International Uyghur Forum
October 30 2023, Tokio
Ladies and gentlemen,
The effort to defend the rights of the Uighur people in China’s autonomous province of Xinjiang is a noble cause.
Even though the Communist government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) officially acknowledges Xinjiang as an autonomous region, it consistently denies any genuine autonomy and undermines the preservation of Uighur culture.
Furthermore, it goes to great lengths to deprive the indigenous Uighur population of their basic human dignity and fundamental rights. This includes enforcing the Chinese language as the primary medium of instruction for Uighur children, leading to sanctions for those who struggle due to it not being their native language, and tragically, cases of student suicides.
Across Xinjiang, the use of the native language or preservation of authentic traditions is strictly prohibited, a clear violation of UNESCO’s principles.
One notable Uighur scientist, Rahilä Dawut, has been unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment by China on charges of „separatism“. Shockingly, any scientific work is considered a threat to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) notion of „national security“.
Similarly, another prominent Uighur scientist, Ilham Tochti, was sentenced to life in 2014 for alleged „separatism“. His research over the years has highlighted that the CCP’s nationality policies exacerbate problems in Xinjiang rather than solving them.
Many influential Uighur public intellectuals, such as Abduqadir Jalalidin, Jalqun Rozi, Zulpiqar Barat Özbash, and countless others, including artists, historians, journalists, and creators of Uighur culture, are unjustly imprisoned.
Fundamental rights, such as the right to live with one’s family and the right to know the reason for arrest when detained by the police, are routinely disregarded. Reports indicate appalling conditions in detention facilities, and a recent public hearing in the Senate of the Czech Republic highlighted extreme violence against women, including state-organized rape and forced sterilization to prevent childbirth.
One would expect that the international community would unite to investigate and end this horrifying violence. However, the reality is quite different. I’ll illustrate this with three examples where my expectations were sadly mistaken:
1. Initially, I believed that publicizing information about conditions in labor camps would mobilize global conscience, but even detailed reports by the BBC and leaked documents failed to prompt meaningful action.
2. I anticipated an outcry from Muslim countries worldwide after an independent tribunal chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice found that China was systematically reducing Uighur population. For the tribunal established that China had carried out „a deliberate, systematic and concerted policy“ to bring about „long-term reduction of Uyghur and other ethnic minority populations“. Sir Geoffry Nice even added that the panel believed senior officials including the Chinese president Xi Jinping bore „primary responsibility“ for the abuses against Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.
Yet, Muslim leaders remained silent, and EU leaders continued to seek meetings with the Chinese president, who bears responsibility for the situation.
3. While the UN Human Rights Council produced a report on Xinjiang about possible crimes against humanity, China’s status as a permanent Security Council member hindered a proper debate on the findings.
It’s clear that something is wrong. Every UN member state is expected to adhere to UN principles. For permanent members of the UNSC, this responsibility is even more significant, demanding exemplary execution of their duties and obligations enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
To address this issue, I suggest a three-pronged approach:
First, with concern, we observe that as Russia aggression against Ukraine continue, in a blatant breach of UN Charter. Just for the record, I remind that onn March 17, 2023, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin for war crimes related to child deportation during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, marking a historic first against a UN Security Council member leader.
Russia is not alone – it has support of PRC and North Korea. Paria, under sanctions. Lavrov said Russia deeply values North Korea’s „unwavering and principled support“ for its war on Ukraine. Growing defense cooperation between Russia and North Korea is „highly appreciated“. By the way, during one of the high level visist of Russian officials to Pyongyang, there was a meeting also with Chinese high level delegation. If Russia is under international sanctions, as response to the aggression against Ukraine, and DPRK is under sanctions adopted for many years, we have to be ready to prepare sanctions also to China, because it already provided lethal aid or drones from Chinese manufacturers to Russian military.
Yes, we have to prepare sanctions against China even in advance in order to deter Chinese leadership to engage more with North Korea which could further destabilize the whole region.
Second, when prominent Uighur scientists like Rahilä Dawut and Professor Ilham Tochti are silenced by imprisonment, we must raise our voices on their behalf and bring their plight to the attention of organizations like UNESCO. Why UNESCO? Since preserving distinct ethnicity, culture and religion is the very principle denied by PRC. We have to hold them to account.
Third, as a member of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, I will table a resolution based on the public hearing in the Senate regarding the Uighur condition. This resolution should call on our government to collaborate within the EU to hold China accountable for failing to meet its fundamental obligations. Additionally, we must initiate discussions on how to inform consumers in our respective countries about products associated with forced labor from Xinjiang.
Incorporating labels and brands can be part of our strategy, marking corporations and products that do not engage in unethical business practices linked to the Chinese regime’s crimes against humanity. This approach aligns with consumer interests in sustainability and ethical sourcing.
While Communist China may not respect its international obligations, we can send a strong message through sanctions and economic pressure. To begin, we should focus on the owners and shareholders of companies operating in Xinjiang, making them aware of their complicity in these crimes against humanity.