Dolkun Isa was a university student in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region when he first stood up to China in the late 1980s protesting against the repressive rule of the Communist regime in his homeland. He drew the Chinese government’s ire and finally had to flee to Germany in 1994. He is now the president of the World Uighur Congress, which leads Uighurs’ global campaign against China’s rule over what was known as East Turkistan before the invasion by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in October 1949. Amid China’s latest military aggression along its disputed boundary with India not very far from his homeland, Dolkun Isa tells Anirban Bhaumik of the DH that New Delhi must drop its policy of appeasing Beijing and join the world to call out Xi Jinping's regime for its atrocities on Uighurs, Tibetans and Hong Kongers as well as for its expansionist aspirations. Excerpts:
Q. How do you view China’s recent aggression along its disputed boundary with India?
A. This is just the latest in a series of aggressive and irresponsible actions by the Chinese government. While committing serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity against Uighurs and others, China has become increasingly assertive abroad. It is depriving Hong Kong of its rights and autonomy, making regular threats against Taiwan, trying to falsely claim the South China Sea and bullying its neighbours, imposing economic punishments on Australia for asking for an investigation into the Covid-19 pandemic, building dams on the Mekong River while its neighbours downstream suffer from drought, exporting repressive security and surveillance technology and undermining human rights and common values in the United Nations. China’s aggressive and expansionist behaviour is following a disturbing pattern and is a threat to international peace and security. Its aggressive actions are linked to its sense of insecurity. The Uighurs and the Tibetans have no space in Xi Jinping’s Han-centric vision because they have unique history, cultures, languages, religious traditions and historically-defined homelands. He wants absolute and complete control and this is what is at the core of both his domestic and foreign policies.
Q. China lodged protest when India issued you a visa in 2016. The visa was eventually cancelled. Do you think India should review its approach to China?
A. The policy of appeasement does not work when it comes to dealing with China. India should immediately hold China accountable for its crimes against humanity. India should call upon China to respect the rights of the Uighurs and to close down the internment camps it set up in Xinjiang. We have been calling on the Government of India to speak up against violation of human rights in Xinjiang and detentions of thousands of Uighurs. But New Delhi has so far remained silent. The government of no other nation should have friendly relation with Xi Jinping’s regime which is detaining millions of people only because they have district ethnic and religious identity. To pretend that normal relations can be conducted with such a regime is unethical and naive.
Q. Why do you think China stepped up its aggression in the Covid-19 era?
A. China’s current actions are the result of its hyper-nationalist propaganda and to placate its own citizens by projecting strength internationally. When feeling weak, the Communist Party of China (CPC) postures and threatens. With the pandemic, the trade war and international attention to the CPC atrocities against Uighurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and others, the CPC is under a lot of pressure, internationally and domestically.
Q. How should the international community respond to what China is doing?
A. The international community must take national and international measures to hold China accountable for its crimes against humanity and aggressive and expansionist policies. The international community must come to understand that China’s actions threaten international peace and stability. China’s growing influence must be countered in the United Nations and China must be made to honour its promise to give the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights unfettered access to investigate crimes against humanity in East Turkistan. The Chinese government must know that the world will not tolerate its abuses of power. The governments of other nations should impose targeted sanctions on Chinese government officials responsible for gross human rights violations, along with visa ban and asset freezes. Targeted national legislation, such as the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act of the United States, should be passed in parliaments around the world.
Q. What is the latest situation in Xinjiang, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis?
A. The confusion and chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic allowed the CPC to divert attention from its crimes against humanity. As the pandemic began, the Chinese government forced Uighurs (in Xinjiang) to stay home but provided them with no food or basic supplies, resulting in hunger and food shortages. There has been no transparency about the potential spread of the virus in the internment camps, where the Chinese government detained thousands of Uighurs – a vulnerable, captive population that would have been ravaged by the virus. A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute revealed that the CPC had transferred at least 80,000 Uighurs, including many from the internment camps, to forced labour facilities around China, where they had been forced to make products, often for western brands. We urge India and Indian companies to investigate supply chains in China to ensure that they are not complicit in China’s use of modern slavery and crimes against humanity.