Human Rights Day 2016: Stand up for Uyghur Rights Today

The Uyghur Human Rights Project urges concerned individuals and organizations to publicly call on China to improve human rights in East Turkestan

For immediate Release
December 7, 2016, 10:00am EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is concerned with recent rights violations targeting the Uyghur population of East Turkestan. In response to the United Nations’ call to stand up for rights on Human Rights Day 2016, UHRP urges concerned individuals and organizations to express their concern over rights conditions in East Turkestan.

“Human Rights Day is an opportunity to highlight egregious violations against vulnerable people. This year the United Nations has challenged the international community to step forward and defend the rights of a targeted population. Uyghurs have seen a deterioration in their rights to religious expression, freedom of speech and freedom of movement under the presidency of Xi Jinping,” said UHRP Executive Director Alim Seytoff in a statement.

Mr. Seytoff added: “We therefore ask people to use their voice on behalf of Uyghurs. Whether it is a letter on behalf of a prisoner of conscience, a phone call to a legislator or sharing information on violations via social media, we ask concerned individuals and organizations to stand up for the rights of Uyghurs on Human Rights Day 2016.”

Recent media reports indicate the Chinese government has implemented a policy to confiscate passports in East Turkestan to limit the international movement of Uyghurs. Furthermore, thorough and frequent internal checkpoints curtail the ability of Uyghurs to travel freely within the region. UHRP believes China is attempting to restrict the Uyghurs’ right of movement to isolate Uyghurs from possible association and assembly. Even when Uyghurs have applied for political asylum overseas, the Chinese government has sought their return in contravention of the refoulment principle. More than 70 Uyghur refugees in Thailand need support from possible return to China and there is no information on the welfare of over 100 Uyghurs forcibly returned in 2015. See also UHRP’s 2011 report on Uyghur refuges in Europe and 2013 briefing on passport confiscations.

Islam is a cornerstone of the Uyghur identity. China has adopted a series of religious legislation curbing Uyghur rights to freedom of worship. Regulations control who can observe the Ramadan fast and visit the mosque. Private communal religious education has been targeted for a number of years; however, this year Chinese authorities adopted rules to report parents who encourage their children to undertake religious activities.

UHRP has documented several cases involving Uyghur prisoners of conscience in two reports issued in 2014 and 2015. A prominent advocate for Uyghur freedom of speech and equitable treatment in China is Professor Ilham Tohti. Professor Tohti often questioned the efficacy of Chinese government policies targeting Uyghurs citing worsening economic, social and cultural conditions. He was found guilty on charges of separatism and sentenced to life imprisonment on September 23, 2014 after a two-day trial that began on September 17.

At the sixty-ninth session of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention held between April 22 and May 1, 2014, a panel of five human rights experts rendered the opinion that Ilham Tohti’s deprivation of liberty since January 15, 2014 is arbitrary. Amnesty International features Ilham Tohti in their 2016 Write for Rights Campaign.

UHRP appreciates your support for Human Rights Day 2016. We are committed to democratic solutions to the Uyghur issue and believe coalitions of likeminded individuals and organizations will help realize fundamental human rights as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the Uyghur people.

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