UNESCO Made Ukraine a Priority, but Xinjiang Fell by the Wayside

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March 23, 2023 | Foreign Policy | By Liam Scott

To many Uyghur activists and scholars, the meshrep case underscores UNESCO’s failure to effectively respond to cultural destruction in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government stands accused of committing genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups. If anything, UNESCO has facilitated Beijing’s destruction, multiple analysts told Foreign Policy—most overtly in how at least five Uyghur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz cultural items are included on various UNESCO lists, as a February 2023 report by the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) outlined.

“By continuing to keep these items on their lists, continuing to acknowledge the People’s Republic of China, effectively, as the protector of Uyghur and Kazakh and Kyrgyz culture in the region, then UNESCO is condoning the wider situation of cultural destruction,” said Harris, who co-authored the UHRP report.

Liu Pengyu, the spokesperson at China’s Washington embassy, denied reports of cultural destruction in Xinjiang. “Over the years, the Chinese government has made great efforts to protect the multi-ethnic culture in Xinjiang. The remarks attacking the human rights situation in Xinjiang and the accusation of ‘Uyghur cultural genocide’ are completely distorting facts,” he wrote in an email to Foreign Policy. He added that the UHRP report “is full of lies and slanders against China, with ulterior political motives.”

One of the most frustrating things to Peter Irwin, who works at the UHRP in Washington, has been UNESCO’s silence on cultural destruction in Xinjiang—let alone the fact that UNESCO hasn’t worked to document assaults on local cultures in Xinjiang. “They’ve said nothing,” Irwin told Foreign Policy.

Read the full article: https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/03/23/unesco-ukraine-xinjiang-cultural-destruction/