Oct 25, 2013

PR China Keen on Silencing Human Rights Critics during Universal Periodic Review

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) has learned that the Chinese Mission to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva attempted to smear the name and reputation of  presidency member of UNPO and Chairman of the Executive Committee of The World Uyghur Congress (WUC), Mr. Dolkun Isa, in the build up to China’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 22 October 2013. Through baseless allegations against prominent Uyghur activists, UNPO believes the campaign against Mr. Isa is an effort to conceal China’s terrible human rights record regarding Uyghurs.

In an email received by UNPO, a member of the overseas media detailed how the Chinese Mission to the UN in Geneva was circulating allegations of Mr. Isa’s involvement in terrorism. Mr. Isa was scheduled to address a press conference in Geneva on the day of China’s UPR to discuss the Chinese government’s ongoing human rights violations of the Uyghur people.

UNPO would like to categorically state that allegations about Mr. Isa made by the Chinese delegation are groundless and politically motivated. The World Uyghur Congress and Mr. Isa condemn violence as a response to China’s abuses of Uyghur human rights and seek peaceful solutions to the East Turkestan issue. Furthermore, UNPO and WUC welcome an independent and international investigation into Chinese allegations of Uyghur terrorism.

In the era of the “war on terror,” the Chinese government has endeavored to link Uyghur dissidents and groups to international terrorism. Chinese authorities continue to defend their crackdowns in East Turkestan in the name of fighting the “three evil forces of separatism, terrorism, and extremism”. However, scholars have cast considerable doubt upon China’s assertion that it faces a terrorist threat.

Mr. Isa is a respected member of the international human rights community and has spoken out against China’s egregious abuses of Uyghur human rights at a number of prominent human rights events across the globe. Mr. Isa was granted German citizenship after he left China and in 2012 was admitted to the United States for meetings with congressional officials despite China’s attempts to silence his activism.

The UPR is a UN mechanism that assesses the human rights record of member states. China’s second review took place on 22 October 2013—its first was in February 2009. In the second review, China was evaluated on the progress it has made on human rights commitments it made arising from the first review. A number of human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have criticized China for its retrograde steps since that first review.

In a sign of increasing nervousness over its UPR, China  enacted a number of measures to prevent criticism of its human rights performance. Chinese activists Cao Shunli and Chen Jianfang were both detained and prevented from leaving China in order to attend a training program on the UPR held by the International Services for Human Rights. Cao Shunli has been missing since September 14, 2013.

In view of China’s recent behavior, a group of independent UN experts expressed alarm over the Chinese government’s actions to prevent activists from speaking on human rights conditions in China at the UPR. In the statement, the group said:

“Intimidating civil society members who seek to contribute to such an important international dialogue is completely unacceptable…Ensuring the free participation of civil society actors, including human rights defenders, and other national stakeholders, in this process is crucial”.

UNPO urges all participants in the UPR, overseas media and NGOs to reject allegations made against Mr. Isa by the Chinese Mission to the UN in Geneva. In addition, UNPO hopes that all parties will continue to exercise caution over Chinese state sources of information, as these have been consistently proven to be unreliable.

Photo credits @Stefan Kemp