Deadly Urumchi Fire Reflects Broader Human Rights Crisis in the Uyghur Region
December 1, 2022
[Below is a statement by the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region, for which the Uyghur Human Rights Project is a Steering Committee Member]
The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region mourns the tragic loss of life in the Urumchi fire last week and expresses solidarity with the survivors and the families of the deceased.
By all credible accounts, government-imposed restrictions on freedom of movement, which disproportionately impacted Uyghur residents, prevented their ability to escape the apartment building. Obstacles to firefighters accessing the building also played a role in the deaths and injuries of dozens.
“The horrific death toll is one more example of the ongoing atrocity crimes against Uyghurs. The Chinese government’s dehumanisation of Uyghurs is plain to see. It is hard to imagine that anywhere else in China people would have been blockaded into a burning residential building without the ability to escape,” said Misran Dolan, Uyghur American Association. “We have to repeat our call to corporations: Any company still doing business in the Uyghur Region should be ashamed of themselves.”
“Everyone around the world, including across China, can see clearly that the government’s brutality against Uyghurs is unlimited. Uyghurs are very moved to see so much sympathy for what happened in Urumchi,” said Omer Kanat, Uyghur Human Rights Project. “In the context of ongoing crimes against humanity in the Uyghur homeland, from mass surveillance to state-imposed forced labour, this tragedy underscores why every responsible corporation has already exited the region.”
For those who have had family members locked up in internment camps for years, and who now have lost loved ones in the fire or who have been unable to access adequate food supplies and medical care during lockdowns, the catastrophe in Urumchi is intertwined with the broader repression they have been facing, including gender-based violence, arbitrary detention, and systemic forced labour, reflecting the gravity of the crisis for the Uyghur people.