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Uyghur News Recap: July 7–14, 2023

Ethnic Uyghurs holding East Turkestan flags take part in a protest against China to mark the 14th anniversary of Urumqi riots, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 5, 2023.
Ethnic Uyghurs holding East Turkestan flags take part in a protest against China to mark the 14th anniversary of Urumqi riots, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 5, 2023.

Here are recent Uyghur-related news items from around the world:

Remembering ‘Urumqi Massacre,’ Uyghur Groups Rally for Justice, Support

Uyghur groups in Washington recently marked the 14th anniversary of what's known as the "Urumqi Massacre" among the Uyghur community. These groups appealed to governments around the globe, urging them to take a resolute stance against Beijing's actions. Central to their plea is the grave accusation of genocide being perpetrated by China. They simultaneously keep alive the haunting memory of the events that unfolded 14 years ago in Urumqi, China.

Canada Investigates Companies Over Alleged Forced Labor in China

Canada’s corporate ethics watchdog has launched investigations into Nike Canada and Dynasty Gold over allegations of forced Uyghur labor in China. The investigations were begun following complaints from 28 civil society organizations against 13 Canadian companies. Assessments for the remaining 11 companies are ongoing. Nike Canada faces accusations of ties to Chinese companies using forced Uyghur labor but claims to have ended these connections and provided due diligence information. Dynasty Gold is alleged to have benefited from Uyghur forced labor in a mine but asserts no operational control and contends the allegations arose after their departure.

Miami Mayor Clarifies Uyghur Pronunciation Incident

Miami’s mayor and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Francis Suarez addressed a recent incident in which he misunderstood the word “Uyghur,” explaining that he was familiar with a different pronunciation. The controversy arose during an interview on Hugh Hewitt's radio show when Suarez appeared unfamiliar with the Uyghur situation. However, Suarez clarified that he is indeed aware of the suffering endured by the Uyghurs in China and the human rights abuses they face. China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims has garnered international condemnation, with the U.S. State Department officially recognizing it as genocide and crimes against humanity.

Former NBA Player Testifies of Blacklisting for Criticizing China

Enes Kanter Freedom, a former NBA player, testified that he was effectively blacklisted by the National Basketball Association for wearing shoes that criticized China's persecution of Tibetans and Uyghurs. Freedom said at a congressional hearing that he faced retaliation, including threats of a ban from team managers and subsequent banning of his games in China. Notably, Freedom questioned the NBA's denial of any connection between his departure and the NBA's business interests in China.

Uyghur College Student Sentenced to 3 Years for 'Advocating Extremism'

Kamile Wayit, a Uyghur college student in China, has been sentenced to three years in prison for posting a video on social media about the "white paper" protests. The protests, which were sparked by a fatal lockdown fire, led to numerous arrests across China. Wayit's arrest has drawn international attention, with calls for Chinese authorities to provide information on her case and release her. Wayit spent six months in a detention center before being transferred to a prison in Kashgar in southern Xinjiang. In response to Radio Free Asia inquiries, local Chinese authorities provided inconsistent responses, with some referring to the case as a "state secret."

Dozens of Bodies of Uyghur Inmates Released in China

Authorities in a prison in northwest China’s Xinjiang region released the bodies of at least 26 Uyghur inmates before the Eid al-Fitr holiday, according to police sources. While officials did not comment on the matter, police stations confirmed the release of bodies without disclosing identities or providing further information to Radio Free Asia.

Uyghur Brothers Detained in India Denied Communication With Lawyer

Three Uyghur brothers who escaped from Xinjiang a decade ago are currently detained in India and being denied communication with their lawyer, Muhammed Shafi Lassu. Adil, Abduhaliq and Abdusalam Tursun fled Xinjiang in 2013 and were initially sentenced to 18 months in prison for illegal entry. However, they were later reindicted under a special security law in Kashmir, leading to their continued detention for the past 10 years. Despite their request for asylum, Indian authorities have decided to repatriate them to China, according to Lassu. The case is being contested in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Lassu criticized the Indian government for its inconsistent treatment of Uyghur and other refugees. The Indian Embassy in Washington did not respond to media inquiries about the brothers' situation.

News in brief

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity has granted $300,000 in support of Uyghur rights advocacy and education. The foundation, established in honor of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, aims to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice. The grants focus on organizations advocating for the Uyghur community and restoring their rights and dignity. This includes funding for Uyghur rights groups and a Uyghur language school. The foundation plans to allocate $250,000 for a conference in New York, coinciding with Hanukkah, to gather Uyghur activists and address the Uyghur genocide. Jewish human rights activist Natan Sharansky, a member of the foundation's Grant Selection Committee, emphasized the importance of education and advocacy efforts. The grants have been met with gratitude from Uyghur advocates. Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, however, questioned the intentions behind the foundation's donation and denied allegations of human rights violations against the Uyghurs.

Quote of note

“We can only hope that people in China will hear the messages that their government has gone too far and will one day use their influence for better treatment of the Uyghurs. As my father said in his 1986 Nobel acceptance speech [referring to victims of human rights abuses everywhere], “What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone.”

Elisha Wiesel, chairman of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and son of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, the foundation’s namesake.