By Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui for Times Headline.com
A large-scale demonstration involving members of the Uyghur and Tibetan communities in Europe was held in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday, 16th September 2016. This was the first large-scale demonstration including a substantial Uyghur delegation since China’s Universal Periodic Review in 2013. The 5-hour march involved about 2000 people from Palais Wilson to the Broken Chair Monument across from the Palais des Nations.
The demonstration was jointly organized by the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), the Tibetan Community in Switzerland and Liechtenstein (TCSL), and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC). The demonstration sought to bring togetherr hundreds of demonstrators to highlight the ongoing human rights violations against Uyghurs and Tibetans in China. The demonstration also aimed at bringing the international community’s attention to China’s efforts at silencing civil society at the United Nations (UN).
The Secretary – General of the Uyghur World Congress Dolkun Isa disclosed to The Times Headline that the demonstration comes amid tremendous pressure against the Uyghur community in East Turkestan in terms of religious freedom and freedom of movement. Uyghurs continue to be detained and sentenced simply for religious practice conducted in their own homes – religious practice outside state-sanctioned mosques is now considered illegal. China’s recently adopted ‘Anti-Terror’ Law has also legitimized continued collective punishment under the guise of security.
The Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet in Germany’s Kai Müller demanded that “the United Nations must be very-very clear vis-a-vis the Chinese Government in terms of the restrictions and the freedom of religion in particular. Countries must seek access to Tibet and also that United Nations expert should have clear access to Tibet and the Chinese Government must allow this because it’s their duty.”
Joint demonstration by Uyghurs and Tibetans against Chinese repression – Geneva, Switzerland
The demonstration also targeted China’s continued and worsening restrictions on religious practice taking place in both Tibet and East Turkestan. Uyghurs have been sentenced to inordinately long jail terms simply for undertaking quotidian religious practices like basic prayer at home or fasting during the holy month of Ramadan which is protected by China’s own Constitution.
The recent introduction of discriminatory ‘‘ counter-terror’’ legislation that targets the Uyghur and Tibetan populations in their entirety also remains troubling apart from the introduction of its repressive Foreign NGO Management Law, considered by most to stand as an instrument to further curtail the work of civil society in the country.
The demonstration was accompanied by greater efforts in Geneva at the UN as well as at European Parliament – where Ilham Tohti was nominated for the Sakharav Prize for Freedom of Thought just the day before the Uyghur-Tibetan march.
Rebiya Kadeer, front-ranking exiled female leader of the Uyghur Congress was among those present.