Accessibility links

Breaking News

Uyghur News Recap: April 21 – May 5, 2023

FILE - Helena Kennedy, a member of the House of Lords, speaks at a vigil in London, Feb. 13, 2023, protesting the planned visit to the UK of Erkin Tuniyaz, governor of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
FILE - Helena Kennedy, a member of the House of Lords, speaks at a vigil in London, Feb. 13, 2023, protesting the planned visit to the UK of Erkin Tuniyaz, governor of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

‘Returning to the Past’: Uyghur Teenagers Reconnect with Their Heritage in Berlin

A group of 26 Uyghur teenagers from seven European countries participated in an educational program called "Returning to the Past" in Berlin, where they learned about their cultural and historical roots through artifacts discovered in Xinjiang caves by a German expedition team in the early 20th century. The program organizers, according to Radio Free Asia, drew parallels between China’s ongoing genocide of the Uyghur population and the genocide of Jews during the Holocaust.

Virginia After-School Program Offers Uyghur Youth Language and Culture Classes

The Ana Care and Education center in the eastern U.S. state of Virginia provides Uyghur language, history, and culture lessons on Sundays to young Uyghurs in the diaspora, serving as a connection to their heritage. Virginia is home to a significant Uyghur population, with over 3,000 Uyghur speakers, according to Uyghur American Association estimates. Due to China's tight control over the northwestern Xinjiang region, many Uyghurs have been separated from their families, resulting in an increase in demand for these classes. The school, according to the founders, strives to be apolitical, but allows older pupils who want to discuss current issues a safe place to do so. Many Uyghur youth face identity struggles growing up in America and face expectations to preserve their Uyghur culture.

Calls for Canada to do More to Stop the Import of Goods Potentially Made by Forced Uyghur Labor

Advocates in Canada and the U.S. are raising concerns about Canada's lack of action on goods potentially made with forced labor in China's Xinjiang region. During a congressional committee hearing in Washington, witnesses expressed worry that Canada could become a dumping ground for items denied entry into the U.S. China has been accused of forced labor, physical and sexual abuse against Uyghur and other Turkic minorities in the region. The U.S. has denied nearly 500 shipments under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, while Canada has only seized one shipment.

Japanese-Uyghur Woman Makes History as First Uyghur Candidate to Win Seat in Parliament

Arfiya Eri, a Japanese citizen of Uyghur ancestry, has made history by becoming the first person of Uyghur heritage to run as a major party candidate and win a seat in Japan's parliament. She secured her victory as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, representing the 5th district in the eastern city of Chiba in the lower house ofJapan’s national legislature. The World Uyghur Congress has lauded her achievement as a significant win for the Uyghur Japanese and global Uyghur diaspora communities. Uyghurs worldwide view Eri's election as a beacon of hope for second-generation Uyghurs living in exile and a testament that those who participate in the election process can achieve success.

Uyghur Activist Urges Malaysian Prime Minister to Speak Up for Uyghur Muslims in China

During an iftar gathering, Uyghur activist Abdulhakim Idris met with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in Kuala Lumpur and presented a letter urging him to speak up for Uyghur Muslims in China. Anwar had previously demanded freedom of religion and movement for the Uyghurs in 2018, but during his recent visit to China, he called the Uyghur issue an internal Chinese matter. Many Muslim-majority countries have not spoken out against China's treatment of Uyghurs to avoid damaging trade relations, according to Idris.

Rights Group Urge End to Indefinite Detention of Asylum Seekers in Thailand after Second Uyghur Dies

Human Rights Watch called on Thai authorities to stop the indefinite detention of asylum seekers after the recent death of Mattohti Mattursun, the second Uyghur man to die in a Bangkok detention center this year. Mattursun died of liver failure, according to the World Uyghur Congress, while in detention since 2014 for illegal entry. The Thai government had forcibly repatriated 109 Uyghur men and boys to China in 2015, none of whom were heard from again. Since then, Thai authorities have detained around 50 Uyghur men in immigration detention centers, where they are treated as illegal immigrants without rights, according to HWR.

TikTok Parent Company Includes ‘Uyghur’ in Words to be Monitored

ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, maintains lists of “sensitive words,” including the Uyghur genocide, former U.S. President Donald Trump, and China’s government, for use in content regulation on its apps, according to Forbes. These lists appear to apply to TikTok's content and algorithm, and include references to Chinese strategic policy, government affairs and the Tiananmen Square massacre. TikTok denies using these lists, but the alleged use of such content moderation tools is viewed by critics as more proof of the close ties between TikTok and its Chinese affiliates.

HRW: Chinese Government Uses Phone Search Program to Target Uyghur Muslims

Human Rights Watch reports that the Chinese government is using a phone search program in the Xinjiang region to identify Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim residents for interrogation. The police use a list of 50,000 multimedia files to flag individuals, and a HRW forensic investigation found that police searched 1.2 million mobile phones in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi during nine months from 2017-2018. The mass surveillance system used in Xinjiang is automated and raises concerns about the possible interrogation of individuals who simply store religious materials, including text of the Quran, on their phones.

Consuls General Visit Xinjiang Amid Criticism of Chinese Propaganda on Human Rights Abuses

A delegation of Consuls General from 14 countries visited Xinjiang from April 24-28 at the invitation of China’s government. Activists have criticized the visit as Chinese propaganda aimed at persuading the international community that there are no human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The U.N. human rights office has previously reported on human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which may amount to crimes against humanity, while the U.S. government and some Western parliaments have accused China of genocide. China denies the accusations and defends its actions in Xinjiang as countering extremism, separatism and terrorism.

US Representatives Call for Halt to Shein IPO Over Forced Labor Concerns

A bipartisan group of two dozen U.S. representatives are urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to halt the initial public offering of Chinese fashion company Shein until the company can verify that it does not use forced labor. The lawmakers are requesting that Shein undergo an independent audit to ensure it is not using Uyghur forced labor before being registered to issue securities in the U.S. Reports suggest that Shein has been planning an IPO in the US this year. A 2022 Bloomberg report found that Shein's garments contained cotton linked to China's Xinjiang region, where there have been allegations of forced labor and the internment of Uyghurs.

News in brief

UN Working Group Demands China Releases Detained Uyghurs

The U.N. Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has accused China of violating international human rights obligations by arbitrarily detaining three Uyghurs imprisoned in Xinjiang. The group identified Qurban Mamut, Ekpar Asat, and Gulshan Abbas as individuals held in arbitrary detention by China, in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The U.N. Working Group has requested that China immediately release them and provide compensation according to international law.

Quote of note

"Second, I find it important that we continue to echo the names of individuals who are victims of China’s campaign of extinction against the Uyghur people because they matter to us: sisters — including mine — fathers, mothers, brothers, children, friends and loved ones. They have names and we must name these victims to shed light on the perpetrators."

– Rushan Abbas, executive director at Campaign for Uyghurs, told Voice of America