Dolkun Isa, an activist who fights for ending the plight of minority Uyghurs in China, has been awarded the National Endowment for Democracy award that is funded by the U.S. Congress as a means to promote democratic ideals globally. Isa is currently the President of the World Uyghur Congress.
Winning the award
“Maybe this award will bring more support for the Uighur cause from the international community… Some countries like the U.S. and European countries are speaking out. But many Muslim countries continue not only their silence but supporting the Chinese repression toward the Uighurs. It’s a real disappointment and shame because we are Muslims facing religious persecution,” Isa said in a statement (Hong Kong Free Press).
He asked Western governments to take concrete action against the Chinese regime for their brutal crackdown on the Uyghurs. Failing to do so will only embolden Beijing to expand the “concentration camps” and keep on torturing the minority community. He was also very critical of Muslim countries that have kept quiet on the issue. Isa accused these nations of putting their economic relationship with China above the rights of the Uyghur community.
China has defended its policies concerning Uyghurs and claimed that its camps are merely for educating the minorities so as to curb radicalization. However, many escapees from the camps have recounted the horror of being abused by Chinese authorities and forced to renounce their faith. Beijing had also expressed displeasure at a U.S. decision to invite Isa to address a UN forum.
Meanwhile, U.S. politicians have been strong supporters of the Uyghur cause. In April this year, a group of lawmakers asked the government to impose the Global Magnitsky Act sanctions on Chinese officials identified as having a role in the oppression of Uyghurs. They also proposed to increase the disclosure requirements of Chinese companies so that U.S. investors can identify businesses involved in human rights abuses and avoid them.
“Americans would likely be very troubled, if not outraged, to learn that their retirement and other investment dollars are funding Chinese companies with links to the Chinese government’s security apparatus and malevolent behavior — links that represent material, asymmetric risks to corporate reputation and share value,” the lawmakers said in a letter (Radio Free Asia).
During the recently concluded Ramadan festival, Chinese authorities imposed severe restrictions on Uyghurs. In Xinjiang, the community was banned from fasting. Households were asked to spy on each other, warning that they would receive collective punishment if any one of them were found to be fasting. Symbols of Islamic religion like a beard or a headscarf have been banned. Uyghur students in schools and colleges are required to have lunch from school canteens three days a week or will be punished. Experts on China feel that Beijing’s persecution of Uyghurs will continue for a long time.
“It appears that the ‘re-education’ system will be an indefinite fixture of CCP [Chinese Communist Party] rule in Xinjiang… This has been illustrated by the fact that more facilities are being built, different types and categories of centers within the system have been more clearly delineated, and that the system appears to be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice,” Michael Clarke, an associate professor at Australian National University’s National Security College, said to Voice of America.
China has also initiated a long-term sinicization plan where the religious tenets of Uyghurs will be replaced with state-sanctioned values so that they become “more Chinese.” The religious sinicization plan is not only limited to Uyghur Muslims, but also other “foreign” religions like Christianity.