Uyghur-Americans visit 47 Congressional offices on Uyghur Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill

For immediate release

June 17, 2019 4:30 pm EST

Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

On June 12, Uyghur-American community members from across the country, along with representatives of eight human rights and religious freedom organizations, participated in a Uyghur Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. Participating organizations included UHRP, the Uyghur American Association, the Uyghur Entrepreneurs Network, ChinaAid, 21Wilberforce, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Peace Catalyst, and the Silk Road Peace Project.

The Advocacy Day came as the Congress moves forward in considering the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 (H.R. 649 and S. 178), as well as the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act (UIGHUR Act) (H.R. 1025). The bills were introduced on a bipartisan basis by Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez, and Congressmen Chris Smith, Brad Sherman and Ted Yoho. The Advocacy Day enabled members of the Uyghur community to urge additional members of Congress to join the 75 co-sponsors in the House and 36 in the Senate.

The participants visited 47 offices in the Senate and House of Representatives, briefing them on the ongoing human rights crisis afflicting Uyghurs, encouraging support for the legislation and thanking those who have already cosponsored the bills.

Uyghur-American participants told their devastating personal stories in the meetings with Congressional offices, including being unable to reach relatives for many months, family members taken away to the mass-detention camps, and friends and family sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials. “The Uyghur Human Rights Project appreciates and salutes the courage of Uyghur-Americans who have come forward to tell their stories despite intimidation and threats they receive from government authorities in China,” said UHRP Director Omer Kanat.

The human rights crisis in East Turkestan is one of the worst currently taking place in the world.  It is conservatively estimated that over one million people are being held in extrajudicial internment camps where they are being subjected to terrible conditions, brainwashing, and torture. Outside the camps, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is also implementing other sweeping policies of cultural cleansing including through the erasure of the Uyghur language, the destruction of mosques and heritage sites, and prevention of any religious observance in a campaign of cultural extermination targeting the Uyghurs as a distinct ethnic group.

Facial-recognition cameras, vast databases and other new technologies are used to enable the government’s total surveillance and control of the population’s communications and movement, creating a new type of high-tech apartheid. This total-control system is already being packaged for export and sold by China to other authoritarian regimes. Even Uyghurs living overseas, including in the United States, do not feel safe from harassment and control by the CCP. The game-changing nature of these surveillance systems are of urgent concern to leading members of the United States Congress.

“Inaction by the international community is a green light for mass atrocities,” said Omer Kanat, UHRP Director. “It means the Chinese Communist Party’s crimes against the Uyghurs can continue with impunity, and also sets a terrible precedent for human rights abusers around the world.” UHRP reiterates its call for an end to business as usual and vigorous international action to end the atrocities.