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Uyghur News Recap: October 20-27, 2023

FILE - Residents rest near a map of China posted in a shopping district in Beijing, May 8, 2021. China's overall exports and imports fell by 6.2% in September.
FILE - Residents rest near a map of China posted in a shopping district in Beijing, May 8, 2021. China's overall exports and imports fell by 6.2% in September.

Wife of Uyghur in Critical Condition in Xinjiang Prison Appeals for Medical Care

Mexmutjan Memet, a Uyghur man serving a 20-year prison sentence in Xinjiang, is reportedly in critical condition due to poor prison conditions, according to his wife. Memet had returned to Xinjiang in 2016 to accompany his mother back after her visit to Turkey, only to have his passport confiscated upon arrival, leading to his arrest in 2017. He was charged with violating China's one-child policy, providing religious education to his children, and traveling to Turkey. His wife, Kifaye Ehsan, has expressed concerns about his deteriorating health and has called on international organizations to pressure the Chinese government to facilitate his access to medical treatment and secure his release. At least seven members of Memet's family have been sentenced to prison since his return to Xinjiang.

US Lawmakers Call for Ban on Some Chinese Seafood Over Human Rights Concerns

A group of U.S. lawmakers is calling for a ban on seafood processed in two Chinese provinces and a prohibition on American companies doing business with Chinese facilities using forced labor. The call is motivated by concerns about human rights abuses, including those discovered on China's fishing fleet and in seafood processing plants involving Uyghur forced labor. This effort adds to previous actions by U.S. lawmakers to limit imports of Chinese goods due to human rights issues, which could further strain U.S.-China relations amid ongoing trade tensions.

Uyghur Filmmaker's Detention Contradicts China's Portrayal

The recent detention of Uyghur filmmaker Ikram Nurmehmet in Beijing underscores the ongoing arrests of Uyghurs and challenges China's positive portrayal of living conditions for Uyghurs. On May 29, 2023, Nurmehmet was arrested and transported to Xinjiang from Beijing. Despite China's assertions of normalization in Xinjiang, concerns persist due to ongoing repression and the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs.

Uyghur Rights Coalition Calls on US to Address Genocide Concerns in Talks With China

The Uyghur Human Rights Project initiated a joint letter from Uyghur organizations urging U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to prioritize addressing the Uyghur genocide in his talks with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Washington. The groups emphasized the importance of human rights and the unjust detention of Uyghur political prisoners. The letter also highlighted China's attempts to downplay ongoing atrocities and called for the closure of "concentration camps" and the release of political prisoners.

Xinjiang's Foreign Trade Surges 47% Defying US Sanctions Amid Shifting Exports

Xinjiang's foreign trade surged by 47% to 253 billion yuan ($34.6 billion) in the first three quarters of the year despite U.S. sanctions over Uyghur forced labor concerns. Exports from Xinjiang rose by nearly 49%, imports by 40%. Central Asian countries boosted Xinjiang's trade. China's trade with Belt and Road Initiative nations increased by nearly 50%, while Xinjiang's exports shifted to electric vehicles, lithium batteries and solar cells. Import volume also rose for mineral products and food. China's overall exports and imports fell by 6.2% in September.

Uyghur Families in Pakistan Face Deportation Threat Amid UN Investigation

The U.N. refugee agency is investigating the situation of 18 Uyghur families in Pakistan facing possible deportation due to a government order expelling illegal immigrants, issued after recent suicide bombings. These families, totaling around 100 people, are descendants of those who migrated from Xinjiang to Afghanistan and later to Pakistan. They lack Afghan or Chinese passports as well as Pakistani residence permits. The families fear deportation to Afghanistan or China, both of which pose risks to their safety and well-being. The U.N. refugee agency collected their information and is yet to provide updates. Rights activists express deep concern and call for international law compliance.

Fiji Faces Pressure to Withdraw Support for UN Statement on China's Uyghur Rights Violations

Fiji is considering withdrawing its support from a United Nations motion urging China to address human rights violations in Xinjiang. Fiji, the only Pacific country with diplomatic ties to China supporting the motion, is now facing pressure from Beijing to backtrack. The statement was issued last week, with the United Kingdom delivering it on behalf of a group of 51 nations, calling for an end to human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has angrily rejected the statement and accused the U.K. of spreading lies and disinformation. The situation highlights Fiji's challenge in balancing its ties with the West and China.

Uyghur Rights Group Flags Concerns Over U.S.-China Tourism Summit

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), a Washington-based organization, has raised concerns about the U.S. Department of Commerce's co-hosting of the China-U.S. Tourism Leadership Summit in 2024, citing potential risks associated with tourism cooperation with the Chinese government. This concern arises as Xinjiang experiences a significant tourism surge, generating substantial revenue during recent holidays. The organization, led by Executive Director Omer Kanat, sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, expressing apprehensions about U.S.-China tourism cooperation. The group has requested a meeting with Raimondo to discuss its concerns in detail. UHRP alleges that Chinese authorities misuse international tourism to conceal and support alleged crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, calling for public condemnation and action to address these issues. Despite multiple media inquiries, the Department of Commerce has not responded to Voice of America's requests regarding the concerns raised by UHRP.

News in brief

Critics have drawn attention to the apparent contradiction between China's international support for Palestinians and its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. They argue that China's advocacy for the Palestinian cause may serve as a strategic diversion from the growing global scrutiny of its actions in Xinjiang, where allegations of genocide, colonization and occupation persist. China's decades-long backing of a Palestinian state is believed to enhance its influence in the Muslim and Arab world while exerting pressure on Israel. Chinese officials, however, deny these allegations, asserting that Xinjiang's "development and counterterrorism efforts" are evident during visits by foreign diplomats and international organization representatives. They stress that Xinjiang and Tibet-related matters are internal Chinese affairs and reject any interference under the pretext of human rights concerns.

Quote of note

"This support [from China] dissuades Arab and Muslim countries from expressing solidarity with Uyghurs and Turkic peoples in East Turkistan [Xinjiang]. Despite China's disdain for Islam and its domestic labeling of it as an 'ideological virus,' as well as its efforts to erase the Turkic and Islamic identity of East Turkistan, the Muslim and Arab world remains largely silent, possibly due to China's support for Palestine."

Salih Hudayar Prime minister of DC-based East Turkistan Government in Exile