China Rebukes Canada And Other Diplomats for letter on Muslim rights

Canada reportedly spearheaded a letter initiative expressing concern about Uighur camps

John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, right, sits next to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Singapore on Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld.The Canadian Press)

China said Thursday that 15 foreign ambassadors, including the envoy from Canada, exceeded their diplomatic roles by issuing a letter expressing concern about the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of members of the country’s Muslim minorities in re-education camps.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing that it would be “problematic” if the diplomats were attempting to put pressure on local authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where the detentions have taken place.

Hua said the letter violated the terms of the Vienna Convention governing diplomatic relations, and that the ambassadors should not “interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.”

“As ambassadors, they are supposed to play positive roles in promoting mutual understanding, mutual trust and co-operation … rather than making unreasonable requests to the countries where they are based,” Hua said.

She said the letter issued this week and reportedly spearheaded by Canada’s ambassador, John McCallum, was based on hearsay, despite widely distributed reports from detainees, relatives and officials documenting the sweeping and seemingly arbitrary detentions.

Inmates and relatives say the camps impose military-style discipline and punishments and force detainees to renounce their religion and culture while swearing fealty to President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party.

Trudeau raised concerns with China’s premier

Asked about the letter, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had “highlighted the questions and concerns that we have” surrounding the issue in his bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore.

“Canada will continue to look for ways to advance and promote human rights in partnership with our like-minded allies everywhere around the world,” Trudeau said at a news conference Thursday.

The letter to the Chinese government has not been made public, but Reuters said it was signed by 15 Western ambassadors, including the Canadian, British, French, Swiss, European Union, German, and Australian envoys.

Diplomats from the countries named in the report either did not reply to requests for confirmation or said they had no comment.

Hua’s comments came as a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is bringing a measure to urge President Donald Trump to help Chinese Muslims respond to the crackdown.

A man takes part in a demonstration against China during its Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council in front of the UN’s office on Nov. 6. The protest drew some 1,000 Tibetan and Uighurs. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

The legislation would urge Trump to condemn “gross violations” of human rights in Xinjiang, where the UN estimates that as many as one million Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities are being held in arbitrary detention.

It would also support an existing push for sanctions against Xinjiang Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo and other officials under the Magnitsky Act, which prevents foreign officials from entering the U.S. and freezes any assets they have in U.S. banks.

Other sanctions raised for consideration by the act include a ban on sales of U.S.-made goods or services to Xinjiang state agents such as those that could be used for surveillance and suppression.

‘Behaviour correction’

Chinese authorities have denied that the internment camps exist, but say petty criminals are sent to “employment training centres.” The Xinjiang government has revised regulations to officially permit the use of “education and training centres” to reform “people influenced by extremism.”

The rules direct the centres to teach the Mandarin language, occupational and legal education, as well as “ideological education, psychological rehabilitation and behaviour correction.”

Xinjiang’s native Uighur and Kazakh ethnic groups are culturally, religiously and linguistically distinct from China’s Han majority, and the region has been home to a low-intensity rebellion against rule from Beijing. Many of the region’s natives say their culture is under threat from Chinese policies aiming to assimilate them and that they face disadvantages in education and employment from Han migrants from other parts of China.

Members of the Muslim Hui ethnic group — culturally and linguistically closer to the Han — have also been ensnared in the campaign that has drawn comparisons to Mao Zedong’s radical 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

Also on Thursday, China’s cabinet released a report titled “Protection and Development of Xinjiang Culture” that stressed the importance of adopting Mandarin Chinese among ethnic groups and referred to their Islamic faith as “religious culture.”

“Xinjiang adheres to the historical tradition of the Sinosization of religion and actively adapts religion to socialist society,” the report said.

China and Uighurs: Cultural Cleansing in Name of Counter-Terrorism

Beijing is using counter-terrorism as a pretext to conduct a form of “cultural cleansing” of the Xinjiang’s Turkic Muslim population.

It is now beyond doubt that China is undertaking a program of mass incarceration of the Uighurs population of its far north-western province of Xinjiang (which many Uighurs refer to as East Turkestan) in “re-education” centers.

Analysis based on Chinese government procurement contracts for construction of these centers and Google Earth satellite imaging has revealed the existence of hundreds of large, prison-like facilities throughout Xinjiang that are estimated to hold up to 1 million of the region’s Turkic Muslim population. One of the largest facilities, Dabancheng near the regional capital Urumqi, alone is estimated to have a capacity to hold up to 130,000 people.

In these facilities, detainees experience a regimented daily existence as they are compelled to repeatedly sing “patriotic” songs praising the benevolence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), study Mandarin, Confucian texts and President Xi Jinping’s “thought,” and endure regular physical violence and torture.

Beijing’s Justification

After previously denying their existence, Beijing has begun to mount a defense of this system of mass incarceration in the name of counter-terrorism.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking after meeting with Germany’s foreign minister in Beijing on 13 November, asserted that China’s approach in Xinjiang is “completely in line with the direction the international community has taken to combat terrorism, and are an important part of the global fight against terrorism.”

However, an assessment of the terrorist threat to Xinjiang and an exploration of the ideological and legislative underpinnings of the system of mass incarceration suggests Beijing is using counter-terrorism as a pretext to conduct a form of “cultural cleansing” of the region’s Turkic Muslim population.

This amounts to a cautionary tale in the global “war on terrorism” whereby an authoritarian state has eagerly instrumentalized the threat of terrorism to enhance its control over a historically-contested frontier region and distinctive ethnic minority population.

From Splittism to Terrorism

While Beijing claims the region has been an “integral” province of China since the Han dynasty (206 BCE–24 CE), it often remained beyond Chinese control due to its geopolitical position as a “Eurasian crossroad” abutting present-day Russia, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and the ethnocultural dominance of Turkic and Mongol peoples.

Since the People’s Liberation Army “peacefully liberated” the region in October 1949, the Chinese Communist Party has been consistently focused on overcoming the historical barriers to consolidated Chinese control: geographic remoteness from the center of Chinese power; economic underdevelopment; and ethnocultural dominance of non-Han ethnic groups.

To overcome these barriers, Beijing has pursued an aggressive strategy of integration characterized by tight political, social, and cultural control, encouragement of Han Chinese settlement, and state-led economic development backed by repression of overt manifestations of ethnic minority opposition.

Embedded video

Human Rights Watch


China is abusing rights in Xinjiang on a massive scale:

13 million people subjected to forced political indoctrination & mass surveillance;

Est. 1 million people in “political education” camps;

1 million+ officials & police officers monitor people 

1,704 people are talking about this

This has stimulated periodic violent opposition from the Uighurs population who have bridled against demographic dilution, political marginalization, and continued state interference in the practice of religion.

Until the late 1990s, the Chinese state framed this as “splittism” or “separatism” inspired by ethnic nationalist aspirations for an independent East Turkestan. The attacks of 9/11, however, enabled Beijing to reframe this as “terrorism.”

This began immediately with Beijing releasing its first documentation in January 2002 of “over” 200 alleged “terrorist incidents” between 1990 and 2001 perpetrated by a previously unknown group, the “East Turkestan Islamic Movement.” While this group appears to have functioned in Afghanistan from 1998 to early 2000s, it was a small and marginal group that had little ability to strike Xinjiang.

A number of high-profile incidents in more recent years such as the October 2013 SUV attack in Tiananmen Squareand the April 2014 Kunming railway station mass stabbingattack, and evidence of a Uighurs presence in Syria has reinforced the official narrative that China faces a genuine threat stemming from Xinjiang and embedded counter-terrorism as a national security priority.

‘Eradicating Tumors’

This has resulted in a variety of security and legislative changes both at the national and provincial level since 2015.

In the security context, the regional government’s expenditure on public security ballooned in 2017 amounting to approximately US$9.1 billion, a 92 percent increase compared to 2016.

Much of this expenditure has been absorbed by the development of a pervasive, hi-tech “surveillance state” in the region, including the use of facial recognition and iris scanners at check-points, train stations and gas stations, the collection of biometric data for passports, mandatory apps to cleanse smartphones of potentially subversive material, and the use of surveillance drones.

A Chinese police officer in Xinjiang, where Beijing has ramped up security presence in recent years.
In recent years, China has ramped up its security presence in Xinjiang. Photo: Johannes Eisele, AFP

Over the past three years, there have also been significant legislative counter-terrorism measures adopted including China’s first national counter-terrorism law in December 2015 and Xinjiang regional government regulations on “de-extremification” of March 2017.

The latter of these is particularly revealing of the logic and intent of current Chinese policy. According to these regulations, “extremification” refers to “speech and actions under the influence of extremism, that imbue radical religious ideology and reject and interfere with normal production and livelihood” and can include fifteen “primary expressions” of extremist thinking, including “wearing or compelling others to wear gowns with face coverings, or to bear symbols of extremification,” “spreading religious fanaticism through irregular beards or name selection,” and “failing to perform the legal formalities in marrying or divorcing by religious methods.”

This, as Newcastle University expert on Uighurs culture Joanne Smith-Finley argues, has seen the state “securitize all religious behaviors, not just violent ones,” leading “to highly intrusive forms of religious policing” that violate and humiliate Uighurs.

There is therefore little doubt that the Chinese Communist Party clearly identifies “extremism” as inherent to everyday markers and practices of the Uighurs profession of Islam and has effectively securitized Uighurs identity itself as an almost biological threat to the health of Chinese society.

As such, to be successful, “de-extremification” must fundamentally transform Uighurs identity. Some recent statements of government and party officials confirm this, with some describing Uighurs “extremism” as a “tumor” to be eradicated and Islamic observance as akin to drug addiction.

Cure Worse than Disease

Significantly, there are clear indications that China intends its policies of “de-extremification” to be in place for the foreseeable future. Most notably, there is evidence of China rapidly expanding the number and size of the “re-education” centers in Xinjiang.

Chinese officials have also explicitly noted, and defended, the need for these measures to endure. A Chinese Communist Party Youth League official in Xinjiang, for instance, warned in a speech in August this year that the party had to be “cautious” in assessing the success of its “de-extremification” efforts as:

…having gone through re-education and recovered from the ideological disease doesn’t mean that one is permanently cured. We can only say that they are physically healthy, and there is no sign that the disease may return. After recovering from an illness, if one doesn’t exercise to strengthen the body and the immune system against disease, it could return worse than before. So, after completing the re-education process in the hospital and returning home … they must remain vigilant, empower themselves with the correct knowledge, strengthen their ideological studies, and actively attend various public activities to bolster their immune system against the influence of religious extremism and violent terrorism, and safeguard themselves from being infected once again, to prevent later regrets.

More senior Chinese officials have also publicly defended and justified this approach. Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, for instance, strenuously defended China’s approach in Xinjiang in his statement at the “periodic review” hearing of China’s human rights record before the United Nations Human Rights Council on 6 November. He pointedly dismissed international criticism of the “re-education” centers as “politically driven accusations from a few countries fraught with bias” before referring to detainees as “students” who attend the centers on a “voluntary” basis eager to learn how to “inoculate” themselves against “extremism.”

As far as Beijing is concerned, then, its measures in Xinjiang are a justifiable form of “preventative” counter-terrorism.

Beijing has thus arguably embarked on a programme of “cultural cleansing” in Xinjiang as means of eradicating what it has come to perceive as an unacceptable threat to the security of the state, regardless of the reputational costs it may suffer internationally in the process.

DISCLAIMER! The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.

We The Uighurs Are Very Grateful That The Western Countries Are On Our Side With The International Political Platforms!


Freedom for Uyghur People! Freedom for all Over The People in the World! Independence for East Turkestan Republic!


East Turkistan Government In Exile


Kofler: “Xinjiang-Debatte im Bundestag war wichtig”

germanyfederalflagimage (1)

Die Bundesregierung weist den Versuch Chinas, Druck auf deutsche Abgeordnete auszuüben, klar zurück. Gleichzeitig setzt sie weiterhin auf den Dialog mit China, wie die Menschenrechtsbeauftrage Bärbel Kofler erläutert.

Deutschland Bärbel Kofler Menschenrechtsbeauftragte (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)

DW: Inwieweit waren Sie von dem heftigen Protest der chinesischen Seite gegen die Bundestagsdebatte zum Thema Umerziehungslager in Xinjiang überrascht?

Es ist nicht unüblich, dass China gegen Kritik an seiner Menschenrechtspolitik protestiert. Das passiert in unterschiedlicher Form, ob durch eine Protestnote oder in direkten Gesprächen. Die Art, wie dies in der vergangenen Woche passiert ist, ist aus meiner Sicht jedoch unmöglich. Büros von Bundestagsabgeordneten anzurufen, und sie so unter Druck zu setzen, ist nicht in Ordnung. Das deutsche Parlament ist unabhängig und lässt sich von niemandem vorschreiben, was es diskutiert und was es nicht diskutiert. Das würden wir umgekehrt auch nicht tun.

Außerdem erreichen uns besorgniserregende Berichte von Menschenrechtsorganisationen besonders über die Lage der Uiguren, über Misshandlungen und Folter in illegalen Lagern, die teilweise als Umerziehungslager oder gar euphemistisch als Berufsbildungseinrichtungen bezeichnet werden. Die Überwachung der Zivilbevölkerung mittels Kameras, Straßenkontrollen, Hausdurchsuchungen, Kontrolle netzwerkfähiger Elektrogeräte und DNA-Erfassung hat in Xinjiang extreme Ausmaße angenommen. Es war insofern ein wichtige Debatte vergangenen Woche im Deutschen Bundestag

MdB Margarete Bause Bündnis 90 Die Grünen (Imago/photothek)Post und Anrufe von der chinesischen Botschaft im Büro der Abgeordneten Margarete Bause


Welche Rolle spielt das zunehmende Selbstbewusstsein einer asiatischen Großmacht bei dieser empfindlichen Reaktion auf Kritik?

China ist das bevölkerungsreichste Land und die zweitgrößte Wirtschaftsmacht der Welt. Insofern verwundert es nicht, wenn China Selbstbewusstsein demonstriert. Das gilt für alle Politikbereiche. Jedoch muss es in einer regelbasierten Welt, für die wir uns als Deutschland aktiv einsetzen, auch möglich sein, Missstände in anderen Ländern anzusprechen. Auch Deutschland muss sich schließlich mit internationaler Kritik auseinandersetzen, bei Menschenrechtsfragen in diesem Jahr ausführlich im Staatenüberprüfungsverfahren des Menschenrechtsrats der Vereinten Nationen in Genf. Hier wurden wir auch von chinesischer Seite kritisiert.

Wir setzen uns mit dieser Kritik offen auseinander und sind bereit, darüber mit anderen Staaten einen Dialog zu führen. Das sollte auch für eine Weltmacht möglich sein.  Die Menschenrechtsverletzungen in China verstoßen auch gegen die chinesische Verfassung und gegen internationale Vereinbarungen. Eine verlässliche Partnerschaft setzt voraus, dass wir solche Verstöße klar ansprechen können.

Bereitet Ihnen ein solcher Versuch wie jetzt von China, Druck auf Abgeordnete auszuüben, Sorge?

Unser freiheitlich demokratisches System steht derzeit vor einer Reihe von Herausforderungen, im Inneren und Äußeren. Einige große Länder versuchen die regelbasierte Weltordnung und Zusammenarbeit in internationalen Foren wie den Vereinten Nationen zu unterminieren. Menschenrechte stehen weltweit unter Beschuss. China propagiert ein eigenes Verständnis von Menschenrechten. Dies bereitet mir durchaus Sorge und wir  müssen mit unseren außenpolitischen Partnern eng für unsere Werte zusammenstehen. Das dürfte jedoch in der Tat in Zukunft nicht leichter werden.

Außenminister Heiko Maas in China | Wang Qishan (Getty Images/AFP/T. Peter)Trotz Differenzen geht der Dialog weiter: Außenminister Heiko Maas mit Vizepräsident Wang Qishan in Peking

Bundesaußenminister Maas hat in China den Umgang Pekings mit der muslimischen Minderheit der Uiguren kritisiert. Wie vereinbart die Bundesregierung die beiden Ziele, einerseits auf eine Verbesserung der Situation der Menschenrechte in China hinzuwirken, und andererseits die deutsch-chinesischen Beziehungen nicht zu beschädigen?

Ich bin der Meinung, dass gerade Länder, die historisch gewachsene Beziehungen haben, in der Lage sein müssen, offen ihre Meinungsunterschiede und Differenzen zu diskutieren. Wir werden weiterhin kritische Fragen stellen und Missstände direkt ansprechen. Der Einsatz für Menschenrechte dient, davon bin ich überzeugt, der Stabilität und dem Frieden. Überall auf der Welt fordern Menschen ihr Recht auf freie Meinungsäußerung, auf Religionsfreiheit, auf Freiheit von Diskriminierung usw. Diese Rechte zu unterdrücken schafft langfristig nur Instabilität, davon bin ich überzeugt.

Bei all den genannten Punkten ist es mir sehr wichtig, dass es auch weiterhin einen regelmäßigen und engen Austausch mit der chinesischen Regierung gibt. Mit China haben wir einen solchen auf höchster Ebene, der Besuch von Außenminister Maas zeugt davon. In solchen Gesprächsformaten müssen wir auch weiterhin kritische Punkte ansprechen.

Daneben gibt es den Menschenrechtsrat der Vereinten Nationen in Genf, dem zentralen Forum einen Austausch über menschenrechtliche Fragen. Diesen sollten wir aktiv stützen und nutzen. Im November musste sich China hier – wie Deutschland zuvor im Frühjahr – kritischen Fragen der Weltgemeinschaft, und eben auch der deutschen Bundesregierung, stellen. Mit China haben wir zudem das Format des Deutsch-Chinesischen Menschenrechtsdialogs, bei dem wir menschenrechtliche Probleme in Deutschland und in China ausführlich diskutieren. Zuletzt fand dieser 2016 in Berlin und in meinem Wahlkreis in Traunstein statt. Diesen Dialog führen wir Ende des Jahres nun weiter, die chinesische Seite hat uns dazu nach Peking eingeladen.




Bundesaussenminister Heiko Maas

Kommentar: Maas’ folgenlose Forderungen12.11.2018

Zu Recht prangert Deutschlands Außenminister Maas Chinas brutale Unterdrückungspolitik gegenüber den Uiguren an. Aber um Wirkung zu entfalten, braucht es einen gemeinsamen europäischen Ansatz, meint Matthias von Hein.

Außenminister Heiko Maas in China | Wang Yi

Maas für gemeinsame Initiativen mit China im UN-Sicherheitsrat 13.11.2018

Der Außenminister sucht in Peking nach viel politischem Gleichklang. Da kommt die baldige Mitgliedschaft im Sicherheitsrat gerade recht. Für China hört die Gemeinsamkeit aber schnell auf, wenn es um die Uiguren geht.

China Uiguren in Xinjiang

Maas verlangt von China größere Offenheit im Konflikt mit den Uiguren12.11.2018

Der Außenminister will bei seinem Peking-Besuch auch heikle Themen nicht aussparen. Ein solches ist der Umgang der Volksrepublik mit den muslimischen Uiguren. Eine Million soll in Umerziehungslagern ausharren müssen.

Smith Introduces Legislation Condemning Abuses Against Uyghurs in China, Calling for Accountability


Washington, Nov 14, 2018 | Matt Hadro ((202) 225-3765)

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, today introduced bipartisan legislationcondemning the internment of over a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and calling for an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and forced renunciation of faith occurring in the region. Smith was joined on the legislation by lead Democratic cosponsor Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY) and eight other Members of Congress.  

“The internment of over a million Uyghurs and other Muslims in China is a staggering evil and should be treated by the international community as a crime against humanity,” said Smith. “The Chinese government’s creation of a vast system of what can only be called concentration camps cannot be tolerated in the 21st century. This legislation gives the Administration the tools to take a firm stand against Beijing’s plans to erase the religious identity, culture, and language of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s western province. As a start, Chinese government officials should be held accountable for their complicity in gross violations of human rights and U.S. businesses should be barred from helping China create a high-tech police state in Xinjiang province.”  

“The brutal, religious based persecution of the Uyghurs in China is alarming. Xinjiang province has become nothing short of a police state,” said Congressman Suozzi. “We must take a stand against the violation of human rights and show the Chinese government that this is unacceptable. This bicameral, bipartisan bill is an important step in shedding light on the plight of the Uyghurs, and provides concrete policy options to address this abhorrent situation.”

Among other actions, the legislation:

  • Condemns human rights violations in the region, including the arbitrary detention of up to one million Uyghurs
  • Calls for the immediate closure of internment camps in Xinjiang
  • Calls on the Secretary of State to consider a special position at the State Department—the United States Special Coordinator for Xinjiang—to coordinate the U.S. response to abuses in the region, and to consider applicable targeted sanctions for individual human rights abusers in the Chinese government, Chinese Communist Party, and state security apparatus
  • Calls for a regional security assessment by the Director of National intelligence, in coordination with the Secretary of State, on the effect of the crackdown
  • Calls for an FBI report to provide information on the harassment and intimidation experienced by ethnic Uyghurs and Chinese nationals studying or working temporarily in the U.S. by Chinese officials;
  • Calls on the Secretary of State to submit an interagency report assessing the number of persons detained in re-education camps, the conditions in those camps, the number of those arbitrarily detained, the situation of press freedom and the gross violations of other universally recognized rights, and repressive surveillance methods used by authorities in the region.

Additional original cosponsors of the legislation include Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), and Jim McGovern (D-MA). The bill is the House analogue to a Senate bill introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

f t #

US Lawmakers Unveil Bill Calling For Release of Uyghurs From China’s Detention Camps


A photo posted to the WeChat account of the Xinjiang Judicial Administration shows Uyghur detainees listening to a speech at a re-education camp in Hotan prefecture's Lop county, April 2017.

A photo posted to the WeChat account of the Xinjiang Judicial Administration shows Uyghur detainees listening to a speech at a re-education camp in Hotan prefecture’s Lop county, April 2017.


U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday calling for the release of over a million ethnic Uyghurs detained by China in re-education camps and urging Washington to study the scope of Beijing’s crackdown on the Muslim minority group.

In a press release announcing the launch of the bipartisan bill, in which Republican Representative Chris Smith was joined by Democrat Thomas Suozzi and eight other members of Congress, Smith said the internment of Uyghurs in camps in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region “should be treated by the international community as a crime against humanity.”

“The Chinese government’s creation of a vast system of what can only be called concentration camps cannot be tolerated in the 21st century,” said Smith, co-chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China.

“The brutal, religious based persecution of the Uyghurs in China is alarming,” Congressman Suozzi added in prepared remarks on Wednesday. “Xinjiang province has become nothing short of a police state.”

Among other recommendations, the proposed legislation calls on the U.S. Secretary of State to create a special position at the State Department to coordinate the U.S. response to China’s abuses in Xinjiang and to sanction Chinese officials responsible for the crackdown.

The U.S. established a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues in 2002 in response to repression in that Chinese-ruled region.

The bill also calls on the FBI to track and report on the harassment by China of Uyghurs and other Chinese nationals studying or working in the United States.

‘Historic significance’

Speaking on Wednesday to RFA’s Uyghur Service, Dolkun Isa—president of the Germany-based exile World Uyghur Congress—called the introduction of the bill a measure of “historic significance at a time when the Chinese government is committing ethnic cleansing against the Uyghur people.”

“This is a powerful step taken by the U.S. to address the crimes against humanity that are taking place in East Turkestan,” Isa said, using a name preferred by many Uyghurs to refer to their historic homeland.

“I hope this bill will become legislation soon with the support of both Houses of Congress,” Isa said.

Also speaking to RFA on Wednesday, Uyghur human rights advocate and lawyer Nuri Turkel—board chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Uyghur Human Rights Project—called the bill’s introduction “the first time in history a Western government is deliberating a legislative mandate to protect Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in China.”

“On the occasion of this historic day, I call on the other liberal democracies to put in place similar legislative mandates to protect the Uyghur people who are facing an existential threat in China,” Turkel said, adding,  “I also urge the other members of Congress to support this bill in the remainder of this legislative session.”

The proposed legislation was introduced a week after the United States, France, Germany, and 10 other Western countries used a session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China’s human rights record to issue a call on Beijing to close down the political re-education camps.

“We are alarmed by the government of China’s worsening crackdown on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” U.S. charge d’affaires Mark Cassayre was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying at the Geneva meeting.

The United States urged China to “abolish all forms of arbitrary detention, including internment camps in Xinjiang, and immediately release the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of individuals detained in these camps,” he said.

In late August, Smith led a bipartisan group of nearly 20 U.S. lawmakers in writing a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, urging them to level sanctions against officials and entities in China deemed responsible for abusing the rights of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the XUAR.

Harsh policies

The lawmakers identified for sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act—created to address human rights abuses by the Putin regime in Russia—XUAR Communist Party secretary Chen Quanguo, who has implemented a litany of harsh policies attacking the rights and freedoms of ethnic Uyghur Muslim residents of Xinjiang since he was appointed to run the region in August 2016.

Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been jailed or detained in re-education camps throughout Xinjiang, where members of the ethnic group have long complained of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.

While Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, the Uyghur chairman of Xinjiang’s provincial government, Shohrat Zakir, told China’s official Xinhua news agency last month that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.

China’s state media have followed Zakir’s remarks with a massive propaganda campaign promoting the camps, while foreign reporters investigating Xinjiang have reported constant harassment by authorities. Uyghur activists called on China to prove the facilities are for vocational training by opening then up to visitors.

Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations has shown that those held in the camps are detained against their will, are subjected to political indoctrination and rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.

Adrian Zenz, a lecturer in social research methods at the Germany-based European School of Culture and Theology, has said that some 1.1 million people are or have been detained in the camps—equating to 10 to 11 percent of the adult Muslim population of Xinjiang.

Reported by Alim Seytoff and Mamatjan Juma for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Alim Seytoff. Written in English by Richard Finney.

China’s Uighurs: State defends internment camps

China dismisses efforts to end mass detention of the Uighur ethnic group.


At first, they denied their existence.

But now, China‘s government is vigorously defending a detention programme in the far western province of Uighurland.

It’s facing mounting international criticism over reports that up to a million Muslim men and women are being held in so-called re-education camps.

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown reports from Kashgar.