I am most humbled and honored to be elected as Honorary Chairman of the Board to the Campaign for Uyghurs, a human rights advocacy organization based in Washington DC, United States. This organization has campaigned tirelessly to shed light on the systematic human rights violations and cultural genocide currently taking place against the Uyghur, Kazak, and Turkic peoples of East Turkestan, a region that in China is known as the “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
It is a great privilege for me to be able to join forces with the hard-working men and women fighting for our fellow Uyghurs at the CFU. I have been particularly impressed by the CFU’s work focusing on women and youth; these groups have suffered greatly under the suppression of the Chinese regime.
More than a million Uyghur, Kazakh, and those of other ethnic Turkic groups have been incarcerated within internment camps. This is perhaps the largest mass incarceration of human beings since the Holocaust, and constitutes one of the most serious ongoing human rights violations of our modern era.
Through the continuing efforts of organizations such as the World Uyghur Congress, the Uyghur Human Rights Project, the Ilham Tohti Institute as well as the Campaign for Uyghurs, and due to the vocal work of activists such as Dolkun Isa, Nury Turkel, Omer Kanat, Enver Can, as well as CFU’s executive director Rushan Abbas, attitudes around the world have slowly changed, from disbelief to astonishment, from astonishment to anger, and from anger to fury. That fury has finally prompted the world to focus on a difficult but necessary question: does the Chinese Communist Party pose an existential threat to the rights of people across the world, rights that have only come about as the result of centuries of human progress?
Democratic societies around the world are realizing the need to revise their approach to China. At one time, it was hoped that economic engagement would slowly help transform China into a more open and democratic society, a society that could embrace the universal values of human rights and democracy. Sadly, and despite our best intentions, this approach does not appear to have borne fruit. At this juncture, it has become a matter of critical importance that governments across the world unite to develop new policies for dealing with China. It is only by working together that we can make progress toward a world where China shares our democratic values instead of rejecting them, works to protect human rights instead of undermining them, and celebrates freedom of speech instead of working to annihilate it.
If by our combined efforts this change does occur, then perhaps we will be able to say that the sacrifice of our fellow Uyghur family and friends has not been in vain.
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