Activist highlights plight of Uyghurs ahead of Urumqi fire anniversary

Activist highlights plight of Uyghurs ahead of Urumqi fire anniversary
Activist highlights plight of Uyghurs ahead of Urumqi fire anniversary

Taipei, Nov. 21 (CNA) Visiting Uyghur-American activist Rushan Abbas called for a stronger international response to ongoing human rights violations in Xinjiang, ahead of the anniversary of a deadly fire in the provincial capital Urumqi.

At a press event in Taipei, Abbas claimed the Chinese government had woefully underreported the death toll from the Nov. 24, 2022 fire and that the figure was actually in the “triple digits.”

While China officially maintains that 10 people, all ethnic Uyghurs, died in the fire, this has been disputed by overseas activists citing information from social media.

Abbas has been touring Taiwan since Nov. 17 to screen “In Search of My Sister,” which the activist said documents her efforts to find and free her sister Gulshan, a retired doctor, who disappeared in September 2018.

In 2020, Abbas said that the Chinese government had sentenced his sister to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges following a secret trial.

According to Abbas, her sister’s imprisonment was likely in retaliation for her advocacy work leading Campaign for Uyghurs, which Beijing considers a terrorist organization.

At Tuesday’s press event, Abbas said the international response to continued Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang had been “fragmented,” adding that not enough had been done to ensure the “prevention of genocide.”

“It has also been more than a year since the publication of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on East Turkestan (Xinjiang), which confirmed and documented the Chinese Communist Party’s atrocities against the Uyghurs,” Abbas said.

According to Abbas, human rights violations documented by the United Nations include forced abortions, children being away, mass detention, torture taken and forced labor.

Abbas called for more to be done to keep Xinjiang on the international agenda, arguing that human rights abuses in the region had been “pushed to the side” by the Ukraine war and the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Meanwhile, Abbas suggested that Taiwan’s government expands scholarships and employment opportunities for exiled Uyghurs, many of whom speak Chinese.

“Give them an opportunity to study or work opportunities, so Taiwan can help with that and these people can [in turn] help Taiwan,” Abbas said.

Taiwan should also impose sanctions on the Chinese companies “who are complicit with Uyghur genocide,” Abbas added.

(By Chung Yu-chen)


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