UHRP Presentation, Senate Human Rights Caucus
U.S. Senate Human Rights Caucus Briefing
Religious Freedom in China: Assessing the Role of Surveillance Technology
in Abuses Against the Uyghurs and Across China
July 24, 2019
Presentation by Omer Kanat
Director, Uyghur Human Rights Project
I would like to express our deep appreciation to the Senate Human Rights Caucus for organizing this briefing.
Congressional action is urgently needed.
The Chinese government’s policy in the Uyghur homeland is nothing less than cultural genocide, aimed at gaining total control over the population and eliminating their unique language, traditions and faith. The situation may indeed be the worst it has been since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took over East Turkestan in 1949.
The Party is sparing no expense. It is spending millions expanding prisons, converting ordinary buildings into prison-camps, and building new concentration camps to hold a vast number of Uyghurs in secret indefinite detention.
It is also spending millions to deploy the latest technological innovations to establish a powerful police state, creating complete 24-7 surveillance over the population, including in Uyghurs’ homes.
The camps hold over one million people, and possibly as many as 3 million people, in extrajudicial, extralegal detention, purely on the basis of their ethno-religious identity.
Inside these camps, victims have reported, detainees are forced to renounce their faith and identity, sing the praises of the Communist Party and Xi Jinping. Survivors report having to say, over and over again:
“My soul is infected with serious diseases;”
“There is no God. I don’t believe in God.”
“I believe in the Communist Party.”
Those in the camp are subject unspeakable conditions and a starvation diet. Mihrigul Tursun, a 29-year old survivor, lost almost 40 pounds in body weight in 3 months in a camp. Brutal torture, including electric shocks, are widespread. Unexplained medical tests such as blood tests, ultrasound, and body scans have also been reported, raising the awful possibility that detainees’ organs are being examined for possible use in transplant surgery, a procedure that would mean the death of the prisoners.
Forced labor in connection with the extralegal detention is now well documented. Investigative reporting has uncovered export of these goods to American consumers via Badger Sportswear, Target, Cotton On, Jeanswest, Ikea and H&M.
The purpose of the camps is clear—to brainwash and exert tight control over Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples. However, this campaign of dehumanization and cultural genocide reaches beyond the walls of the camps, to every corner of Uyghur society.
Uyghurs are not even free in their own homes. Communist Party members are sent to stay with them and observe them for any hint of “disloyalty.” At least a million officials have been sent to live in Uyghur homes in the so-called “Becoming Family” campaign.
Children have been taken from their parents and placed in state orphanages, where they are indoctrinated through repeated loyalty oaths. In May, Vice News used a hidden camera to film morning exercises (see footage at 30:15) where the children were forced to say in unison, “I will protect the unification of the Motherland and unity among ethnicities!,” “We are Chinese!,” and “We love China!” among other slogans. These children, and all Uyghur families, will suffer lasting trauma. The policy is clearly designed to cut off the transmission of Uyghur culture to the next generation. A government official has described this policy as: “Break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, break their origins.”
The Uyghur language has been completely eliminated from the schools, with Uyghur teachers pushed out and Han Chinese hired to replace them. UHRP has documented the detention or enforced disappearance of at least 435 professors, journalist, poets, musicians, and other guardians of Uyghur history and culture.
The past has also been targeted for elimination. A large number of cemeteries have already been razed and paved over. Thousands of mosques and shrines have been demolished. This demolition campaign is documented in a forthcoming UHRP report.
This has been called the first post-modern genocide. The Chinese government’s gross human-rights crimes — the systematic brutalization of a people, and the erasure of their identity — calls for an urgent global response. Certainly, there is no time to be lost in ending the complicity of American technology companies in these crimes against humanity.
Question: What additional steps should the international community be taking to push for accountability for the abuses against the Uyghurs?
Answer: A witness at last year’s July 26 CECC hearing on the Uyghur crisis noted that staying silent on human rights in China “is not a neutral act.” Silence in face of mass atrocities is a green light for continued crimes. This was exactly a year ago, and unfortunately the Congress has not yet acted.
- The first thing is for Congress to pass the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (S. 178 and H.R. 649) and the Uyghur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response (UIGHUR) Act (H.R.1025).
- Private companies must immediately end collaboration with surveillance and racial profiling of Uyghurs. Congress can act to prohibit this complicity.
- Pension funds must divest from these companies.
- Governments must immediately stop all deportations of Uyghur asylum-seekers to China.
- Governments urgently need to address the refugee crisis. The Congress can lead on this. We have detailed files on 11,000 stateless women and children stranded in Turkey. They have expired Chinese passports or no documentation at all. They have no status, no access to medical care, no schooling for the children, no chance to work.
- The Red Cross should be mandated to seek access to the camps. They need to collect information now so that families can be re-united, before it is too late.
- Congress should increase funding for the Uyghur Service of Radio Free Asia. RFA Uyghur service uncovers breaking story after breaking story, and is the only independent Uyghur journalism anywhere on the planet.
- Congress should question the FBI and the State Department about whether they have done anything to counter the harassment of Uyghur-Americans. The UIGHUR Act would requireall U.S. universities to report PRC harassment and surveillance to the Secretary of State, and track and take steps to hold accountable officials from China who harass, threaten, or intimidate Uyghur-Americans.
- Congress should request a report from the Department of Homeland Security regarding Customs and Border Protection (CBP) investigations and action to sanction and prevent importation of forced-labor goods from the prisons and extralegal detention camps in the Uyghur homeland.
- Universities should suspend cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Education. At least 77 university instructors are disappeared or detained.—this is just what is known, the tip of the iceberg. Congress can also act on this. The UIGHUR Act would requireall U.S. universities to report PRC harassment and surveillance to the Secretary of State.
- The medical profession worldwide must suspend cooperation with the transplantation field in China, until it can be verified that organs for transplant are obtained through a voluntary donation system, andnot by force from prisoners of conscience, causing their deaths.
UHRP Congressional Presentations 2018-2019 _
July 15, 2019
The Coalition to Advance Religious Freedom in China announced a multi-faith letter to 12 tech company CEOs calling for an end to cooperation with the high-tech surveillance police state in China, signed by 38 religious-freedom and human-rights groups and leaders.
June 24, 2019
Uyghur human-rights advocacy groups and allies call upon governments, universities, the Red Cross, and other institutions to take seven urgent policy steps, declaring that “silence in the face of mass atrocities is a green light for continued crimes, and inaction is not a neutral stance.
June 17, 2019
UHRP organized an Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill on June 12, together with the Uyghur American Association and the Uyghur Entrepreneurs Network, to bring Uyghur diaspora voices to Capitol Hill, as the Congress considers the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 (S. 178 and H.R. 649) and the UIGHUR Act of 2019 (H.R. 1025).
May 9, 2019
To the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urging swift action on The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 (S. 178 and H.R. 649) and the UIGHUR Act of 2019 (H.R. 1025). Addressed to Senators Risch and Menendez, and Representatives Engel and McCaul, from 23 human rights and religious freedom organizations.
February 17, 2019
Letter from 27 organizations and religious freedom leaders urging accountability for gross human rights violations committed by Chinese government and Party leaders in the Uyghur homeland.
November 29, 2018
UHRP calls on governments, Muslim and all faith leaders, companies, and academic institutions to end business as usual with the government of China, at a time when it is expanding concentration camps for Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim group, providing 14 specific policy and action recommendations.
October 11, 2018
Remarks of UHRP Director Omer Kanat: “The Human Rights of Muslim Uyghurs: An Urgent Appeal.” Delivered at the October 2018Congressional Staff Briefing on Religious Freedom on China, co-sponsored by the CongressionalInternational Religious Freedom Caucus and the Washington IRF Roundtable.
Oct 3, 2018
Remarks of UHRP Director Omer Kanat at the International Religious Freedom Roundtable concerning the Uyghur crisis.
Sep 27, 2018
Testimony of UHRP Chairman Nury Turkel,House Foreign Affairs Committee,Asia Subcommittee Hearing: “China’s Repression and Internment of Uyghurs: U.S. Policy Responses,” September 26, 2018.
Sep 27, 2018
Oral Statement of UHRP Chairman Nury Turkel, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Asia Subcommittee Hearing: “China’s Repression and Internment of Uyghurs: U.S. Policy Responses,” September 26, 2018.
Coerced Kinship: The Pomegranate Flower Plan and the Forced Assimilation of Uyghur Children
Meet the “New” Uyghurs: CGTN’s Role in Mediawashing Genocide
The Disappearance of Uyghur Intellectual and Cultural Elites: A New Form of Eliticide
“Your Family Will Suffer”: How China is Hacking, Surveilling, and Intimidating Uyghurs in Liberal Democracies
Norway’s Approach to Human Rights in China: A Conversation with Activists & Stakeholders
Watch the UHRP co-sponsored event examining the role of Norway in the Uyghur crisis.