The independent Uyghur Tribunal delivered its final report in December, outlining that it found China’s treatment of the Uyghur people living in the province of Xinjiang – known to the Indigenous people as East Turkestan – amounts to genocide.
While French parliamentarians overwhelmingly adopted a resolution on 27 January that “officially recognises the violence perpetrated by the People’s Republic of China against the Uyghurs as constituting crimes against humanity and genocide”.
The decision of the Macron government to take this resolve was of heightened significance as it was made just days before the Beijing Winter Olympics was set to commence over a two-week period starting on 4 February.
And it’s against this backdrop that the Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women’s Association, along with other groups, protested outside of the Sydney Channel 7 studios, calling on the network to consider how it’s helping to sportswash these rights abuses by covering the Beijing games.
A system of camps
Since in April 2017, the Chinese Communist Party has been operating a series of internment camps in Xinjiang. News of the camps hit the outside world later that year, as around a million Uyghur and other Turkic minority people were being detained inside these prisons.
The CCP took control of the Uyghur homelands in 1949. Repressions against their way of life have been mounting ever since.
According to World Uyghur Congress president Dolkun Isa, this crackdown was enhanced with the coming of CCP secretary Chen Quanguo in August 2016.
Chen had been charged with the administration of Tibet prior to being transferred to Xinjiang. And on arriving in the East Turkestan region, he rolled out a series of harsh law enforcement and surveillance measures, which he’d already unleashed upon the Tibetan people.
A just released report reveals that last September, Beijing rolled out a new assimilationist program called the Pomegranate Flower Plan, which matches Uyghur children with a Han Chinese child, with the aim of attempting to culturally reengineer the Muslim youth.
Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women’s Association president Ramila Chanisheff draws a correlation between China being granted the honour of hosting the Winter Olympics while it’s operating the internment camp system, and Nazi Germany’s hosting of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.
Chanisheff came to Australia when her Uyghur parents fled oppressive Chinese rule during the Cultural Revolution. And today, as she lives amongst the Uyghur community in South Australia, Chanisheff is warning that Xi Jinping’s rule is also marked by enhanced cultural repressions.
Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to AUTWA’s Ramila Chanisheff about the conditions Uyghur people living in East Turkestan are facing, the importance of boycotting the Beijing games, and challenging the annihilation program that her people are currently facing.
The Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women’s Association was part of a coalition of human rights groups protesting in Sydney’s Martin Place last Friday. It was calling for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022, which is about to commence at the end of this week.
Ramila, what’s the campaign all about? Why should people be avoiding the Beijing event?
It’s a month-long campaign trying to educate the wider Australian community and also the government about the genocide.
It’s saying enough is enough and asking at what point do we say that genocide is happening, and that a country that’s committing genocide needs to be held accountable.
The reason we had it in Martin Place in front of Channel 7 is because it’s hosting the event. Now when you’re hosting an event and promoting what a genocide state is doing, you’re being complicit in the genocide games.
When a television network is going into a country like this, they have to ask will they have access to see every resident in East Turkestan or China outside of the arena walls or is it just going to be showing the glamour and the fantastic propaganda that China wants us to see.
The coalition consisted of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Taiwanese, Hong Kongers and the Chinese Democratic Alliance in this country.
We were saying that China is not just committing genocide against the Uyghurs but look at what is happening in Hong Kong: democracy is fading in front of our eyes and the world is not doing a thing.
The Tibetans have suffered gravely over the decades. They’re losing their culture, identity, their language and their people to these horrific human rights abuses.
So, the question is, when do we stand up and speak up, as we’re giving China permission to host this glamorous event.
In 2017, it came to light that the CCP had commenced a program which has seen a million Uyghurs placed in re-education camps without charge or trial in the Xinjiang region.
Five years on, how would you describe the internment camp situation operating in the Uyghur homelands, locally known as East Turkestan?
They’re continuing. There are credible reports that there are over 380 internment camps – or concentration camps – across East Turkestan.
A lot of them have got labour camps attached to them. And now we’re seeing credible reports that crematoria are being attached to them as well.
As Muslim Turkic people we do not believe in cremating our dead. They have to be buried. So, why are crematoriums being attached to these camps?
The people inside these camps are subjected to severe torture, sterilisation and rape. These crimes are rampant in the camps.
Beijing is using these camps to indoctrinate the Uyghurs with Chinese propaganda and they’re separating them from their families.
The families left outside do not have any indication as to where their family members have gone, and if they will ever come out alive. Some who have come out alive have passed away within days of being released.
These humans are being used for medical experiments. They’re being harvested for their organs. They’re being used as forced labour to produce products for China to export.
Not all of the millions of people are being taken at one time, but they’re being taken in chunks. They go in and then they’re indoctrinated.
There are different levels of concentration camps. There are those who go in and get sentenced to 20 to 25 years for simply being an Uyghur, or having a Quran at their house, or having a family member overseas.
There are ones who are sent to lesser camps for just a week, but in that week, they’re indoctrinated, washed of their religious identity, their cultural identity and their language, as China hopes they will become like the Han Chinese.
Have we not seen this before? Why are we allowing this to happen in this day and age?
It’s getting worse and worse. People are disappearing and never being heard of again. And the international community is either silent or complicit in some way or form.
The camp system is unique to Xinjiang province. But CCP secretary Chen Quanguo has also implemented a series of harsh law enforcement and surveillance programs in the region that he’d already implemented when he was in charge of Tibet.
This has left East Turkestan as one of the most surveilled places on the planet.
What do these enhanced security systems involve for the Uyghur people being forced to live under them?
China doesn’t have freedom of speech or freedom of information. So, any kind of social media is state-run, monitored and controlled.
The phones that you buy come with surveillance spyware already installed, and if they don’t, then you’re forced to install it. So, they can monitor your communications, as well as what you’re seeing on social media.
WeChat is the social media platform Uyghurs in Australia use to contact family in China. It’s heavily monitored, and we know that we can’t speak freely with family members about how their life is.
There are police checkpoints in East Turkestan at every few hundred metres. The police can stop you, search you and ask who you are. You must have identification on you at all times.
They can monitor your phones to make sure that you’re not doing anything untoward to “undermine China’s ability and safety”, as they put it.
Relationships have also been set up, which involve a Han Chinese person being appointed to each Uyghur family.
These people can simply show up at your house. If they come and stay over, it’s up to the Uyghur family to be cooking, cleaning, washing these people’s feet, providing them with food, and a safe place to stay.
When these visitors come, you’re only allowed to speak in Chinese, even to your kids. These people are being sent to the houses of women who have been left alone because their husbands have been imprisoned.
So, they set up these relationships with Chinese men, who are sent to Uyghur women’s homes to keep an eye on them. It’s really a disgusting thing that Chen Quanguo has implemented.
Also, every communication abroad is monitored heavily. You cannot have any religious artefacts in your house. You cannot wear a long beard or name your kids Muslim names.
So, if they’re not killing you off with genocide, they’re erasing the culture of a whole new generation of people who then denounce who they are.
China wants the Uyghurs to denounce who they are and deny their existence to the rest of the world.
If you ask the international dysphoria, they say there should be over 20 million Turkic, Uyghur and Kazak people living in East Turkestan, but China’s official numbers are around 10 or 11 million.
So, where are the rest of these people? How can they not be accounted for? Everything is hidden behind the iron wall.
A report released this month details a new program rolled out by the CCP known as the Pomegranate Flower Plan. It is one of a number of programs involving Uyghur children.
What sort of impact are these measures having?
They are ethnically cleansing the Uyghur people of who they are – their identity. They are sterilising Uyghur women, so no more generations come up.
A report not long ago found that over 500,000 kindergarten age children were separated from their families and put up in boarding schools to be raised Han Chinese.
They are ethnically cleansing a whole region of the Turkic Uyghur people. We’re disappearing, as we speak here. We, as Uyghurs, are disappearing from the world.
In the diaspora there are only 1.3 million of us. And each and every one of us in the diaspora are affected by this loss and this grave situation, where our culture, identity and heritage is being wiped out of this world, while the international community is quiet.
The CCP has brutally ruled over the Uyghur people since it took control of the region in 1949. Why has the crackdown been escalating over the last half decade?
With the rise of Xi Jinping, the current president, his Strike Hard policy, and his view to world domination with his One Belt One Road initiative, the brutal oppression of the Uyghur people in this region has increased.
East Turkestan has become the hub, as it’s the way into Russia and Europe. East Turkestan is extremely rich in oil, gas and other resources. Also, it produces over 20 percent of the world’s cotton.
Xi Jinping’s world domination plan has escalated the brutal oppression. The Cultural Revolution was similar. That’s when my parents, and hundreds and thousands of others, decided to migrate to other countries for a better life.
And yet, Xi Jinping has brought this back in a much harsher and more brutal manner. It’s unbelievable that in the 21st century this is happening. And why? Because he has strong economic power.
Beijing has established infrastructure and lent money to many countries, which silences them from being able to speak up about human rights abuses, and they’ve partnered up with other dictators and brutal regimes to have each other’s backs.
And lastly, Ramila, the independent Uyghur Tribunal found last month that genocide against the Uyghurs is taking place in Xinjiang, while France recognised this crime is being perpetrated by Beijing last week.
There’s mounting international condemnation over what’s happening to the Uyghur people in their homelands.
With these developments and the renewed focus around the Winter Olympics, what do you consider must happen from here in order to bring about a change to the plight of your people?
End genocide. It is great that these nations, including our government, are diplomatically boycotting. But from diplomatically boycotting, what is the next step you are taking to ensure the genocide stops?
This is the first step, then we can move from here. The killing of these people, the erasing of ethnicity, sterilisation, rape, torture and camps. This is all taking place during the 21st century.
We gave Berlin the Olympic Games in 1936. Did we not say never again after Berlin?
The brutal dictators in these countries use the Olympic Games to sportswash. They are sportswashing away all the human rights atrocities that they’re committing.
Never again. This shouldn’t just be for the Jews. It needs to be for any community that’s suffering – every community that’s suffering. The games could have been relocated way before.
In 2008, China promised to better its human rights abuses, and what has it done? It has increased them.
We have seen this since 2017, and yet there has not been any formal request to change the location, or any athletes speaking up. I don’t blame the athletes because they don’t get to choose where it’s held.
But the International Olympic Committee, international governments, and international law have not stood up for human rights. Do they believe that the economy and sport far outweigh human rights?
We are not talking about one or two people, we’re talking about millions. And we’re not talking about one group of people, we’re talking about five or six.
In 2008, we saw it. And yet we awarded it to them again. This is absolutely disgusting, and it should never be awarded to them again in the coming years, given their history.
The genocide warrants sanctions and other harsh measures to be implemented.
China must stop its abuses, stop the genocide and free all the people from the concentration camps immediately, and then we can talk about other things that they need to do.