This is the first time for Dolkun Isa, 55, in Brazil. And a pin on his coat with the flag of East Turkestan, a white crescent and a star on a blue background, indicates the reason for his visit.
The name refers to the area claimed as independent by the Uyghurs, the Muslim people, and which today corresponds to Xinjiang, an autonomous region in the far west of China which represents one of the most sensitive factors of the domestic and foreign policy of the communist regime. diet.
“We are Uyghurs. We have a long history. We have our own identity, our own country and our own religion. We have no connection with Chinese culture or language. All we are trying to do is protect our identity,” says Dolkun. Sheet.
For nearly three decades in Germany, where he was granted political asylum after being branded a terrorist by Beijing, he chaired the World Uyghur Congress, an organization which, along with other human rights groups (and countries like the United States), accuses China of genocide. against the Uighurs.
Beijing, in turn, claims the organization is a terrorist group that champions the division of Xinjiang and that the criticisms are baseless lies, according to a memo sent by the Chinese embassy.
Dolkun started a tour of South American countries, starting with Brazil. The objective is to try to dialogue with governments and parliamentarians to get the nations of the South out of inaction, which say little or nothing about the accusations of human rights violations in China. From So Paulo, he leaves for Argentina and Chile.
For the activist, the three countries have a moral obligation to speak openly about the Uyghurs. “Countries in Latin America have had very bad experiences with military dictatorships and political disappearances. We have thousands of Uyghurs missing. These governments have a moral obligation to speak out loud and clear, they cannot remain silent .”
Thus, the silence of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) on the human rights agenda in China, a country he recently visited and with which he concluded economic agreements, has caused frustration . “We’re disappointed, yes. It can’t be ignored in the name of business. It’s unacceptable,” Dolkun says.
“Maybe some leaders think that human rights problems exist everywhere. And that’s true, even in democracies. But what the Chinese government is doing is not that simple. It’s about ‘genocide.’
Brazil was one of the countries that abstained, for example, in a vote at the UN Human Rights Council last August to launch a series of debates on the situation of the Uyghurs. The motion to that effect was defeated.
Activists like Dolkun accuse the Chinese regime of holding more than a million Uyghurs in what Beijing calls re-education camps. There, in addition to arbitrary detention, they would be subjected to human rights violations such as torture and forced labour.
The Uyghur leader says the crackdown has hardened under Xi Jinping, who has been in power since the Chinese Communist Party since 2013 and the first to lead the Asian giant for three consecutive terms. “The policies of discrimination and assimilation are not new. But since Xi came to power, they have turned into the practice of genocide.”
Contacted by the report, the Chinese embassy sent a copy of the statements of Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for the Chinese chancellery, during a press conference on the 16th, at the request of the Global Times (a sort of spokesman word of the Communist Party) in response. . on Washington’s genocide charges.
“The charges lack factual basis and distort China’s ethnic and religious policies,” Wang Wenbin said at the time. “They are entirely driven by ideological biases.” He also said that “all ethnic groups in China have full rights to freedom of religious belief” and that “Xinjiang enjoys social stability, economic development and ethnic solidarity.”
Accusations against Beijing gained traction last year when, after intense pressure, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report stating that arrests of Uyghurs and other minorities could constitute crimes against humanity.
The material comes just months after the release of thousands of leaked documents from police stations in Xinjiang documenting the presence of Uyghurs in re-education camps, where Beijing claims to carry out a de-radicalization program targeting extremists.
Images of the material show religious discrimination against Muslims. Some register, for example, objects seized by the police as illegal: prayer mats, Islamic hijabs and handwritten verses from the Koran.
“It was an important step, of course, but not enough,” Dolkun says of the UN position. “Everything goes at a slow pace.”
The dilemma for Uyghur activists lies in the kind of “impasse” on the international scene to mount pressure against Xi Jinping.
China, after all, is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, which increases the hurdles for charges against the country to reach the International Criminal Court. On the other hand, it is one of the most influential diplomacies in the UN, with veto power in the Security Council and therefore political (and economic) capital to lobby against other states. .
Meanwhile, people like Dolkun are trying to increase pressure from civil society. A former physics student at Xinjiang University, he was expelled from the establishment by Beijing and forced to leave the country.
He also discovered that he had been put on the Interpol list for the acts he organized in his youth, an episode he recounts in the book “The China Freedom Trap”, released in August.
Living in Munich with his wife and children, he has not been in contact with the rest of his family for years. “My two brothers and my older sister are still in my native country. Since 2017, I lost contact. And I learned, from a friend, that my mother died in a re-education camp in 2018.”
According to Washington-funded Radio Free Asia, Dolkun’s two brothers are being held, with one facing life imprisonment.
In 2020, vehicles like the Global Times published a video with Dolkun’s sister and other family members accusing him of lying about Xinjiang. In the recording, it says that his mother and father died of age-related problems, not in the re-education camps.
Unable to speak to his family, Dolkun is sorry. And it also implies that relatives may have been forced to record the material. “The Chinese government is using the Uyghurs as a kind of testing lab to implement tactics of technological surveillance and cultural assimilation. Xinjiang is a testing ground.”
Beijing says there are around 12 million Uyghurs. For groups like the World Uyghur Congress, there are more than 20 million in Xinjiang and the diaspora, concentrated in countries like Turkey and Germany.
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