East Turkestan: India Must Not Bow to Pressure from China
In an interview with India Times, Dolkun Isa, chairman of the executive committee of the World Uyghur Congress, has said India should speak up for the rights of repressed peoples. Isa had been given a visa to travel to India, which was later revoked when India appeared to bow to pressure from China. Isa said that while he understood that China was a major economic power, India “must find a balance between appeasing that country and supporting the right of activists”. He also noted that China has been using the pretense of the “war on terror” as a means to undermine human rights activism.
Below is an interview published by India Today:
Q: Indian government granted you a visa earlier but later cancelled it. What is the reason for this and did you apply for the visa again? Would you like to visit India?
Dolkun Isa: The reason was because of pressure from the Chinese government unfortunately. I did not re-apply. Yes, I would like to visit India if it is possible. India should speak up for the rights of repressed people like those in Uyghur, Tibet.
Q: Do you think India took this step under pressure from China? If yes, then what kind of pressure could be this?
Dolkun Isa: This seems to be the case as a number of other activists were also denied visas on suspicious grounds, but I shouldn't speculate too much. China is a major economic power and India must find a balance between appeasing that country and supporting the right of activists and others to get together to speak to one another.
Q: What do you think about India as a nation? Where does it stand in terms of international parameters and what are your expectations from this country?
Dolkun Isa: India has the largest democracy. There are major issues faced including massive poverty in some areas, but it seems that things have been steadily improving. In terms of my visa cancellation, it is unfortunate that I was unable to attend, but I am hoping that I might get to travel in the future. I am hopeful that the Uyghur people will maintain a good relationship with the Indian government and its people.
Q: You have been compared with Pakistani terrorist Azhar Masood. What do you have to say on this and do you consider Azhar as a terrorist?
Dolkun Isa: I have been labelled as a terrorist by China primarily as a means to delegitimise the human rights work that I do to support the Uyghur community. China often tries to link credible activists with violence. Since 9/11, China has used 'war on terror' as a justification for its repressive measures in East Turkestan and tries to get the rest of the international community to see all Uyghurs as violent. I have also rejected comparison or association to China’s recent veto by the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on Pakistani militant leader, Masood Azhar.
Q: China considers you as a terrorist and Interpol has issued Red Corner notice against you, your take on this?
Dolkun Isa: States are able to manipulate the Interpol system to their advantage. Take a look at this report: https://www.publicintegrity.org/2011/07/18/5179/interpols-red-notices-used-some-pursue-political-dissenters-opponents
If the Interpol notice was taken seriously, Germany would have acted on it, but this clearly shows the politicisation of the notice.
Q: Why are you are against the Chinese government and what are your main demands and for how long you will continue with this fight?
Dolkun Isa: I have been working on human rights activism since the 1980s during my time as a student in Urumqi. The reasons stem from my experience living under Chinese rule and speaking to others who have been oppressed by the government. I work so that these issues are recognised by the international community. The WUC works to promote the right of the Uyghur people to determine their political future through peaceful, non-violent and democratic means. We will continue with this struggle until the Uyghur community as a whole is treated fairly and justly.
Q: Tell us about your family details and important incidents of your life.
Dolkun Isa: I participated actively in the Uyghur Student Demonstrations in December 1985. Students' Science and Culture Union at the university in 1987 was founded by me and I also worked on programs to eliminate illiteracy and to promote science and to lead other students in East Turkestan.
I was the leader of the students demonstration on 15 June 1988 and was expelled from the university in September, 1988 after four months of house arrest and a six hour-long dialogue with government officials about the students' demands. Following this, I operated a small business and travelled to various cities in China and East Turkestan to collect information about the Chinese government's Uyghur policy between 1988 and 1990.
From 1990 to 1994, I learnt English and Turkish at Beijing Foreign Language University, and engaged in copying and distributing relevant Uyghur history books to the Uyghur community. In 1994, I was forced to leave China and fled to Turkey. From there, I made my way to Germany and am now a German citizen. I am married and have two children.