In remarks at a side event during the recent UN General Assembly, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack noted that oppression of the Uyghurs by the government of the People’s Republic of China is ongoing and evolving.
“We are particularly concerned about the dramatic increase in prosecutions with long-term sentences in Xinjiang, including the reported transfer of some detainees from so-called ‘reeducation’ or ‘vocational training’ centers to formal prisons,” she said.
“Data from human rights groups indicate that, of the more than 15 thousand Xinjiang residents whose sentence are known, more than 95 percent of those convicted – often on vague charges like ‘separatism’ or ‘endangering state security – have received sentences of 5 to 20 years, and in some cases, life.”
Such is the recently reported case of prominent Uyghur scholar Rahile Dawut. According to the Dui Hua Foundation, a U.S.-based human rights organization, a Chinese government source confirmed that Ms. Dawut was sentenced to life behind bars. She reportedly lost her appeal of a 2018 conviction on the charge of “splittism,” a crime of “endangering state security.” A prominent academic who lectured at universities around the world on Uyghur folklore and traditions, Ms. Duwat was a professor at Xinjiang University when she disappeared in 2017.
The United States condemns Rahile Dawut’s life sentence, which, as State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a written statement, was handed down after secret court proceedings.
“Professor Dawut and other Uyghur intellectuals, including Ilham Tohti, have been unjustly imprisoned for their work to protect and preserve Uyghur culture and traditions. Professor Dawut’s life sentence is part of an apparent broader effort by the PRC to eradicate Uyghur identity and culture and undermine academic freedom, including through the use of detentions and disappearances,” said Spokesperson Miller.
“We call upon the PRC government to immediately end the genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang and to abide by its international commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We continue to call on the PRC government to immediately release Professor Dawut and all individuals who are unjustly detained.”
As U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Van Schaack has said, “As these atrocities continue, the world must stand firm against them both in word and in deed.”