Uyghur Human Rights Project Commemorates 9/11

UHRP calls for skepticism over China’s attempt to align its counter-terror measures with the global struggle against terrorism and for respect of fundamental human rights in ending terrorism

For Immediate Release

September 11, 2017 9:45 am EST

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

On the sixteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) expresses its condolences to the families who lost loved ones in New York City and Washington, DC. UHRP condemns terrorism and stands with Americans in promoting the ideals of freedom, human rights, and democracy.

UHRP encourages the international community maintain its efforts to end the menace of terrorism and to oppose states that leverage terrorism to repress minorities. The struggle against terrorism is bound by international human rights standards. On September 8, 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which highlights:

Measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.

“Uyghurs and Uyghur-Americans extend their sympathy to the families who experienced loss on 9/11. The attacks on the United States were an attempt to strike fear into Americans and to test respect for human rights and democracy," said UHRP Director Omer Kanat in a statement.

Mr. Kanat added: “The fight against terrorism is ongoing and states must withstand the pressure to violate the fundamental human rights of minority populations in counter-terror initiatives. China routinely commits human rights abuses against the Uyghurs of East Turkestan through ethnically-targeted security measures and repressive legal instruments in the name of combatting terrorism. Such an approach is counterproductive as Uyghurs will become further estranged from the state. The United States and other democratic nations should not see their struggle against terrorism in the same light as China.”

The Chinese government often exploits the Uyghurs’ faith in Islam and opposition to government policies to justify counter-terror measures in East Turkestan. UHRP believes a vague definition of “terrorism” and restrictions placed on reporting “terror incidents” contained within a national Counter-Terrorism Law effective January 1, 2016 legitimizes the use of excessive force against Uyghur civilians expressing peaceful dissent over government policies. The legislation prevents and punishes commentary, domestic and foreign, critical of the repression and of “counter-terror” measures in the region.

On August 1, 2016, regional measures to implement the national counter-terror law came into force. East Turkestan is of the first provincial level administrative unit to issue such a document demonstrating the targeted nature of counter-terrorism in China and the use of counter-terror legislation to justify repression.

In a series of articles published in the past year, observers have noted China’s counter-terror measures have transformed East Turkestan into a police state.

Professor Sean Roberts of George Washington University told Pacific Standard in a February 23 report that “Recent events are suggesting that the Chinese state is creating a security state within Xinjiang like never seen before… In [creating a security state, Chinese authorities] are taking full advantage of the new technologies that allow states to control their populations — they are making residents install tracking devices in vehicles, they are randomly searching cell phones of Uyghurs without probable cause, they are using public surveillance cameras and biometrics.”

In a September 5 blog post, UHRP manager Nicole Morgret described the range of new technologies deployed in the region and how “[g]iven the blatant racial profiling and broad view the government takes towards security threats, these new technologies are particularly worrisome for Uyghurs and other minorities.”

A March 30 Reuters article described how extensive security measures in East Turkestan are often accompanied by attempts to limit religious expression and belief among Uyghurs. Reuters detail how China’s “war on terrorism” is characterized by “prohibition on ‘abnormal’ beards and the wearing of veils in public places,” as well as required attendance at weekly flag-raising ceremonies where Uyghurs are expected “to denounce religious extremism and pledge fealty under the Chinese flag.”

In July, Agence France-Presse reported on the “increasingly strict curbs imposed on the mostly Muslim Uygur population” and cited Xi Jinping’s pledge to build “a ‘great wall of steel’ around the region.” An August article in the South China Morning Post indicated a follow through on Xi’s promise stating local authorities have “advertised more than 84,000 security-related positions since September 2016, nearly 50 per cent more than it did in the past 10 years.”

UHRP believes the fight against terrorism should be conducted within human rights norms and refers China to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Human Rights, Terrorism and Counter-terrorism Fact Sheet which states:

Effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are complementary and mutually reinforcing objectives which must be pursued together as part of States’ duty to protect individuals within their jurisdiction.