Voicing rights: Activist response during Xi Jinping’s visit to France

FRANCE-A chance to bring attention to the predicament of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, northwest China, presents itself to Emmanuel Macron during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to France on May 6 and 7. Since 2017, the Chinese government has imprisoned over a million of the estimated 11 million Uyghurs in the nation in reeducation centers. Forced labor, forced sterilization, and limitations based on religion have all been applied to those who have not been jailed, according to reports from groups like the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Activists speak out

In 2022, the National Assembly of France passed a resolution declaring that mistreatment of the Uyghur people is equivalent to genocide and crimes against humanity. The motion was sponsored by lawmakers from the ruling party and received 169 votes in favor and just one vote against. In 2021, the United States also came to the conclusion that the crimes amounted to genocide. China contends that Uyghurs are equal citizens of China and that rebels in Xinjiang are terrorists. It claims that criticizing its record on human rights there amounts to meddling in its own affairs. The OHCHR conclusions were vehemently denied by the administration. 

Formally referred to as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Xinjiang is the biggest region in China, making up approximately one-sixth of the nation’s total area. The area ought to be known as East Turkestan and has the right to self-determination. In an interview, East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) shadow foreign minister Salih Hudayar stated that he was based in the United States.

Mobilizing civil society

With a populace of around 26 million, China seized the province in 1949. Hudayar stated that “Chinese colonialism,” not religion, is the main cause of the campaign against the Uyghur people. Hudayar is a Uyghur who was born in 1993 in Xinjiang. His uncle was sentenced to ten years in prison when he was a little boy for being caught reading a political book that was out of print. His father was a textile merchant and he left the nation when he was two years old. In 2023, a year of protests and strikes, law enforcement continued to employ excessive force on protestors and detainees. Concerns over the weakening of the rule of law were raised by actions made to restrict civil society activity. The conflict between Israel and Palestine had a detrimental effect on human rights in France, as seen by a rise in antisemitic events, limitations on pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and threats to restrict the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Advocating for change

Before obtaining refuge in the United States in 1998, the father initially traveled to Sweden and the United Kingdom. In 2000, Hudayar, his mother, and his siblings traveled to Oklahoma to be with him. In the years after Hudayar fled, many of his family members back home have been taken into custody. 

He claims that at least four of them perished in Chinese detention camps and jails. Hudayar and his spouse currently reside in Fairfax, Virginia, along with their two kids. From 2019 to 2023, he served as prime minister of the ETGE. Abdulahat Nur, a resident of Canada, succeeded him. He remarked, “We hope that the false promises made by the Chinese government won’t fool France.” China is buying itself time by controlling the world. The Uyghur people’s right to self-determination is “the only thing that can save us,” and France must support it.

Pushback and repression

He contends that in order to assist the Uyghurs and other Xinjiang’s oppressed minorities, France ought to enact laws similar to those that have been approved in the United States. Legislation passed by the United States in 2020 places penalties on foreign people and organizations that violate human rights in Xinjiang. Imports into the United States that originate from forced labor in the Uyghur area are forbidden by the 2022 Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The right to a sufficient standard of life was not sufficiently protected by government efforts to counteract the impacts of inflation, especially for those living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Children within the migrant and asylum-seeking population continued to endure cruel living circumstances, incarceration, and mistreatment by police. Identity checks that discriminated were still common.

Boycott Pairs Olympics 2024

A law passed in March that permits the use of contentious surveillance technology at the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games has raised concerns from thirty-eight civil society organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), regarding potential risks to fundamental rights.



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