East Turkestan: Uyghurs Hold Demonstration in Brussels


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Friday, 27 June 2008

Ethnic Uyghurs have held a demonstration in the European district of Brussels to protest China’s repressive policy against their 9 million strong ethnic group.

On 25 June 2008 about 150 Uyghurs from various EU countries led by their charismatic leader Rebiya Kadeer gathered with other supporters for a demonstration organized by the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) in the European district in Brussels from 12:00 to 2:00 PM to protest China’s repressive policy against their 9 million strong ethnic group.

Famous Uyghur human rights defender Rebiya Kadeer was imprisoned by the Chinese government from 1999 to 2005 because of her activities for civil liberties in China. She was then adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. Since her release she has continued her fight from the diaspora in the United States. During the rally, she addressed a strong message to the demonstrators, encouraging them to fight together with her for human rights, the rule of law and democracy in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, called East Turkestan by the Uyghurs.

Willy Fautré, the director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), congratulated them for their commitment to the cause of the 9 million Uyghurs living in China and said, “Beijing tried to silence you but it never managed to silence your voices and you have shown to the Chinese here in Brussels that they will never manage to silence you.”

The demonstrators had t-shirts, posters, and a banner with slogans protesting the Beijing Olympics and the Chinese government’s maltreatment of Uyghurs. Through a megaphone they shouted slogans claiming freedom for Uyghurs. Some reporters interviewed the protestors. Many interested passers-by and staff from the European Commission and European Council stopped to ask questions about the situation of their people in China. They received handouts and reports from HRWF about massive human rights abuses perpetrated against Uyghurs that especially highlighted the forceful transfer of 400,000 young, unmarried women from rural areas to factories in Eastern China far from their homes.

Later that afternoon Rebiya Kadeer was received at the European Parliament for a private meeting with a number of members of the Parliament that had been arranged by Hungarian MEP István Szent-Iványi and HRWF.

At 3:45 PM there was an open meeting at the European Parliament aiming to promote the recent publishing in Germany of her biography written by Alexandra Cavelius, Die Himmelsst&uumlrmerin: Chinas Staatsfeindin Nr. 1 Erzählt Aus Ihrem Leben (The Stormer of Heaven: China’s Public Enemy Number One Tells Her Story). The meeting was moderated by MEP Szent-Iványi. Willy Fautré gave a short speech about the present situation of Uyghurs in East Turkestan, highlighting the cultural genocide perpetrated against them and drawing a parallel with China’s repressive policy against the Tibetans. Rebiya Kadeer then spoke more in-depth on the situation of her people and alerted the attendance that 65 Uyghurs were about to be tried in China and were facing the death penalty on the eve of the Olympics.

Several MEPs were present at the meeting. Italian MEP Marco Cappato, Rapporteur of the European Parliament on human rights in the world, called the participants’ attention to a statement that 134 members of Parliament had signed in support of Uyghurs’ rights. German MEP Helga Tr&uumlpel raised the question of the Chinese mindset towards the concept of autonomy. Rebiya Kadeer responded that while China has a law granting autonomy to Xinjiang Region, its principles have never been respected in practice. Romanian MEP Csaba Sogor expressed opposition to China’s reports about so-called Uyghur terrorist groups threatening the security and the territorial integrity of China. Rebiya Kadeer rejected all accusations of advocacy for violence and separatism on the Uyghur agenda. Belgian MEP Dirk Sterckx who is the head of the Delegation of the European Parliament for Relations with China asked a question regarding the EU-China dialogue. After the meeting, Rebiya Kadeer talked to the attendants and signed copies of her biography, which was available along with other publications about Uyghurs.

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