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Uyghur News Recap: Dec. 8–15, 2023

Ethnic Uyghur demonstrators take part in a protest against China near the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul, on Oct. 1, 2023, China's National Day.
Ethnic Uyghur demonstrators take part in a protest against China near the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul, on Oct. 1, 2023, China's National Day.

US Restricts Imports From 3 More Chinese Firms Amid Forced Labor Allegations

The United States has imposed import restrictions on three additional Chinese companies, including COFCO Sugar Holding, over allegations of forced labor practices involving Uyghurs and other minorities in China's Xinjiang region. The companies, involved in the production of sugar, network transformers and textiles, will be added to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Entity List, bringing the total number of companies to 30. The U.S. government has reviewed more than 6,000 shipments since June 2022 as a result of the act, valued at more than $2 billion. Chinese officials deny the allegations, stating that the U.S. is spreading lies and undermining Xinjiang's prosperity, while U.S. authorities believe that China has established labor camps for persecuted minority groups.

Global Coalition Nominates Uyghur Scholar Ilham Tohti for Nobel Peace Prize

More than 180 officials have proposed detained Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, representing the Uyghur quest for freedom in Xinjiang, for the 2024 Nobel Peace Prize. The international alliance seeks to highlight reported crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and challenge China's narrative. Tohti, incarcerated since 2014 on charges of advocating "separatism," has been shortlisted for the Peace Prize in the past. Advocates believe the nomination conveys a robust message against Beijing's treatment of Uyghurs. Tohti's daughter says it compels Beijing to verify her father's well-being, while others view it as an opportunity for the Nobel Committee to withstand political pressures. Tohti has garnered numerous human rights accolades during his imprisonment.

Former Xinjiang Education Chief Detained Over Suspected Corruption

China's anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, has detained Li Pengxin, former education chief of Xinjiang, on suspicion of corruption. Li, 63, oversaw a purge of education officials in Xinjiang and is the second senior official targeted in the region this year. The move follows a recent Politburo directive calling for increased efforts to tighten political oversight and combat corruption.

Activists Urge Action in Washington on Uyghur Genocide Anniversary

Uyghur activists and U.S. lawmakers marked the two-year anniversary of the Uyghur Tribunal's declaration of genocide by China against Uyghurs. The independent tribunal implicated Chinese President Xi Jinping in policies targeting Uyghur birth rates and culture. At a Washington event, activists emphasized the need for recognition and tangible actions. U.S. Representative Young Kim called for congressional support, citing the Uyghur Policy Act she sponsored, while former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Kelley Currie criticized U.S. businesses for cozying up to Beijing and urged an end to business as usual with a "genocidal regime."

Guess Canada Faces Probe Over Alleged Uyghur Forced Labor Connections

Guess Canada is under investigation by the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) following allegations of Uyghur forced labor in its operations abroad. Triggered by a coalition complaint, the investigation links Guess Canada to Chinese companies accused of using Uyghur forced labor. Despite Guess denying these companies on its supplier list and cutting ties with Xinjiang vendors, the CORE notes potential information gaps and risks in the lower supply chain tiers. If found not "acting in good faith," Guess may face trade and financial support denials based on the investigation's outcome.

Human Rights Advocate Urges Closing US Trade Loophole

A human rights advocate warns of a U.S. trade loophole potentially supporting China's alleged Uyghur abuses. The loophole, known as the "de minimis" threshold, allows imports of packages valued at $800 or less to enter the U.S. with simplified inspections and without duties or taxes. U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer hosted a roundtable discussion on this issue, highlighting the potential complicity of the U.S. in human rights abuses. Nury Turkel, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, urged Congress to close the loophole, emphasizing its exploitation by Chinese businesses engaged in forced labor.

Photo Book Chronicles Uyghur Life in Kashgar Before Contemporary Challenges

American photographer Kevin Bubriski's new book offers a glimpse into the everyday life of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, northwest China, during the 1990s, a period preceding the recent crackdown on the Uyghur population by the Chinese government. The Uyghurs have faced imprisonment, surveillance, religious restrictions, forced labor and sterilization in recent years. Bubriski's book, The Uyghurs: Kashgar before the Catastrophe, captures portraits and street scenes from the ancient city of Kashgar on the Silk Road.

Volkswagen's MSCI Rating Shifts to 'Orange Flag' after Xinjiang Labor Audit

Index provider MSCI replaced Volkswagen's "red flag" with an "orange flag" after a labor rights audit in its Xinjiang plant. This change lets sustainability-focused investors reconsider divestment decisions prompted by the red rating tied to forced Uyghur labor allegations. Despite Volkswagen saying the audit found no signs of Uyghur forced labor, critics, like Deka Investment's Ingo Speich, find the stock unattractive due to perceived corporate governance deficits. The "orange flag" indicates a partial resolution or indirect attribution of the controversy to the company's actions, products or operations, per MSCI.

News in brief

The Uyghur Human Rights Project released a report highlighting Xinjiang as heavily policed, focusing on various forces committing alleged "atrocity crimes" against the Uyghur Muslim minority. Policing East Turkistan outlines the organizational structures and roles of different agencies under the Chinese Communist Party's control. Notably, the People's Armed Police in Xinjiang surpasses Beijing in mobile detachments despite a smaller population. The report aims to clarify and identify those responsible for human rights abuses on the ground, enhancing understanding and accountability.


"This time, we really decided to mark the occasion by joining forces between the academic and political worlds. Ilham Tohti has always been cited as a possible favorite for the next Nobel Peace Prize. This time, what's really different is that we were able to join forces between not only members of parliament all around the world, but also with universities, with rectors, university directors and professors."

Belgian MP Samuel Cogolati, to Radio Free Asia