“Voices of the Victims”- Remarks by Arfat Erkin

I came to the US as an international student at my University. My father was a well-known TV-producer and Journalist. My mom was a math teacher. Like many Uyghurs, in 2017 I lost contact with my parents while I was still planning on going back after my graduation from University. A year later I learned that my father was detained around March 2018 and my mom was sent to the concentration camp at the end of 2017. Yet I only learned that more than 6 months after their detainment.

For about a year, there was no information about my parents at all. I spoke to the media and in early 2019 met with US Secretary of State Mr. Pompeo, representing the Uyghur students in the US. Months later I learned that my mom was released under critical health condition after being detained in the camp for over a year, had major surgeries, and months of hospitalization after being released. I still don’t have any contact with my mom or other family members because all my family signed a paper saying they will not have any contact with me and I don’t know what will happen to them if I contact them.

Chinese authorities gave very different accounts about my father, government first said he was sent to prison for  “terrorism” even though government records show they rewarded him as one of 10 best journalism workers in the region just before his detained for his works like “Let the world full of love” and others and Chinese Government’s response to UN regarding my father’s whereabouts also very different, local authorities also gave different claims, linking his detainment for him being a well-known journalist and sending me my University tuition.  To this date, I still don’t know where my father is or even if he is alive since no one ever saw him or heard from him in the last three years and no one knows where he is.

My recommendations:

  1. For the media and government, shifting the focus from camps to forced labor factories and prisons as data shows more people are transferred to forced labor factories and prisons than that of those remained in the camps.
  2. For the government and public, keep up the economic pressure. I recently read the new Administration might ease the trade tension with China but will also put emphasis on human rights. As we have seen how economic policies have impacted China’s action as they declared “all graduated” within a week of the house passing the Uyghur Human Rights Policy act, its important to pressure China economically/ sanction them . Its especially important now since camps now turned into forced labor factories.
  3. Don’t label the issue with only religious liberty and minority rights framework. Just like “Xizang Autonomous Region”, commonly referred as Tibet in the west, the “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” is an Uyghur Autonomous Territory under China’s constitution just like Tibet and Hong Kong.  Both Tibet and “Xinjiang” are Ethnic Autonomous Territories that have same political status. While we don’t see atrocities in Tibet mainly labeled as religious freedom issues we are seeing them becoming the main label for the Uyghurs. While we see media and government talking about China taking away the autonomy of the Hong Kong we are not seeing government talking about the Uyghur issue from the same perspective event though the region is also an autonomous territory and chief Judge of the region as well as president of “Xinjiang University” for the first time taken by Han Chinese, even though those were positions with no actual power but they were symbolic position under Autonomy of the region.  Of course, religious liberty and human rights issues need to be raised but they shouldn’t be the main framework in discussing and solving the issue since there are actual Chinese Muslim minorities outside of the Uyghur Autonomous region under vert different policies and treatment.
  4. Hostage policy. Many of our family members are taken hostage by the Chinese government, just like my father was detained because of me studying in the US and my family was threatened not to have contact with me and they are controlling our actions through taking hostage of our family. I hope US government can emphasize this hostage issue with their talk with China and get them to release our family members from hostage status.  Some countries like France and Australia were successful in rescuing family of a few Uyghurs taken hostage there from camps and prisons and even did able bring some to reunite with the family, so I hope the new administration can also do the same by China’s taking the family of the Uyghurs in America as hostage as a serious problem since both countries have equal diplomatic relations, yet China has done this openly for years.

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Campaign for Uyhgurs

We defend the human rights of uyghur people and the free world by exposing and confronting the chinese government's genocide, and empowering uyghur women and youth in the diaspora.

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