World Uyghur Congress
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Ilham Tohti Wins Prestigious Human Rights Prize
Leading Uyghur intellectual Ilham Tohti was awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders at a ceremony in Geneva on October 11th. Professor Tohti was given a life sentence back in September 2014 on fabricated charges following a two-day trial. The award is chosen by a jury of ten of the world’s human rights NGOs, providing a great deal of institutional backing to Ilham Tohti’s efforts at fostering dialogue and harmony among peoples and the government in China.

Ilham Tohti served as a professor of economics at the Minzu University of China in Beijing where he specialized in research focusing on Uyghur-Chinese Relations, China’s ethnic policies and East Turkestan. Alongside his scholarship and teaching, Tohti was revered for establishing and maintaining Uyghur Online, a website dedicated to promoting Uyghur human rights and improved relations between Uyghur and Chinese people. Tohti was arrested in January 2014 and subsequently convicted in September to life in prison at the Urumqi People’s Intermediate Court after just a two day trial. Since his initial arrest, he has been denied food on a number of occasions, and visits by family members have been strictly limited.

Professor Tothi’s daughter, Jewher Ilham, attended the ceremony in Geneva and accepted the award on her father’s behalf, mentioning in her speech that, “It is a sad state of affairs that there are so many worthy nominees and candidates”. Also shortlisted for the award were, Razan Zaitouneh, a Syrian campaigner who went missing in Damascus in 2013, and a group of Ethiopian activists known as the Zone 9 bloggers.

Jewher Ilham also described that, “Human rights defenders plunge into areas of severe repression and misery to try and do something to alleviate the conditions, all the while knowing that the threat arrest, imprisonment or worse are always lurking in the background.” In 2014, Jewher Ilham also accepted the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award on behalf of her father prior to his sentencing.
WUC Holds Demonstration in Geneva to Protest Rights Abuses
The World Uyghur Congress along with the International Campaign for Tibet and the Tibetan Community in Switzerland and Liechtenstein held a demonstration march in Geneva, Switzerland on September 16th. The group was made up of around 2000 people who marched from Palais Wilson to the Broken Chair Monument across from the Palais des Nations to highlight ongoing human rights violations against the Uyghurs and the Tibetans in China.

World Uyghur Congress Secretary General, Dolkun Isa, in a statement told reporters that, “The demonstration comes amid tremendous pressure against the Uyghur community in East Turkestan in terms of religious freedom and freedom of movement. Uyghurs continue to be detained and sentenced simply for religious practice conducted in their own homes – religious practice outside state-sanctioned mosques is now considered illegal.”

Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet in Germany’s Kai Müller told reporters in an interview that, “The United Nations must be very-very clear vis-a-vis the Chinese Government in terms of the restrictions and the freedom of religion in particular. Countries must seek access to Tibet and also that United Nations Expert should have clear access to Tibet and the Chinese Government must allow this because it’s their duty.”

The primary purpose of the march and demonstration was reportedly to bring attention to ongoing human rights violations against Uyghurs and Tibetans, and more specifically, China’s efforts in Geneva to silence civil society from speaking out at international fora like the UN Human Rights Council.

The demonstration also targeted China’s continued and worsening restrictions on religious practice taking place in both Tibet and East Turkestan. Uyghurs have been sentenced to inordinately long jail terms simply for undertaking quotidian religious practices like basic prayer at home or fasting during the holy month of Ramadan – ostensibly protected by China’s own Constitution.

China Introduces New Law Targeting Religious Activities
In early September, China’s State Council released a draft set of new rules setting out measures aimed at eliminating "separatists" among Tibetans and Muslim Uyghurs. The rules, including a proposed 26 new laws drafted by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, were set to come into effect back on October 7th – after the public consultation – but there is little word yet of how the rules will play out in terms of efforts on the ground at restricting religious practice.

Some of the rules include outright bans on preaching, running any kind of religious event within a school, or providing religious services online. Radio Free Asia has also reported that some of the rules also prohibit groups and individuals from, “organizing citizens to attend religious training, conferences and activities overseas," and also calls on government agencies to "take precautions against separatism, terrorism and infiltration by foreign forces.” 

The new regulations will mean, according to Christian Today, “that no religious materials may be published without approval by SARA, no one may study theology without official permission, and no venues may be used for religious services unless a permit is granted.” 

The vague nature of the rules make it difficult to discern how they may come into force and to what effect, and considering the draconian nature of religious restrictions already in place, such developments are particularly concerning to the Uyghur community in East Turkestan. The rules are considered to be an effort to control religious practice at the most basic levels of society.
Ilham Tohti Nominated for EP’s Sakharov Prize
Prominent Uyghur intellectual Ilham Tohti, who has been imprisoned since September 2014, was nominated for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on September 15th. The nomination was made possible by the work of the Ilham Tohti Initiative and China Change who were able to gather 43 signatures from MEPs – led by MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk, a Bulgarian member of the ALDE group.

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization held a conference at European Parliament in May 2016 to launch Tohti’s candidacy and more recently held a final conference – inviting Tohti’s daughter, Jewher Ilham, as the keynote speaker – to cap off the work leading up the nomination process. Despite widespread support from the public as well as cross-party support from MEPs, Tohti was not announced as one of the three finalists for the award on October 11th.

Ilham Tohti served as a professor of economics at the Minzu University of China in Beijing where he specialized in research focusing on Uyghur-Chinese Relations, China’s ethnic policies and East Turkestan. Alongside his scholarship and teaching, Tohti was revered for establishing and maintaining Uyghur Online, a website dedicated to promoting Uyghur human rights and improved relations between Uyghur and Chinese people.

Tohti was arrested in January 2014 and subsequently convicted in September to life in prison at the Urumqi People’s Intermediate Court after just a two day trial. Since his initial arrest, he has been denied food on a number of occasions, and visits by family members have been strictly limited.
Upcoming Events
 
WUC to Celebrate Establishment of East Turkestan Republic
From November 12-13, the World Uyghur Congress will host a joint celebration to commemorate the establishment of East Turkestan Republic in 1933 and 1944 as well as the 70th birthday of WUC President, Rebiya Kadeer. The celebrations will begin on November 12th which will include cultural events at the World Uyghur Congress headquarters and will continue on November 13th followed by a reception dinner. Members of German Parliament as well as foreign representatives in Munich, along with representatives from various NGOs and other Uyghur activists from around the world.

WUC will attend Upcoming UN Minority Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva
The World Uyghur Congress will also send delegates to the 9th session of the Forum on Minority Issues taking place from November 24-25. The session will provide an opportunity for participation in a side event that focuses on minorities in situations of humanitarian crises in particular. The session will also allow for dialogue with other NGOs and NHRIs as well as a public general statement.
Recent Activities
 
WUC Stages Demonstrations in Munich Ahead of PRC National Day
On September 30th, the World Uyghur Congress gathered with 50-60 people across from the Chinese General Consulate in Munich to protest ongoing human rights violations in East Turkestan. The demonstration fell on the day before the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, October 1st, in which the Chinese government effectively claimed the region as its own 67 years prior.

WUC Holds Joint Demonstration in Geneva
The World Uyghur Congress along with the International Campaign for Tibet and the Tibetan Community in Switzerland and Liechtenstein held a demonstration march in Geneva, Switzerland on September 16th. The group was made up of around 2000 people who marched from Palais Wilson to the Broken Chair Monument across from the Palais des Nations to highlight ongoing human rights violations against the Uyghurs and the Tibetans in China. The primary purpose of the march and demonstration was to bring attention to ongoing human rights violations against Uyghurs and Tibetans, and more specifically, China’s efforts in Geneva to silence civil society from speaking out at international fora like the UN Human Rights Council.

WUC Delegates Attend 32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
WUC delegates traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council from 16-19 September. The session allowed Uyghur representatives to make an oral statement in front of the plenary session discussing general human rights situations that require the Council's attention. The session also allowed for meetings to take place between the WUC and other members of civil society and state missions to discuss the Uyghur situation at the Council.

Dolkun Isa Participates in UN Side Event
WUC Secretary General, Dolkun Isa, participated in a side event sponsored by the Society for Threatened Peoples during the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 19th. The event was entitled, “Human Rights in People’s Republic of China” and focused on religious repression in both Tibet and East Turkestan. Alongside the WUC Secretary General was the niece of late Tibetan religious leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche – who died in Chinese prison under mysterious circumstances on  July 12th, 2015.

WUC President and Vice-President Travel to Spain for Meetings
From September 26th to October 4th, WUC President, Rebiya Kadeer, and Vice-President, Omer Kanat, travelled to Spain – Catalonia in particular – to meet with a number of representatives of the Catalan government. The WUC leaders met with members representing the Foreign Ministry as well as other high ranking officials, along with members of civil society and activists in the region. The leaders traveled to at least ten cities to conduct meetings and speak with people from many different backgrounds.

WUC Works With Authorities Over Detention on Uyghur Religious Leader
Prior to the G20 Summit taking place in Hangzhou, China, a Uyghur religious leader, Abdulkadir Yapçan, was detained by Turkish police amid concerns that he was targeted through Chinese pressure. The World Uyghur Congress has been working with local authorities in Turkey to work for his release and have also issued a press release on the issue in the meantime. WUC President, during an interview with RFA mentioned that it was likely China who has been behind the initial detention.
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