May 31, 2008

East Turkestan: Senator Brown Speaks Out Over Detained Uyghurs

Sample ImageFurther to a resolution put before the United States Senate, Senator Brown has called on the United States to push China to make major improvements in its human rights record.

Below is an article published by the Congressional Record:


Sen. Sherrod Brown's speech after introduction of S. RES. 574

22 May 2008

Congressional Record


Mr. BROWN: Mr. President, the Chinese people have endured an unspeakable tragedy, as we know, with the loss of tens of thousands in a major earthquake. Those numbers continue to grow. On the radio this morning [22 May 2008], I heard it looks like more than 50,000 Chinese people have died in one of the greatest tragedies of the last decade. My prayers are with the people of Sichuan Province and all those brave men and women who are there now providing support as volunteers, especially providing support to the Chinese people in Sichuan Province.

I wish to focus on something else in China. This isn't the Chinese people, it is the actions of a few people at the top of the Chinese Government—actions we must confront. When I say "only a few people at the top," the Chinese Government is called the People's Republic of China for a reason. It is a Communist government, a very top-line hierarchical system, where a few people at the top enjoy so much of the benefits and so much of the power and they wield that so unfairly and immorally and, many times, against so many in their country.

For us to ignore the behavior of the Chinese Government, to dismiss that behavior, to minimize that behavior is a reprehensible act on our part.

In a little more than 3 months, the world will witness one of its great quadrennial events—the summer Olympic Games. The games have been billed as a way for the host, China, to reintroduce itself—a new China, if you will—to the international community. And China has pulled out all the stops: $38 billion in infrastructure improvements, including a brand new 91,000-seat stadium, 300 miles of new roads, and an entirely new terminal at Beijing's International Airport, all because of the Olympic Games.

What China will not be highlighting is its human rights record. That is because it is abysmally disgraceful.

As China rolls out the red carpet to welcome hundreds of thousands of tourists and as Olympic-related media flock to Beijing to watch the events, no one will be allowed to go to Tibet, no one will be allowed to go to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, no one will be allowed to see the hundreds of political prisons, no one will be allowed to visit the areas of China where hundreds of millions live in abject poverty.

Last year, Amnesty International—a no more respected and fairminded group in the world—said of China:

“An increased number of . . . journalists were harassed, detained, and jailed. Thousands of people who pursued their faith outside officially sanctioned churches were subjected to harassment and many to detention and imprisonment. Thousands of people were sentenced to death or executed. Migrants from rural areas were deprived of basic rights.”

The Presiding officer, from the State of Rhode Island, has talked passionately about the freedom of the press and journalism in countries where we have the kind of relationship we have with China and how important it is. Others in this body have talked about human rights and labor rights, and now China has violated those values we hold dear and that international organizations that serve all of the world hold so dear.

Beijing will continue to attempt to paint its repressive regime during the Olympics in the best light possible, as we have seen in the last month [April 2008] with the unnerving events in Tibet. The repression in Tibet, a region similar in its treatment by the government as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, is nothing new. For almost 60 years, Tibetans have survived under Beijing repression. Tibet was swallowed up by China in 1950. The Uyghur Autonomous Region was swallowed up by China the year before.

China's policy is straightforward: Declare war on human rights, bring in native Chinese for the best jobs, eradicate the indigenous culture, the language, the spiritual center, disperse the population. It seems to have worked for China's interest every time.

China's policies keep import prices low by allowing inhumane treatment of workers; slave wages, and unsafe working conditions have become all too common.

China, the Communist regime, has become China, the world's largest one-company town where workers are interchangeable, replaceable parts and where members of the Communist Party are its shareholders.

The United States as purportedly the world leader in human rights—we talk about exporting democracy, we brag about our values, yet our business is with encouragement and incentives—unbelievably enough, sometimes from our own Government—even though we say we are the world leader in human rights. The United States should not be endorsing in any way the brutal and horrific policies of the Chinese Government. Again, the United States, by our actions by the Government and by business do not seem so interested oftentimes in human rights in China in spite of what we say. We should not be sacrificing our moral compass at the altar of the dollar. We do that way too often.

I met with Rabiya Kadeer, the Uyghur dissident leader and head of the Uyghur American Association. She told me of her time in prison for political advocacy on behalf of her people. She spent 6 long years in prison, arrested in 1999 on her way to a meeting with foreign activists and leaders. She told me of her children who either live in fear or live in prison because of her advocacy on behalf of basic freedoms for the 12 or 13 million Uyghur people. She told me of her exile. She is not allowed to return to her native country.

We need the strength to stand up to rather than apologize for China's brutal regime. This has been the systematic policy of a highly efficient and powerful central government.

The Chinese Uyghurs have long fought for more autonomy from Beijing and greater freedom to practice their Muslim religion.

This is not a new policy. We have seen the same in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region where ethnic Uyghur people have been systematically relocated and repressed. Their Turkic language is prohibited, their women are placed into forced labor, especially young women taken out of the Autonomous Region to other parts of China, in many cases to be slave labor, forced labor, in other cases to be sex slaves, and their political leaders are jailed. Yet we allow China into the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and made them a preferred trading partner.

Communities across America feel the reverberations of this policy. Not only does it blacken our name as a country when China violates every kind of human rights we care about, but then it affects our country in so many other ways.

We have lost more than 3 million manufacturing jobs across this country since President Bush has been President. Many of these jobs have been eliminated because of government-subsidized imports from China, because of cheating on currency rules, and because of direct off shoring to countries such as China.

China gives their manufacturers that unfair competitive advantage by manipulating its currency and providing massive subsidies to its industry. We know all that. American companies have been complicit by hiring Chinese subcontractors and forcing those subcontractors to continue to cut costs, meaning contaminated vitamins, contaminated pharmaceuticals, and dangerous toxic lead-based paint on toys.

I am submitting a resolution today calling on the Chinese to free the Kadeer children, free the Uyghur political prisoners, and end the political, religious, and ethnic repression in that part of China.

I ask my colleagues to take a look at this resolution, to meet with Ms. Kadeer and to join me in working to bring the atrocities against the Uyghur people to an end. Instead of welcoming China, celebrating China, and trading with China on their terms, as we all talk about the great quadrennial events of the international Olympic Games, we should be helping China's repressed. We should not indulge China its abuses. It dishonors our own values.



To download Senator Sherrod Brown’s speech, click here. (PDF format, 72kb)

To read the resolution put before the United States Congress, click here.