officials—the region remains one of the most highly controlled in the world. High definition cameras equipped with facial recognition technology are supported by police checkpoints on nearly every city block, herding Uyghurs through full body and iris scanners for identity checks.

Authorities collected biometrics in 2016, including DNA samples, finger prints, iris scans, and blood types of all residents in the region between 12 and 65, which is entered into centralised, searchable databases, and coupled with data on individuals collected from police on the ground in order to develop detailed individual profiles.

Restrictions on religious practice and expression, the use of the Uyghur languagecultural activitiesbasic expression and the continued destruction of religious and cultural sites make up only a fraction of the dense mosaic of repression that persists.

We are therefore calling for much greater transparency and for the immediate acceptance of an independent Fact-Finding mission to fully investigate these and other claims.