UHRP Calls for Responsible Commentary on So-Called Security Threats to China in Afghanistan


For immediate release
August 19, 2021 6:05 p.m. EDT
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is alarmed at recent speculative commentary about alleged Uyghur militants in Afghanistan. The discourse of security risks posed to China by the new leadership in Kabul should include analysis on how a Taliban administration provides cover for repressive policies targeting Uyghurs.

UHRP is concerned that such commentary takes at face value China’s claim that it is conducting counterterrorism in East Turkistan.

As scholar Sean Roberts writes, “the state campaign against the Uyghurs in China, while couched in terms of ‘counterterrorism,’ has really been driven by settler colonialism, ultimately seeking to make the Uyghur homeland indistinguishable, with the exception of physical geography, from the rest of China both in appearance and demographics.”

“The rise to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan is rightfully a cause for concern for the international community, and the welfare of the Afghan people should be a priority. The world is waiting to see what kind of approach to governance the new administration in Kabul will take. However, commentary that China may face a concerted security threat from ‘Uyghur militants’ in Afghanistan is not supported by evidence,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. 

Mr. Kanat added, “China has a pattern of leveraging global events as pretexts for the repression of Uyghurs. This was made no clearer in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States when China claimed it faced a comprehensive Uyghur terror threat. Twenty years later, the amplification of this claim has become the justification for genocidal policies. I would ask  commentators to also focus on how the Chinese state poses an existential human security threat to the Uyghur people.” 

UHRP is also concerned that Afghan Uyghurs now face the danger of rendition to China given the longstanding relations between China and the Taliban. In a new report released August 11, UHRP and the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs identified and analyzed 21 cases of detention and deportation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with an upper estimate of 90 reported incidents lacking full biographical records. 

Bradley Jardine, Director of Research at the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs, and author of the report noted, “As the US prepares to leave Afghanistan, Uyghur Afghan citizens and long-term residents alike face the threat of increased persecution and even extradition to China under the leadership of the Pakistan-backed Taliban movement.”

Mr. Kanat said, “Uyghurs have become worried at the prospect that a so-called security threat to China may lead to renewed cooperation between Beijing and Washington on counterterrorism. We trust the United States government will continue to view China as an unreliable partner in confronting extremism. Further, and contrary to China’s claim to non-interference in the affairs of other countries, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi met with Taliban representatives in July.” 

Since 2017, the Chinese government has been carry out atrocities in the Uyghur region targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples, which a number of governments have now recognized as genocide and crimes against humanity. 

In addition to mass arbitrary detention and imprisonment, China is engaging in a systematic campaign to eradicate Uyghur culture, religion, and language through policy and practice. Other abuses include widespread forced labor, enforced disappearances, and coercive birth prevention campaigns and policies.

Read more:

“The Happiest Muslims in the World”: Disinformation, Propaganda, and the Uyghur Crisis, July 28, 2020

China’s New Counter-Terrorism Law and Its Human Rights Implications for the Uyghur People, February 1, 2016

Legitimizing Repression: China’s “War on Terror” Under Xi Jinping and State Policy in East Turkistan, March 3, 2015

The Uyghur American Association calls on the Chinese government to substantiate terror claims with an open and independent investigation, June 28, 2013

PRC uses unsubstantiated Olympic “terror plot” claims to justify killings, July 11, 2008

PRC continues to exaggerate “terror” threat, March 11, 2008

Lack of evidence continues to undermine China’s claims of ‘terrorism’ in East Turkistan, September 7, 2006