Nov 14, 2012

East Turkestan: Spokesman WUC Granted US Visa

Dolkun Isa from the World Uyghur Congress is finally allowed to enter the United States after more than a decade. Activists call it a “political victory” for the Uyghur community.

Below is an article published by Radio Free Asia:

The spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress, Dolkun Isa, who is on top of China's "terrorist" list, has been allowed to enter the United States after being barred twice during the last 13 years.

Overseas Uyghur activists hailed Washington's decision to allow him into the country as a "political victory" for ethnic Uyghurs, who say they are subject to persecution in China's troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang and have faced various travel restrictions abroad by governments on the advice of Beijing, activists said.

Dolkun Isa, who is a German citizen, said his application for a travel visa at the U.S. consulate in Munich was finally approved last week, enabling him to travel for meetings with U.S. government and congressional officials as well as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a grant-making organization that works to support freedom around the world.

"It is a victory for U.S. justice, a victory for me personally and, more importantly, for the Uyghur cause," he told RFA [Radio Free Asia] in Washington, after arriving in the U.S. on 9 November [2012]. "But I had never lost my hope of traveling to the United States all these years," he said.

Dolkun Isa said he was placed number three among Uyghurs on the Chinese terrorist list in 2003.

"The Chinese government has for several years been trying to stop all activities of the World Uyghur Congress and they have also attacked me. Sometimes, they have succeeded," he said.

He said that he had not been involved in any terrorism-related or unlawful activities when he was in China.

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security had accused some of those on the terror list of being linked to separatist violence in the Xinjiang region but exile groups believe Beijing is exaggerating the terrorism threat to crack down on Uyghurs in Xinjiang and abroad.

Dolkun Isa said that he first attempted to apply for a U.S. visa in 1999 to attend a U.S. congressional meeting while he was a refugee in Germany.

"I went to the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt to get a visa. But I was taken from the U.S. consulate to the German police office," he said, adding that he suspected that his name was on the Interpol list.

In 2006, after he obtained German citizenship, he flew to the United States without applying for a visa, based on the understanding that Germans are covered by a U.S. visa-waiver program.

"At the Dulles airport in Washington, I was stopped and after 23 hours, and the immigration authorities sent me back to Germany. They did not say exactly the reason for not letting me enter the country but my impression was I have been put on a blacklist of the State Department," he said.

Now that the U.S. has decided to allow him into the country, he hoped that other countries that had denied him entry, such as Turkey and South Korea, would also allow him to travel there to meet with exile Uyghur communities.

When asked to comment on Dolkun Isa's case, U.S. officials said they cannot speak on specific visa cases because those records are confidential but stressed that the State Department does not have any "blacklist" for travelers.

There are various conditions, including security-related conditions, imposed on citizens of countries covered under the visa-waiver program and wishing to travel to the United States, the officials said.

In addition, a visa only authorizes a traveler to approach the port of entry into the United States.

"The Department of Homeland Security has the final say on who can be admitted to the United States," a State Department official said.

Still, Nury Turkel, a Uyghur American attorney based in Washington, described Dolkan Isa's visit to the United States as a "political victory" for all Uyghurs, saying the Chinese government was trying to curtail the Uyghur freedom movement domestically and internationally.