A Turning Point of History

A speech delivered by Zubayra Shamseden of UHRP at the 2019 annual ‘Keep Taiwan Free’ event in New York on September 7, 2019

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Dear Jenny and other organizers of this great event.

I am honored to be here today to join you and support you to ‘Keep Taiwan Free’ from the Chinese Communist government’s totalitarian regime.

Taiwan is currently a free and democratic state. It is a beacon of hope for those inside mainland China under the dictatorial regime of Xi Jinping. It is a society where freedom of expression without persecution, detention, torture, and disappearance is possible. It is a version of what China can be, where corrupt state officials, government-backed elites, and selected “patriotic” people can be tried through its political system, where its citizens can live without fear of the government demolishing their homes or disappearing them into black jails for speaking about their rights as citizens. It is a place where people can practice their faiths and beliefs without kowtowing to Xi Jinping and the CCP.

Hong Kong was also once a place relatively free from CCP control through its one country two systems policy. We have all watched as the people of Hong Kong come out to protest when the CCP moved to gain more control over the region through its extradition bill. Now, three months on, the demonstrators have shown us what unity, the people, and democracy in action can look like against an authoritarian regime.

Yet the CCP will not back down. Instead of listening to legitimate complaints from Hong Kong, they have shown us an unwillingness to work for its people, and reacted with police brutality, arrests, violence, fear, rigidity, and by bringing in their army. This is not a “people’s republic.” This is Xi Jinping’s dictatorship.

The situation in Hong Kong right now is a turning point – the way Tiananmen Square was a turning point. The way the July 5th, 2009 massacre of protestors in Urumchi was a turning point for Uyghurs. Protest, crackdown, and silence. That is what happened in the past. The world did not respond to China then. Thousands were killed, and thousands more disappeared. The world believed China would solve their internal problems and move to become a better country. The world was wrong.

After 2009, the CCP created its most securitized surveillance state in East Turkestan, an open-air prison on all accounts, and detained up to 3 million of its citizens in concentration camps. What’s happening to the Uyghurs is a blueprint for what can happen to the rest of China, and if unchecked, many of these tactics to control people will enter – and are already entering – Hong Kong, Taiwan and the rest of the world.

Keep Hong Kong free. Keep Taiwan free. Time and time again the CCP have proven to us that we cannot believe their empty promises. We need true democracy and freedom. We need to value our identity, worth, beliefs, and dignity – we need to resist CCP assimilation. Do not give up on what makes you who you are. We need to be able to live without fear of persecution based on our different appearances, our languages, beliefs, cultures, and lifestyles; without fear that these aspects of ourselves will be destroyed in favor of complete conformity to the Party’s will. We need to live without the fear and devastation of family separation, forced marriages, the destruction of private life with government state officials literally living in our homes, forcing us to eat, sleep, and live with the very people who oppress us. This is what will happen if we do not keep Taiwan free. We need Freedom to move into China; we do not want the CCP’s regime to spread to the rest of the world.

Taiwan has been an example to millions of Chinese people that also deserve an open, free society. Each and every Chinese person, who desires freedom should support and protect the democracy in Taiwan.

Currently the Chinese communist government under Xi, instead of using Taiwan as a role model to implement democratic rule in China, intends to make it a part of China like East Turkestan, Tibet and Southern Mongolia.

Our Uyghur, Tibetan, Mongol and other Chinese democracy movement activism and the current atrocity that is taking place in East Turkestan proves that under the Chinese communist regime, it is impossible to have freedom, democracy, peace, justice, equality and a humane life.

Everyone here today – all of our fates are connected. This is a crucial time for us, a turning point in history, and it is critical that we fight together, and work together, to:

Keep Taiwan Free, Keep Hong Kong free,

Make East Turkestan, Tibet and Inner Mongolia free from the Chinese dictatorship.

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Mainstreaming Stories: A Day of Solidarity with Uyghurs

Henryk Szadziewski, Senior Researcher, Uyghur Human Rights Project

The accounts of the ‘re-education’ regime that people are undergoing in those camps are harrowing…I imagine my lovely, principled, dedicated colleague there, and I feel incredibly angry.

Dr. Rachel Harris, University of London

The disappearance of Dr. Rahile Dawut, a leading expert on Uyghur folklore and traditions at Xinjiang University, into an internment camp around December 2017 shocked her academic peers outside of China as the above quote notes. Dr. Rahile worked and is friends with several overseas scholars focused on Uyghurs. In an essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Dr. Darren Byler wrote about the indispensable support Dr. Rahile offered to researchers from the United States and Europe. Rahile’s pioneering ethnographies and student-centered approach earned her the respect of the academic community in the Uyghur homeland and abroad. She collected stories and as Darren Byler wrote she showed “how Uyghurs can take control of their own stories by sharing knowledge of their land.”

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It has been more than two years since we learned about the mass-internment of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in camps. Researchers have used Internet searches of government construction bids, analysis of satellite images, and interviews with Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples to uncover these secretive camps. One of these researchers, scholar Adrian Zenz, estimates the number of individuals in camps at a staggering 1.5 million.

The tight state restrictions imposed on research in the Uyghur homeland can create an information void on what is happening in the region. However, the painstaking work of these scholars offers credible evidence contradicting the Chinese government’s claim that the camps are merely ‘vocational training centers’ and presents an analytical understanding of current conditions undertaken from years of interactions with the land and people.

The response to Dr. Rahile’s disappearance and the determined exposure of human rights abuses on a vast scale is testament to a close connection between knowledge and relationships among scholars of the Uyghur experience. Given these commitments, at a time of emergency, academics are speaking out. The academy is sometimes criticized as slow to respond to crises, so when a large group of experts raises the alarm, we should listen to these voices.

For example, the November 26, 2018 ‘Statement by Concerned Scholars on China’s Mass Detention of Turkic Minorities’ includes 646 signatories from 40 countries and “calls on states and institutions to issue formal statements demanding that Xi Jinping and Chen Quanguo immediately abolish the ‘transformation through education’ detention system and release all Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other detainees.” The ‘Xinjiang Initiative’ includes 278 academics willing “to raise awareness of the situation in Xinjiang at every public event in which they are a participant,” and 391 academics have signed the ‘Czech and Slovak Appeal for the Closure of Political Reeducation Camps for Uyghurs and Other Minorities and for the Observance of Internationally Acknowledged Human Rights in the People’s Republic of China.”

On April 26, scholars will take a further step and hold ‘Mainstreaming Stories: A Day of Solidarity with Uyghurs.’ Leading researchers on Uyghurs will hold a local talk in twelve locations about the ongoing emergency in the Uyghur homeland and the initiative includes presentations by:

The series of events on three continents offers an opportunity to hear the work of these scholars, their experiences in the Uyghur region, and why the current mass-internment campaign should be a cause for global action.

A recent Uyghur Human Rights Project report documented the disappearance, internment, and imprisonment of nearly 400 Uyghur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz intellectuals. As part of the research team working on the report, I asked Uyghur intellectuals in exile about the long-term consequences of the mass-internment campaign and the targeting of intellectuals. Artist Rahima Mahmut responded: “By destroying the scholars, artists, and intellectuals there will be a void, as there will be no one to represent the thoughts and direction that future generations require to build for the future, using their deep historical and cultural knowledge.” As Rahima notes, stories matter. They become collective memories and the foundation of learning. At present, Dr. Rahile Dawut cannot tell her stories; however, her colleagues are filling the silence.

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Statement of Senator Marco Rubio – April 6, 2019, Uyghur Freedom Rally

April 6, 2019

“I want to applaud the Uyghur Human Rights Project for organizing this rally to stand against the detention of a million or more Uyghurs in political education camps in China.  I applaud your efforts and will continue to work with you to end the horrific abuses being committed by the Chinese government and Communist Party.

We must all continue to speak with one voice on this issue. The Chinese government’s creation of a vast system of internment and surveillance cannot be tolerated in the 21st century.

As a U.S. Senator, I promise to continue shining a light on China’s brutal campaign against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities, including the detainment of U.S. residents. Earlier this year, I re-introduced my bipartisan Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. This bill not only condemns the gross human rights violations  in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, but also requires reporting on the involvement of Chinese companies in the construction and operation of the detention camps as well as Chinese efforts to intimidate or harass Americans here at home.  It is my hope that Congress will take up and pass this important bill and that President Trump will quickly sign it into law.

We must do all we can to hold accountable Chinese government officials who are responsible for the abuses. The Chinese government must understand clearly that the United States and the free world will not accept this behavior abroad or tolerate foreign interference against our citizens on American soil.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

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