Weekly Brief June 14

World Uyghur Congress, 14 June 2019

National Endowment For Democracy 2019 Democracy Award

The World Uyghur Congress, China Aid, Tibet Action Institute together received the 2019 Democracy Award on June 4th at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. exactly 30 years after the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing in 1989.

The Democracy Award is given annually by the NED Board of Directors to recognize the courageous and creative work of individuals and organizations that have advanced the cause of human rights and democracy around the world.

The award ceremony was held at the Capitol Hill where the President of NED Carl Gershman opened the ceremony and speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made statement addressing the Uyghur crisis in China.

Congressman Mike McCaul presented China Aid President Bob Fu with the first award. Bob Fu made strong statement stressing the importance of religious freedom. Congressman Thomas Souzzi presented Lhadon Tethong, Executive Director of the Tibet Action Institute with the second award. Lastly Congressman James McGovern presented the WUC president Mr Dolkun Isa the Democracy Award.

Around 40 Uyghur representatives and special guests from all around the world attended the ceremony and witnessed this special moment in the Uyghur advocacy history.

WUC Convenes International Conference Addressing Atrocities in China

The Uyghur Congress brought together a significant group of interested scholars, activists, journalists, human-rights agencies, policy experts, Uyghur leaders and the Uyghur community abroad in Washington DC from June 6-7 to convene a global conference – Confronting Atrocities in China: The Global Response to the Uyghur Crisis.

The event was the first attempt to gather a multidisciplinary group of interested parties to speak and think about how best to confront atrocities perpetrated against Uyghurs in China. The goal of the conference was primarily to develop specific actions that various groups can implement going forward to address the problem from various perspectives.

The conference began on June 6th with an opening ceremony at the US Capitol including high level speakers voicing their concern for the Uyghur people and speaking about what key actions should be taken in the near term. Speakers included WUC President, Dolkun Isa, Randall Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, Ambassador Sam Brownback, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Member of European Parliament, Csaba Sógor, Congressman Jim McGovern, Carl Gershman, the President of the National Endowment for Democracy, with statements from U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and Congressman Brad Sherman, and a video message from Senator Marco Rubio, among many others.

The conference continued over the next day and a half with panels focusing on the most relevant issue-areas and platforms for possible advocacy. The first panel focused on the available evidence on the camps in 2019 and featured German academic, Adrian Zenz, Canadian student, Shawn Zhang, and German journalist, Harald Maass – each of whom provided their own evidence for different perspectives gathered from different methods.

Additional panels included speakers from many different backgrounds including those with experience with the Chinese community, academics with deeper knowledge about causes and consequences of the camps, NGO representatives speaking about advocacy opportunities and strategies going forward, legal perspectives within the international law, journalists speaking about the role of the press since the camps opened. The conference concluded with a panel pulling together many of the concrete suggestions and recommendations to be implemented going forward.

WUC Expresses Solidarity with Hong Kong Protesters

The WUC issued a press release this week expressing its support and solidarity with the people of Hong Kong exercising their right to freedom of assembly by taking to the streets to protest against the introduction of an extradition law that would be used to silence and oppress civil society in Hong Kong.

Over 1 million people marched and demonstrated on the streets of Hong Kong, in opposition to a proposed extradition law, which would allow for human rights activists and dissidents to be extradited to mainland China and prosecuted in China’s court system. They would certainly not receive a fair trial in the Chinese courts and would likely be given lengthily sentences for their activism. If this law is passed, it would be a major blow to the autonomy and freedom of the people of Hong Kong, who have reacted appropriately by demonstrating en masse.

The WUC is encouraged by the mass mobilization of civil society in Hong Kong to defend their freedom and rights. The WUC would like to stress the interconnectivity of the situations of all ethnic and religious groups, as well as human rights and democracy activists in China. The mass arbitrary detention of over 1 million Uyghurs and the erosion of the basic rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong are both indications of the Chinese government’s complete intolerance for free expression, human rights or any critical voices.

Such a large demonstration, or any demonstration for that matter, would not have been allowed to take place in East Turkistan. Nearly all recent protests from the Uyghur people in East Turkistan have been met with violence, repression, enforced disappearances, summary executions and brutality.

WUC Deeply Concerned by UN’s Behaviour Towards the Crisis in East Turkistan

The WUC is deeply concerned by the actions of the UN after learning that only the UN Under Secretary General for Counter-Terrorism has been sent on a mission by the UN to China and East Turkistan. By taking this approach, the UN is actively supporting the false narrative that the internment camps and the arbitrary detention of 1-2 million innocent Uyghurs is in any way related to counter-terrorism.

The 1-2 million Uyghurs detained in the internment camps include scholars, athletes, business-people, doctors, musicians, activists and ordinary citizens, who were detained without a fair trial or being charged. The Chinese government did not reference counter-terrorism with regards to the camps until late 2018 in a effort to deflect criticism. Furthermore, they did not even acknowledge the camps’ existence until Aug 2018, 1.5 years after initial reports of their use. China has frequently used the narrative of ‘counter-terrorism’ to justify its crackdown on peaceful Uyghur activism and to quash any dissenting voices.

Fundamentally, the camps are not about terrorism, they are an attempt to totally assimilate the Uyghur people. Instead of adhering to China’s narrative by only allowing the Under Secretary General for counterterrorism to visit, the UN should prioritise instead visits from Special Rapporteurs with a specific mandate to investigate rights violations in the region. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religious Belief, Ahmed Shaheed and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet have specifically requested to visit East Turkistan. The WUC remains deeply concerned that the visit of the Under Secretary General may just be used by the Chinese government to cover up its crimes against humanity.