Jan 24, 2007

European Parliament Debates Human Rights in China

Returning once again to China’s suppression of the Uyghur population of East Turkestan, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, Mr. Szent-Ivanyi MEP and Baroness Ludford MEP, in response to Mr. Deva MEP, have strongly responded to claims of terrorism, underlining the peaceful nature of the campaign for Human Rights in the region.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have questioned once again China’s treatment and suppression of its minority populations, in particular the Uyghur population of East Turkestan. China has long maintained that their campaign of arrests, detention, and restriction of civil liberties is the only means by which they can fight bourgeoning terrorism. A concern for the potential for terrorism in the region has been expressed also by Mr. Nirj Deva MEP. Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress, along with Mr. István Szent-Ivanyi MEP and Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, have however, in a series of open letters, expressed their strong opposition to this view, and underlined the peaceful and legitimate nature of the ongoing struggle for human rights and democracy in East Turkestan.

Extracts from Ms. Rebiya Kadeer’s Letter to MEPs:
23 January 2007

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

I am writing this letter in response to an earlier letter circulated by Mr. Nirj Deva, [see below] a member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Chairman of the EU-China Friendship Group. In his letter, Mr. Deva mentioned his recent meeting with Minister-counsellor of the Chinese Mission to the EU and unequivocally endorsed the official Chinese position on the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), the organization that I chair, and Xinjiang, our homeland that we call East Turkistan.

I have to say that it is really unfortunate that Mr. Deva has jumped into conclusions too quickly and endorsed the official Chinese position on these important issues without checking any facts or meeting with WUC representatives first.


U.S. State Department, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, U.S. Congressional-Executive Committee, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch all agree that the Chinese government has been using the tragedy of 9/11 as a convenient cover to further persecute the Uyghur people since they are Muslims. According to 2004 Annual Human Rights Report of U.S. State Department, China executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined. According to Amnesty International, China mostly executes Uyghur political and religious prisoners even for their nonviolent opposition. In fact, Human Rights Watch says in its latest report that after Hu Jintao became China’s president, the human rights situation became even worse in China.

Let’s all not forget that China is not a democracy but an authoritarian state. Therefore, you cannot treat China as a democracy. There are no human rights to begin with in China. If a Uyghur is accused of being a terrorist, he is immediately executed without any trial. Any Uyghur can be accused of terrorism and executed at any time. According to Manfred Nowak, UN Rapporteur on Torture who visited East Turkistan in late 2005, torture was widely used by the Chinese government to extract forced confessions. Commenting on China’s torture methods used on Uyghur prisoners, Amnesty International said in it 1999 report that horse-hairs were used to insert male genitals and hot peppers used for females.

Any member of UN, EU or U.S. delegation who has visited East Turkistan has sensed the severity of gross human rights violations of the Uyghur people by the Chinese regime. Many realize the terrible persecution of the Uyghur people and the Chinese lies about the real problem. Many find out that the Chinese government is using the global war on terror as a perfect excuse to persecute the Uyghur people. Many also know that Uyghurs are not using human rights and democracy as a cover for so-called terrorism. They are aspiring for these rights precisely because the Chinese regime has denied these rights.

The World Uyghur Congress represents the collective interests of Uyghurs both in East Turkistan and abroad. The main objective of WUC is to promote democracy, human rights and religious freedom of the Uyghur people and use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine their political future. If WUC is a terrorist organization or has links to terrorist organization as China claims or as Mr. Deva urges others to believe, the government of Germany, a key member of EU, would have shut it down and even arrested its leaders. The U.S. government would have arrested me and put me in jail. The reality is that WUC is not a terrorist organization but a peaceful organization that sticks peacefully to its noble objectives.


Now I want you to know who I am and why I am struggling for the human rights and democracy of my people. During the mid-1990s, I was one of the seventh richest persons in China because I was one of the most successful businesswomen. At that time, the Chinese government wanted to use me to showcase the success of their so-called sunshine ethnic minority policy. Later, Beijing gave me a lot of official titles and even invited me to become a member of China’s Parliament. The Chinese government thought that I would act like a puppet and help the government to repress my own people. I didn’t play the role expected by Beijing. Instead, I openly criticized the egregious human rights violation of my people by the Chinese government.

In February 1997, the Chinese government massacred hundreds of young Uyghurs in the city of Ghulja who peacefully went to protest the Chinese persecution and discrimination. The Chinese military sealed the city and arrested several thousand young Uyghurs. In the following two years, Amnesty International says, more than 200 Uyghurs were executed and dozens tortured to death. I was shocked by the excessive and unjustified use of force. In March 1997, I criticized the Chinese government’s heavy-handed repression of the young Uyghurs in Ghulja City during the Parliamentary Session in Beijing. Then, I was stripped off all my titles and put under virtual house arrest. Since then, the Chinese government saw me as a thorn in its eyes and wanted to silence me.

On August 11, 1999 while I was on my way to meet a member of the U.S. delegation and tell her about China’s human rights violations, the Chinese secret agents arrested me. In March 2000, I was sentenced to eight years in a secret trial for passing “secret information” to foreign organizations. The Chinese prosecutor used openly available newspaper clipping as evidence of my crime. Then, the Chinese government imprisoned me for nearly six years, two years in solitary confinement. In March 2005, I was released by the Chinese government to the U.S. for reasons of medical parole after intensive international pressure on China, especially from the U.S., E.U. and human rights organizations.

Since then, I have been peacefully campaigning for the human rights and democracy of the Uyghur people. After coming to the U.S., I founded the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation. Later I was elected as the President of the Uyghur American Association and the World Uyghur Congress. To retaliate my peaceful human rights activism, the Chinese government destroyed most of my property and froze my funds. Furthermore, the Chinese government arrested my three sons in June 2006 and put my daughter under house arrest. On November 27th, 2006, on the very day I was elected WUC President, the Chinese government sentenced my youngest son to seven years. I am a mother of eleven children. I love all of them. What country in the 21st century would imprison one mother’s innocent son for the acts of his mother! It is China, the country that Mr. Deva thinks “making progress on improving human rights and democracy.”

If I were promoting terrorism or in an organization that promotes terrorism as China alleges, I would have never been given the human rights award by Human Rights Watch in 2000, the Rafto Award by the Rafto Foundation in 2004, and I would have never been twice (2005 and 2006) nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The simple truth is that the Chinese government is lying about the history of East Turkistan, about the Uyghur people’s peaceful struggle for human rights and democracy, and especially about me. I hope and urge Members of the EP to listen to both sides of the story before making any conclusion in important matters such as the history of a distant land and the struggles of persecuted peoples like Uyghurs who need the understanding and support of the international community for their very existence under a brutal regime.

Rebiya Kadeer
World Uyghur Congress

Extracts from Mr. István Szent-Ivanyi MEP’s Letter to MEPs
23 January 2007

Dear Colleagues,

Please allow me to briefly reflect on the thoughts of Mr Nirj DEVA, MEP about the World Uyghur Congress and Xinjiang circulated by an e-mail in the EP [European Parliament]. […]

The issue of the Uyghur people living in Xinjiang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China (PRC) is a very complex one and all decision makers who wish to take a stance should draw information from a variety of sources. Mr Nirj DEVA, MEP in his e-mail basically reiterates the official position of the PRC concerning which I have serious reservations.

As to the history and development of "terrorist" and "secessionist" rhetoric on behalf of the PRC [Peoples Republic of China] authorities, please find attached a report published by Human Rights Watch in April 2005 which speaks for itself. For easy reference, I would like to quote some passages:

[Full Human Rights Watch Report]

"By exploiting the climate that followed the attacks on the United States and the fact that some Uighurs were found fighting in Afghanistan, China has consistently and largely successfully portrayed Uighurs as the source of serious Islamic terrorist threat in Xinjiang. This perception now has become dominant with the Chinese public, which because of the lack of a free media has little ability to compare sources of information and come to independent judgement about this claim.

[...] Uighurs interviewed in the region point out that opponents to Chinese rule in the area have been given many labels over the past half-century: they were described by the state as feudal elements and as ethnic nationalists in the 1950s and 1960s, as counter-revolutionaries in the 1970s and 1980s, as separatists in the 1990s, and now, since 2001, as terrorists.

[...] China has opportunistically used the post-September 11 environment to make the outrageous claim that individuals disseminating peaceful religious and cultural messages in Xinjiang are terrorists who have simply changed tactics."

While unequivocally rejecting the use of violent means to reach political objectives, I also condemn all attempts to equate legitimate activities to promote basic human rights and democracy with terrorism. Mrs Rebiya KADEER was awarded the highest recognition of Human Rights Watch in 2000, the RAFTO Prize for Human Rights in 2004 and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 - hardly a trademark for terrorists.


Yours sincerely,

István Szent-Ivanyi MEP
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe


Letter from Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP to MEPs
23 January 2007

Thank you Istvan [István Szent-Ivanyi MEP] for this essential and convincing riposte, and for the opportunity to learn more about the Uyghurs and East Turkestan.

Mrs Kadeer is evidently a very brave and honourable person, rather far from being a terrorist, much as China would like us to believe that.

The whitewashing of China's human rights record and its opportunistic exploitation of 'the war on terror' must be resisted, so thank you for taking the trouble to respond to Nirj Deva.

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe

Letter from Mr. Nirj Deva MEP to MEPs
22 January 2007

Dear colleagues,

I recently had a meeting with Minister-counsellor of the Chinese Mission to the EU, and one of the topics we discussed was the "World Uyghur Congress" and Xinjing. I am sending you this email to share my thoughts with you.

Xinjiang is the Chinese name of the Tarim and Dzungaria regions of what is now northwest China.  It has been a part of China since 60BC, although it has been briefly annexed by other countries several times in the past.  The Chinese government therefore believes that Xinjiang is an integral part of China. 

After 1990 a nationalist ideology developed in several central Asian countries, and out of this grew a secessionist organisation for Xinjiang, which they called " East Turkestan." They encouraged religious fanaticism and terrorism, and the bus bombs of February 25 1997 killed 9 and injured 68 innocent people.

In December of 2003, China listed four organisations as terrorist organisations, pursuant to the UN resolutions on the war against terrorism.  These organisations are the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement, the Eastern Turkestan Liberation Organisation, the World Uighur Youth Congress, and the East Turkestan Information Center.   

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement has been listed by the UN as a terrorist organisation since September 11, 2002. It was based in Afghanistan and has very close relations with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda. After the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the organisation transferred its leading members to neighbouring countries such as Pakistan.

The World Uyghur Congress comprises some key elements of the World Uyghur Youth Congress. The president is Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, who aims to detach Xinjiang from China by "promoting what she calls "human rights and democracy of the Uyghur people" 

As a Member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the European Parliament, I do of course agree with the basic principles of human rights which everyone in this world should have. However, we must be very careful that people do not use Human Rights as a cover for terrorism or to destabilise or promote secession in any country in the world. 

As a Member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the European Parliament, I basically agree with the basic principle of human rights which is everyone in this world should be equal and have the same rights. However, I strongly reject if any people use Human Rights to secede any countries in the world. 

Human Rights should never be used as an excuse for establishing country separations.  

One of the roles of government is to improve the livelihood of its own people. On the other hand, people should have their own rights to determine the livelihood of the future. In my opinion, if these two elements are coordinated together properly, they can represent the meaning of democracy. If they could not be coordinated together properly, it might only cause bad confusions. Terrorism and secession are such the examples.

Those of us who take an interest in China see that they are making progress on improving human rights and democracy, and in my view they deserve our help in resisting terrorism and secession. 

I do not want to see a situation developing in China comparable to the situation in Sri Lanka, where I was born.  There the Tamil Tigers have terrorised our people for decades and have killed and maimed tens of thousands of men, women, and children.  This is not acceptable in the 21 st century no matter what political arguments may be used to justify it.

I hope therefore that you will be aware of this problem, and that you will not give any support to organisations such as those I have mentioned.   

With all my good wishes, 

Nirj Deva MEP
EU-China Friendship Group