Uighurs to China: Post a video of my missing relatives, too

Turkey on Saturday called China’s treatment of Uighurs “a great cause of shame for humanity.” (File/AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019
0

Uighurs to China: Post a video of my missing relatives, too

  • The campaign follows the release of a state media video showing famed Uighur musician, who many believed had died in custody
  • China has come under increasing scrutiny for the camps holding an estimated 1 million minority Muslims in its far west Xinjiang region

BEIJING: Members of the Uighur Muslim ethnic group are calling on China to post videos of their relatives who have disappeared into a vast system of internment camps.
The social media campaign, launched early Tuesday under the hashtag #MeTooUyghur, follows the release of a state media video showing famed Uighur musician Abdurehim Heyit, who many believed had died in custody.
“China, show us their videos if they are alive!” Halmurat Harri, a Finland-based Uighur activist, wrote on Twitter. He urged the government to also release videos to prove that others believed detained are in good health amid reports of neglectful and sometimes brutal conditions in the camps.
China has come under increasing scrutiny for the camps holding an estimated 1 million minority Muslims in its far west Xinjiang region. Former detainees who fled overseas say that while they were held captive, they were ordered to renounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the ruling Communist Party through indoctrination tactics reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.
Beijing, which long denied the existence of such facilities, now says they are vocational training centers where Uighurs, Kazakhs and others receive free skills education. Surveillance cameras, security checkpoints and riot police have become ubiquitous in Xinjiang in recent years, but the government maintains that such measures are necessary to combat separatist violence and latent religious extremism.
In a rare show of public criticism from a majority Muslim nation, Turkey on Saturday called China’s treatment of Uighurs “a great cause of shame for humanity.” Citing reports of Heyit’s death, the Turkish foreign ministry condemned the “concentration camps” and “systematic assimilation” to which Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang are subject.
At a regular press briefing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called Turkey’s statement “a very bad mistake.”
Hua said the video of Heyit, released by the state outlet China Radio International, showed that claims of his death were an “absurd lie.” She said the renowned musician and poet was being investigated for allegedly endangering national security.
The video shows Heyit in a gray sweater against a nondescript, gray wall. He states his name and gives the date as Feb. 10, 2019, then says that he is in good health and has not been abused.
The authenticity of the video could not be verified, and it was not clear where and by whom it had been filmed.
Many Uighurs outside of China have said they are unable to contact relatives still in Xinjiang . Fearing that their loved ones have been ensnared by the security dragnet, they say they do not even know whether their family members are dead or alive.
The mere act of communicating with someone overseas could spur detention, Uighurs say, and as a result many of their relatives in China have blocked them on social media. On Twitter, Uighurs abroad posted photos of themselves holding up images of their missing parents, children and siblings.
If they are still alive, the posts said, the Chinese government should release videos of them too.


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
0

US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.