Opinion | China’s Uyghur campaign continues

China’s government insists it is a “law-based country.” But in reality, China is governed by a secretive party-state that uses the law as a tool for political repression. In the case of prominent Uyghur ethnographer Rahile Dawut, the “law” has become a cover for injustice. Six years after she was first detained, we learn that Ms. Rahile was sentenced to life in prison — a shocking punishment for one of the world’s leading exponents of Uyghur culture and traditions.

Ms. Rahile was tried in 2018 for “splittism,” or separatism, which China considers a threat to state security. She was convicted and filed an appeal, which was rejected, according to the Dui Hua Foundation, a group based in San Francisco that seeks freedom for Chinese political prisoners. The foundation said in a Sept. 21 statement that, after years of inquiries, it had learned of the life sentence from a reliable Chinese government source. Little is known about the secret trial or why such a draconian penalty was imposed.

But the sentence adds to the evidence that China’s rulers are executing a cultural genocide of the Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic minority, and others in the Xinjiang region, attempting to eradicate their language, culture and traditions and replace them with those of the Han Chinese majority. A human rights lawyer, Rayhan Asat, whose brother Ekpar Asat has been detained in Xinjiang since 2016, told Voice of America, “If you look at historical examples, when the state attempts to commit genocide, they tend to go after the brightest and the finest of the society, who would preserve their culture, who would preserve the collective dignity of the people.” The Uyghur Human Rights Project has found that a minimum of 312 Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz intellectual and cultural elites were detained or imprisoned as of late 2021, and probably many more. Also sentenced to a life term was Uyghur university professor Ilham Tohti. Uyghur journalists for Radio Free Asia have also been threatened.

Ms. Rahile, 57, is a leading scholar of Uyghur culture and folkways. She recalled in an interview with China Art News in 2011 that she had been exposed to vivid Uyghur folk stories, dances and literature when she was at Xinjiang University, which required students to immerse themselves in the rural lifestyle of southern Xinjiang region. Later she earned a doctorate in Beijing in folklore, and returned to Xinjiang University, the region’s premier school, and founded a folklore center there. She was often a guide to visiting foreign scholars and argued that folk art was not the stuff of museum displays but needed to be protected as a part of everyday life and learning. She lectured widely, according to the foundation, including at Harvard University, Cornell University and the University of British Columbia. She was a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, Washington University and Indiana University.

End of carousel

It was previously disclosed that plans for the Uyghur genocide began after an outdoor market attack in southern Xinjiang in May 2014 in which 31 people were killed and which China blamed on Uyghur separatists. Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed to wipe out religious extremism. In the ensuing years, China built high-security reeducation camps in which more than 1 million Uyghurs were incarcerated, pushed the Uyghur population into coerced labor and launched a campaign to suppress the birthrate of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. China at first denied the camps existed and later falsely claimed they were vocational education facilities. The United Nations last year found credible evidence of torture and other human rights abuses that were likely to be “crimes against humanity.”

China continues to deny any human rights problems in Xinjiang, saying the issues there are “countering violent terrorism, radicalization and separatism.” Mr. Xi visited Xinjiang in August, again demanding that local officials “effectively control illegal religious activities.”

The United States now has two laws responding to the Uyghur cultural genocide: the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, passed in 2020 and signed by President Donald Trump, and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act of 2021, signed by President Biden. They provide for penalties against human rights abusers and contain provisions to block imports made by Xinjiang forced labor, including polysilicon used in solar panels. For the sake of Ms. Rahile and millions of others who have suffered, these laws should be executed robustly, including imposing sanctions on Chinese officials carrying out the genocide and closing persistent loopholes in the imports from Xinjiang, such as in retail apparel.

Sign up to receive the best Underground art & real estate news in your inbox everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

This post was originally published on this site