Updated: Aug 12
Today, the Chinese Government held a press conference which featured family members and neighbours of some of the witnesses who testified at the Uyghur Tribunal.
The ‘Press Conference on Xinjiang-related Issues’ comes just two days after the close of the Uyghur Tribunal’s first set of hearings, during which camp survivors, expert witnesses and academics gave evidence to a panel on the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. The conference was chaired by Xu Guinxiang, spokesperson for the Xinjiang Government, who had previously referred to the Tribunal as ‘’a total violation of international law and order, a serious desecration of the victims of real genocide, and a serious provocation to the 25 million people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang’’.
During the hour-long conference, the relatives and neighbours of tribunal witnesses read statements and answered questions from journalists, alongside a panel of government officials. It is highly likely that their appearance at the conference was under duress from the CCP.
This event is the latest in a long line of stunts by the CCP, aimed at discrediting the tribunal itself, as well as the persecution of the Uyghur people, which they deny is happening altogether. But this conference was particularly cruel. Jaya Pathak, Kirsty Robson and Joe Collins, Co-Executive Directors of Yet Again UK, gave a statement to DGN regarding their thoughts on the conference:
“Today the PRC has paraded family members of witnesses who testified at the Uyghur Tribunal. While the attempt to threaten and intimidate is predictable, the level to which they are prepared to sink remains shocking. The PRC has dismissed the allegations of atrocity crimes as slander yet they have refused to allow unfettered access to Xinjiang, or for international courts to hear evidence and pass a judgment. Instead, the PRC engage in cruel propaganda tactics. To the PRC, we are not intimidated. To the Uyghur people, we stand with you stronger than ever.”
The Uyghur Tribunal itself also released a statement condemning the press conference in Xinjiang, emphasising the fact that the PRC have been invited to submit evidence to the proceedings, but have so far refused:
“The Uyghur Tribunal’s primary concern is the impact on the wellbeing of the witnesses who gave evidence at the recent Tribunal Hearings in London and to the relatives and a neighbour of those witnesses who appeared at the PRC conference”
“The Tribunal will continue with its work in seeking the truth in an impartial manner. To that end, we would, again, request that the PRC provides any evidence that it may possess to the Tribunal”
Many of us at DGN heard testimony from Uyghur survivors first-hand over the weekend, about the horrific and cruel torture employed by camp guards and police officers in Xinjiang’s internment camps. Hearing these brave witnesses give evidence of the CCP targeting their families, friends and neighbours as a result of their presence at the tribunal highlighted the overwhelming sense of risk that many Uyghurs are taking in order to use their voices and have their stories heard. It seems this press conference is a particularly cruel ploy by the PRC to remind those who survived their persecution of their sense of power across the world. We remember the words of one witness, Gulbahar Jelilova, on her departure from Xinjiang: “the arms of China are long, and we will reach you wherever you are”
Evie is an English Literature undergraduate at UCL, and an avid reader and bookworm. Alongside her work in Holocaust Education, she loves to write about books as a way into better understanding current affairs and contemporary issues. She is currently serving as Publications Manager at Yet Again, and President of Pi Media, UCL's student publication.