Protesters Ask Biden: 'Make the Uyghur Refugee Crisis a Priority'

Protesters Ask Biden: 'Make the Uyghur Refugee Crisis a Priority'

Members of the Turkic diaspora from East Turkistan, an occupied region China calls Xinjiang, urged President Joe Biden on Wednesday to aid the tens of thousands of Uyghurs and other ethnic groups fleeing the ongoing Chinese genocide in the region.

Supporters of the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, an organization that calls for recognition of East Turkistan as an occupied country and advocates against the decades of Chinese repression of Uyghurs and other communities there, held an event in front of the State Department on Wednesday to recognize the anniversary of the Chinese occupation of East Turkistan, which occurred when the communists, under Mao Zedong, invaded and turned the region into what is now known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

China annexed East Turkistan in 1949 and has since engaged in an extensive campaign to displace its native Uyghur population with members of the Han ethnic group, which make up the majority in eastern China.

We commemorated East Turkistan’s National Day of Mourning (December 22nd) with East Turkistan Government in Exile…

Posted by East Turkistan National Awakening Movement on Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Biden administration officials have called Xinjiang an “open-air prison” and formally accused China of “genocide” against the Uyghur people. Beijing has used major telecommunications companies like Huawei to develop technology used to monitor the communications and movements of nearly every single person in Xinjiang. Reports have unveiled the development of facial recognition technology, for example, that can distinguish a Uyghur from a Han person, and China openly boasts of placing cameras in nearly every corner of East Turkistan.

The Chinese Communist Party has also trapped as many as three million people – most of them Uyghurs, but also many members of the Kazakh and Kyrgyz majority-Muslim communities – in concentration camps since 2017. The Uyghur Tribunal, an independent investigation institution, found “beyond a reasonable doubt” this month that China is using concentration camps for genocidal purposes. Among the crimes unveiled by the Tribunal were torture and indoctrination to erase Uyghur culture, the use of gang rape as systematic torture, mass sterilization of women, and widespread enslavement of Uyghur people.

The mass sterilization campaign has led to catastrophic reductions in the number of Uyghur births and a higher population of Han Chinese people, who are not native to Xinjiang. The Chinese Communist Party has celebrated the sterilizations as a feminist victory.

“Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines,” the Chinese Embassy in Washington declared in January.

At the event on Wednesday, Salih Hudayar, the prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, noted that the genocide has sent tens of thousands of Uyghurs and other East Turkistanis fleeing the region, necessitating urgent government action to protect refugees:

Peaceful Demonstration in front of the U.S. Department of State to commemorate East Turkistan’s National Day of Mourning and call on the U.S. Government to take stronger actions to end China’s ongoing genocide and colonization in Occupied East Turkistan.

Posted by East Turkistan National Awakening Movement on Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Many refugees in America, Hudayar noted, “have still yet to have their asylum applications approved despite waiting many years, some for even over a decade.”

“As a result,” he explained, “they face many difficulties such as finding employment, being unable to access basic health care, education and provide for their families. This situation has both a physical and psychological impact on our community and individuals inside the community.”

Hudayar urged Biden to “make the Uyghur refugee crisis a priority by expediting Uyghur asylum applications” and, generally, “take more concrete and meaningful actions” to stop China’s genocide.

In contrast to the delays in processing reportedly faced by many in the Uyghur community seeking to legally establish themselves in America, the Biden administration has done little to reinforce security in America’s southern border and – more relevant to the East Turkistani struggle – has acted against safeguards to prevent Chinese spies from abusing the U.S. visa system to enter the country.

Chinese regime infiltration activities are a direct threat to Uyghur communities around the world. A study released in November by the Uyghur Human Rights Project found that 96 percent of Uyghurs abroad “reported feeling threatened by China,” including direct menacing contact from Chinese regime agents. Among those respondents, 73.5 percent said they “had experienced digital risks, threats, or other forms of online harassment.”

“Many D.C.-area Uyghurs say that they undergo harassment and intimidation daily including receiving threats by text, chat apps including WeChat, voicemail, calls, email, or third-party messages,” the study observed.

“The ongoing East Turkistani refugee crisis has been largely ignored,” Hudayar said on Wednesday. “Tens of thousands of East Turkistanis, mostly Uyghurs, who fled East Turkistan seeking refuge are at risk of being deported and are living in dire conditions.”

“Thousands have already been forcibly extradited from countries in the Middle East such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey,” he continued, “and others in Central Asia including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.”

Elsewhere at the event, the congregated group urged the U.S. government to recognize East Turkistan as a rightful, sovereign occupied country, not as the “Xinjiang” region under Beijing rule. Doing so would allow the region’s government in exile to operate more freely to protect its citizens from genocide and communist repression.

The group, whose members also delivered addresses in Uyghur, encouraged Biden to sign the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a bill that would ban imports from East Turkistan unless companies can prove that they were not produced by slaves. Congress signed the bill this month after over a year of pressure from multinational companies and the Chinese government not to block access to cheap, slave-made goods.

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Frances Martel