Testimony of UHRP Chair Nury Turkel, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Asia Subcommittee Hearing

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UHRP Board Chair Nury Turkel testified before the Asia Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a hearing entitled “China’s Repression and Internment of Uyghurs: U.S. Policy Responses” on September 26, 2018. The full written testimony can be found here.


Oral Statement

Nury Turkel
Chairman of the Board, Uyghur Human Rights Project

House Foreign Affairs Committee
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
September 26, 2018

The Uyghur Human Rights Project warmly commends the Subcommittee for convening this hearing on the U.S. policy response. We would also like to expressly thank Subcommittee members who have co-signed bipartisan letters calling for sanctions and urgent pressure for the release of relatives of Uyghur-American U.S. citizens.

The human rights emergency facing Uyghurs in China requires an urgent response. For decades, the Chinese government implemented policies of racial discrimination and criminalization of Uyghurs’ distinct ethnic and religious identity. In the two years since Chen Quanguo took office as Party Secretary, we have seen how these policies paved the way for the dehumanization of the Uyghur people. This should raise an urgent alarm about what is next for the Uyghurs.

It is also important to be clear that the Chinese government’s claim to be carrying out a ‘counterterrorism’ campaign is nonsense. Prior to 9/11, Chinese authorities justified repressive policies by claiming to be fighting ‘separatism.’ Hundreds of political prisoners were locked away for expressing their identity or peacefully protesting government abuse and corruption. After 9/11, the same policies were suddenly re-cast as ‘counter-terrorism.’ Today, it is very clear that these policies have nothing to do with legitimate security measures. The most obvious evidence is the large-scale facilities being built to keep Uyghur children under state control from pre-school age[1]. As we speak, millions of Uyghurs do not know if they will ever see their sons and daughters, or their young nieces and nephews, ever again.

Finally, the U.S. government has to respond vigorously to threats and retaliation against Uyghurs on U.S. soil.

It is time to act. UHRP urges the Congress to take these steps:

  1. To guide policy throughout the government, UHRP urges the Subcommittee to introduce a binding resolution endorsing an urgent U.S. policy response to the Uyghur crisis. A Uyghur Policy Act is needed to definitively state U.S. support for Uyghurs’ civil and political rights, and to mandate adequate measures to reverse the current crisis.
  2. The Congress should also press for an immediate Congressional fact-finding visit to the Uyghur region.
  3. U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad should personally lead efforts for the release of the relatives of Radio Free Asia reporters and hundreds of other American citizens.
  4. UHRP strongly endorses Magnitsky sanctions on the Chinese officials responsible for severe human rights violations. This is necessary to reverse these catastrophic policies, and to deter even more serious rights abuses that may be weeks or months away. Last week, Jerry Cohen and Kevin Carrico stated that what is happening to the Uyghurs constitutes crimes against humanity[2]. The architects of this kind of crime must be seen to pay a price, particularly Regional Party Secretary Chen Quanguo and United Front official Hu Lianhe.
  5. Congress should press for expedited enforcement of regulations to prevent private U.S. individuals and companies from assisting Chinese state security agencies.
  6. Congress should also review the U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation. The Chinese side is led by Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun. U.S. officials need to use this channel to vigorously raise the shocking treatment of Uyghurs by Chinese security forces.
  7. U.S. law-enforcement agencies should investigate threats and retaliation carried out against Uyghur U.S. citizens and against all Uyghurs on U.S. soil.
  8. The U.S. should publicly affirm its policy not to extradite or deport Uyghurs living in the U.S. and urge other governments to join Germany and Sweden in publicly announcing a halt to all deportations of Uyghurs to China.
  9. Congress should appropriate funds to support Uyghur human rights and civil society groups working to advance human rights and environmental protection in their homeland. It should also direct additional resources for documentation and casework to address the plight of Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers and throughout the world. Right now, hundreds of Uyghurs are in imminent danger of forcible return to China.
  10. The U.S. delegation at the United Nations should have strong Congressional backing for vigorous action. China has been in the hot seat for its crimes against humanity in the Uyghur region exactly once over the past 19 months as the camps have exploded in size. That was August 10 at the CERD Review in Geneva. Going forward, the U.S. must field a strong delegation at China’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva on November 6. USUN should also organize a joint statement by liked-minded countries, and formally request an investigation by Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide.
  11. I also urge USUN to raise the issue in the UN Security Council. In 2014, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2150, calling upon States to “recommit to prevent and fight against genocide and other serious crimes under international law.” The favorable PRC vote was cast by Wang Min, Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the UN. Wang also made a statement in support, saying that “Preventing genocide also requires that Governments protect their civilians and that all parties abide by humanitarian law.”
  12. Finally, we know of a number of Uyghur students who cannot pay their tuition at American universities, because their parents are detained in China. In this humanitarian emergency, Members of Congress should support these students’ requests for tuition waivers and scholarships.

[1] Wang, Y. & Kang, D. (Sep 21, 2018). China treats Uighur kids as ‘orphans’ after parents seized. Associated Press. Available at: https://apnews.com/903a97b7c62a47b98553b6f422827dd7

[2] Cohen, J. & Carrico, K. (Sep. 20, 2018) Muslims in Xinjiang are facing human rights abuses: time for China scholars to break the silence. South China Morning Post. Available at: https://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/2164698/muslims-xinjiang-are-facing-human-rights-abuses-time-china-scholars