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Weekly Brief, 22 March 2024

Weekly Brief, 22 March 2024
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World Uyghur Congress Issues Press Release Calling on Australia for Concrete Actions
On March 20, Australian Minister For Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong, welcomed her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi to Canberra for the Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue. Prior to Wang Yi’s visit, the World Uyghur Congress issued a press release calling on the Australian government to prioritise human rights and implement concrete actions, including applying Magnitsky-style sanctions on those Chinese government officials responsible for human rights abuses and genocide against Uyghurs, and supporting the creation of a UN Special Rapporteur on China to report on and investigate the human rights situation in the country. To date, the Australian government has not officially recognized Uyghurs as victims of genocide and has taken relatively fewer measures to protect Uyghur refugees and other communities from China’s transnational repression. .

“The Australian government has historically approached its relations with China cautiously. It is therefore concerning to witness the warming of Australian-Chinese relations at this time,” expressed World Uyghur Congress President, Dolkun Isa. “This is an opportunity for Minister Penny Wong to hold China accountable with concrete actions, not merely with empty statements.”

In parallel to the Australia-China Dialogue, Uyghur and Tibetan activists gathered outside Australia’s parliament, demanding an end to the persecution of Uyghurs and Tibetans, and called for the release of Chinese-Australian writer Dr Yang Hengjun. 

VOA News Interviews Uyghur Diaspora in Munich
On March 15, Liam Scott from VOA News interviewed the Uyghur community living in Munich, Germany about their efforts to preserve their identity, culture and heritage. Munich has emerged as a significant political centre and safe haven for the Uyghur diaspora in Europe, with an estimated 700 to 800 Uyghurs calling it home. The article highlights the pivotal role of the Uyghur language, cuisine, and dance in maintaining Uyghur culture, serving as unifying elements within the community. In addition to interviews with various community members, VOA News featured insights from WUC President Dolkun Isa and WUC Director of Advocacy Zumretay Arkin. Ms. Arkin emphasised the importance of heritage preservation, stating, “If a nation forgets about their own heritage and culture, it means it’s the extinction of a nation. If you don’t speak the language anymore, if you don’t practise the traditions, or values, or religion, then there’s nothing left for us.”

World Uyghur Congress President Attends Snow Lion Awards Ceremony
On March 17, the World Uyghur Congress President, Dolkun Isa, attended the Snow Lion Awards Ceremony in Berlin, organised by the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). Every year, the ICT awards the ‘Snow Lion Human Rights Prize’ to  individuals and organisations for their outstanding achievements in human rights, politics, society, and culture concerning Tibet, China, East Turkistan, Southern Mongolia, Hong Kong or Taiwan. This year, Tibetan activist Lhadon Tethong, the Co-Founder/Director of Tibet Action Institute (TAI), and Freiheit für Hongkong e.V., represented by co-founders Amy Siu and Ray Wong, were awarded the prize for their courageous advocacy work. Additionally, the challenges and importance of reporting directly from Tibet were highlighted by ICT Communications Director, Kate Saunders. Furthermore, Taiwan Ambassador Dr. Shieh commented on the situation in East Turkistan, stating, “Mr. Isa knows best what ‘Xinjiang’ means in Chinese, which is ‘new region.’ So how can it always be part of China?”

World Uyghur Congress Engages in Series of Advocacy Events in Berlin
On March 13, the World Uyghur Congress was invited to an iftar reception hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. The event was attended by diplomats, representatives from both Muslim and Christian communities, and members of civil society groups. Ambassador Amy Gutmann addressed the guests, highlighting the plight of Uyghurs in East Turkistan, Rohingya in Burma and Bangladesh, and Palestinians in Gaza.

During the same week, the WUC Berlin Office Director, Gheyyur Qurban, participated in several meetings at the German Bundestag alongside colleagues of Freiheit für Hongkong and the Tibet Initiative Deutschland. The delegation met with MdB Renata Alt, the Chair of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, MdB Frank Schwabe, and MdB Marcel Emmerich to discuss China’s transnational repression. Subsequently, the delegation was invited as guest on the podcast of German MdB Frank Müller-Rosentritt to delve into the Chinese government’s transnational repression policies and their impact on individuals and communities. Possible actions that Germany and Europe could take in response were also discussed.

World Uyghur Congress President Interviewed by VOA
On March 14, the World Uyghur Congress President, Dolkun Isa, was interviewed by the Voice of America (VOA) journalist, Natalie Liu, during his book launch in Washington D.C. Mr. Isa spoke about his experiences in East Turkistan and China during the 1990s. According to Mr. Isa, as a result of continuous discrimination policies by the Chinese authorities, Uyghurs have always considered themselves second-class citizens in their own land. Additionally, they were barred from entering certain public places due to their national identity and were derogatorily referred to by Han Chinese people as “those who sell kebabs.” Since 2004, Uyghurs have also been prohibited from studying and teaching their own language. “Until 2004, from primary school all the way to university, the teaching language for Uyghur students was Uyghur. In 2004, Uyghur professors had to become proficient in Mandarin Chinese to keep their jobs,” said Mr. Isa.

World Uyghur Congress Celebrates its 20th Anniversary
On March 21, the World Uyghur Congress issued a press release announcing its 20th anniversary. From May 3-6, the World Uyghur Congress will celebrate its establishment in Munich, Germany. The event will be attended by nearly 300 participants, including Uyghur activists, community leaders, camp survivors, allies and friends, high-level government officials, and civil society representatives from more than 25 countries.

The WUC was established on April 16, 2004, following the merger of the East Turkistan National Congress and the World Uyghur Youth Congress into one united organisation. Over the last 20 years, the WUC has engaged in a wide range of awareness-raising and advocacy campaigns, and has achieved significant success in bringing the human rights abuses in East Turkistan and the genocide of the Uyghur people to the attention of the international community.  In 2021, the Uyghur Tribunal passed its landmark judgement concluding that the Chinese government’s atrocities against the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan constitute genocide and crimes against humanity. Following this, 11 national parliaments/senates and one government have adopted resolutions recognising the Uyghur genocide. The WUC has also trained many Uyghur youth in international advocacy, social media and communications, and digital security. As a result of our consistent advocacy and efforts, the WUC has been nominated twice to the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2023 and 2024.