Former prisoners in Chinese concentration camps, members of the oppressed Uyghur community of East Turkistan, and supporters gathered in New York on Tuesday to urge the United Nations to release a report based on human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s visit to the region in May.
The protesters also demanded recognition of China’s ongoing genocide against Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other indigenous people in East Turkistan, who the Communist Party has spent decades displacing to repopulate the region, which it calls Xinjiang, with the Han ethnic majority of China. Multiple countries, human rights experts, and international organizations have concluded that the Communist Party policy to imprison, enslave, and sterilize Turkic people in the region fits the legal definition of genocide.
TUESDAY – JULY 26, 2022 : Peaceful demonstration, across from the United Nations Headquarters in New York, urging the UN to release its report on China’s ongoing genocide against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Turkic peoples in Occupied East Turkistan.
Posted by East Turkistan National Awakening Movement on Tuesday, July 26, 2022
The protesters chose the United Nations headquarters to protest in light of Bachelet, officially the High Commissioner for Human Rights, visiting East Turkistan and other parts of China in May. The visit which she emphasized was “not an investigation,” was in part meant to respond to years of vocal protests from human rights groups regarding the ongoing genocide.
Bachelet’s office has yet to release a written report on the situation in the region based on what she saw during her visit, but the top official claimed shortly before leaving China that the Communist Party had dismantled all its concentration camps and praised dictator Xi Jinping for China’s alleged “tremendous achievements” in human rights. She did not reportedly meet with any political dissident groups or representatives of oppressed minorities outside of those handpicked by the Party.
“I spent 15 months in prison simply because I am Kazakh,” Gulzire Awalqun, a survivor of the concentration camp system, said at Tuesday’s protest. “All the people in the prisons in occupied East Turkistan are Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Turkic peopels. When we go to these prisons, they forcibly inject us with medication.”
Awalqun held a poster featuring photos of some of the many people from East Turkistan who went missing and are believed to be imprisoned in the camps. At their peak, the camps were believed to imprison as many as 3 million people, according to the government of the United States.
Awalqun testified to the documented use of concentration camp prisoners as slave labor to fuel China’s status as the world’s most prolific manufacturing powerhouse and urged listeners to boycott Chinese products.
“We ask you to not buy the products that the Chinese government and Chinese companies make using the forced labor of those who are in the prisons,” Awalqun said, concluding, “I ask the international community, including human rights organizations, to act to stop Xi Jinping’s ongoing genocide against Turkic peoples in East Turkistan.”
Another concentration camp survivor, Tursunay Ziawudun, noted that Xi Jinping personally visited East Turkistan two weeks ago in an attempt to produce propaganda that obscures the genocide. Ziawudun noted that the visit featured Xi at events allegedly showcasing Uyghur culture in which, she said, he “forced Turkic people to dance in front of the cameras.”
— 王鲁彤 Wang Lutong (@WangLutongMFA) July 15, 2022
“We here are the live witnesses showing and telling what is truly happening in East Turkistan. We ask everyone not to be deceived by Xi Jinping … the concentration camps have not been shut down unlike what the Chinese government claims,” Ziawudun said. “If they have been, we ask you to prove it by allowing us to return there to show the world that [the system] has indeed been shut down and showing us the whereabouts of all these people.”
Ziawudun also urged the United Nations not to fly the flag of communist China so long as the country is engaging in genocide, saying she was “disgusted” by its presence outside of the U.N. headquarters.
Earlier today, Uyghurs and Kazakhs, including concentration camp survivors Gulzire Awalqun and Tursunay Ziyawudun, led…
Salih Hudayar, the prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, which helped organize the event, demanded at the protest that Bachelet release a report on her findings in the region and that the United Nations recognize East Turkistan as an “occupied country” and not a legitimate province of China. East Turkistan was a sovereign republic first in 1933 and then from 1944 to 1949, when it was colonized by Mao Zedong’s China after a mysterious plane crash killed some of its most important leaders and opened the way for Chinese conquest.
Recognizing East Turkistan as an occupied sovereign nation would trigger international legal protocols separate from obligations to hold political leaders accountable for other crimes such as genocide.
“The United Nations today is ignoring China’s 21st-century, Holocaust-like genocide,” Hudayar denounced. “The lack of actions by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Nations General Assembly, and the United Nations Security Council has enabled the fascist, racist Chinese government to carry out genocide with impunity for the past eight years and continuing.”
Hudayar accused Bachelet of failing “not only to conduct an investigation but she failed to condemn the People’s Republic of China’s ongoing genocide.”
Bachelet’s findings in East Turkistan largely remain a mystery. Last week, Reuters reported, claiming to have obtained private correspondence proving it, that the Chinese government is actively pressuring Bachelet’s office not to publish a report on any human rights abuses in the region.