Who is/where are the Uyghur people?
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), also known as East Turkestan, is a huge, sparsely populated area located in China’s far northwest. This is where Uyghurs – a Turkic speaking Muslim minority group – live. They comprise about 11.3 million of a total of 22 million people.
- What is happening to their human rights there?
Over recent months, disturbing details have emerged from the region describing
- Mass detention camps called “re-education camps”
- Intrusive surveillance
- Arbitrary detention
- Political indoctrination
- Sexual violence
- Forced cultural assimilation being carried out there on a massive scale and targeting the region’s Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim peoples.
The Chinese government has long barred any form of meaningful independent investigation in the region, much remains unknown. What is known is that under the present environment in the XUAR, even relatively mild and constructive criticism of the government’s handling of ethnic policy can lead to heavy punishment including life sentences in the camps.
- Why does this matter to New Zealand?
This issue should be of concern to all New Zealanders for two reasons:
First,no foreign government should have the right to harass/intimidate people who work and live in New Zealand.
Uyghur people who live in New Zealand are being harassed and intimidated into silence by the Chinese government. These people have fled from China seeking safe refuge here in New Zealand. They are terrified to exercise their normal rights to freedom of speech or peaceful protest here because their families back in XUAR may be targeted by the Chinese government.
Second, New Zealand should not be silent about human rights abuses around the world
New Zealand should not be silent about human rights abuses anywhere in the world, and should be willing to speak truthfully about the situation for Uyghur people in China. Our own democratic and human rights principles are compromised when we refuse to hold other states to account for its human rights record.
- What can we do?
Almost all NZ political parties are too scared of the loss of trade with China to do anything. As an example, University of Canterbury professor Anne-Marie Brady, who researches the Chinese government’s involvement in NZ politics, has been harrassed & even had her house burgled, in what was likely a Chinese government operation. The NZ government so far has done very little to stop this interference in her work demonstrating that politicians don’t want to address this issue because of the economic & trade relationship with China.
We must pressure the New Zealand government to protect Uyghur people inside New Zealand from Chinese government harassment. We must pressure the New Zealand government to take a strong stance against human rights abuses inside of China, and demand an end China’s imprisonment of millions inside “re-education” gulags.
Further Resources & Reading
- Massey working with Chinese firm blacklisted over human rights
- ‘Allow no escapes’: leak exposes reality of China’s vast prison camp network
- Stern words as New Zealand joins rebuke of China over Uighurs Muslims
- ‘We can find you’ – Kiwi Uyghur Muslim says he received threats from China’s police state
- Printable version of the leaflet (A5)