WEEKLY BRIEF: 02 October 2020

World Uyghur Congress, 02 October 2020


WUC Participates in Global Day of Action on 71st Anniversary of PRC
The 1st of October marked the 71st anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. On this occasion, the World Uyghur Congress, together with the International Campaign for Tibet, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, the Belgian Uyghur Association, Lungta – Actief voor Tibet and the Tibetan Community in Belgium, organized a joint demonstration in Brussels in order to call on the EU to take urgent and concrete action to hold China accountable for its serious human rights violations. 

“What the CCP is doing to Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers, Southern Mongolians, ethnic Kazakhs and others is not acceptable and is an affront to common humanity and human dignity”, WUC President Dolkun Isa said. “Now is the time for the EU to make tough decisions and make a clear and principled stance that it will not continue business as usual with a Chinese government actively committing genocide and other atrocities. We need urgent action before it is too late.”

The joint protest was part of the hundreds of protests and collective actions happening on 1st October around the world as part of a “Global Day of Action”, a joint initiative of organisations representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, Southern Mongolians, Hong Kongers and Taiwanese joining hands to honour the victims of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s repression and demand that the fundamental rights and freedoms of all people in China be respected. As the largest coordinated cross-movement action ever, the Global Day of Action saw protests take place in 61 cities around the world in a show of international solidarity amongst these groups; a coming together to recognise the present threat posed by the CCP to communities living under its rule, and for freedom, democracy, and human rights in China and globally.

65th Anniversary of XUAR Marks Decades of Repression and Broken Promises
Next to the 71st anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, the 1st of October also marked another significant date, namely the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). In 1949, the Chinese government militarily occupied East Turkistan, after which the CCP officially founded the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on October 1st, 1955. Although the Chinese government promised the Uyghur people that they would have meaningful autonomy and would be able to preserve their unique culture, language, history, and religion, all of these promises were broken. On the 65th anniversary of the creation of XUAR, its legacy has been decades of subjugation, repression, forced assimilation and broken promises.

“In the 65 years since the Chinese government imposed the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on the Uyghur people, the CCP has failed to keep any of their promises as our rights have been taken from us and our voices silenced,” said WUC President Dolkun Isa. “The legacy of this anniversary is one of genocide, colonialism and repression. The CCP has never treated Uyghurs as equal, but as colonial subjects to be assimilated and subjugated.”

French President Macron Calls for UN Mission to Visit East Turkistan
On 22 September, Reuters reported that French President Emmanuel Macron called for an international mission from the United Nations to visit East Turkistan to officially investigate the atrocities against Uyghurs. In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Macron said: “Fundamental rights are not a Western idea that one could oppose as an interference […] these are the principles of our organisation, enshrined in texts that the member states of the United Nations have freely consented to sign and to respect”. For the past years, the WUC has repeatedly called upon China and the international community to realize such a visit, which China offered the EU during the last EU-China summit. However, the WUC continues to emphasize that such a visit should be meaningful, allowing independent observers unfettered access to the Region and the internment camps, as well as the ability to interview Uyghur people without Chinese supervision and interference.

Xi Jinping Rejects Criticism of Human Rights Abuses against Uyghurs
On September 28th, The New York Times reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping, in remarks during a two-day conference that is likely to set the direction of Chinese policy in East Turkistan for the coming years, called his policies in the Uyghur Region a “totally correct success”. Despite Jinping’s continuous denial of China’s genocidal policies against the Uyghur and other Turkic people in East Turkistan, the international community appears to no longer univocally accept China’s impunity, as the past months saw increasing condemnation from international powers such as the European Union and the United States. At the same time, Xi’s remarks show that his determination to carry out atrocities against the Uyghur people has not changed, which underscores the urgent need for the international community to take concrete action to end the Uyghur genocide.

Utsul Community Becomes Latest Target for China’s Crackdown on Religious Freedom
On September 29th, the South China Morning Post reported how the Chinese government has expanded its policies of religious persecution, which have become notorious in East Turkistan where they are applied to target Uyghurs and other Muslim communities, in other areas in China. The latest example of this is the religious crackdown on the Utsuls, a small Muslim community-based in Sanya, a city on the island province of Hainan, almost 12,000 kilometers from East Turkistan. According to official CCP documents, recent bans on traditional dresses in schools and government offices are only the latest manifestation of a concerted campaign to sinicize the handful of neighborhoods where Utsuls live, eat, and pray. These practices mirror policies that have been developed in East Turkistan, where an estimated one in three mosques have been demolished since 2017, and show that China is spreading its violent, repressive form of governance throughout the country.

Proposal in UK Parliament to Open up Genocide Ruling against China
On the 29th of September, The Guardian reported how a new proposal tabled by MPs and peers would give Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups the right to petition a UK high court judge to declare that genocide is taking place in China, requiring the UK government to curtail trade ties with Beijing. The UK parliamentary alliance is proposing that no trade bill regulations be allowed to come into effect if a high court judge makes a preliminary determination that a party to the relevant trade agreement is committing genocide. Under the proposals, this would mark the first time that human rights advocates are able to seek redress in the UK courts for cases of alleged genocide, instead of the issue being determined at the UN, where deep political divisions have allowed China to act out its crimes with impunity. The new clause in the UK  is expected to be voted on by peers this month. The question of China committing genocide against Uyghurs has also been raised at other fora in the UK, such as the Uyghur Tribunal, which is set to provide an independent legal judgment over the course of 2021.

Uyghur Camp Survivor Reaches the United States

Tursunay Ziyawudun, one of the few Uyghur camp survivors has safely reached the United States. 

She was released from a camp in December 2018, and returned to Kazakhstan, due to her husband’s Kazakh citizenship. She fled to Turkey as a safe third-country, after their house was set on fire in suspicious circumstances. In Turkey, she was provided help by the World Uyghur Congress representatives, which then helped her to reach the United States. She was received by the Uyghur Human Rights Project. 

Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act Passes in the U.S. House of Representatives

On September 22, the US House of Representatives voted to pass the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act. This is in addition to the previously signed into law Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020.

This bill requires that U.S. border officials must receive strong evidence that goods were not produced with forced labour before its import authorisation. It also requires the U.S. President to sanction individuals who knowingly engage in forced labour.

The WUC is continuing to advocate for the end of Uyghur forced labour in all international forums, and is also part of the End Uyghur Forced Labour Coalition.