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Uyghur News Recap: February 17-24, 2023  

FILE - Gulchehra Hoja, a Uyghur journalist who then worked for Radio Free Asia, speaks on stage at the Women in the World Summit in New York, April 11, 2019.
FILE - Gulchehra Hoja, a Uyghur journalist who then worked for Radio Free Asia, speaks on stage at the Women in the World Summit in New York, April 11, 2019.

Here's a look at Uyghur-related news items from recent days.

Uyghur Activists Warn Taiwan Against Compromising With China

Two Uyghur rights activists from Washington warned Taiwan during a news conference at Taiwan’s parliament not to compromise with China and suggested ways Taiwan could help protect Uyghur culture. They also warned that if Taiwan does not mobilize the international community to counter China, Taiwan will end up the same as Xinjiang.

UNHCR Renews Refugee Cards for Uyghur Families in Pakistan After Threats of Repatriation

Uyghur refugee families in Pakistan were threatened with repatriation to China if they didn't renew their expired U.N.-issued refugee cards. The families had fled China in 2016 and received refugee cards from the UNHCR in Pakistan. The UNHCR offices in Pakistan had stopped renewing their refugee cards; the reason is unclear. Pakistan is an ally of China and has voiced support for Beijing's policies in Xinjiang, where the mostly Muslim Uyghur population has been subjected to a crackdown. RFA Uyghur Service raised the issue with the UNHCR, and within a couple of days, the refugee cards were renewed for the Uyghur families.

Chinese Businesswoman Promotes Uyghur Labor, Raising Concerns of Exploitation, Trafficking

A Chinese businesswoman posted a video on Kuaishou, a social media platform, announcing that she'd received three teenage Uyghur girls from Xinjiang to work the next day. The woman filmed the girls sleeping, with the title "Today I Received Uyghur Girls," and made another video promoting job benefits for Uyghurs to work in other parts of China. Reports by the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice and Hong Kong Watch implicated multiple companies in coercive Uyghur labor from Xinjiang through labor transfer programs. The girls may be at risk of exploitation, abuse and human trafficking because of their youth and vulnerability, and the Chinese Party-State's Sinicization policy, according to the report by Bitter Winter.

Councils in England Remove Hikvision CCTV Cameras Over Links to Uyghur Surveillance

Several local councils in Kent, England, are removing CCTV cameras produced by Hikvision, because of concerns about the company's links to the Chinese government and alleged involvement in human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups. Hikvision has provided cameras to leisure centers and schools in the U.K., as well as to detention camps holding Uyghur prisoners. In July 2021, a U.K. parliamentary report recommended that Hikvision be banned from operating in the country. The councils are removing Hikvision cameras and seeking alternative manufacturers for surveillance technology.

Religious Liberty Group Files Amicus Brief Against China’s Treatment of Uyghurs

The Notre Dame Law School Religious Liberty Initiative has filed an amicus brief in support of a criminal complaint against the Chinese government for genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people. The World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur Human Rights Project filed the complaint, invoking Argentina's universal jurisdiction over such crimes as set out in the Argentinian Constitution. The amicus brief represents human rights advocates from the United States and the United Kingdom. The Chinese government's actions against the Uyghur people have been recognized as a genocide by two successive U.S. administrations, with 11 governments globally recognizing them as international crimes.

News in Brief

Uyghur American journalist and author Gulchehra Hoja discussed her memoir, "A Stone Is Most Precious Where It Belongs," with NPR's Steve Inskeep, recounting her firsthand experience of China's Uyghur repression. Hoja grew up in western China's Uyghur region and highlights the area's cultural and linguistic differences from other parts of China, which she learned from her archaeologist father's Uyghur version of history. Hoja became the first Uyghur children's TV host in the region and worked as a journalist at Radio Free Asia, speaking out against China's mistreatment of Uyghurs. In 2018, her relatives were arrested for her work, and since then, she has been able to talk to her mother only on monitored phone calls. Two years ago, China aired footage of her mother and brother denouncing her on Chinese state TV.

Quote of Note

“China’s atrocities against the Uyghur people meet the legal definitions of crimes against humanity and genocide under international law. We urge the Argentina criminal court to exercise jurisdiction over the case and rule that China is guilty of these dire crimes.”

— Stephanie Barclay, director of the Notre Dame Law School Religious Liberty Initiative