Sat, Dec 08, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Uighur repression could be ‘genocide precursor’

The Guardian

Elementary-school students on Monday take part in a courtroom trial simulation during a week-long publicity campaign for China’s Constitution Day in Xinjiang’s Aksu Prefecture.

Photo: Reuters

Uighur leaders have called on democratic governments to confront China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims, saying that Beijing’s actions against the group are “precursors to genocide.”

Governments, businesses, academics and think tanks have a responsibility to stop “business as usual” relations with China, leaders of the Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) said in Australia.

They also warned of China’s “extraterritorial reach,” which has seen coercion and threats against Australian Uighurs.

“It’s time for action; something horrific is happening on our watch,” UHRP board chairman Nury Turkel said.

An estimated 1 million Muslims are being held in detention camps in Xinjiang by the Chinese government as part of a sweeping crackdown on the rights of the minority group.

Turkel cited Georgetown University historian James Millward, who called cultural cleansing of Uighurs “Beijing’s attempt to find a final solution to the Xinjiang problem.”

“Those of us who are students of history know what that means. We’ve seen how it ends when a government or an authoritarian leader promotes that sort of ideology,” Turkel said, adding that the Chinese Communist Party had likened Uighurs to “a cancerous tumor.”

Asked whether he thought the Holocaust was the best historical comparison, Turkel said: “The Chinese have not publicly shown any sign of gassing Uighurs,” but that the few reports coming out of the camps suggested that people were dying inside them.

“Academics believe that when you look at the progression of policies that dehumanize ethnic groups, you have to say that mass murder cannot be ruled out. We see many, many of the precursors of cultural and possibly physical genocide,” UHRP director for external affairs Louisa Greve said.

Thomas Cliff, a research fellow at Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, said that the situation is “a form of genocide, although it’s not killing everybody.”

“The objective seems to be to wipe out all traces of what’s distinct about being a Uighur,” he said. “Some people are coming out of the camps and saying: ‘Kill me, I don’t want to bear this anymore.’”

Greve said that government action needs to be taken in response to the repression of Uighurs, which includes forcible separation of children from their parents, forced marriage between Uighurs and Han Chinese, and the banning of Uighur language and culture.

Greve said that Uighurs, including herself and fellow panelists, had received threats and coercion from Beijing to infiltrate or spy upon members of the Uighur community in the US.

They had been threatened with reprisals against their families in China if they did not stop their activism, she added.

Australian Uighurs told reporters of China’s extraterritorial reach, with one woman saying she believed a Chinese spy came to her business in Sydney and quizzed her about her political views, opinion on the situation in Xinjiang and the ethnicity of her employees.

Another permanent Australian resident said she is required by Chinese police to take a photograph of herself holding her passport and the day’s newspaper and send it to them every few weeks.

Sultan Hiwilla, a prominent Australia-Uighur activist based in Sydney, said he had not been able to speak to his family in Xinjiang since 2014 and does not know what has happened to them, but a message reached him a few months ago telling him to stop his activism because it was affecting his family.

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