Weekly Brief – February 28th

World Uyghur Congress, 28 February 2020

WUC Raises Uyghur Crisis at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

This week the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) started in Geneva. In her written update to the UN HRC, UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet mentioned that she welcomed China’s apparent decision to grant her a visit to East Turkistan this year. She further called for unfettered access to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations against Uyghurs and others. The High Commissioner had requested a visit on three occasions over the last year and a half, which have been routinely denied or deflected by the Chinese government. The WUC has been calling for a UN led independent investigation to the region and insists that the High Commissioner be given unfettered and meaningful access to the region and the camp facilities, if she is finally allowed to visit. 

As the session continued, Turkey, Germany, UK and the EU addressed China’s severe human rights violations in East Turkistan during the general debate. In his speech Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, raised his concerns about “the maltreatment of ethnic and religious minorities such as the Uighurs“. The WUC anticipates more countries will raise the Uyghur crisis in upcoming agenda items during the session.

Moreover, at a lecture at Radcliffe’s Knafel Center the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and University of Pennsylvania professor Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that China’s actions towards its Uyghur population currently “pose the greatest defiance of the human rights treaties across the globe“. He also noted that China’s behaviour in the UN posed a major challenge to human rights in the UN, as China has attempted to influence and defund human rights bodies and mechanisms to undermine human rights in the UN.

WUC staff members also met with state missions to the UN and UN experts and officials to update them on the crisis in East Turkistan and pushed them to take concrete and urgent actions to address this human rights catastrophe. This week, WUC staff members and Uyghur activists had the opportunity to participate in an UN advocacy workshop organized by ISHR. This workshop opened up additional opportunities to advocate for the Uyghur cause in meetings with high UN officials and embassy representatives.

The WUC also held a week-long photo exhibition, called “Repressed, Detained and Disappeared: Uyghur Human Rights Crisis”, at the Broken Chair square in Geneva, directly outside of the UN Palais des Nations. In this way, the WUC raised awareness about the Uyghur crisis inside and outside the UN. In addition, the WUC also hosted a reception on February 26 to which many diplomats, journalists and representatives of the civic society attended.

The WUC will continue to actively engage in this session of the UN Human Rights Council.

WUC President Raises Uyghur Crisis at Press Conference in Hanover

On February 27, WUC President Dolkun Isa was invited to participate in a press conference on German companies and the Uyghur human rights crisis hosted by Society of Threatened People in Hanover, Germany. Together with Ömürhan Altin from European Kazakh Forum, Magarete Bause Member of the German Parliament, Adrian Zenz, Washington D.C. based researcher, Ulrich Delius, GfbV, and others, Mr. Isa urged Germany and the European countries to take actions against China’s systematic Human Rights violations in East Turkistan. He raised the responsibility of companies like Volkswagen conducting business in East Turkistan to evaluate their supply chains and to make sure that they comply with international standards and to abide by their human rights commitments. Mr. Isa also raised the threat of the corona virus to the Uyghur people, especially those in the internment camps.

The speakers were highly concerned about China’s growing long arm. “China not only commits crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, but also systematically tries to undermine the international system of human rights and to put its censorship on democratic states,” said Ms. Bause. Furthermore, China seeks not only to silence critical voices in its borders but also threatens activists abroad as Mr. Isa could prove through his own experience. “China is trying to stop all Uyghurs activism but I will never stop, I will fight for my rights and my peoples rights” said Mr Isa.

WUC Representative Speaks at “British Islam 2020”

On February 23, Rahima Mahmut, head of the office WUC office in London, spoke at the British Islam 2020, a conference bringing together Muslim voices in Britain. Ms. Mahmut stressed out the importance of the support by the Muslim comunity for defending the human rights of Uyghurs. “British Muslims can petition, put pressure on MP’s and boycott certain products from China in order to help the cause of the Uyghur muslims,“ Ms. Mahmut recommended. While much of the Muslim world has remained silent on the persecution of Uyghurs, Muslim civil society and religious groups in the UK have become increasingly active and have given hope to the Uyghur people.

AVAAZ Launches “Break the Silence Campaign” Raising the Uyghur Crisis

On February 21, AVAAZ, a global civic movement connecting 50 million people worldwide, launched a petition. calling on the UN Human Rights Council, national Parliaments and legislatures, and firms doing business in China to take actions against “the brutal detention and brainwashing of at least 1 million innocent people” committed by the Chinese authorities in East Turkistan. These international actors should break their silence and “bring targeted sanctions and divestment to compel the Chinese regimes to respect basic human rights and international law”. In one week this petition almost reached 1 Million supporters. We encourage everyone to sign this petition to push for concrete action to be taken to end this crisis.

Google Translate Now Supports Uyghur Language

In a welcome development, google announced that its translating feature ‘Google Translate’ would now support the Uyghur language. This was welcomed by the WUC and Uyghur activists around the world, as an important recognition of the unique Uyghur language, which is under threat by assimilatory measures by the Chinese government. It will help to stimulate awareness and appreciation for the Uyghur language and Uyghur poetry, literature and other important works that had previously only been available in Uyghur. It will also help Uyghurs around the world to keep their language alive and to more easily access information in other languages.