The East Turkistan Government in Exile, which represents the majority Turkic population of the China-occupied Asian region, condemned President Joe Biden on Wednesday for failing to refer to China’s genocide of their people as a genocide during his speech that day at the United Nations General Assembly.
Biden addressed the platform a day late and dedicated most of his speech to the eight-year-old war between Russia and Ukraine. Towards the end of his speech, he mentioned China’s genocide in East Turkistan – using the Communist Party’s name for the region, Xinjiang – but did not describe it as “genocide.”
“Human rights are the basis for all that we seek to achieve. And yet today, in 2022, fundamental freedoms are at risk in every part of our world,” Biden said, “from the violations of — in Xinjiang detailed in recent reports by the Office of U.N. — U.S. — reports detailing by the U.S. [U.N.] High Commissioner, to the horrible abuses against pro-democracy activists and ethnic minorities by the military regime in Burma, to the increased repression of women and girls by the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
Biden addressed U.S.-China policy elsewhere in his speech but not in relation to the Uyghur genocide.
The Chinese Communist Party has for decades oppressed the population of East Turkistan, once an independent republic currently administered by Beijing as the “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” Human rights activists and researchers, with the help of genocide survivors, have extensively documented a campaign under dictator Xi Jinping to imprison locals in concentration camps, mass sterilize entire villages, kill, enslave, and torture locals, and place every resident under high-tech surveillance. The Uyghur Tribunal, an independent organization made up of international legal experts, concluded that China was “beyond a reasonable doubt” guilty of genocide against the Uyghur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz population of East Turkistan, in particular citing the scope of the forced sterilization campaign as evidence fitting the definition of the crime.
Both the administrations of President Donald Trump and Joe Biden have formally identified the abuses against indigenous populations in the region as genocide.
“President Biden’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly was weak,” the prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, Salih Hudayar, said in a statement on Wednesday. “He failed to effectively highlight and condemn China’s ongoing genocide against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan.”
The president of the exiled government, Ghulam Yaghma described the greater exile community as “greatly disheartened” by Biden’s remarks and the lost opportunity his speech represented.
“The global East Turkistani diaspora is greatly disheartened by President Biden’s failure to adequately address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in East Turkistan at the U.N. General Assembly,” Yaghma said. “We call on ALL nations to cease downplaying China’s ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in Occupied East Turkistan as mere ‘human rights violations.’”
While Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described the Uyghur genocide as a “genocide” categorically, Biden has made bizarre comments during his presidency that indicated a lack of urgency in addressing the matter. During a CNN town hall last year, for example, Biden appeared to claim that Washington must respect “different norms” that were responsible for Xi’s brutality – and that to the extent that he mentions human rights abuses in conversation with Xi, Xi “gets” that Biden does not actually seek an end to the violence.
“The idea I’m not going to speak out against what he’s [Xi] doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uyghurs in western mountains of China and Taiwan, trying to end the One China policy by making it forceful.” Biden said, “[h]e gets it. Culturally, there are different norms that each country and they — their leaders — are expected to follow.”
The Uyghur genocide, despite being arguably the world’s most severe, ongoing human rights violation in the world, has not been a prominent issue at the United Nations, where China has spent years buying influence through predatory loans and positioning allies in top posts. The Chinese communist regime, which has yet to take the podium at the General Assembly, has invested in countering the reporting of facts about the genocide with state propaganda that the U.N. offers a platform to. On Thursday, the World Uyghur Congress, an organization that advocates for the Uyghur diaspora, highlighted a Chinese regime event at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, in which East Turkistan residents insisted that the region was peaceful and free. China is a member of the Human Rights Council.
Today, China organised a side-event on “promoting and protecting human rights” in East Turkistan, and brought three #Uyghurs to defend their policies targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic people under the guise of social & economic development.
This narrative must be challenged. pic.twitter.com/k7oGIx406a
— World Uyghur Congress (@UyghurCongress) September 22, 2022
The East Turkistan Government in Exile also expressed particular disgust with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of the most populous and prominent Turkic state in the world. Erdogan referred to abuses against Uyghurs in China as “genocide” in 2009, but has all but ceased discussing the topic after signing lucrative trade deals with Beijing.
“We strongly condemn Turkish President Erdogan’s damaging statement at the U.N. General Assembly,” Vice President Abdulahat Nur said in a statement. “East Turkistan is an Occupied Country; restoring East Turkistan’s rightful independence is the only way to ensure the existence, fundamental rights, and freedoms of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples.”
Erdogan said in his remarks to the General Assembly that he was “sensitive to the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of Muslim Uyghur Turks, without harming China’s territorial integrity, understanding of one China and sovereignty rights.”