UHRP Event on February 26th: Uyghur Religious Freedom and Cultural Values Under Siege

On Monday, February 26th, the Uyghur Human Rights Project in co-operation with the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization, the Uyghur American Association and the World Uyghur Congress, held a conference at the U.S. House of Representatives entitled “Uyghur Religious Freedom and Cultural Values Under Siege.”

Professor Sean Roberts of George Washington University discussed the self-fulfilling prophecy of the militarization of the conflict between the Uyghurs and the Chinese state, and suggested that the U.S. push the Chinese government to allow a delegation access to inspect the re-education camps that have been set up across the region.  Teng Biao, visiting scholar at New York University, highlighted some of the people who have been unjustly sentenced to prison for advocating Uyghur rights, including Ilham Tohti. Alim Seytoff, Director of the RFA Uyghur Service, discussed the high-tech police state that is being set up in East Turkestan.  Tina L. Mufford from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom discussed the ongoing crackdown on Uyghur’s religious freedom and suggested that tools such as the Magnitsky Act be employed to press for improvement of the human rights situation.   Chen Pokong, a Chinese democracy movement activist, pointed out that the technology currently being deployed against Uyghurs will likely not be limited to them but against Chinese as well.  Finally, Nicole Morgret, UHRP’s Project Manager discussed UHRP’s recent report on the harassment of Uyghurs overseas by the Chinese government.

Below is  a transcript of the opening remarks from Mr. Omer Kanat, Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, and a complete video of the event.


Good Morning Everybody,

Before we begin I want to thank the Tom Lantos Commission, the Uyghur American Association, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), without whom this conference would not happen.  I want to thank you all for choosing to join us today; your attendance demonstrates that people are paying attention to the issue and have not forgotten the Uyghurs.

This conference is being held now due to the rapidly worsening situation in East Turkestan.  The new party secretary of East Turkestan, Chen Quanguo, has turned East Turkestan into a police state with highly advanced surveillance technology. He has eliminated Uyghur language classes in  so-called bilingual schools and practically banned Uyghurs from practicing their religion and enjoying their culture.

Thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs , including men, women, children and elderly have been placed in re-educations camps. Forced disappearances, torture, and death in custody are rampant.

East Turkestan looks like a war zone today, with military-style occupation of the streets and villages: there are numerous checkpoints between villages and hundreds of police check points in the cities throughout  East Turkestan.

The Chinese government, through coercion, intimidation and threats, is collecting DNA samples from Uyghurs. Uyghurs’ are very concerned about for what purpose this information will be used by Chinese authorities in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, what’s going on in East Turkestan on Uyghur people is a cultural genocide, and cannot be overlooked. It is essential that the international community, particularly the United States, exert pressure on the Chinese government to stop its repressive policies towards the Uyghur people.

Lack of reaction from international community and the U.S. will encourage the Chinese government to continue its repressive action in East Turkestan.

Conferences such as these are essential to raise recognition of the plight of the Uyghurs and to galvanize the international community to hold the Chinese government accountable for their actions.

Thank you.

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