The situation of Uyghurs unjustly imprisoned, exploited, and exterminated by Communist China is worse than those victims of horrible crimes in the past, argues President of the World Uyghur Congress Dolkun Isa.
You have lived in China for a long time. What is the mindset of the average Chinese? How do they understand their own identity? Most Chinese people think as Communist Party dictates because it is a master of brainwashing. Free media do not exist, therefore without impunity Chinese Communist Party is portraying Uyghurs as terrorists and Tibetans are separatists. It is a theme of the persistent propaganda that targets the majority of Chinese. The other side of the propaganda is the intensive promotion of Chinese Han ideology with its core superiority over other Chinese people and nations who have lived in China for centuries. But the Han ideology is chauvinistically discriminating against other people who are supposedly less developed, organised, and ordered. On the margin of this reality, some understand that the Chinese Communist Party inflicts suffering on others.
Let us discuss a few examples which illustrate what I have just said. We did not see too much support in Mainland China for the Hong Kong democratic movement. Why did it happen? One could observe near the same situation was abroad. Some Chinese immigrants, who live in free and democratic countries, show support for Hong Kong. But the others, and also students, follow the Chinese Communist Party. I am sad and disappointed about this situation. I would ask them why you, who are enjoying democracy, the rule of law, and freedom, support the Communist regime? How is it possible? Those who are subjected to the brainwashing of the Communist Party living in the totalitarian country may be justified. But you who are experiencing the benefits and privileges of the democratic system have no excuse.
When the Chinese Communist leaders, like Xi Jinping or his ministers, are paying a visit to the West, we, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and representatives of other persecuted nations, protest against the Chinese government. During those rallies, simultaneously, Chinese students are launching protests with Chinese flags and Communist slogans against us to show support for Xi Jinping and other officials. It is a really unacceptable situation.Can a Chinese person today go to the library and borrow a book about the true history of the Uyghur people? There are no opportunities to learn true Uyghur history in Communist China today. In the Chinese education system from secondary school to University, there is no single class or credit for Uyghur history. Uyghur or Tibetan cannot learn the true history of their nations. In the libraries, such books are missing. All of the available books on this topic were written according to the narrative dictated by the Chinese Communist Party. At school, I could learn a little bit of the Uyghur history, but it was only a short period between 1918 and 1920s. It was a chapter of the Han history. I could also read some articles, which were still available forty years ago. At the end of the 1980s, the history of Xinjiang, the Uyghur region, was not any more distinguished from Han history, the history of Chinese people.
What does it take for an Uyghur to escape China today?Before 2016 Uyghurs who had money could organise a trip paying off police, or judge, or any other official - it was no problem. They could immigrate to Central Asia, Arabic countries, or Turkey. In 2014, there was a refugee crisis after the Chinese Communist Party launched the Strike Hard Campaign against Uyghurs. As a result, Uyghurs had to flee to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Turkey. A small group of Uyghurs was able to escape to Europe.
But since the end of 2016, it is impossible. Current Secretary of Communist Party in Xinjiang, the Uyghur region, who came from Tibet, collected all of the passports. Now, the police are controlling the movement of all Uyghurs with a special surveillance system. The Chinese company is about to develop a special chip with a digital code, which will mark all Uyghurs. Police already know who is an Uyghur because, at the checkpoints, their ID initiates a unique sound. Uyghur inhabitants must obtain special permission to travel to another city. That permission is required to purchase a bus, train, or plane ticket. The relatives are not allowed to host anyone without it.
Officials at the UN Human Rights Committee revealed your new address and the address of Chinese dissident Gao Zhisheng’s wife to the Communist Chinese authorities. How it was possible?
Yes, I am one of the victims of disclosing my personal data by the United Nations officials to China. Few times the UN Human Rights Office is a violation of UN ethics principles has shared a list of participants with the Chinese mission. It is a violation of professional ethics and UN principles. I know that the individual lawyers are investigating it.How the Chinese officials react to your presence at the United Nations?Chinese Communist government is using its economic advantage trying to dominate over the United Nations. Since 1999, for thirty-one years, at the UN Human Rights Committee, I have been persistently calling upon the international community to react to the persecution of Uyghurs by China. Its representatives would create trouble for me whenever they could. They would even accredit the Chinese communist activist who smeared Uyghurs and Tibetans. In October 2013, before our press conference in Geneva, the Chinese mission falsely accused me of terrorism. UN police managed to stop us.
In 2017, the UN Secretary officials told me to leave when I came to the conference about the indigenous people. They said there was a security issue, and I was not allowed to participate. I appealed with the support of the German and the United States Ambassadors. And I was allowed to return. A similar incident happened in 2018 when two days before the conference UN secretariat canceled my application accepted two months earlier. But friendly diplomats helped, and the issue was resolved. I could speak about Uyghurs and Tibetans at the UN. Chinese diplomats had attacked me all the time when I spoke.
In the middle of my remarks, they would say: he is a terrorist, he should not be allowed to speak here. Chinese UN officials would follow me wherever I would go in the building. At the cafeteria, a Chinese official ostentatiously sat next to me. I went to the seminar, Chinese officials would follow me. On the next day, I made a statement at the forum, and that a Chinese official, a diplomat, who followed me all the time, had smeared me. In Geneva, UN police accompany me all the time. I was told they need to protect me. But they would not tell me against whom I am protected. An official in Geneva confessed to me that the Chinese appreciate it if my accreditation would be canceled. But we would not do it because you hold it for a long time, he told me. From time to time, Chinese officials are sending letters to the other missions or media with false accusations suggesting that they should not talk with me.
Did you expect the world public opinion reaction to the evidence of Chinese labor camps for Uyghurs and overall, nearly genocidal, policies of Chinese Communist Party to your nation? A more decisive reaction to the genocide of Uyghurs committed by the Chinese Communist Party is needed. As we speak, millions of Uighurs are suffering in the concentration camps in China. The government is targeting the young generation with Communist indoctrination. It is the most tragic situation in which a nation found itself since World War II. The government is targeting women with forced marriages or sterilisation aimed to decrease the population of Uyghurs. All of these crimes have been documented by the citizen International Committee on Genocide. We have not yet observed any visible effort to stop it.
The United States put Chinese companies on the blacklist for utilising human slavery and providing equipment for the surveillance of Uyghurs. It is a big step. US State Department also sanctioned the high-ranking officials of the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang. But, unfortunately, only the US government reacted decisively. In contrast, the European Parliament passed a resolution on human rights in China and also separately on the situation of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. We are glad that the politicians are talking, but it is not sufficient to stop the genocide. The worldwide sanctions against the Chinese government are needed. In 2019, thirty-nine countries demanded that China close the concentration camps in Xinjiang, but another forty-five supported it. Today, there is no excuse for anyone to be silent on the genocide of Uyghur that takes place in China.
There is evidence for the crime of genocide - documented with the testimonies, media reports, and research, including the expertise of the Australian Institute for Policy Studies. Uyghur witnesses who lost family members like me are ready to testify on it. My mother died imprisoned in the concentration camp. It is a big disappointment that the United Nations nor the UN Human Rights Commission did not open the special section that would deal with that tragedy. After the Holocaust, in which more than 6 million Jews were murdered world said: never again.
But it is happening again, and the global reaction is very soft. Must five million, or all Uyghurs, be killed that the world would react? During World War II, some could explain their passiveness with limited information, but today the news is available to everyone. But, the world continues to watch all that atrocity in silence.
When you say action do you mean mass protest of people against the crimes of Chinese Communist Party like the recent demonstrations on the racial issues in the United States? How Beijing would react to such protests?Yes. Uyghurs' and Tibetans' lives matter. Such demonstrations of people of different walks of life should protest on the streets around the world. Such actions would probably inform their governments that they need to act. I wish that civil society would pay more attention to that issue. But the traditional type actions like signing a petition and writing a letter to your representative and the United Nations would help. Firms that continue to invest and trade with China ignoring these atrocities need to feel social pressure because they, like the Chinese regime, are complicit in the genocide.
China with its archipelago of the labor camps under the Xi Jinping rule reminds more of Soviet Union. In the 1980s the United States had launched policies aimed to break the Soviet Union. That led to the closure of the labor camps called Gulags. It was not an initiative of Moscow but rather a combination of different types of pressure from outside, which achieved that goal. Will Beijing, current regime of Chinese Communist Party, be receptive to any kind of pressure like for instance the Global Magnitsky Act?Some compare contemporary camps for Uyghur to Gulags, others to the concentration camps built by Nazis. I would say that the current situation of Uyghurs is even worse. In the past, the populations did not know about the crimes in concentration camps and Gulags. But today, everybody can learn about it. In the past, world leaders might have calculated that they would deal with it after World War II.
We live in a time of peace, but world leaders are as passive as their predecessors were sixty years ago. Therefore I suggest that the situation of Uyghurs unjustly imprisoned, exploited, and exterminated by China is even worse than those victims of horrible crimes in the past. The Global Magnitsky Act sends an important message to the Chinese Communist Party that they are accountable for the crimes against humanity. The United States has implemented this law, but the Chinese government has ignored it. If Europe would implement it, the situation would radically change because it would affect many Chinese Communist Party officials and their families. It would affect them even more if Australia and Canada would vote for it.
Today many Chinese Communist Party officials and their children can afford to ignore the US ban because they can freely travel and study in Europe, Canada, or Australia. Western Europe, Canada, and Australia must close all doors for top level Chinese Communist Party’s top officials, children, and relatives. It is the moral obligation of free people. Magnitsky Act would be effective only when it is implemented globally.
How does Communist China respond to the Uyghur's advocacy on exile on behalf of their compatriots?
China has been monitoring Uyghur communities in exile trying to recruit them to be informers for the government. The Communist agents often are threatening their families in order to stop them from the advocacy work. The Chinese embassy officials regularly film the demonstrations to put pressure on the participants’ families and relatives who are in China. The next day or shortly after the protests, these Uyghurs are receiving phone calls from their families in China who were being forced by Chinese police to ask their relatives to stop attending such events. Obviously, the Chinese secret police blackmail them with a disappearance or concentration camp. Another way of recruitment is to pay the informers. In 2009, four Uyghurs were charged with spying by the German court.How long will it take to free Uyghurs from concentration camps in China?
One day, sooner rather than later, this regime which is intolerable will collapse. It is difficult to say when it will happen because the Chinese Communist Party is one of the most powerful authoritarian regimes in the world. It can survive as long as the countries continue to trade with it. But this regime will not survive longer than five to ten years.