Uighur Woman Tursunay Ziyawudun, Who Was Detained In Xinjiang Camps, Arrives In US


A Uighur woman who was detained at internment camps in China’s Xinjiang region has arrived safely in the United States, a Uighur human rights group said on Saturday, ending a period of monthslong uncertainty over whether she would be forcibly repatriated back to China from her home in Kazakhstan.

Tursunay Ziyawudun had initially settled in Kazakhstan with her husband, who is a Kazakh citizen, after spending a grueling 10 months locked up without ever being charged with a crime. But last year, the Kazakh government told her she would have to return to China to apply for a new visa as a procedural matter. Returning to the country would have likely meant she would be detained again.

BuzzFeed News reported on her case in February.

“We are tremendously relieved that Tursunay is now safe in the United States,” said Omer Kanat, the executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, in a statement, saying that she had already arrived safely, and that his organization is helping her resettle and access medical treatment for a serious health condition.

China has detained more than a million Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in mass internment camps since late 2016, according to independent estimates. The government has said the detentions were for “vocational training,” but former detainees, including Ziyawudun, have made clear they were brought to camps by force and said they endured humiliation, hunger, beatings, and regular interrogations, among other abuses.

The Chinese government claimed in December that those who went through the “vocational training” program had “graduated,” but a recent BuzzFeed News investigation found instead that construction of large, purpose-built internment camps and prisons is ongoing.

Ziyawudun’s lawyer said she believed the press coverage helped her case.

“Her situation required that her story be made public,” Aina Shormanbayeva, Ziyawudun’s lawyer in Kazakhstan, told BuzzFeed News.

Ziyawudun is among a small number of former detainees who have left China and spoken publicly about their experiences. The Washington, DC–based Uyghur Human Rights Project said her house had been set on fire “in suspicious circumstances” in February, after she started speaking out about her story. (Ziyawudun’s lawyer confirmed her house had burned down at the time.)

She later traveled to Istanbul for medical treatment, Shormanbayeva said, before receiving permission to travel to the US. She is still in the process of seeking refugee status in Kazakhstan, but Shormanbayeva said there are doubts that Kazakh government will grant her that status.

But, she added, the risk of Ziyawudun being forcibly sent back to China is gone.

“I hope that in the US she will be safe,” her lawyer said.



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Beijing erupts at Canada after parliamentary committee says China’s Uighur policy amounts to ‘genocide’


China’s foreign ministry is lashing out at Canada after a House of Commons subcommittee concluded that the state’s mistreatment of Uighurs living in Xinjiang province amounts to a policy of genocide.

The committee’s report, tabled Wednesday, says that China’s persecution of this Muslim minority — through mass detentions in concentration camps, forced labour, state surveillance and population control measures — is a clear violation of human rights and is meant to “eradicate Uighur culture and religion.”

The committee said that it agrees with the experts who say China’s campaign against the Uighurs meets the definition of genocide set out in the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said today that this “so-called genocide” is “a rumour and a farce fabricated by some anti-Chinese forces to slander China.”

“Its groundless statement is full of lies and disinformation,” he said of the committee’s report, warning parliamentarians to “avoid doing any further damage to China-Canada relations.

“This is blatant interference in China’s internal affairs and reflects those Canadian individuals’ ignorance and prejudice. China firmly deplores and rejects that.”

The subcommittee on international human rights, chaired by Liberal MP Peter Fonseca, heard from witnesses who survived the concentration camps China has built to suppress Muslims living in this oil-rich northwestern province.

Committee witnesses described “deplorable” conditions where they were psychologically, physically and sexually abused and subjected to forced assimilation and indoctrination into the dominant Chinese culture.

Asked about the camps, Zhao insisted they are “vocational training and education centres” where religious “extremists” were educated in the “national common spoken and written language, legal knowledge, vocational skills and de-radicalization.”

“The aim is to eliminate the root cause of terrorism and extremism,” he said.

In this Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, file photo, a guard tower and barbed wire fence surround a detention facility in the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China’s Xinjiang region. (Ng Han Guan/AP Photo)

The Commons committee also concluded that Chinese communist officials have forcibly sterilized Uighur women and girls and pushed abortions and intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) on hundreds of thousands in a systematic attempt “to persecute and possibly eradicate Uighurs.”

Uighurs make up less than one per cent of the population in a country where Mandarin-speaking ethnic Chinese people — the Han — constitute the overwhelming majority.

While the Turkic-speaking Uighurs are just a small ethnic subset, Chinese government documents obtained by the committee show that approximately 80 per cent of all new IUD placements in China took place in Xinjiang.

Birth rates continue to plummet across the region, falling nearly 24 per cent last year alone — compared to a drop of just 4.2 per cent nationwide — according to statistics compiled by the U.S.-based Jamestown Foundation. The population control measures are backed by mass detention, both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply.

Witnesses also told committee members about a “poverty reduction” measure implemented by Beijing that forced Uighurs into camps to perform slave labour, making products that were to be sold in Canada and other western nations. 

A recent report titled “Uighurs for sale” by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that thousands of Muslims have been used as forced labour in factories that supply companies like BMW, Nike and Huawei, among others.

The Chinese government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uighur and other ethnic minority citizens from Xinjiang to factories across the country.

Under constant state surveillance through closed-circuit television cameras and mobile tracking devices, Uighur survivors have said they lived in constant fear.

They told committee members that Uighur expatriates are subjected to harassment and intimidation by the Chinese regime — even in Canada.

“The subcommittee unequivocally condemns the persecution of Uighur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang by the government of China,” the committee’s report reads. “The subcommittee is persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide.”

The committee said these control tactics are designed to suppress the Uighurs because they “desire more autonomy or independence from China,” and the communists consider them a “threat” to economic development and prosperity.

Uighurs living in Turkey participate in a protest against what they allege is oppression by the Chinese government of Muslim Uighurs in the far-western Xinjiang province. (AP Photo)

The committee is recommending the federal government condemn China’s abuse of Uighurs, work with allies to secure unfettered access to Xinjiang for international observers to prevent further abuse, recognize that China’s actions constitute genocide and impose sanctions on implicated officials through Canada’s so-called Magnitsky law.

That law allows the government to impose sanctions and freeze assets owned by foreign nationals and prohibit financial transactions by known human rights abusers.

The law is informally named after Russian tax adviser Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured and died in a Moscow prison after documenting fraud in Russia.

“Canada needs to take immediate action and live up to the values it espouses at home and abroad,” says the report. “Canada must act now to address China’s aggression against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.”

Canada ‘deeply disturbed’ by Uighur abuse

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he is “deeply disturbed” by the troubling reports documented by the subcommittee.

He said he raised the issue of Uighur abuse with Michelle Bachelet, the UN commissioner for human rights, during a recent meeting in Switzerland.

Earlier this month, Canada and 37 allies also expressed “grave concerns” about the situation in Xinjiang at the UN, he said.

Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne speaks a press conference in Athens, Greece. Champagne said Canada has expressed ‘grave concerns’ about Uighur abuse in China at the UN. (Petro Giannakouris/AP Photo)

Champagne said the government would back a plan to send impartial advisers into the region to document the plight of the Uighurs.

“Canada takes the allegations of genocide very seriously. We will continue … with our allies to push for these to be investigated through an international independent body,” he said.

Champagne did not address a question about whether Canada would pursue Magnitsky sanctions like those slapped on Russian and Venezuelan officials in recent years.

This parliamentary report is the latest attempt by some MPs and senators to put pressure on the government to take a tougher stand against China.

In June, more than a dozen senators — including several appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — urged the federal government to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for “gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Citing China’s detention of Uighur Muslims, its crackdown on democratic rights in Hong Kong, its decades-long repression of Tibet and its imprisonment of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the senators described the regime in Beijing as the “biggest threat to mankind and a danger to international security.”

That letter was followed by a call from 68 MPs and senators for Canada to levy sanctions on top Chinese officials.



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Demba Ba calls for Uighur solidarity protest over treatment by China


Ba scored 43 goals in 99 appearances for West Ham, Newcastle and Chelsea during his time in the Premier League

Former Premier League striker Demba Ba has called on football to condemn China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, whatever the financial cost.

“The Black Lives Matter movement is stronger when non-black people step up for it,” Ba told BBC Sport.

“When are we going to see the rest of the world stand up for Muslims?”

More than a million Uighur are believed to have been detained without trial in prison camps on the basis of their faith and ethnicity.

The Chinese government has separated Uighur children from their parents and reportedly forced women to be sterilised.

Footage of blindfolded Uighur prisoners being led on to trains has gone viral while leaked documents have detailed “discipline and punishment” at camps, which former detainees claim include torture.

China, which initially denied the camps’ existence, now says they are voluntary schools for anti-extremism training.

“An electric baton to the back of the head” – a former inmate described conditions at a secret camp to the BBC

“I have to try and organise something so football players can get together and, in the meantime, talk about this matter because not a lot of people want to,” said ex-West Ham, Newcastle and Chelsea forward Ba.

“I know there are footballers who want to fight for justice, whether Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, any belief.

“As sportspeople, we have a power we don’t even know. If we get together and talk, things change. If we stand up, people stand up with us.”

The Premier League gave the go-ahead to public shows of support for the worldwide campaign for racial justice, set in motion by George Floyd’s death in policy custody in the United States in May.

Players from all clubs ‘took a knee’ before kick-off while player names on the back of shirts were replaced with the slogan Black Lives Matter after a collective request to the Premier League.

Ba is not the first footballer to speak out publicly for the Uighur cause.

Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil posted on social media in December, highlighting Uighur persecution and calling for solidarity from fellow Muslims.

His club, who have a commercial office and restaurants in China, quickly distanced themselves from Ozil’s comments, claiming on Chinese social media site Weibo to be “always apolitical”.

Chinese state television pulled Arsenal’s match against Manchester City’s from the schedules the following weekend while Ozil, whose personal sponsorship deal with sportswear giant Adidas has since expired, was removed from a football console game in the country.