Scholars condemn mass detention of Muslim Uighurs, other ethnic groups in China

Mihrigul Tursun, right, speaks at a event at the National Press Club in Washington on Nov. 26, 2018. Tursun, a member of China' Uighur minority detailed the torture and abuse she suffered at the hands Chinese authorities as part of an escalating clampdown on hundreds of thousands of members of the country's Muslim minorities. (AP Photo/Maria Danilova)
Updated 27 November 2018
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Scholars condemn mass detention of Muslim Uighurs, other ethnic groups in China

  • Failure by the world community to act would signal acceptance of “psychological torture of innocent civilians, the scholars warned
  • China rejects criticism of its actions in Xinjiang, saying that it protects the religion and culture of minorities

WASHINGTON: Countries must hit China with sanctions over the mass detention of ethnic Uighurs in its western Xinjiang region, hundreds of scholars said on Monday, warning that a failure to act would signal acceptance of “psychological torture of innocent civilians.”
Beijing has in recent months faced an outcry from activists, academics and foreign governments over mass detentions and strict surveillance of the Muslim Uighur minority and other ethnic groups that live in Xinjiang.
In August, a United Nations human rights panel said it had received many credible reports that a million or more Uighurs and other minorities are being held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy” in the region.
Representatives from a group of 278 scholars in various disciplines from dozens of countries called on China at a news briefing in Washington to end its detention policies, and for sanctions directed at key Chinese leaders and security companies linked to the abuses.
“This situation must be addressed to prevent setting negative future precedents regarding the acceptability of any state’s complete repression of a segment of its population, especially on the basis of ethnicity or religion,” the group said in a statement.
Countries should expedite asylum requests from Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities, as well as “spearhead a movement for UN action aimed at investigating this mass internment system and closing the camps,” it said.
China rejects criticism of its actions in Xinjiang, saying that it protects the religion and culture of minorities, and that its security measures are needed to combat the influence of “extremist” groups that incite violence there.
The country’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said the world should ignore “gossip” about Xinjiang and trust the government.
But after initial denials about the detention camps, Chinese officials have said some people guilty of minor offenses were being sent to “vocational” training centers, where they are taught work skills and legal knowledge aimed at curbing militancy.
Michael Clarke, a Xinjiang expert at Australian National University who signed the statement, told reporters that China sought international respect for its weight in global affairs.
“The international community needs to demonstrate to Beijing that it will not actually get that while it’s doing this to a significant portion of its own citizenry,” Clarke said.


NZ leader Ardern vows to deny accused gunman notoriety he seeks

Updated 15 min 57 sec ago
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NZ leader Ardern vows to deny accused gunman notoriety he seeks

  • ‘You will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal.’
  • “He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand,” Ardern promised grieving Kiwis

CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed Tuesday never to utter the name of the twin-mosque gunman as she opened a somber session of Parliament with an evocative “as salaam alaikum” message of peace to Muslims.

“He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand,” Ardern promised grieving Kiwis, while promising that she would deprive the man who slaughtered 50 people in Christchurch of the publicity he craved.

“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety,” she told assembled lawmakers of the 28-year-old Australian accused of the slaughter.

“That is why you will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.”

“I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them.”

Dressed in black, the 38-year-old leader opened her remarks in Parliament with the symbolism of the greeting uttered across the Islamic world.

“Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh” she said — ‘May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you too.’

She closed her address by noting that “on Friday, it will be a week since the attack, members of the Muslim community will gather for worship on that day. Let us acknowledge their grief as they do.”

Her comments came as dozens of relatives of the deceased began arriving from around the world ahead of expected funerals which have already been delayed far beyond the 24 hours after death usually observed under Islamic custom.

The slow process of identification and forensic documentation has so far made burials impossible, augmenting families’ grief.

Javed Dadabhai, who traveled from Auckland to help bury his cousin, said families and volunteers were told: “It is going to be a very slow process, a very thorough process.”

“Some families have been invited to have a look at their family members... the ones that are easiest to recognize, but we are talking about three or four.”

“The majority of people still have not had the opportunity to see their family members,” he told AFP.

In the wake of the mass shooting, Ardern has promised to reform New Zealand gun laws that allowed the gunman to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attack on two Christchurch mosques, including semi-automatic rifles.

New Zealanders have already begun answering government appeals to hand in their weapons, including John Hart, a farmer in the North Island district of Masterton.

Hart said it was an easy decision for him to hand in his semi-automatic and tweeted that “on the farm they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my convenience doesn’t outweigh the risk of misuse. We don’t need these in our country.”

The tweet drew a barrage of derogatory messages to his Facebook account —  most apparently from the US, where the pro-gun lobby is powerful and vociferous.

Hart deleted the messages but posted online: “A warm kia ora to all my new American Facebook friends.”

“I’m not familiar with your local customs, but I assume ‘Cuck’ is a traditional greeting,” he said of the insult, short for “cuckold” frequently used by far-right pundits.

Police said they did not have data available on the number of weapons handed in since Friday.