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China's Xinjiang Uyghur Muslim oppression

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

China's Muslim Uyghurs in the Western province of Xinjiang find themselves the target of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) religious oppression. Much of what is being practiced today in Xinjiang was previously developed and used against Buddhists in Tibet.

United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 18

"1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions."

China has signed the ICCPR but has not ratified this Treaty and therefore is not required to comply. Having signed the ICCPR China is obliged to ensure that its legislation, policies and practices are aligned with the ICCPR covenants.

Hong Kong anti-extradition protesters stand with Xinjiang Uyghurs in their fight against oppression by the CCP.

China's Appointment to U.N. Human Rights Panel Sparks Global Outcry

[Update: RFA 8 April 2020]

China's appointment to a United Nations human rights panel has sparked a global outcry, especially among rights activists and ethnic minority groups subject to Beijing's rights abuses and discrimination. The country was appointed on Wednesday to a panel where it will play a key role in selecting U.N. Human Rights Council's investigators charged with monitoring human rights, including abuses of the freedoms of speech, the right to health, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, the NGO U.N. Watch said in a report. The group's executive director Hillel Neuer said the appointment was "like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief," the report said. "It’s absurd and immoral for the UN to allow China’s oppressive government a key role in selecting officials who shape international human rights standards and report on violations worldwide," it quoted Neuer as saying. China will be able to influence the selection of at least 17 investigators over the next year, as well as vetting and recommending candidates for critical human rights posts. Veteran rights activist Yang Jianli, who has acted as adviser to U.N. Watch, said the move was fresh proof that the U.N. Human Rights Council is now a defunct organization. "China's appointment to the advisory panel proves once again that the United Nations is no longer able to fulfill its proper functions," Yang said. "To say that the U.N. Human Rights Council is now purely cosmetic is putting it mildly; actually it now defends human rights abusers," he said. 'Like appointing a wolf to protect sheep'

In Dharamsala, India, a spokesman for the Central Tibetan Administration in exile said the move was "very unfortunate." "It will greatly disturb the world order and restructure the narrative around human rights," T.G. Arya said. "Tibetans, Chinese, Uyghurs, Mongolians and the people of Hong Kong, who are all victims of the Chinese Communist Party’s oppressive regime, all now fear that they will not get fair hearing," he said. "It is like putting an eagle in a dovecote." He warned: "If China’s diplomatic arm-twisting continues undeterred in this way, it will encourage the rise of totalitarianism." The International Campaign for Tibet said China's appointment to the panel was "a blow to the global human rights system." "At the UN Human Rights Council, China obstructs civil society participation and makes a mockery out of established human rights mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review," it said.

Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) exile group, citing China's incarceration of up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in internment camps since April 2017, said putting China on the panel was "like appointing a wolf to protect sheep.”

"In order to deflect international condemnation and cover up its crimes against humanity in East Turkestan, China has been aggressively manipulating the United Nations mechanisms and monopolizing important position to promote its disinformation and propaganda campaigns," he added. East Turkestan is many of the 10.5 million Uyghurs' preferred name for the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), established by China in 1955, six years after Beijing's new communist government asserted control over the region. The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) said Beijing should play no role in the selection of U.N. rights experts and investigators. "The Chinese government is committing crimes against humanity as we speak," UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat said. "What are the chances that the Chinese representative will agree to have truly independent monitors in these roles?" Veto power to Beijing

The group said China has failed to answer outstanding requests and reminders from at least 17 UN experts investigating cultural rights, freedom of assembly and expression and enforced disappearances, among other abuses, some of which date back two decades.

"It intimidates victims who try to bring cases to the UN and has repeatedly blocked any independent investigation of its arbitrary detention of 1.8 million to two million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims," the UHRP said. "When UN experts are permitted to enter the country to investigate, many have documented  harassment, intimidation, a refusal to be granted access to certain locations or individuals, and unacceptable government controls throughout the visit," it said. The five-nation panel, now consisting of China, Chad, Spain and Slovenia (with one state awaiting nomination), makes crucial decisions about which candidates pass through the initial stages in the appointment process, it said. "The Chinese mission in Geneva will effectively hold veto power over any candidates it does not favor," UHRP said, warning that China is already trying to rewrite the definition of human rights at the U.N. to suit its own purposes.

In Washington, seven Republican U.S. Senators sent a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres opposing the appointment, citing its controversial handling of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

“The Chinese government’s decision to deceive the international community about the grave dangers of the initial 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan, China, violates any credibility on human rights and should disqualify them from a position on the Human Rights Council Consultative Group,” said the group, which included former Republican presidential primary candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

“Through intimidation of its medical first responders, censorship of online forums, and threats of severe punishment for anyone who dared to speak out with the truth, the Chinese Communist Party engaged in its most egregious human rights abuse: the unchecked spread of a new and dangerous virus on an unwitting global population.”

Reported by Xue Xiaoshan for RFA's Mandarin Service, by Lobe for the Tibetan Service, and by Alim Seytoff for the Uyghur Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Top brands accused of using forced Uyghur labour

[Update: Source: RTHK 2 March 2020]

Beijing is transferring tens of thousands of Uighur detainees out of internment camps and into factories that supply some of the world's leading brands, an Australian think tank said Monday. Top global brands such as Apple, Samsung, BMW and Sony have been accused of getting supplies from factories using the forced labour, an explosive allegation that could reverberate in boardrooms across the world. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute said Beijing has transferred 80,000 or more Uighurs out of camps in Xinjiang and into factories across the country. "Uighurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors," the think tank said. "Some factories across China are using forced Uighur labour under a state-sponsored labour transfer scheme that is tainting the global supply chain." The brands, it added, included "Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen". "Companies using forced Uighur labour in their supply chains could find themselves in breach of laws which prohibit the importation of goods made with forced labour or mandate disclosure of forced labour supply chain risks," the report said. "The companies listed in this report should conduct immediate and thorough human rights due diligence on their factory labour in China, including robust and independent social audits and inspections." An estimated one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been held in internment camps in Xinjiang. After initially denying their existence, Beijing cast the facilities as "vocational education centres" where "students" learn Mandarin and job skills in an effort to steer them away from religious extremism, terrorism and separatism. Rights groups and witnesses accuse China of forcibly trying to draw Uighurs away from their Islamic customs and integrate them into the majority Han culture. Officially, Beijing says it is transferring "surplus" Xinjiang labour to other regions in the name of poverty alleviation. According to Xinhua News Agency, more than 25,000 workers from Xinjiang were slated to be transferred "inland" in 2019. The foreign ministry and the Xinjiang government did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report. (AFP)

Xinjiang Authorities Sending Uyghurs to Work in China’s Factories, Despite Coronavirus Risks

[Update: Source: RFA 27 February 2020. Reported by Mamatjan Juma and Alim Seytoff for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma and Alim Seytoff. Written in English by Joshua Lipes].

Authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are sending hundreds of ethnic Uyghurs to other parts of China to work in factories affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), drawing criticism from observers who say the move shows “Uyghur lives don’t matter” in the country.

COVID-19 has brought production in China to a grinding halt as authorities enact nationwide quarantines and travel restrictions to slow the spread of the virus that, as of Thursday, had infected nearly 78,500 people and left more than 2,700 dead in the country.

But while measures taken by Beijing to combat the virus grow ever stricter, official media reports in recent days suggest that the government in the XUAR has been forcing Uyghurs to relocate to factories in the provinces of Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang, in what may be part of a bid to shore up output, despite the risks associated with potential infection.

Recent reports by the official Xinjiang Daily and Chinanews.com said that from Feb. 22-23, “400 youths were transferred to the provinces of Hunan, Zhejiang, and Jiangxi.”

Of those, 114 from Awat (in Chinese, Awati) county, in the XUAR’s Aksu (Akesu) prefecture, were sent to Jiangxi’s Jiujiang city on Feb. 23, 100 from Aksu city were sent to Jiujiang on Feb. 22, and 171 from Hotan (Hetian) prefecture were sent to Changsha city in Hunan province, the reports said, without providing a date for the last transfer.

Additionally, Chinanews.com reported that on Feb. 26 at 11:00 a.m., 135 workers flew from Aksu Airport to Jiangsu’s Wuyi city to take part in “summer work,” without providing details.

Another report from the official Tianshan.net website said that at noon on Thursday, 242 workers from the seat of Kashgar (Kashi) prefecture, as well as Kashgar’s Poskam (Zepu), Kargilik (Yecheng), and Yengisar (Yingjisha) counties, flew from Kashgar Airport to Changsha on a China Southern Airlines B787 aircraft.

According to the report, most of the workers were born after 1990 and were sent to Changsha to work for the Lansi Technology Co.

In a separate report, Tianshan.net said that on Feb. 25, authorities in Hotan forced more than 30,000 workers to return to their jobs at 299 enterprises in the area, despite an ongoing quarantine.

Uyghur lives at stake

Speaking to RFA’s Uyghur Service on Thursday, Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), said he found it “shocking” that Xinjiang’s government is forcing hundreds of Uyghur workers to travel to other parts of China to work in factories “at a time when [Beijing has] quarantined millions of people and companies have suspended production out of fear of coronavirus infection.”

“It is clear that the Chinese government is placing these Uyghurs in harm’s way because Uyghur lives don’t matter to China,” he said.

“There is no guarantee that these Uyghurs will come home alive. China must stop forcing Uyghurs to go to the Mainland and work as cheap labor under the threat of the coronavirus.”

Memet Imin, a Uyghur medical researcher based in New York, said that Uyghurs represent an ideal workforce for companies in other parts of China that are struggling to meet their targets amid the outbreak.

“China is sending Uyghurs because they have no means to oppose the authorities, they can be forced to work as cheap labor, and the companies that employ them won’t be held accountable, even if they get sick or die due to the coronavirus,” he said.

“Because the situation Uyghurs face is highly precarious, it would be rather easy for the Chinese government to explain away the death [of one of these workers] to their parents.”

Region under threat

Recent reporting by RFA has found that many residents of the XUAR have been left without adequate food and supplies amid quarantines enforced by local officials to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the region, which as of Thursday has seen 76 infections that have led to two deaths.

In certain areas of the XUAR, such as the city of Atush (in Chinese, Atushi) in Kizilsu Kirghiz (Kezileisu Keerkezi) Autonomous Prefecture, residents found to have left their homes without permission during quarantine face the threat of 15 days detention in the region’s network of internment camps, where as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas are believed to have been held since April 2017.

Reporting by RFA and other media outlets indicate that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities that experts warned recently could lead to an epidemic.

A lack of transparency on the part of officials has been blamed for allowing the coronavirus to gain a solid foothold in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province, leading authorities to shut down the city in January.

Qaraqash List ‘Debunks’ China’s Claims of Combating Extremism in Xinjiang: Uyghur Whistleblower

Source: RFA 18 February 2020. Reported and translated by Alim Seytoff for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

The latest leaked official document detailing the incarceration of hundreds of ethnic Uyghurs in one county in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has “debunked” claims that the policy is part of a bid to fight extremism in the region, the person who made it public said Tuesday.

Over the weekend, several media outlets published a 137-page document known as the Qaraqash List - named after Qaraqash (in Chinese, Moyu) county in the XUAR’s Hotan (Hetian) prefecture - which outlines the reasons why 311 people were sent to four area internment camps and the process by which authorities determined whether or not they could be released.

The document, which was leaked in part by Netherlands-based Uyghur exile Asiye Abdulahad and vetted by Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, includes categorizations such as violating laws that prohibit minorities from having more than two children, exhibiting religious behavior, maintaining ties overseas, or being “untrustworthy.”

The Qaraqash List also details information about multiple generations of individuals’ relatives, as well as who they associate with, how regularly they practice Islam, and whether they have any criminal backgrounds, and summarizes the entries with evaluations that recommend whether they should “graduate” and be released or remain in detention.

Abdulahad on Tuesday called the document she helped provide to media outlets, which includes details on the personal lives of more than 3,000 people and entries dated until March 2019, the latest to undermine Beijing’s narrative that the camp system exists to stamp out extremism and terrorism.

In November, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released a classified guide on how the camp system operates, known as the "China Cables," while another set of documents published that same month by The New York Times, called the "Xinjiang Papers," detailed the historical precedent for the camps. Both were leaked by Abdulahad.

“These documents have effectively debunked the Chinese claims that it has been fighting against extremism,” she told RFA’s Uyghur Service, adding that they show Uyghurs have been targeted “simply for their normal belief in and practice of Islam, just like all other believers of religions in the world.”

“These Uyghurs were detained for simply practicing normal activities, such as growing a beard and having more children. If the detention of Uyghurs was based on the reasons given in these documents, then it is impossible to imagine how many Uyghurs have actually been locked up in the concentration camps. It is clear that Uyghurs are facing ethnic cleansing in their own homeland.”

Mass incarcerations

Authorities in the XUAR are believed to have detained some 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in a vast network of internment camps since April 2017.

While Beijing initially denied the existence of the camps, China last year changed tack and began describing the facilities as “boarding schools” that provide vocational training for Uyghurs, discourage radicalization, and help protect the country from terrorism.

But reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets indicate that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.

In his analysis of the Qaraqash List, Zenz - one of the world’s foremost experts on mass incarcerations in the XUAR - said the document “presents the strongest evidence to date that Beijing is actively persecuting and punishing normal practices of traditional religious beliefs, in direct violation of its own constitution.”

“More than any other government document pertaining to Beijing’s extralegal campaign of mass internment, the Karakax List lays bare the ideological and administrative micromechanics of a system of targeted cultural genocide that arguably rivals any similar attempt in the history of humanity,” Zenz writes.

Mass incarcerations in the XUAR, as well as other policies seen to violate the rights of Uyghurs and other Muslims, have led to increasing calls by the international community to hold Beijing accountable for its actions in the region, which also include the use of advanced technology and information to control and suppress its citizens.

The publishing of the Qaraqash List also drew the attention of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which in a post to its Facebook account on Tuesday quoted Commissioner Gary Bauer as calling it “proof from official records that Chinese persecution of Uighur Muslims is about targeting religion, not terrorism or extremism.”

Reference: https://www.jpolrisk.com/karakax

‘If They Hadn’t Tortured My Husband, He Wouldn’t Have Fallen Into a Coma’

Source: RFA 30 January 2020. Reported by Arslan for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Munawwar Ablimit is a Uyghur mother of two from the prefecture-level city of Karamay (in Chinese, Kelemayi) in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). In 2017, her husband Polat Ibrahim was sent to an internment camp, where authorities have detained as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas beginning that year. In February of 2017, Ibrahim fell into a coma, was sent by camp authorities for 20 days of medical treatment and then released to his home, where he died 10 days later. China has described the camps as “boarding schools” that provide vocational training for Uyghurs, discourage radicalization, and help protect the country from terrorism, but reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service suggests that people are detained against their will, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities. Ablimit, who currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey, recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service that she believes her husband may have died as a result of injuries he sustained during interrogations at his camp. She also revealed that all five of her younger siblings have been detained by authorities since she fled the XUAR. I am Munawwar, and I would like to give an oral testimony on behalf of my relatives who are back in my country, my homeland. There were six children in my family—I’m the oldest of the six… Our family members are both intellectuals and blue-collar workers. There’s not a single person in my family, which has long held government jobs, who has done anything against the government or the political climate… Our only sin was having accepted Islam.

We’re a religious family, we accepted Islam. We prayed five times a day and read the Qur’an. My parents went [on the holy Islamic pilgrimage] to Mecca. They committed no other crime. Going to Mecca is considered a crime. They’ve used the fact that we’re a praying, Islamic family to make us into a big “political” family.

I have one daughter and one son. On July 11, 2015, I traveled to Turkey with my two children. Both of my kids had hoped to study in Turkey, so I came and got them settled in at a school. Two months later I returned home… As soon as I got back, security officials came looking for me and asked where I’d been. They said, “You’ve been to Turkey” and asked what I’d done there. So I told them about my childrens’ dream to study … After four months, out of nowhere, people showed up from the Public Security Bureau to interrogate me. They came and interrogated me for four consecutive days. They insisted that my children come back… Their intent was to find some sort of excuse to accuse me of something.

Meanwhile, word started getting out that they were gathering passports. I heard of several people whose passports had been confiscated, and I started to get worried. What would happen if my passport were taken away and my kids were stuck alone in Turkey? I started looking for a way out, and Allah gave it to me. I found a way out and returned to Turkey with Allah’s help on Feb. 19, 2016.

They really gave my husband a tough time after I went back [to Turkey]. [After he was detained], when they were torturing my husband and interrogating him, he ended up in a coma, although we aren’t sure how. He fell into a coma and they took him to intensive care. They wouldn’t let anyone see him. They were taking everyone from our family [into detention] at that time. If they hadn’t tortured my husband, he wouldn’t have ended up like that. He wouldn’t have fallen into a coma. My youngest brother told me the news of my husband’s death on [the messaging app] WeChat … I only heard about the torture my husband had been through from people I met after coming here [to Turkey].

‘Foul play’

March 3, 2017 is when I learned about my husband’s death. [Family members] took a picture of my husband in the room where they washed his body. I have the picture. After his death, I don’t know the details but they took in his family—his older brother and his sister. My brother-in-law died as well, but I don’t know the cause of his death. He was so loyal and faithful to the government, and he wasn’t a political person. It has to be true that my husband died from some sort of foul play. He was a completely healthy person.

After I returned to Turkey, they detained everyone from my family, including all of my younger brothers and sisters. The oldest of my younger sisters worked at the Karamay TV station. One of my younger brothers, they took him into a camp as well, and he came out with foot problems, unable to walk. They eventually let him out for medical treatment. At that time, I was able to talk with my mom on the phone every once in a while… She would say, “They took them to a reeducation center to learn, it’s no big deal.” She couldn’t say much more [because she was being monitored]. It must have been heart-wrenching for her.

So many people from my family have disappeared. I don’t know how many more of my … fellow Uyghurs have disappeared … I hope that the international community can stand up for us.

EU Seen Turning Tough Rhetoric Into Action on Abuses Against Muslim Uyghurs in China

[Update Source : RFA 21 February 2020. By Roseanne Gerin].

Rights groups rejoiced when the European Parliament passed a resolution in December strongly condemning the large-scale incarceration of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwestern China, laying out a blueprint for action against Beijing should it not stop its harsh treatment of the Muslim minority group.

The resolution gives the EU a mandate to take concrete measures by allowing the adoption of targeted sanctions and asset freezes against Chinese officials responsible for the repression and mass detentions in Xinjiang where more than 10 million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims live.

The resolution notes the rapid deterioration of the situation in Xinjiang during the last few years with the mass internment of up to 2 million people, intrusive digital surveillance, political indoctrination, and forced cultural assimilation. It calls on the Chinese government to immediately shut down the detention centers, unconditionally release detainees, and give independent journalists and international observers unfettered access to the region.

At the time the resolution was passed, the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) called it “a turning point in the EU’s attitude and position on the crisis in East Turkestan,” the name by which many Uyghurs refer to Xinjiang.

“While the EU has been among the loudest voices calling for the camps to be closed, it had yet to take strong and concrete action to realize this goal,” the WUC said in a statement.

Though it could take months before the EU as a whole moves to implement specific measures against China, rights groups say they have high expectations that something will occur soon.

“It’s just one step in the larger process of getting the European Union to take further action,” said Ryan Barry, WUC’s project coordinator and researcher. “It gives the EU a mandate to take some very concrete measures, including suggestions to take sanctions, which is something we’ve been calling for for a long time.”

The December 2019 resolution is the third such measure to be passed by EU lawmakers in the last 18 months to address the Uyghur crisis and demonstrate the body’s resolve to take substantial action to stop China from violating human rights in Xinjiang.

Going beyond the other two measures, the new resolution calls on EU companies to monitor their involvement in the Uyghur region to ensure they are not complicit in or responsible for crimes against humanity taking place there, Barry said.

“Each one has gotten progressively more concrete and more specific in what they are trying to address, so we think this is a very important part in the overall scheme to try to address this issue, but what matters now is to implement the measures in this resolution,” Barry said.

A sense of urgency

Others indicate an urgency for concrete action because they say China may not take the December resolution or other measures seriously. So far, the situation in Xinjiang, where authorities are believed to have held 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since April 2017, hasn’t changed.

“The resolutions may be ignored, but the EU has to be ready to follow up and impose necessary actions/measures in accordance with international law,” Bahtiyar Omer, chairman of the Norwegian Uyghur Committee, wrote in an email to RFA. “We cannot stop fighting for basic and universal values just because China might ignore it.”

Norway is not a member of the European Union, but rather a member of the European Economic Area that allows for the extension of the EU’s single market to non-EU member states.

Gheyur Qurban, WUC’s Berlin-based youth committee director, told RFA in 2019 that China believes it can afford to ignore accountability on the Uyghur crisis because of its economic superpower status.

“Regardless of this human crisis there, what governments can do is not far enough,” he said. “There is emphasis and attention, but there is only a war of words because China is now a superpower, so it just doesn’t care about these human rights [issues].”

Rights groups say that pressure must be sustained on bodies like the EU to keep the Uyghur crisis out in front so that lawmakers and others will decide to implement concrete measures against China sooner rather than later, but challenges remain.

Ralph Bunche, general-secretary of the Brussels-based Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), notes that unlike the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, a legally binding measure passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2019, the EU Parliament’s latest resolution is a nonbinding statement that is asking EU institutions to act.

“So, you’re not looking at something that will immediately jump into action, but what you can really ask for is the European Union as a whole to take this resolution and use it to create a policy movement to ensure that some of the things mentioned in the resolution actually happen.” he said.

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which still must clear the U.S. Senate, requires President Donald Trump to condemn Chinese abuses in Xinjiang and call for the closure of mass detention facilities.

The passage of the act by the House was followed by calls from U.S. lawmakers for Global Magnitsky Act sanctions against Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, the architect of the internment policy, and other Chinese officials, and for efforts to prevent U.S. companies from buying Chinese products made with forced labor in the Xinjiang camps.

The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act was crafted initially to deal with alleged human rights abuses and corruption in Russia, freezing the US. assets of rights violators and banning them from entering the country.

Other rights activists say that economic factors in recent years have complicated EU action on China and the Uyghur crisis, as member states became more ivolved in infrastructure projects under China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“We observe that often economic interests have overcome the universal and democratic values we are talking about so often, [but] the ongoing crisis in East Turkestan unfortunately reached a point where it was not possible to ignore any more,” Bahtiyar Omer said.

Efforts paying off

Nevertheless, efforts by rights groups and individuals within the EU for lawmakers to acknowledge and address the Uyghur crisis as part of the bloc’s greater engagement with China have gained traction.

“At the beginning, nobody really wanted to meet with us, but then they became keener and keener to do so,” said Lucia Parrucci, the UNPO’s advocacy and training coordinator.

In October 2017, some EU lawmakers formed a Uyghur Friendship Group, an informal network of legislators from different political groups and delegates from EU member states who meet regularly to discuss the challenges the Uyghur community faces, including the mass detentions in Xinjiang.

“Attention was high because these people were committed to the issue and talking about it,” Parrucci said.

The parliamentary group also drew attention to the plight of Uyghur economics professor Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence in prison in China on “separatism” charges.

A day before the passage of the EU’s latest resolution on the Uyghur crisis, Tohti was awarded the Sakharov Prize for his efforts to foster understanding between Uyghurs and majority Han Chinese and to highlight the human rights conditions of the Uyghurs.

During a public hearing in Strasbourg on authoritarianism and the shrinking space for freedom of expression and human rights defenders on Tuesday, Yang Jianli, founder and president of Initiatives for China/Citizen Power, discussed what he called the “totalitarian” policies of Chinese President Xi Jinping who is “intent on controlling every aspect of people’s lives” through extensive surveillance systems.

“No doubt, China has become a high-tech digital surveillance superpower since Xi took power, and now its surveillance long arm is reaching out to the world,” he said. “The overriding grand goal of China’s rejuvenation and the China dream allows the Party state to continue denying the rights of China’s people as well as people in Hong Kong and to continue to oppress the Tibetans and Uyghur Muslim minorities.”

The EU has also been one of the most vocal actors on the Uyghur crisis during the last eight or nine Human Rights Council sessions at the United Nations and during the annual EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, Barry said.

“This most recent resolution calls for precisely this — targeted sanctions, passing Magnitsky-style legislation that the EU can use to impose these assets freezes, visa bans, and targeted measures,” Barry said. “That is very necessary from the EU. That’s the next big step in the process.”


Leaked "Xinjiang Papers" appear in New York Times November 2019.

Reddit 8 December 2019 leaked "China Cables"

RTHK 9 December 2019 "Training in Xinjiang camps to continue: Beijing"

RTHK 14 December 2019 "Beijing tightens up on info after Xinjiang leaks"

RFA 19 December 2019 Daughter of Jailed Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti Accepts Sakharov Prize For Her Father

RFA 19 December 2019 European Parliament Passes Resolution Condemning China on Treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang

HKFP 20 December 2019 EU parliament calls for China sanctions over Uighur persecution

China’s ‘War on Terror’ uproots families, leaked data shows, 18 February, 2020, AP News

RFA 31 March 2020. Schools in Xinjiang Reopen Despite Ongoing Threat of Coronavirus Infection.

RFA 1 April 2020. Uyghur Health Workers Forced to Treat Virus Patients in Xinjiang’s Makeshift Quarantine Centers.

Videos (see our video library):


How China tracked Uyghur detainees and their families, 18 February, 2020








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