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Increasing Uyghur activism abroad against abuses in Xinjiang

The South China Morning Post says: “Emboldened by international scrutiny, the American Uyghur diaspora is increasingly willing to publicly condemn China’s re-education programmes, despite the risk to loved ones in Xinjiang.”

Owen Churchill interviews a wide range of Uyghur exiles and activists in the U.S., including Tahir Hamut, the poet who fled Xinjiang a year ago and gave testimony about the intensifying repression of Uyghurs to the Wall Street Journal.That December 2017 report — “Twelve days in Xinjiang: How China’s surveillance state overwhelms daily life” — was one of the first to document the startling extent of the government’s social engineering program to subjugate the Uyghur population and other Muslims in China’s far west.Hamut tells the SCMP that he and his wife were “torn” about the decision to speak to media, but eventually decided that it was now or never, saying that “after a while, the things that we know about will gradually become old news. No one will be interested. The media won’t approach us.”Hamut says his younger brother was detained in Xinjiang soon after the Journal published its report. “My wife and I decided that we would pass all our relatives in Xinjiang into the hands of God,” he adds.Hamut is realistic about his expectations: “Attention on the re-education centers in Xinjiang is very high now… But China is an autocracy. It has never changed policies due to pressure from the outside, Western world.”

Uyghur exiles in the U.S. are joined by increasing numbers of Muslims elsewhere in the world in speaking out about Xinjiang.

Most notably, Anwar Ibrahim, soon to become the next premier of Malaysia, has become the first leader in a Muslim-majority country to directly raise the issue of treatment of Muslims in China — Bloomberg reports (paywall) that he “called for formal talks on China’s crackdown against its Muslim minority.”“They’re scared. Nobody wants to say anything,” Anwar said bluntly, when asked why other governments in Muslim-majority countries have stayed silent.Rais Hussin, the head of the Policy and Strategy Bureau for a nationalist party in Malaysia’s ruling coalitionargues on Malaysiakini against the repatriation of Uyghurs to China: “Malaysia does not have to accept any Uyghur separatist calls by Uyghurs or Muslims. Malaysia does not want China to break up into ramparts. But the failure to protect innocent Muslims from a fate of certain death, or torture, when they are repatriated back to China, speaks volumes of the indifference to the plight of these Muslims.”Muslim groups have protested in Australia and Bangladesh recently, as we noted yesterday.

—Lucas Niewenhuis


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