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Uyghur News Recap: March 3-10, 2023

FILE - Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, gestures as he speaks during a demonstration against China, in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 6, 2018.
FILE - Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, gestures as he speaks during a demonstration against China, in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 6, 2018.

Here's a summary of Uyghur-related news around the world from the past week:

UN committee urges China to dismantle forced labor systems

The U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about China's forced labor measures against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, urging Beijing to pass legislation to prohibit coercive measures, dismantle forced labor systems and release all those subject to them. China rejected the recommendations but said it would study and implement those suited to its national realities.

Uyghur fashion show highlights forced labor in Chinese textile industry

The Uyghur American Association held a fashion show in the state of Virginia to showcase traditional Uyghur clothing and raise awareness about China’s use of Uyghur forced labor in its textile industry. The event included a dramatic performance illustrating the Chinese government's campaign of subjugation and control, which involves exploiting Uyghur labor. Organizers aimed to draw attention to clothing brands that profit from Uyghur forced labor and promote individual action to stop the exploitation of Uyghurs.

UN human rights chief falls short of activists' hopes for strong message

The new U.N. human rights chief, Volker Turk, has announced that his office has established "channels of communication" to address human rights concerns regarding minorities in China, including Uyghurs and Tibetans. This comes after his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, published a critical report on China's Xinjiang region in August, citing possible "crimes against humanity" against Uyghurs and others. Although the announcement was welcomed, rights activists had urged Türk to send a stronger message to Beijing.

Committee urges Biden to sanction Hikvision for human rights violations

U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and ranking member Gregory W. Meeks have sent a letter to President Joe Biden calling for a determination and sanction authorization on Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. Ltd. The company is accused of facilitating human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, China. The members have given the Biden administration 120 days to determine if Hikvision should be sanctioned pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, based on its track record in enabling internationally recognized human rights violations. The U.S. government has already taken enforcement actions against Hikvision using multiple authorities.

Uyghur literature teacher jailed for 19 years in China's crackdown in Xinjiang

Setiwaldi Kerim, a Uyghur literature teacher in Xinjiang, was arrested just before retiring in 2017 “for promoting separatism” in his books, which authorities did not name. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison as part of the government's crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region. Kerim had collaborated on a government-sanctioned literature textbook project for middle school and high school students, which included Uyghur history, culture and customs. Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of targeting Uyghur intellectuals, including language and literature teachers, as part of their efforts to erase Uyghur culture.

Kazakh emigres fear retaliation for speaking out on Xinjiang abuses

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has reported that ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang, China, who have settled abroad are apprehensive about speaking out against the Chinese government's human rights abuses toward Uyghur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities. They fear retaliation against their relatives in Xinjiang because for each person who leaves the country, at least three relatives must register as "hostages," one activist said, thus providing the Chinese government with leverage to coerce the emigres into silence. Some ethnic Kazakhs from China who have settled in Kazakhstan have faced imprisonment, reeducation camps and house arrest after visiting their relatives in Xinjiang. Because of concerns for the safety of their loved ones, many are hesitant to publicly share their experiences or advocate for the release of their imprisoned family members.

Ethnic Kazakh religious scholar dies in Xinjiang

Baqytkhan Myrzan, a Kazakh religious scholar, has died in a Xinjiang, China, correctional camp at age 61. He was sentenced to 14 years for performing an Islamic ritual. Despite pleas for his release because of a medical condition, authorities ignored his family's requests. Myrzan's death highlights the situation of ethnic Kazakhs in China's mass detention camps. Up to 2 million people have been taken to these camps as part of China's crackdown in Xinjiang.

News in brief

The World Uyghur Congress, a human rights group based in Germany, has been nominated for the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize by Canadian lawmakers and a leader of the Young Liberals in Norway for its efforts toward peace, democracy and the welfare of Uyghur and other Turkic individuals living under what the nomination letter described as a "repressive regime in China." The group engages in activities such as advocating for the release of political prisoners, campaigning for the rights of people who are forcefully disappeared and advocating at the national level and in the United Nations and European Union. Despite allegations of mistreatment of Uyghurs, the Chinese government has repeatedly denied these claims, calling them "lies."

Quote of note

“It makes me very proud to see that the World Uyghur Congress’s hard work to end the Uyghur genocide has not gone unnoticed. This nomination is not only a recognition of the WUC’s work, but a show of support for the Uyghur people as a whole.”

— Dolkun Isa, World Uyghur Congress president