Victims of Chinese Genocide Urge Congress to Declare Uyghur Heartland an Occupied Country

House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party chairman Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

A coalition of 61 organizations representing Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz people, and others facing an ongoing genocide campaign by the Chinese Communist Party published a letter on Tuesday urging Congress to recognize their homeland, East Turkistan, as an “occupied country” enduring Chinese colonization.

It also urged other “meaningful actions” to help the victims of China’s ongoing genocide, including action before the International Criminal Court, appointing a special State Department official for East Turkistan, and rejecting Communist China’s Han name of “Xinjiang” for the region.

“We implore the U.S. Congress to take the lead in pushing a reluctant executive branch of the U.S. Government to take meaningful actions to truly end this prolonged humanitarian crisis,” the letter read in part, “by addressing the root cause of the ongoing genocide in East Turkistan: Chinese colonization and occupation of East Turkistan.”

The letter described China’s actions against indigenous East Turkistani people as “not only genocide and crimes against humanity, but are a direct, manifold challenge to American laws and interests.”

Communist China absorbed the sovereign state of East Turkistan and rebranded it as the “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” (XUAR) in 1949. Since then, the indigenous peoples of that region have faced violent discrimination by Beijing authorities that appeared to climax with the ascent of dictator Xi Jinping to the chairmanship of the Party.

Under Xi, the Chinese government began constructing hundreds of concentration camps throughout East Turkistan, used to house as many as 3 million people, and engaging in enslavement, forced sterilization, rape, indoctrination, and other torture against Uyghurs and other Turkic people. Outside of the camps, China has all but banned overt displays of the local majority religion, Islam, and flooded the streets of East Turkistan’s largest cities with high-tech surveillance technology, including cameras that can reportedly identify a Uyghur person based on their facial features.

China claims that its campaign against the indigenous people of “Xinjiang” – widely recognized as a genocide in the free world – is actually a government development projects to inject “economic vitality” into what was once as backward, forgotten part of the world. The “concentration camps” are “vocational and educational training” facilities and the forced sterilization of Turkic women a feminist effort “making them no longer baby-making machines,” according to Beijing.

The United States has vocally condemned the Uyghur genocide, independent of President Joe Biden’s comments excusing the genocide because “culturally there are different norms in each country.” Congress passed a law, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFPLA), that went into effect in 2022 to keep slave-made products away from American consumers. Other legislation to support the affected communities against the ongoing genocide is also in discussion.

The letter published on Tuesday is an effort led by the East Turkistan Government in Exile, which represents the diaspora from the region around the world. It contained several suggestions to member of Congress, including Congressional leadership, on how to best support the people of East Turkistan, including the recognition of the region as an occupied nation and support for legislation such as the Uyghur Policy Act, which would elevate the genocide as a priority for the State Department and federal government generally.

In addition to the East Turkistan Government in Exile, other signatories among the 61 include the East Turkistan National Movement, the European East Turkistan Education Center, Canada’s International Support for Uyghurs, and organizations based in Japan, Australia, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other nations.

“With deep appreciation, we acknowledge the United States Congress’s steadfast commitment to upholding the rights and freedoms of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic peoples in our homeland,” the signatories wrote. “However, the genocide persists relentlessly in 2024.”

To help end the genocide, the parties “ask the U.S. Congress to introduce and adopt a resolution recognizing East Turkistan, like Tibet, in accordance with U.S. policy of respecting the right to external self-determination.”

Tibet, like East Turkistan, has been under oppressive communist rule since the rise of Mao Zedong to power. In 1959, Congress recognized Tibet as a “captive nation” colonized by China. Congress is currently debating a bill, the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act, that would, among other issues, reject China’s claims that Tibetans are a historic Chinese people.

In response to growing awareness in the past three decades of the oppression of Tibetan people, the Communist Party has renamed Tibet. As the regime calls East Turkistan “Xinjiang,” it has given Tibet the Han name “Xizang” in its propaganda celebrating internment camps there and the systematic abduction of children from families into Mandarin-language “boarding schools.”

In addition to requesting the “occupied country” designation, the East Turkistan organizations also requested that the name of the Uyghur Policy Act also reflect the presence of ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other ethnicities in the region; that the State Department establish a dedicated position” for humanitarian issues in the region; and international legal action against China.

“We urge the U.S. Congress to support East Turkistan’s efforts to obtain justice and accountability by supporting East Turkistan’s complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC),” the letter read, “and (or) by referring China’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”

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