Weekly Brief August 17th
World Uyghur Congress, 17 August 2018
UN Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination Questions China About Re-education Camps
There were major developments this past week as the issue of China’s mass arbitrary detention of Uyghurs in internment camps made international news after the issue was brought in the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s review of China. WUC representatives attended the review of China in Geneva, Switzerland, working with NGOs and Members of the Committee to question China on its clear discrimination against the Uyghur population, including its use of internment camps, denial of religious and linguistic freedoms, and countless other issues.
Prior to the review, the WUC drafted a parallel report, which was considered during the session. The report is a comprehensive overview of China’s discriminatory treatment of the Uyghur population in East Turkistan – particularly since China’s previous CERD review in 2009.
On the first day of the review, on August 10th, CERD Committee members asked a number of questions to the Chinese delegation about its implementation of the Convention to Eliminate Racial Discrimination. As a direct result of WUC efforts, a number of committee members asked the Chinese delegation about its ethnic discrimination against Uyghurs and the numerous related human rights violations. Questions on China’s efforts to eliminate the Uyghur language in education, the denial of basic religious freedoms, the complete lack of political and civil rights and discrimination in employment were among the issues raised by committee members. Critically, Ms. Gay McDougall, the Co-Rapporteur of UN CERD, asked the Chinese delegation about the mass arbitrary detention of over 1 million Uyghurs in political indoctrination camps and the forced return and subsequent enforced disappearance of Uyghur students, refugees and asylum seekers. The attention to these issues by the CERD committee captured international attention with many major publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, BBC and many more media outlets reporting on the UN raising the issue of the political indoctrination camp.
Immediately preceding the review of China, the WUC and Uyghur community in Switzerland protested in front of the UN in Geneva on August 10th. The silent protest was organised to demonstrate against China’s continues systematic discrimination and oppression of Uyghurs in East Turkistan. Protesters handed pamphlets with detailed information about the current situation of the Uyghurs in East Turkistan.
On Monday, August 13th, the review of China continued as the Chinese delegation responded to the issues raised in the previous session. Committee members noted that the Chinese delegation seemed defensive and evasive, avoiding answering the difficult questions posed to them or denying that their existence outright. The Chinese delegation claimed that Uyghurs faced no discrimination or human rights violations, had all their rights respected, and worked in ‘peace and contentment’. Despite undeniable evidence and a growing number of media reports on the issue, the Chinese delegation completely denied arbitrarily detaining 1 million Uyghurs in ‘re-education camps’, saying: “The argument that one million Uyghurs are detained in re-education centers is completely untrue”. China did make a slight admission, claiming ‘criminals’ were ‘resettled and reeducated’. China’s refusal to own up to its human rights violations and repression was noted by committee members who pushed China to provide substantial answers and not just deny and avoid. Instead of engaging, the Chinese delegation blamed ‘certain organisations’ for deceiving committee members and submitting false reports. The Chinese delegation’s refusal to engage on the issues and attempts to undermine the contributions of civil society was noted by the committee members and the international media.
China’s continued denial of reality and refusal to acknowledge the existence of the camps made international news in most major news outlets. The WUC’s report to CERD and posts on social media was quoted directly in articles from CNN, Quartz and BBC, amongst others. WUC President, Dolkun Isa, was quoted directly in a Reuters article, saying,
“They even denied there are re-education camps. This is not a couple of hundred people – it is more than 1 million to 3 million in detention. But the Chinese government just closes its eyes.”
The significant attention to China’s oppression of Uyghurs during China’s CERD review also clearly rattled the Chinese government. Through Chinese state media outlet, The Global Times, China published several articles attempting to justify its repression of Uyghurs and attacking the UN CERD and the World Uyghur Congress. Although the articles still did not admit to the existence of the camps, their content was disturbing, saying that the Chinese government would take any measures at its disposal to ensure ‘stability and securing’ in East Turkistan. The international media took note again of China’s defensiveness.
While China’s refusal to acknowledge the camps was disappointing, the overall outcome of China’s CERD review was overwhelmingly positive. As a direct result of the work of the WUC at the UN CERD Committee in Geneva, we can see that more news agencies, national governments, immigration agencies and wider public are waking up to the persecution and abuses faced by Uyghurs in their own homeland. Multiple media outlets have called on states to take direct action, including an editorial by in the Washington Post and an article from the Globe and Mail.
Article Shines Light on Chinese Police Spying on Uyghurs on US Soil
An article from the Daily Beast has detailed how the Chinese police spies on Uyghurs, even on US soil. Uyghurs around the world have been subjected to intimidation, harassment and threats from Chinese police in an effort to silence activism and infiltrate the Uyghur community. Uyghurs in the US have reportedly received deceptive online messages from the Chinese police in an attempt to keep track and gather the personal information of Uyghurs living abroad. The relatives of Uyghurs in the diaspora who are still in East Turkistan are used as leverage by the Chinese police, who threaten to imprison them if Uyghrus in the diaspora do not cooperate. The brazen attempt to spy on and influence Uyghurs outside of the borders of China shows a complete lack of respect for the sovereignty of other countries and shows the extent the Chinese government is willing to go to in order to control and persecute the Uyghur people.
Chinese Landlord Arrested on Terror Charges for Renting to Uyghurs
Immediately after China’s UN CERD review, in which China claimed no ethnic discrimination occurs against the Uyghur people, reports emerged that a Chinese landlord was arrested for merely renting to Uyghur people, without approval from police, and is being held on terrorism charges. Uyghurs and Tibetans are regularly banned from hotels and other forms of accommodation, due to their ethnicity. During the 19th Party Congress, Uyghurs were forbidden from staying in any hotels in Beijing due to ‘security concerns’. The fact that a Chinese landlord was arrested just for renting to Uyghurs demonstrates how endemic and serious the discrimination against Uyghurs in China is.