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How racist nationalists hijacked Hong Kong’s solidarity rally with Uyghurs

Solidarity with Uyghurs must not be weaponized by Hong Kong’s pro-independence, right-wing localists.

The author would like to thank Sophia Chan, Darren Byler, Musafir, Wilfred Chan, JN Chien, JP, Yukiko Kobayashi Lui, Listen Chen, JS, and Vincent Wong for their generative feedback and assistance with the publishing process.

Last December, I attended the “Human Rights Rally of Solidarity With Uyghurs” in Hong Kong’s Central District, organized by Students of Power (學生歷量), a group of high school students. This was a significant acknowledgement by Hongkongers of the oppression of Uyghurs and other Muslims such as the Hui, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz communities by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in its northwest territory of Xinjiang.[1]

As I would discover, however, what should have been a rally to build much-needed solidarity was instead hijacked by racist nationalists who used it to proselytize their hateful ideology, one which both endangers oppressed communities and poisons Hong Kong’s movement with a destructive politics of division.

The movement’s insistence on unity has often sheltered the far-right from challenges as it marshalled nativist sentiments for its reactionary project. 

Decades of PRC-led expropriation, displacement, exploitation, and ethnic cleansing of Muslim communities in Xinjiang — including, in recent years, their mass detention in concentration camps under the direction of President Xi Jinping — has come under increasing international scrutiny. Recently, a leak of over 400 internal government documents exposed shocking details of how Xi’s directive to “show absolutely no mercy” in a “people’s war” against the “virus” of Islamic extremism in the region is being brutally implemented through these concentration camps, along with unprecedented controls and surveillance on those who remain outside. Western powers have responded with feeble and opportunistic condemnations. 

Hong Kong’s solidarity rally came as bottlenecks have increasingly frustrated Hong Kong’s uprising. With over 7,000 protesters arrested, direct actions and clashes with police have mostly abated. Meanwhile, the massive campaigns to lobby Western governments have not turned the tide as many protesters had hoped. Recognizing this moment of crisis and possibility, some on the Hong Kong left have urged a reorientation of the movement toward a more broad-based revolution linked with the struggles of marginalized groups, while the localist far right has refortified its conception of an insular and exclusionary Hong Kong. In this battle over the movement’s ideological trajectory, the stakes are dire. See Also

Against this context, it seemed that the student organizers of the rally sought to avoid both the appearance and act of promoting any particular political agenda by inviting speakers from across Hong Kong’s political spectrum, from Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) to Hong Kong independence personality Paladin Cheng (鄭俠). Yet the movement’s insistence on unity has often sheltered the far-right from challenges as it marshalled nativist sentiments for its reactionary project. 

In this case, the organizers’ attempt to give equal platform to a broad range of political positions enabled a vocal minority of racist nationalists to hijack the rally. The audience was primed for their propaganda by other speakers who, despite their differences in politics and rhetoric, invariably drew facile comparisons between the struggles of Uyghurs and Hongkongers to deliver an alarmist message that reduces Uyghurs to a political scarecrow, summed up by the slogan emblazoned on the backdrop of the rally stage: “Xinjiang today, Hong Kong tomorrow.” 

A student speaker fallaciously compared the settler-colonial practice of state-sponsored Han Chinese migration into Xinjiang with Hong Kong’s policy allowing up to 150 mainland relatives of Hongkongers to gain Hong Kong residency per day, warning that current Hongkongers could become a minority as a result. But unlike Han Chinese settlers in Xinjiang, newer migrants from the mainland in Hong Kong are predominantly rural women married to Hong Kong men, and among Hong Kong’s most economically marginalized — not to mention the obvious fact that most Hongkongers today are themselves mainland migrants or their descendants. 

Before we can join our revolution to the struggles of others, we must first undertake “a revolution of ourselves.”

The far-right’s hijacking of the rally culminated with the speech of Andy Chan Ho-tin (陳浩天), founder of the outlawed pro-independence Hong Kong National Party. Chan denounced the Chinese nation as a contradictory concept enabling the violent assimilation of non-Han “nations” like the Uyghurs. In the same breath, Chan advanced the equally contradictory concept of a Hong Kong nation, armed with the same fabricated hierarchies of genetic and racial difference routinely deployed by the PRC government to oppress and assimilate Muslim communities. 

Chan asserted that just like Uyghurs, Hongkongers constitute a nation separate from China because of supposedly essential differences in language, culture, lifestyle, values, and even genetics. “To put it in more racist terms,” he said with brazen conviction, “we even look different from them,” adding that Hongkongers, unlike Mainlanders, have “freedom” in their genes because they are descendants of refugees who fled from mainland China.

Having presented these artificial parallels between Hongkongers and Uyghurs as evidence that both groups constitute distinct nations on racial terms, Chan urged Hongkongers to rebrand their struggle as an “anti-colonial” movement for independence from Chinese rule—an extreme perversion of the history of anti-colonialism as a movement against racial, religious, ethnic, and other social divisions that facilitate colonial domination.

Chan’s speech ended with the most enthusiastic applause received by any speaker. As chants of “Hong Kong independence—the only way out!” started to drown out chants of “stand with Uyghurs,” I realized with horror that a rally ostensibly in solidarity with oppressed Uyghurs had been hijacked into becoming a propaganda event to promote a Hong Kong nation built on racial exclusion—possible first steps toward fascism.

Despite their links, the presumption that Hongkongers and Uyghurs share identical stakes in their struggles is misguided and harmful to those we are supposedly in solidarity with. It is, of course, important for us to help each other — for example, in resisting technologies of repression employed by the PRC in both regions. However, these experiences can only be effectively shared and utilized through relationships of genuine solidarity built on a mutual respect for the differences that divide us and, indeed, are produced by us.See Also

As descendants of Han migrants from the mainland, Hongkongers play an indirect role in upholding the Han chauvinism that threatens Muslim communities in Xinjiang. Hongkongers must also not overlook the context of global Islamophobia, which is very much alive in Hong Kong. South Asian and Muslim Hongkongers have long endured racism and Islamophobia from their Han counterparts, including protesters. Before we can join our revolution to the struggles of others, we must first undertake “a revolution of ourselves.”

But as with too much in this movement, any chance to think critically about the Uyghur solidarity rally and its ideological content was quickly overshadowed by chaotic scenes of police violence that brought the event to an abrupt and premature end. This only makes our reflection more necessary. 

Hong Kong’s movement must overcome its instrumentalist and insular tendencies to clearly articulate the future it is fighting for—and what it is not. It must ask: who is our movement excluding when it always insists on unity, even with racist nationalists? How can we fight Chinese nationalism without resorting to a far-right Hong Kong nationalism? 

A more powerful alternative is to recognize the hegemony of state and capital as the real enemy, and the basis for our allyship with oppressed people everywhere—including people in mainland China. We can stand with oppressed minorities in Xinjiang by learning about their politics and history, sharing resources, and challenging Islamophobic and racist institutions in Hong Kong — instead of making these reductive and ultimately opportunistic shows of solidarity. To paraphrase a common admonition between Hong Kong protesters: we must not treat as condoms those we recognize as our comrades.[2]

Footnotes

[1] Xin Jiang (新疆) literally translates to “new frontier” in Chinese, though many people of the region prefer the name East Turkistan or Occupied Dzungarstan-Altishahr.

[2] This Cantonese catchphrase generally refers to the treatment of others as disposable, like condoms. The metaphor gained popularity among Hong Kong protesters as a warning not to treat fellow protesters (especially frontliners) as disposable, emphasizing the indispensability of each individual to the whole movement.

This article was first published by the collective Lausan on March 12, 2020. Lausan shares thinking on decolonial left perspective from Hong Kong. This article is reprinted here with permission.

Scenes from the Disappearance of Perhat Tursun, a Preeminent Modernist Uyghur Author

Perhat Tursun smoking his trademark Xuelian cigarettes in his home in Ürümchi in 2015. Image by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian.

Perhat was disappeared at the height of his powers by the Chinese state, a victim of the government’s re-education campaign in Xinjiang.

Perhat Tursun is a slight man with a receding hairline. To look at him, you wouldn’t know that he is one of the most influential contemporary Uyghur authors in the world. When I met him for the first time at a reception for a Uyghur-language publishing house in February 2015, his importance was clear from the way other Uyghurs looked at him as he moved through the crowd. He cut a wide swath. After we chatted for a bit at the reception, he said he was really bored. He hated formal gatherings and performing for strangers. He left immediately after the ceremony was finished, glad-handing and mumbling under his breath as he shuffled through the banquet hall. Many people stopped to shake his hand as we walked together to his house.

His house was on the 26th floor of a new apartment building owned by the Uyghur grocery franchise Arman. Many Uyghur celebrities lived in the building. While we were waiting for the elevator, we nodded at Qeyum Muhemmet, the TV actor who was later sent to a reeducation camp along with more than 400 other public figures in 2017. Perhat’s house smelled more of  cigarette smoke than most Uyghur homes. He had some abstract paintings in yellow painted by the celebrated Uyghur artist Dilmurad Abdukadir, which seemed to reflect the complexity of Uyghur traditional urban architecture. Otherwise, his living room was filled with carpets and a coffee table covered with dried fruit.

We talked about his novel The Big City, which I was in the process of translating with a Uyghur friend. We talked about the way the fog of the city acted as an ambient character in the beginning of the novel, but as we moved through the narrative, how the smell of the city and the cold of the air became dominant characters. He said the story was based on his experiences in Beijing as a college student and in Ürümchi as a bureaucrat. In Beijing, five of his Uyghur classmates had mental breakdowns because of the pressures that confronted them there.

He said he himself had not been mentally stable at times. The experience of seeing this happen to his classmates had a big impact on him. It made him want to explain the way displacement is related to mental illness. “I was really influenced by Camus’s book The Plague,” he said. “I read and reread it. When I come back to it, I always feel as though every line says something important.”

Perhat gestured a lot as he talked. When he laughed, his smile looked like it was going to break his face in half. He seemed very honest, with everything appearing on the surface. He listened intently when I spoke, a blank stare mixed with a burning alertness. He seemed like a man starving for life.

Nearly two years ago, on January 30, 2018, I received confirmation that Perhat Tursun had been disappeared. Last week the news filtered out that he has reportedly been given a 16-year prison sentence.

A recent investigation using nightlight luminosity and satellite imagery has shown that over the past several months a number of reeducation camps have closed while activity in other camps has substantially expanded. The transfer of detainees into factories in both Xinjiang and other parts of the country explains some of this development. But growing evidence suggests that many former camp detainees are also being dispersed into the formal prison system.

Last month, I interviewed half a dozen former detainees and their relatives in Kazakhstan for part of a book I am writing about the role of technology in the reeducation system. Over and over people told me that those they met in the camp, or their relatives, had been given long prison sentences after long periods of reeducation.

Researcher Gene Bunin has been hearing similar things. In an important essay published in October, he writes:

As suggested by the government’s own statistics, some limited reporting, and the new evidence presented by victims’ relatives and former detainees in neighboring Kazakhstan, an incredible number of those detained in 2017 and 2018 are now being given lengthy sentences and transferred to major prisons.

It is likely that Perhat’s 16-year sentence is part of this process. He will be 67 years old when he is released. The world may never see the five unfinished novels he was working on. The global literary community may never recognize him as one of the world’s greatest living novelists. He is out of place in this time of reeducation. He was disappeared at the height of his powers. What remains for now are snatches of his work, most of it yet to be published, and scenes from the world he created.

Perhat’s disappearance is symptomatic of a greater violence. As one of our mutual Uyghur friends, a literary critic and translator whom I will call Mustafa, told me in an interview in 2015 (just as the reeducation camp system was being built), “People like Perhat miss the 1980s when no one was willing to listen to someone else’s truth. Everyone seemed to think for themselves back then, and no one seemed to be bothered by difference. Now difference is seen as a weakness.”

Continuing, Mustafa said:

“People don’t recognize how bleak the situation is here now because we don’t have dramatic statistics of how many people have died or disappeared. The situation is more complex than this. The way it works is by breaking people’s spirit and weakening their sense of self. Suddenly the values that they grew up with seem as though they can be replaced by authoritarian Chinese or Islamic values. People are becoming empty shells of what they were before. In prison people are taught to think like police. The prisoners are partnered up and chained together. They have to take a shit together. If one of them fucks up, the other one will be blamed. It is a kind of living hell. Although the living conditions themselves are not as bad as they used to be, the psychological torture is more and more sophisticated. Now they try to break your will to live and desire.

“One time my friends in prison after 2009 asked if they could watch Uyghur song and dance videos and the guard said yes. So 30 or so prisoners gathered in one cell and watched the videos. After a few hours, they were happy and were ready to return to their cells, but then the warden said, ‘No, you asked to watch films, so please keep watching.’ So they watched the videos for 24 hours. Then they asked again if they could leave, because now they were becoming very uncomfortable, but the warden said, ‘No, you asked for this, please keep watching.’ In the end, they watched the videos for 72 hours. The room was full of shit and piss and 30 men, finally they said they would never ask to watch films again and he let them go back to their cells. Fortunately, these men are very tough. They maintained their focus and didn’t let themselves become deranged.

“Now the government is trying to use education as a tool of assimilating people. But just look at the U.S. In the U.S., Native Americans were forced to forget their languages, forced by the economic system to integrate into mainstream society, but still they maintained their own cultural difference. They wouldn’t be assimilated. It will be the same for Uyghurs. All minorities are this way, particularly those that can’t pass as the majority. If you are a minority, you will always be a minority. That position cannot be forgotten.

“Perhat is a very interesting guy. His novel The Art of Suicide was actually put on the list of 100 greatest works of Uyghur culture. But when he heard about this, he was furious. He wrote the Cultural Bureau a letter and demanded that his work be taken off the list. He said he didn’t want that sort of recognition. He didn’t want his work to be listed beside all the other propaganda bullshit. Also, he said that his greatest work had not yet been written. He wrote that book when he was 24 and it was just an exercise for him to learn how to write. It should not be taken seriously, he said. He said he didn’t want to be famous or popular. He wanted to be a shadowy, marginal figure.”

Sometime in 2017, Mustafa disappeared into the camps, too. In 2018, I found a DVD set of his lectures for sale in a private bookstore in Ürümchi. That was the last time I saw Mustafa’s face. Like Perhat, he has become one of those prisoners who has to ask permission to take a shit. One by one, the intellectuals who made Perhat cackle with uninhibited laughter began to disappear.

In March 2015, Perhat invited me to his house again. His wife made us hand-pulled noodles. We ate and talked for eight hours. Along the way we drank two bottles of Johnny Walker Red. The drunker he got, the longer his stories became. During one of his rants, he told me:

“Milan Kundera (Czech writer) is also writing about human experience, but because of his circumstances his fiction gets read as somehow political. Actually, it doesn’t start from politics, it just gets pulled into it. Human relationships are the center; they just get blocked by politics. The same is true for most writers if they are really honest. When I was in Beijing, I took a class with the poet Zhāng Zǎo 张枣. I remember the first time I met him. I told him I liked his work and that I write Uyghur poetry. He said, ‘Oh, you’re Uyghur, what is your name?’ I told him Pa-er-ha-ti. And he said, ‘No, what is your Uyghur name?’ That was the first time a Chinese teacher had ever done something like that. Most of the time they would just say, Oh wow you have such a strange name, or something like that, but this guy was different. That was already really good, but what he said next really got me. He said that he had just been to Tibet and he had discovered that Buddhism was not a religion but a philosophy. He said that he really admired the Dalai Lama. Ever since that first meeting we were close. Zhang Zao has since passed away (in 2010).”

Perhat’s office was filled with hundreds of books. He had the works of all of the contemporary Han poets, translations of even the most obscure Nabokov novels. Some of his books were in English, which he read with great determination and focus. He said that when he lived in Beijing in the 1990s he became obsessed with going to international bookstores and buying everything he could find. He said:

“I learned a lot from Western philosophy and literature. Particularly Faulkner and Schopenhauer. In high school I had read a Uyghur translation of Marxist philosophy on dialectical materialism. In that book they talked about how Plato, Hegel, and Schopenhauer were terrible ideologues. This idea really intrigued me. But I thought that because of the way the Marxist book presented them, that there would not be any metaphysical writing available in China. But when I got to Beijing in the mid-’80s, someone told me that these kinds of philosophical works were available in Chinese. I immediately started studying Chinese so that I could read Schopenhauer. I read The World as Will and Representation in Chinese. It made me feel as though Chinese was the language of Schopenhauer.”

He paused to dwell on this image, his laughter making his words come out like a stutter.

“That is really…funny…to think about now. After that I read Faulkner, then Camus and Kafka. Eventually I read Freud and Jung and all the other psychological thinkers too. What I am trying to write about is human experience. I am interested in every form of human thought. I read the scriptures of every faith. I think religion is beautiful. It is like poetry. I believe there is no final truth. And I believe that mental illness has always existed. Mostly it exists in forms of normality. Actually, people that don’t fit in with the norms are people who are the least mentally ill. People who see themselves as normal are actually much crazier. I like to write about abnormal individuals at a particular place and time in order to show how abnormal mainstream society really is. I use psychology and literature in my own way in order to diagnose the diseases of normality.”

Perhat’s focus on mental illness, suicide, and alienation — and his determination to write about obscenity and sexuality in Uyghur — often made him the target of criticism from more mainstream Uyghur writers. It made it difficult to publish his work.

The last time we met, Perhat gave me a box of green tea to thank me for translating his work. He asked how we could stay in touch. I told him that we could still connect over WeChat or email. I continued to work on The Big City, preparing it in a collection of Uyghur urban fiction that has yet to be published.

At the center of the novel, he wrote that the shape of human life is disappearance. When the protagonist encounters Chinese society for the first time as a college student, he “began to realize that the fog was similar to the shadows.” Continuing, Perhat writes in the novel:

I was realizing that, just as the exact shape of the darkness is shadows, the exact shape of fog is disappearance. The exact shape of humans is also disappearance. At this moment I felt as though my body was transforming into the final stage of the human form.

After I came to this city, I felt as though the threat of getting lost and the desire to lose myself were strangely becoming one inside me. Although everything in the distant and powerful big city where I spent my five years in college felt strange to me; and even though the tall buildings, wide roads, and the ditches and canals were built according to one standard and shape so that it wasn’t easy to differentiate one from another, I never had the feeling of being lost. Every person in that city felt like one person. All of them were folded into each other. Their faces, voices and looks were tied firmly to each other like the jumbled-up hair of a shaman.

The men and women seemed to be identical. You could only tell them apart by stripping off their clothes and taking a look. The faces of men were beardless like women and their skin was very delicate and unadorned. I was always surprised by how they could tell each other apart. Later I realized that it wasn’t just me. Many other people felt the same way. Often we went to watch the only TV on campus in the corridor of a building where the old cadres stayed when they came to improve their knowledge. The Uyghurs who came to improve their knowledge always argued about whether or not a person who had done something unusual earlier in the TV show was the same person that they saw now. They would argue about this from the beginning to the end of the show. Other people, who couldn’t stand this sort of endless arguing, would leave the TV to us and take off.

At first when the classes began, we couldn’t tell the difference between the teachers. Gradually we were able to tell men and women apart and eventually we could even tell our teachers apart. But the other people in the city always stayed identical for us. Later, the most surprising thing to me was that the people in the city could never differentiate us from each other either. One time a couple of police came looking for some people who had broken windows during a fight at a restaurant and had then run away. They ordered us to stand in a line and asked the restaurant owner to look at us and identify who the culprit was. He couldn’t tell who it was even though he looked at us very carefully. He said we all looked so much like each other and that it was impossible to tell us apart. He sighed heavily and left.

In 2017, Chinese state authorities began to line up Uyghurs to decide which ones were safe, normal, or unsafe. In many cases, they seemed not to be able to tell Uyghurs apart from each other. They collapsed them into each other, deciding over a million were pre-criminals and deserving of detention.

The news of Perhat’s disappearance leaked out in coded messages. A mutual acquaintance told Tahir Hamut, one of Perhat’s closest friends, that Perhat had been “hospitalized.” Tahir, a prominent poet, filmmaker, and literary critic who found a way to come to the United States in 2017, told me:

“When I heard this, that he had been ‘hospitalized,’ I had a really ominous feeling. I felt very sad. I tried to give myself some comfort by thinking that this may be temporary, that Perhat might be released after a while because I couldn’t think of any reason why the authorities would detain and punish him. But I was also very worried because I knew the situation was quite serious at that time and anything could happen. I still remember the anxious insomnia I felt that night.

“I met Perhat for the first time in February, 1988. The first time I met him, I found him to be very melancholy, pessimistic, and restless. But still he was very warm toward me and other students, who were three years behind him. He suggested that we read more Western literature. This was the first time I heard about modernist literature, Freud, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and so on. That is how it began. The last time I saw him was around July 10, 2017. No one really knows what has happened to him since.”

For many of us who are close to Perhat, it has been difficult to sleep at night since he was taken. We hope he is using his restless creativity to draft new novels in his mind. It is the melancholic, pessimistic side of him that worries us the most, the side that made mental illness and suicide a daily topic of conversation. We worry that he may not be able to survive, that he may come to the conclusion that the world is not good enough for Perhat Tursun.

Although Perhat has been taken away from us, his work will always remain. Next year, one of Perhat’s most revered pieces of short fiction, called “Plato’s Shovel,” will appear in a Palgrave anthology of Central Asian fiction in translation. As Tahir put it in a recent conversation, this deeply philosophical piece of narrative fiction distills Perhat’s thoughts. “It shows his basic attitudes and views toward life.” Somewhere in the future, more of Perhat’s work will appear in translation. The Big City, one of his masterworks, will be given a seat at the table of world literature. Until then, one of his most moving poems, “Elegy,” is already in English circulation. A middle stanza in that poem rhymes with Perhat’s own disappearance:

After three hundred years they awaken and do not know each other, their own greatness long forgotten,
I happily drank down poison, thinking it fine wine
When they search the streets and cannot find my vanished figure
Do you know that I am with you.


This article first appeared in the journal SupChina on February 5, 2020.

“I thought it would be convenient to use my brother’s computer to check my email”

Shafkat Abasi before his extra-legal detention in 2017.

In February 2017 Jaudat Abasi, a Tatar man who now lives in Europe, travelled to his former hometown Ürümchi, the capital of China´s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, to visit his mother who was hospitalized after a surgery. He was stunned to see the city dramatically transformed with thousands of armed police and checkpoints. Before he left a few weeks later, his brother Shafkat Abasi was detained. Almost three years on, Shafkat is still imprisoned, and the family recently learned that he received a 10 years sentence.    

Jaudat has lived abroad since 2005, but has regularly traveled back to Xinjiang for business, visiting friends and relatives.  As the years went by, he noticed the situation in the region gradually deteriorating with heavy surveillance and restrictions on local ethnic culture and religion.  

It began to remind him of the Cultural Revolution when he and his brother were born. But there was an important difference. He said, “At that time many people were imprisoned as well. The difference this time is that all the ethnic minorities are targeted.”   

His younger brother Shafkat stayed in Ürümchi with his wife and three children – a daughter who is now 13, and twin sons who are 8 years old. Shafkat studied traditional Uyghur medicine at the Xinjiang Uyghur Medicine College in Hotan, and in 2010 he opened his own clinic close to the Grand Bazaar in the heart of the Uyghur district in Ürümchi. 

Jaudat said, “My brother also had a small factory where he produced herbal medicine. He gave lessons on traditional Uyghur medicine, and advised listeners on a health show run by the Ürümchi radio station. He treated various conditions including skin diseases. This is how he lived his life.”    

When he was in Ürümchi visiting his parents in 2017, Jaudat Abasi also went to see his brother Shafkat. “Since I was only staying in China for a few weeks, I thought it would be convenient to use my brother’s computer to check my email, and I also visited some foreign websites,” he remembered. “A couple of days later my brother told me that he had been confronted by the police asking questions about why foreign websites were accessed from his computer.”    

On March 13th 2017, the day before Jaudat Abasi was leaving for Russia, his brother Shafkat´s wife and children came to his parents house. They told him that Shafkat had been taken to the police station.  

“I immediately blamed myself. I thought it must be because of me using his computer,” Jaudat said. “Shafkat´s wife told me that he also had some books about religion and history that he kept in his clinic, and she suspected this to be another reason for his detention, as well as his connection to an elderly imam who was a patient of his.”   

Jaudat and his family were terrified. He said, “I was so nervous when I left China the next day. I was afraid that they would detain me as well. The police had come to my parent’s house asking for me, and they were very upset when they realized I wasn´t there anymore.”    Two months later in May 2017 Jaudat´s and Shafkat´s elder brother, who is also living abroad, travelled to Ürümchi to try to find out more information about Shafkat. The request was denied by the police. They told him that visiting Shafkat was not possible. After his visit Jaudat’s elder brother has since been denied visas to enter China again.   

As Jaudat puts it, “It is a human right to have contact with your family, but the Chinese government is denying us this.”  

Further attempts to gain information about Shafkat´s case were also met with silence by Chinese authorities. Then on November 2019, the family in Ürümchi suddenly received a phone call from the police. They were told that Shafkat Abasi was being held in a prison in Ürümchi, and that they were allowed a visit. On November 10 Shafkat Abasi´s ageing parents and his wife were allowed to see him for the first time in almost three years. The visit lasted for 15 minutes. They said he did not look well. His skin was pale, and he had lost a lot of weight. 

Jaudat said, “The police told my parents that if I delete my testimonies for my brother that I posted on Twitter and Youtube, they might release him. But I don´t believe them.” 

In March 2020, Jaudat’s family received the news that Shafkat had been given a 10 year prison sentence. They still don’t know what he has been charged with.

He said, “I hope that by raising our voices, we can rescue our innocent brothers and sisters who are suffering.”   

Xinjiang Action List

Image by Badiucao

People often ask me what they can do to engage the issues confronting the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Hui in Northwest China. Here is a list of action items for people who want to get evolved in the United States.

Contact Your Congress Members 

The Human Rights Policy Act is currently awaiting ratification by the Senate. This bill will leverage sanctions on companies and key leaders who have been implicated in the camp system, and mandate a detailed congressional report on the global supply chain that supports these atrocities.

Join Grassroots Movements

Boycott and divest from companies and investment funds that profit from Turkic Muslim suffering. As much as 84 percent of the cotton used in Chinese made garments is sourced in the Uyghur region of China.

  • For a report on the Fortune 500 companies that are connected to the Uyghur homeland follow this link.
  • For a report on the investment funds that profit from the security industrial complex that targets Uyghurs follow this link.
  • Retailers who have directly profited through the sale of cotton garments produced by Uyghur and Turkic Muslim coerced labor (including Adidas, Espirit, Gap, H&M, Kohls, Target among others).
  • Here and here are important reports related to Uyghur forced labor.

In 2018 the U.S. retailer Badger Sports agreed to pay $300,000 in reparations to the Uyghur community because of their complicity in camp-associated labor. See the report here.

Provide Financial Support 

Donate to support Turkic Muslim advocacy.

  • There are thousands of Uyghur women and children who have been separated from other members of their families as undocumented refugees in Turkey. Help support their material well-being and legal defense: https://www.shukrfoundation.org.au
  • The Uyghur Human Rights Project is the premier North America-based advocacy organization. Supporting them helps to build institutional support for Uyghurs around the world: http://www.uhrp.org
  • The Xinjiang Victims Database collects and archives the testimonies of camp survivors and the testimonies of the family and friends of the disappeared. So far over 5000 unique accounts have been collected. Supporting this work is vital to grassroots advocacy and conveying the deep trauma of mass detention and separation: https://shahit.biz/eng/
  • On the West Coast, another organization called the Uyghur Projects Foundation works to promote the strengthening of Uyghur Indigenous arts and traditions: https://uyghursfoundation.org/

Stay Up-to-Date

For more in-depth reading visit an ever-expanding archive of scholarly and journalistic reports from the region. Follow this link.