April 6, 2019
Good afternoon and thanks to all of you for the invitation to join you today. Although I am unable to be with you in person, I want you to know that I am with you in spirit and I stand in solidarity with your struggle on behalf of the rights and freedom of the Uyghur people.
That is why I was an original cosponsor of both bills that you are here to support: The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (H.R. 649 and S. 178) and the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response (UIGHUR) Act of 2019 (H.R. 1025).
For too long the U.S. government has talked the talk but not walked the walk when it comes to countering China’s repression of Uyghur rights. We need to go beyond words; we need to make sure there are consequences for China’s repression of the Uyghur people. These bills are an important step in that direction and we need to work together to make sure they both pass. Please take that message to your Member of Congress and tell your friends to tell their Members of Congress – Congress must act! These bills must become law!
We have known for a long time that the Uyghurs in China suffer at the hands of the Chinese authorities. We have known about the restrictions imposed on the use of the Uyghur language and on religious practices including the training of Muslim clerics, the celebration of Ramadan, the use of veils and the growing of beards. We have known how hard it is for Uyghurs to get passports and we have seen the reports of the forced repatriation of Uyghurs living outside of China. All of these policies violate the basic human rights of the Uyghur people.
But in the last couple of years the Chinese have doubled down in a whole new way using cutting-edge surveillance technology and mass so-called “re-education” camps to try to stamp out Uyghur identity. People rightly fear what could come next. And that is why we are all here today.
So let’s get going, let’s pass these bills, let’s end the persecution of Uyghurs and let’s all say to China: great countries are rights-respecting countries. Great countries do not fear or trample on ethnic minorities. Great countries do not put massive numbers of people in camps or cages or behind bars. Great countries let their peoples speak their language, practice their faith and live their lives. Until the Uyghurs have the right to live their lives as they choose, China will not be a great country.
Rep. James P. McGovern