Jun 27, 2019

East Turkestan: Rights Groups Welcome Declaration on the Persecution of the Uyghurs

The Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum (TIRFF), a multi-faith gathering of religious leaders, government representatives, and NGO leaders aimed at promoting religious freedom around the world, was held in Taiwan from May 29th-June 1st 2019. This year’s theme was “Rising to the Challenge”. On this occasion, UNPO’s Advocacy & Training Coordinator, Lucia Parrucci, held a workshop on Religious Freedom and Unrepresented Peoples. The forum also presented the opportunity for participants to speak out against the persecution of religious minorities such as the Uyghurs in East Turkestan, which resulted in a joint declaration.

Below is a joint press release issued by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), the Uyghur Entrepreneurs Network (UEN) and the Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU):

Five rights groups have jointly welcomed the Declaration on the Persecution of the Uyghurs issued by the participants at the Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum (TIRFF) held in Hsinchu, Taiwan from May 30 to June 1, 2019.

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, ChinaAid, the Heritage Foundation, and the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights co-hosted the forum, bringing together more than 80 parliamentarians, religious leaders, and rights advocates from 21 countries across the Asia-Pacific region.

The forum declared that “silence in the face of mass atrocities is a green light for continued crimes, and inaction is not a neutral stance.” It commits the participants to further action to “condemn the abuse of religious freedom experienced by the Uyghur people, and to call on governments in the Asia-Pacific region to publicly call on the Chinese government close the camps.”

The Declaration commends the 700+ signers of the Statement by Concerned Scholars on China’s Mass Detention of Turkic Minorities, and expresses “strong support for the establishment of an intergroup in the European Parliament to address the severe suppression of freedom of religion suffered by the Uyghur, Tibetan, Chinese, and other peoples under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.”  The Declaration also calls on:

The private sector to cease all sales and collaboration with programs of surveillance, racial profiling, religious persecution, and mass detention of the Uyghurs.

Governments to impose restrictions on technology transfers to the Uyghur homeland.

Pension funds and charitable foundations to divest from companies connected to the repression of Uyghurs.

Universities to suspend cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The medical profession worldwide to suspend cooperation with the transplantation field in China, until it can be verifiably established that organs for transplant are obtained through a voluntary donation system, and not by force from prisoners of conscience, causing their deaths.

Governments to grant prompt humanitarian relief, asylum, and assistance to Uyghur refugees.

The International Committee of the Red Cross to seek access to all detention facilities holding Uyghur detainees, and state facilities holding Uyghur children, for the purpose of compiling information necessary to facilitate the reunification of families.

Since 2017, the Chinese government has interned an estimated 1.5 million individuals in a vast system of camps in East Turkestan. Uyghurs who have openly shared their belief in Islam or engaged in traditional cultural practices have been swept en masse into the camps. The Chinese authorities have used the camps to force prisoners to denounce the so-called evils of religion, and to renounce Islam, under threat of torture.

“The Uyghur crisis in China has rightly shocked the conscience of Asian leaders of all religions and beliefs. Speaker after speaker at the TIRFF forum raised the alarm and vowed that the persecution of Uyghurs cannot be allowed to stand,” said Ms. Louisa Greve, UHRP Director of External Affairs, who presented UHRP’s research and policy recommendations at the Forum.

UHRP, WUC, UEN, Campaign for Uyghurs, and UNPO applaud this initiative and encourage urgent action by parliamentarians, governments, private companies, scholars and universities, and the UN in response to policies aimed at the erasure of freely expressed religious belief, practice and identity across China.

To maintain the pressure on the Chinese government to observe international standards of religious freedom and to deescalate state policies of ethno-religious persecution of the Uyghurs, U.S. Congress should act swiftly to pass The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019, currently pending in the U.S. Senate and House. Additional action to speak out for Uyghurs and close the camps can be found on the UHRP What You Can Do page.

The May 31 Declaration on the Persecution of the Uyghurs is available in English and Chinese.


Photo credit: TIRFF