Uighur Rally Puts Genocide in Focus Ahead of US-China Talks

The below article was published by Courthouse News, photo credit: Courthouse News photo/Samantha Hawkins

The Biden administration is limiting expectations for the meeting of the two superpowers in Alaska at a time of already strained relations.

Uighur protesters stand in the rain outside of the U.S. State Department on Thursday to protest a genocide of their people in China. (Courthouse News photo/Samantha Hawkins)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Hours before the Biden administration undertakes its first diplomatic summit with top Beijing officials, about a dozen exiled members of China’s Uighur minority group protested in the rain outside of the State Department Thursday afternoon.

“The international community vowed ‘never again’ after the Holocaust. But ‘never again’ is happening today in East Turkistan,” Salih Hudayar, the prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, told the crowd.

The government is a parliamentary-based exile government that was established in Washington in 2004 by Kazakhs and Uighurs, a people indigenous to the Xinjiang region of China — which they call East Turkistan.

China has placed about 3 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in concentration camps across the region, subjecting them to rape, forced sterilization, unwanted abortions and human rights abuses — with the justification that doing so prevents terrorism and religious extremism. It’s estimated that millions more have been placed in prison. 

The United States and several other nations classified China’s actions as genocide back in January, putting pressure on the nascent Biden administration to negotiate China’s record of human rights violations at a precarious moment.

Americans’ perception of China has declined precipitously one year into the pandemic that spread to every corner of the earth from the Wuhan wet markets, and violence and discrimination against Asian people is also surging.

Speaking to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that his meeting with Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska, would not be “a strategic dialogue.” 

“This is an important opportunity for us to lay out in very frank terms the many concerns we have with Beijing’s actions and behavior that are challenging the security and prosperity and values of the United States and our partners and allies,” Blinken said, who will be joined by national security adviser Juke Sullivan to meet Senior Communist Party Politburo member Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. 

Representing a group called the East Turkistan Government in Exile, Prime Minister Salih Hudayar speaks outside the U.S. State Department on Thursday, calling on the United States to pressure China to end its genocide of the Uighur people. (Courthouse News photo/Samantha Hawkins)

Groups like the East Turkistan Government in Exile meanwhile have concrete objectives.

Hudayar called on the United States to prosecute China’s diplomats under U.S. Code Section 1091, increase tariffs, apply more sanctions, boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics and recognize East Turkistan as a captive nation. 

“Today, as a 21st century, Holocaust-like genocide is happening in East Turkistan, the international community led by the United States has not only the ability but also the moral responsibility to take action,” Hudayar said. 

While the prime minister said he knows that Blinken’s meeting with Chinese officials will probably just set terms for how they want to continue their relations, he hopes the U.S. asserts pressure on China to end the deliberate and mass killing of his people. 

Hudayar called on the United States both to support East Turkistan’s case against China at the International Criminal Court, and to file a parallel case against China in the International Court of Justice. Additionally, he called on the U.S. and other countries to boycott Chinese goods and services, which are often made by Uighur slaves. 

“How many lives do we need to lose until the world takes action?” Hudayar asked. 

In an interview after the rally, Hudayar said that more 100 of his family members have been detained in concentration camps in East Turkistan, around 60 have received prison sentences, and four have died. 

“It’s unclear how they died, as the bodies haven’t been returned,” Hudayar said. “It’s very scary at this point. We don’t have time to wait years for the international community to act.”

Last month, in his first official call with President Xi Jinping of China, Biden brought up human rights abuses and unfair economic practices.

Amannisa Mukhlis, director of women’s and children’s issues for the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, and wife of Prime Minister Hudayar, said that according to China’s own data, China has aborted over 4 million Uighur babies.

Mukhlis described other aspects of China’s bid to eradicate the population, including forcibly sterilizing hundreds of women, forcing other women to marry Chinese men, and breaking up families. More than 850,000 Uighur children have been sent to boarding schools and orphanages around China to assimilate them.

“Our language, our culture, our history and our physical existence is being eroded by the Chinese government,” said Mukhlis. 

Meanwhile, Uighur refugees in Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East are sometimes reported to China and are unsafe. At the protest, Arif Jan, a refugee who fled Xinjiang, called on the United States to grant refugee status to those who are fleeing genocide and to make them a priority group. 

Hudayar said that while his government is focused on their families back home, it is also concerned about the Uighur population in the United States — estimated to be between 10,000-15,000 people — who are often impoverished, have had their asylum application pending for years, and still don’t have access to health care or housing. 

A State Department official came outside after the demonstration to talk to Hudayar’s assembly, then returned inside with their letter outlining steps the U.S. should take to end the genocide.

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