Weekly Brief: 14 February 2020

World Uyghur Congress, 14 February 2020

WUC Delegation Holds Advocacy Meetings with UN Missions

In preparation for the upcoming UN Human Rights Council session later this month, the WUC sent a delegation of representatives to meet with state missions to the UN and UN experts and officials. The delegation met with a large number of state missions over the course of the week, updating them on the current crisis in East Turkistan and pushing them to take concrete and urgent action to address this human rights catastrophe. WUC President Dolkun Isa and staff members met with the US Ambassador Bremberg and the US mission’s human rights team, who again called on China to close the camps and release those in arbitrary detention.

WUC Raises Danger Posed by the Corona Virus to Camp Detainees

The WUC has continued to raise the plight of Uyghurs detained in the internment camps who remain particularly vulnerable to the spread of the novel corona virus (COVID-19).

The WUC is very concerned that if measures are not taken to further limit the spread of this virus, it could rapidly infect large numbers of people living in East Turkistan. The estimated 1-3 million Uyghurs still being detained in internment camps by the Chinese government are at a particular risk if the virus is not contained.

Witness accounts of the camps have evidenced that detainees are imprisoned in cramped, overcrowded rooms with poor hygiene and sanitation. A large number of Uyghurs who were detained in the camps have already died, either under mysterious circumstances or due to medical neglect and mistreatment. Older people have formed the majority of these cases. As the elderly and those who have compromised immune systems have been the vast majority of the fatalities from the virus so far, the health and well-being of those currently detained in the camps is of particular concern.

The WUC issued a press release on this issue on January 27th, articulating our concern at the situation. Over the course of this week, the WUC was quoted or referenced in an article in the Guardian and Andalou Agency on the risk the virus poses to camp detainees.

The virus has also been having a major impact on the rest of China. Dr. Li Wenliang, a doctor who had tried to warn others about the spread of the virus in its earlier stages, but was arrested and censored by the CCP, died after contracting the virus himself. His death caused an outpouring of grief, anger and calls for freedom of expression on Chinese social media. The WUC welcomes the growing awareness and calls of the Chinese people for their basic rights, but also calls for Chinese society to recognize the horrific human rights violations and crimes against humanity that Uyghurs and Tibetans have been continuously subjected to and to push for respect for human rights for all people.

The response of the Chinese government to this anger and calls for rights and freedoms from the Chinese people has been to double down on censorship and surveillance. Very little information about the spread of the virus in East Turkistan has been released and a report from Radio Free Asia alleged this information was being treated as a state secret by the CCP. Despite this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have not called out China’s lack of transparency and mishandling of the situation, instead opting to echo CCP talking points and praise the Chinese government.

European Tibetan Youth Platform

From February 7 to February 10 2020, WUC representative Zumretay Akin participated in the the 6th edition of the European Tibetan Youth Platform. Under the motto “Movement, Allies and modern-day China” participants discussed the global opportunities to ally Tibetan, Hong Kong and Uyghur movement across frontiers. In her presentation Ms Akin talked about the Uyghur movement and the need for collaboration between these communities.  

Sexual abuse and Torture in the Internment Camps

This week, Bitter Winter repotered in an article that the Chinese police are committing sexual abuse of female inmates, torture and etra-judicial killing in the camps . Bitter Winter referred to a report by the German Foreign Ministry which was leaked to journalists of Deutsche Welle, Süddeutsche Zeitung, NDR and WDR.  

Furthermore, The New York Times interviewed ethnic Kazakhs and Uyghurs in Kazakhstan who had escaped from the camps in Xinjiang. According to the NYT article a man was caged underground in a police station, where he was beaten until he lost his hearing in one ear. Other inmates “were shackled and strung up as if crucified”. Another torture messure is to tie inmates to “tiger benches” which means chain them and deprive them of sleep. Furthermore, “Forced thank Xi every night for the opportunity to be so enlightened”

Illegal Surveillance at Chinese Embassy in Norway

This week, Adiljan Abdurehim from the Norwegian Uyghur Committee raised the issue of the Chinese Embassy in Norway installing surveillance cameras on embassy grounds to monitor and record demonstrators outside of the embassy. He raised this issue with the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and then with the Norwegian press, as the cameras likely constitute a violation of Norwegian law.

Chinese officials frequently try to record Uyghur demonstrations in order to discover the identities of those participating. This is then use to punish the family members of the demonstrators who are still in East Turkistan, in an act of reprisal. It is vital that states do not allow the Chinese government to violate the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression in their own states and to protect activists and their families who are being threatened or intimidated by the Chinese government.