Sep 14, 2020

East Turkestan: EU Must Do More to Help Uyghurs

Speaking from Munich, Germany, Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress, has stressed the need for Germany and the European Union to do more to help the plight of the Uyghur people of East Turkestan in China. Isa has already lost his parents under unknown cirmumstances in Xinjiang. According to him, the human rights of the Uyghur people are being sidelined in the trade discussions between Germany and China, while increasing trade is being prioritised instead. Moreover, while German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass has openly raised the issue with his Chinese counterpart, Chancellor Angela Merkel has remained noticeably silent on the issue. As the largest economy in Europe, Germany’s upcoming European Council presidency is a great opportunity for Germany to reshape EU-China economic relations in order to place more importance on human and minority rights in China.

Below is an article by Dolkun Isa for Politico

Dolkun Isa is the president of the World Uyghur Congress.

MUNICH — Over the past three years, the Chinese government has subjected the Uighur people to one atrocity after another in a ruthless attempt to destroy us.

Beijing has detained between 1 million and 3 million Uighur people in internment camps, forced people into modern slavery, curtailed the use of our language and religion and destroyed mosques, shrines and graveyards. Children have been taken from their parents and brainwashed, and women have been sterilized.

And yet, Europe’s reaction, beyond some initial statements, has been to say and do nothing.

As a Uighur refugee who was granted asylum in Germany, I have great affection for my adopted homeland in Europe. I have lived in Germany for more than 20 years and raised a family here. The German government has, on multiple occasions, saved me from being deported to China, where I would certainly have been tortured, disappeared or even executed.

“Europe must show that its commitment to human rights is not just empty rhetoric but defines who we are and determines our actions.”

And yet, I watch with despair as Germany — and Europe at large — fails to take meaningful, concrete action to prevent a Uighur genocide.

For Uighurs living outside China, the situation is horrific: We have to watch from afar as our culture, language and identity are being erased. Most of us have been unable to contact our loved ones in more than three years, as they have disappeared into the camps or have been forced to cut off contact.

This crisis has touched all of our lives, and every Uighur has a story of loss and tragedy. I have lost my mother and father under mysterious circumstances in the last years. I have not been able to see them since I left China and have not heard their voices in years. Now, I will never be able to again.

The Germany I came to know in my time here has been a force for good in the world, standing firm for European values, human rights and international norms. However, in its response to the Uighur genocide, Germany and the international community have not done enough.

While German political leaders have spoken out on a number of occasions in the past, more recently many have fallen silent on the plight of the Uighurs as they prioritize economic relations with China.

And although it was encouraging to see German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas raise the Uighur crisis substantively and publicly in his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Chancellor Angela Merkel has avoided discussing this issue publicly for some time — a fact that hasn’t escaped the attention of the Chinese propaganda machine.

While Germany holds the presidency of the EU Council, it has an important opportunity to shape the EU’s and its own position on China. It has a chance to take a real stand and make a meaningful contribution toward alleviating the suffering of millions of Uighurs. This is an opportunity the German government must not pass up.

At the virtual EU-China summit on Monday, Germany and the EU must use their leverage to demand that the Chinese government stops the Uighur genocide and respects its human rights commitments.

This is the moment where real, substantial action can be taken to stop this atrocity. To miss this opportunity would be a historically shameful decision.

It is unconscionable that European countries would continue having normal relations with a government actively committing genocide; that Beijing keeps promising to respect human rights and lying about its atrocities, but faces no real consequences from the EU.

Europe must show that its commitment to human rights is not just empty rhetoric but defines who we are and determines our actions.

We cannot sit idly by while another genocide occurs. When we say never again, we have to mean it.


Photo: Europe’s reaction to Chinese repression of the Uighur minority group has been limited | John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images