The U.N. Human Rights Commissioner should insist on meeting Ilan Tohti, Miradil Hassan, and Abdurashid Hamit.
by Kok Bayraq
What is the main purpose of Bachelet’s investigation into the Uyghur situation when so many facts are already known, including through victims and witnesses to the situation, leaked documents on China’s genocidal policy, satellite imagines of mass detention camps, expert reports, and judgments from an independent tribunal?
Given that Bachelet until the time of this writing did not hold a press conference on the issue prior to the start of her visit to China, we cannot say for sure, but, we can make assumptions. To date, eight Western countries, three of which (USA, UK, France) are members of the U.N. Security Council, have recognized the Uyghur situation as genocide. This is a serious allegation, and if the Council would use a democratic voting system with a 3:2 vote, the action could be taken to China. At the very least, an ultimatum could reach Beijing to stop the genocide.
Therefore, while we can assume that she will investigate the Uyghur genocide, China is a one-party state—a closed society. Bachelet is well aware that with a 5-member panel and a 15-day visit, she will not be able to conduct a deep and sweeping investigation into such a serious human tragedy. She could, however, evaluate the issue based on the judgment of the Uyghur Tribunal, which has spent more than a year with more than a dozen independent judges, 30 experts, and 200 witnesses, as well as reports issued by international experts’ organizations before and after the tribunal. Thus, one may assume that Bachelet is not planning to collect new facts; she wants to reconfirm the accuracy of facts known, inter alia, through the Uyghur Tribunal.
The problem is determining which person or institution is qualified to confirm or verify the genocide. The Chinese government? Of course not; China is the suspected criminal, not a witness. All information and facts provided by China must be disregarded or questioned. It is against the true nature of this investigation to expect sincerity or accuracy from China on the subject of genocide.
Who should verify the facts of the Uyghur genocide? Only the victims—the Uyghur people—and their representatives have the ability to understand and express the situation accurately. Given that no democratic election has ever been held in the region, political prisoners can be seen as representatives of the Uyghurs and as a reliable source of information on the issue.
However, Chinese propaganda materials show well-known political prisoners Husenjan Jelil and Gulmira Imin expressing remorse regarding their “crimes.” Sattar Sawut and Shirzat Baudun wept on screen while expressing remorse for their “separatism.” Clearly, as has been reported many times, unbearable torture occurs in prisons in the Uyghur region. Not all political prisoners are able to convey the real situation, let alone ordinary Uyghurs in the street.
Therefore, Bachelet needs to meet with Uyghur political prisoners who have not yet lost hope in international justice and have maintained spiritual strength. I am an observer who has been monitoring the Uyghur situation at home and abroad for 40 years. I would recommend that Bachelet meet with the following highly prominent political prisoners:
1. Ilham Tohti is a well-known, respected intellectual among the Uyghurs, as well as an internationally recognized human rights activist. His knowledge, experience, and courage to speak the truth are without question, which is why China consistently rejects requests from international delegates and journalists to meet with him.
2. Miradil Hassan, who studied at the University of Jiangsu, has conducted social research in his hometown of Aksu and on Uyghurs’ lives in the Chinese provinces. Through his years of study, which included escaping and hiding in Chinese provinces, he was able to reveal facts of the Uyghur genocide to the world via video statements in three languages—Uyghur, Chinese, and English—on his YouTube channel. He is an extraordinarily brave man who declared his anti-government stance while in China four years after Ilham Tohti did so. While Ilham Tohti demanded that China coexist with the Uyghurs, Miradil Hasan openly stated the impossibility of coexisting and mentioned that the Uyghurs may be eliminated from earth if no immediate international intervention occurs. Radio Free Asia reported that he was detained in Nanjing after his seventh appearance on YouTube, and was transferred to Urumqi. However, China has yet to report on it or comment on Hassan’s fate or “crime.”
3. Abdurashid Hamit is a lecturer at Ili Pedagogical University and a constant observer of Uyghur society. He is an intellectual known for his dissenting, open-minded opinions and courage. As a computer expert, he successfully crossed the Chinese Internet barrier, monitored the international situation, and maintained contact with overseas friends and activists until his detention. He has been detained since 2018 for “leaking state secrets” and illegal foreign visits. He is fluent in English and Chinese and a person who not only fully understands and values the significance of this investigation but is also willing to speak out.
The reality is that every single Uyghur in the region, from the appointed chairman of XUAR Erkin Tuniyaz and homeless Uyghurs in Urumqi to Uyghurs dancing and singing in ceremonies and successful “students” of vocational training centers, has 1–100 direct or indirect relatives who have been detained. It is hard to imagine that ordinary people can claim to speak the truth to the UN investigation team while arresting Uyghurs and receiving calls from relatives abroad who are looking for them.
Therefore, if Bachelet can meet with these three individuals, she could break one of China’s barriers and destroy one of its fraudulent games.
There are some vital data to gather, including what are the health conditions of millions in the concentration camps in what for many is their fifth year of detainment and family separation. How many have died in the past five years, and what were the causes?
An independent investigation needs these meetings with prominent prisoners of conscience.