Uyghurs face “severe official repression of the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and assembly,” says U.S. State Department report

United States government report describes a range of serious violations indicating deteriorating human rights conditions in East Turkestan over 2015

For immediate release
April 15, 2016 10:20am EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

On April 13, 2016, the U.S. State Department released the 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Washington, D.C. The China section of the report details a series of human rights abuses faced by Uyghurs, including curbs on political, economic and cultural rights.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) commends the U.S. State Department for its public acknowledgement of the severe human rights conditions in East Turkestan and calls on the Chinese government to act on the findings of the report.

“The U.S. State Department has compiled a damning indictment of China’s human rights record in East Turkestan. The report describes how Uyghurs are confronted with some of the most serious human rights violations according to international standards, such as torture in detention and extrajudicial killings,” said UHRP Director, Alim Seytoff in a statement.

Mr. Seytoff added: “The report demonstrates the human rights of Uyghurs mean less and less to the Chinese government as Chinese officials prepare to overrun East Turkestan in a ‘March West’ for economic riches. While the report makes for grim reading about conditions in 2015, the State Department has catalogued human rights violations faced by Uyghurs in its annual reports for a number of years and still the Chinese authorities insist on ignoring to address them.”

In particular, the 2015 report documents increasing restrictions placed on Uyghurs regarding the freedom of movement within East Turkestan and for travel overseas. Uyghurs were frequently denied passports and refused permission to leave the country because of “political unreliability.” Academics and religious pilgrims were often blocked from leaving China. Uyghurs with travel documents were subjected to passport seizures and visa applications made by many overseas Uyghurs were turned down. Some Uyghurs granted visas to visit family in East Turkestan and who traveled to the region reported pressure from Chinese police to monitor the activity of Uyghurs abroad. The U.S. State Department also raised concern over the forced deportations of Uyghurs outside China fleeing the repression in East Turkestan highlighting the high probability of “imprisonment and mistreatment upon return.”

Furthermore, the China section of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015 raises the following concerns for Uyghur human rights:

  • Credible reports of extrajudicial killings during security operations.
  • “Systematic torture and other degrading treatment” in the criminal-justice system.
  • Crackdowns and extensive surveillance of peaceful political dissidents, religious leaders and journalists often under the pretext of “counter-terror,” including the imprisonment of Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti
  • Routine use of show trials, long prison sentences and executions in cases brought against Uyghur defendants.
  • Forced labor as a means of social control.
  • Economic discrimination in the hiring process for employment as well as an inequitable distribution of the benefits derived from economic development.
  • Demolition of historically and culturally important Uyghur neighborhoods accompanied by inappropriate compensation and coercive measures.
  • Erosion of the importance in the Uyghur language through “bilingual education.” According to the report: “Many contacts complained the country’s language policy did not adequately train Uighur students in Mandarin nor provide access to sufficient Uighur-language resources.”

In response to the human rights concerns flagged by the U.S. State Department report, Chinese officials cited the United States’ human rights performance and called the motives in publicizing the findings “a pure waste of effort.” UHRP believes China’s reaction to the report demonstrates a fundamental problem to the improvement of human rights conditions in East Turkestan. The dismissal of human rights issues raised by other states demonstrates China is not prepared to meet international standards to which it is subject under numerous commitments and it is unwilling to examine its human rights performance. That many of the issues raised by China in its report, such as police brutality and ethnic inequality, are the very same issues it violently suppresses in East Turkestan further undermines China’s attempts to dodge responsibility for its harsh treatment of Uyghurs.

UHRP calls on China to raise its human rights standards in East Turkestan to international norms through a genuine and meaningful collaborative process with the Uyghur people and urges concerned governments to continue to press China in bilateral meetings and in multilateral forums for human rights reforms.

See also:

2015 Saw Sharp Increase in ‘Repression and Coercion’ in China – U.S.