No one was more surprised to hear that World Uyghur Congress (WUC) secretary-general Dolkun Isa had secretly entered Taiwan than Isa himself. Next Magazine reported last week that Isa, along with 14 other Uighurs who have “all committed serious crimes such as murder, robbery and arson” had sneaked into the country one by one over the past month, posing a threat to the World Games.
“If this article had been published by a Chinese newspaper, I wouldn’t be surprised, because China makes this [kind of allegation] every day,” Isa said by telephone on Saturday — two days into the Games — from his office in Munich, Germany. “But this time it was Taiwanese media.”
Also this time, the allegations were followed by the National Immigration Agency (NIA) saying it had barred Isa from entering Taiwan.
The article, titled “East Turkestan independence leaders secretly enter Taiwan, cast a shadow over the World Games,” is a regurgitation of allegations Isa has faced for years from Beijing, the crux of which is that he is a terrorist.
Germany, which gave Isa asylum in 1997 and citizenship in 2006, does not seem concerned about the claims. Nor does the US National Endowment for Democracy, which funds the WUC, or Taiwan’s own National Foundation for Democracy, which hosted the 2006 General Assembly of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and invited Isa.
Taiwan co-founded the UNPO — along with exiled Uighur activists and leaders from 13 other unrepresented nations or peoples — in 1991. Isa is the president of the East Turkestan section of the General Assembly.
He criss-crosses the globe freely for meetings on human rights violations in Xinjiang, but now wonders what he should do if his schedule were to bring him to Taiwan again.
Rebiya Kadeer, the face of the international campaign for Uighur rights, was equally dismayed. Kadeer, a one-time political prisoner who lives in Washington, is president of the WUC.
“The World Uyghur Congress is not a terrorist organization but a democratic organization [that] peacefully struggles for the human rights, freedom and democracy of Uyghurs,” she said by e-mail. “It is really unfortunate that Taiwan, as a democratic country, designated Mr. Isa as a persona non grata based on unfounded allegations.”
Next Magazine did not present evidence that Isa is in Taiwan, citing only unspecified “security authorities.” At one point, the article states: “There is no record of [Isa] coming to Taiwan [since 2006], but if he were to come on a different passport or sneak into Taiwan, police would have no way of knowing.”
While it would be difficult to prove that the magazine, which has a reputation for dubious claims, has no source, it is noteworthy that the Criminal Investigation Bureau, when contacted by the Taipei Times, said there was no reason Isa should not be let into the country and no suspicion that he is involved in terrorism.
It is much easier to prove that Next Magazine omitted the other side of the story. Although it dedicated four pages (largely photographs) to the article, the only qualification to its claims is the sentence: “Amnesty International has asked all parties to address the East Turkestan independence movement issue and is quite reserved about China’s repeated use of the labels ‘rebellion’ and ‘terrorism’ for the East Turkestan independence movement.”