A US-based NGO sent a collection of letters to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, calling on her to speak out against abuses in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) northwestern China is increasingly recognized as part of the Uighur genocide policy.
“Letters of Hope for the Uyghurs” includes 100 messages written by people of all ethnicities and social classes, from activists to taxi drivers, engineers, medical doctors and student. The letters were collected and sent to Bachelet by Avaaz, a human rights group in mid-February, meaning “voice” in several languages, although the content was only released last week.
Luis Morago, Avaaz’s campaign director, urged Bachelet to “listen to the voice” of those who “believe in change when there are brave people fighting for it.”
“Today they see you as a courageous and visionary leader who has dedicated his life to ensuring human rights and the rule of law – they believe that you are the leader the Uyghurs need to restore. restore their freedom and dignity, ”he wrote in his private letter to the commissioner.
Authorities are believed to have detained up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious” and “politically inaccurate” views in an extensive network of internships in XUAR since 2017 and has jailed or detained hundreds of Uyghur scholars and other influential members of the ethnic group in recent years.
While Beijing initially denied the existence of these camps, China this year changed its strategy and began to describe these facilities as “boarding schools” that provided vocational training for the Uyghurs, preventing hinder the process of radicalization and help protect the country from terrorism.
But reports by the Uyghur Service of the RFA and other media show that people in detention centers are detained against their will and subjected to political teachings, often faced with treatment. rude at the hands of their supervisors and endured poor diet and unhygienic conditions in frequently overcrowded facilities.
‘It’s happening again’
Morago’s call to Bachelet was attended by Nury Turkel, bipartisan commissioner of the United States International Religious Freedom Commission (USCIRF), an independent federal government agency, who noted that the national community vow never would have allowed another genocide to happen after the Nazis killed six people. millions of Jews during the Holocaust.
“But it is happening again today in China,” he warned. “By throwing millions of Uighurs into concentration camps, the Chinese government has brought about unspeakable horrors and the persecution of the minority that we think ended in the 20th century. “.
“I hope you find in these messages your determination and inspiration to carry out your mission. Not because it’s easy, but because it can change the lives of millions. Because it is more urgent than ever. Because our shared humanity depends on it ”.
The administration of former US President Donald Trump formally designated abuse cases in the XUAR section of a January state-sponsored genocide and crimes against humanity in January and the administration of President United States. Ky Joe Biden has accepted this label, in tandem with global allies on measures to keep the Chinese government accountable.
Among the measures was an ongoing call to independent monitoring agencies with uncontrolled access to investigate reports of the situation in the region. Last month, Jiang Duan, China’s delegate to the UN Human Rights Council, said Beijing was discussing Bachelet’s XUAR visit, but “the purpose of the visit is for exchange and cooperation rather than .. so-called investigation. is based on “guilty before proven.”
The “invitation” follows a statement by Bachelet, in which she states that the situation at XUAR requires an independent and thorough assessment of the situation. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) previously told RFA she would not accept unless allowed access to camps on her own terms.
In 2019, China held two visits to oversee internships in XUAR – one for a small group of foreign journalists and one for diplomats from non-Western countries, including Russia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Thailand – in which officials dismiss claims of abuse and poor infrastructure as “slanderous lies.”
During the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York last September, US Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan told the meeting that these trips and the China-friendly accounts they gave out was “the Potemkin tours in a failed attempt to prove” that the camps were the center of humanitarian training.
‘The situation is dire’
Meetali Jain, Avaaz’s chief legal officer, said that UN leadership largely kept quiet about China’s policies in XUAR, despite repeatedly asking countries and organizations to act and urging Bachelet to break. that silence.
“I think a lot of people have been trying for a while to see the changes at the UN – to actually see the UN leadership speak up and take decisive action on the issue, but they didn’t,” Jain to speak.
“And so we thought, perhaps instead of going to the UN and just naming it, shame and criticize, maybe we should change our tactics,” she added about her decision to go ahead with the writing campaign. letters.
Sophie Richardson, the China Director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, appreciates mail volume, remarking that the book may be even more effective than some other forms of human rights advocacy. in at least some context.
“For over a year now, we have been actively trying to fundamentally support the Uyghur community in its fight for rights and freedom and justice,” she said.
“Our book clarifies what is at stake if the world does not succeed Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims… Agencies like the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council must act to protect these people and these communities… The situation is dire, and this is exactly what those organizations have to do. “
Avaaz has yet to receive a response to the letters from OHCHR.
Reported by Nuriman for the Uyghur Service of the RFA. Translated by Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.