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The first lecture on the status of the Uyghurs in China: testimonies of survivors

Dear readers,

we would like to invite you to the first of a short course of lectures on the status of Uyghurs in China organized by our Center and the Forum for Human Rights. The first lecture will feature 3 survivors of the Chinese camps, who will provide unique testimonies of their own experiences, and Sinologist and Uyghur expert Ondřej Klimeš from the Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. The opening remarks will be given by Professor Radim Boháč, Dean of the Faculty of Law of Charles University. The lecture will take place on 10 October at 6 pm in Room 100 of the Faculty of Law building of Charles University.

The treatment of Uighurs in China represents one of the greatest challenges to human rights and their protection. The Uyghurs, one of the largest minorities in China (approximately 12.8 million people), are a Turkic ethnic group that is majority Islamic. The majority of the Uyghur population lives mainly in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), which is not officially under the central government of the People's Republic of China and is a strategic trade link. Members of the Uyghur ethnic group have lived in this territory for thousands of years and only came under the rule of the Qing dynasty in the 18th century.

The Xinjiang Autonomous Region is home to numerous 're-education camps', particularly in the uninhabited border areas. Uyghur people are interned there, face torture and starvation. The number and size of these camps, contrary to the claims of the Chinese Government, is increasing, and the number of Uighurs imprisoned is estimated at up to one million. Crucial information about these camps began to reach the public around 2017, with satellite images, UN reports, prisoners' testimonies and leaked police documents (the so-called Xinjiang Police Files) published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in May 2022. Re-education in the camps is also often combined with a system of forced labour and other forms of repression.

The indoctrination of Uyghurs - a holistic transformation of mindsets and social structures often referred to as 'cultural genocide' - has been pursued by the PRC Communist Party since 2006, particularly through attacks on Uyghur linguistic, religious and cultural patterns of behaviour. The religious beliefs of Uyghurs are heavily restricted (e.g. there is a ban on long beards, women covering their faces and religious ceremonies are restricted), and Uyghur was banned as a language in both schools and public administration in 2017. The People's Republic of China is also implementing regulations to control the birth rate of the Uyghur population; by adopting sterilisation measures, it has already halved the birth rate of this minority in recent years. In addition to the forced sterilisation of Uighur women, there is also the systematic removal of Uighur children from their families. Commercial entities are also widely involved in the repression of Uyghurs, with many global brands profiting from the forced labour of Uyghur workers (see for more).

This most widespread and systematic human rights violation since World War II by China against the Uyghur people will be tried by an independent Uyghur tribunal in 2020-2021. It concluded that the PRC is committing the crime of genocide against the Uighur people under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide through birth control measures aimed at destroying a significant proportion of the Uighur population in Xinjiang. The Tribunal's investigation also found a wealth of evidence of crimes against humanity, torture and sexual abuse of Uighurs. Although the judgment of this 'people's' tribunal, which is based in the United Kingdom, has no legal force, it has attracted strong international attention. It has opened up a public debate and prompted a number of actions. Countries such as the US, Canada, the UK, Lithuania, France and the Netherlands have already recognised the situation of the Uighurs as genocide. A number of states, including the Czech Republic, have boycotted this year's Winter Olympics in Beijing, and a ban on the import of certain products from Xinjiang province into the US, for example, has also been proposed. Last year, the Czech Republic also made it possible to hold a meeting in Prague of the general assembly of the World Uyghur Congress, an international organisation which opposes China's rule in Xinjiang and seeks to represent the common interests of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region and beyond.

If you are interested in the issues, come and find out more. We look forward to hearing more!


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