“Documents show the court has denied his request to travel to the United States to receive the Lantos prize, an award from an American foundation honoring former House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Lantos. Prior recipients of the prize include Hillary Clinton, the Dalai Lama, and Elie Wiesel. Wong, whose activist work was the subject of a 2017 Netflix documentary, would have accepted the award in Washington next month had he been able to travel.”
We applaud the commendable efforts of Benedict Rogers to publicize the harassment he, his family, and his neighbors have faced from China in response to his efforts to ensure freedom, human rights, and rule of law in Hong Kong. Reading his tales of anonymous letters containing veiled threats, the danger faced by those who dare to challenge the absolute power of the Chinese government is laid bare. As you read, please pause to consider how much worse it must be on a daily basis for Hong Kong based youth activists like Joshua Wong. If this level of harassment is happening to an established British citizen, then we can only imagine the pressure on Hong Kongers themselves. Joshua’s continued democracy work in the face of obvious threats from the Chinese government is exactly why he was chosen to receive the 10th Annual Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize later this year in Washington, DC.
Our guest, Mrs. Rebiya Kadeer, is known as the “mother of the Uyghur nation”. She is the acknowledged global leader of the Uyghur people - a community of over 15 million living primarily in the East Turkestan region of China where this largely Muslim community has been subjected to discrimination, persecution, mass incarceration and cultural and religious oppression at the hands of the Chinese government.
With the help of an interpreter, Mrs. Kadeer spoke about the increase in persecution being experienced in East Turkestan, the Government’s efforts to intimidate her into silence by targeting her family members who are still in China, and why the US government should apply the Global Magnitsky Act to the Chinese official responsible for the outrages taking place in East Turkestan.
By Larry Luxner, Featured in The Times of Israel
On a rainy April morning in Washington, about 150 Muslim Uyghur protestors gathered in front of the Chinese Embassy, waving light-blue flags and shouting slogans on behalf of an ethnic group few Americans have ever heard of.
They were led by the daughter of a Jewish Holocaust survivor and congressman who dedicated his life to fighting human rights injustices.
The Uyghurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) — an ancient people spread across much of East and Central Asia —live primarily in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Beijing government officially puts their number at 1.2 million, though Uyghur activists say China is actually home to 15 million Uyghurs.
And they’re treated horribly, say protesters who accuse the Xi Jinping regime of “brutal oppression and covert genocide” against Xinjiang’s Uyghur minority.
“Between 800,000 and one million Uyghurs are incarcerated in China right now. This is human rights abuse on a massive scale,” Katrina Swett Lantos, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, told me. “It is particularly insidious because they are going out of their way to target Uyghurs who have relatives in the United States.”
The activist is the daughter of lawmaker Tom Lantos— a Hungarian Jew who survived the Nazi occupation of Budapest and went on to become a member of Congress. At the time of his death in 2008, the California Democrat chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Swett Lantos organized the impromptu Apr. 19 demonstration at the Chinese Embassy on Washington’s International Place. Her group also attempted to deliver a box full of protest letters to China’s ambassador, but embassy guards refused to accept the package — and D.C. police eventually asked the group to leave the premises.
“Our job is to shine the spotlight and energize Congress,” she said in an interview as protesters gathered across the entrance to the embassy, waving hand-painted signs all around her. “China is a dangerous goliath aiming to intimidate all of Asia. We cannot give it a free pass just because it’s an economic power.”
Tayir Imim, 37, studied at Israel’s Haifa University for five months last year, and now volunteers for the Uyghur human rights movement.
“Uyghurs and Jews have a lot in common,” he said. “The experience of the Jewish people in Israel inspires us to revive our national identity and establish our own independent country.”
Imam said the current violence between Israelis and Palestinians has not dissuaded Chinese Uyghurs from those warm feelings.
“Most Uyghur people are very respectful of Jews,” he said. “They believe Jewish people are smart and very detail-oriented.”
Also chanting anti-China slogans was 24-year-old consultant Salih Hudayar.
“China occupied East Turkistan in September 1949 and officially abolished our state on Dec. 20, 1949, when we officially lost our independence,” said Hudayar, wearing a traditional four-pointed Uyghur cap known as a doppa. “Since then, we have never stopped our protest.”
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which the Uyghur people themselves refer to as “East Turkestan,” is a vast, potentially oil- and gas-rich area of western China covering nearly 643,000 square miles — nearly four times the size of California. The Uyghurs themselves are ethnically related to Turks.
In an open letter to the Chinese Embassy, Rebiya Kadeer— self-described “spiritual mother of the Uyghur Nation” and leader of both the Uyghur National Movement and the World Uyghur Congress — called on Beijing to essentially let her people go.
“Since Chen Quanguo, the former secretary of Tibet, took office as party secretary of the Uyghur Autonomous Region in August 2016, he has been imposing unprecedented ferocious and inhumane policies in the region,” wrote Kadeer, claiming that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs have been arrested simply because of their ethnic identity, or for having traveled overseas or having relatives living abroad.
She said China has sent at least 1.5 million Uyghurs to so-called “political re-education centers” to become indoctrinated with Chinese nationalist and communist ideology.
“Cities and towns across the Uyghur homeland have become deserted and almost all rural areas have been isolated from neighboring regions and blocked from visitors,” Kadeer said. “It is not a secret for the observers that only the dead have been coming out of these Nazi-style concentration camps since they were launched in late 2016.”
Among her demands to the Chinese government:
- Shut down all such “re-education centers” and release all detainees.
- Release all Uyghur political prisoners, including those of other ethnic groups in the region.
- Account for everyone who was forcefully “disappeared” — including their children — and disclose their whereabouts.
- Restore all communication rights for the region’s people, including phone service, freedom of movement and the right to contact relatives abroad.
- Allow foreign journalists and investigators access to the region to conduct independent research and reporting.
- Release Kadeer’s five children and 15 grandchildren, as well as her husband’s extended relatives.
- Release the family members of Gulchihre Hojaand other journalists working for Radio Free Asia.
I asked Imam why the Chinese government is so intent on driving out the Uyghurs.
“Because China wants to wipe us out, so there won’t be any nation that claims ownership of the land,” he replied. “The Uyghur people claim ownership of the region. The want to assimilate our people into the Han Chinese majority by forcing us to abandon our national culture and identity. Their ultimate goal is to assimilate us and wipe out an entire nation, so there will be nobody anymore who can claim ownership.”
He added: “Maybe it won’t make a big difference or have a big impact on Chinese policy, but we just began our movement. The U.S. government says the world is aware of what the Chinese government is doing against a peace-loving, civilized people — and the world will not be silent on the issue forever.”
"Today, the world received word that the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo was released from Chinese prison. What should have been an occasion of joy and celebration is instead a somber moment of reflection. It is reported that this brave human rights activist is suffering from terminal liver cancer. Following just a few days after the tragic death of Otto Warmbier at the hands of a brutal North Korean government, it is a stark reminder of the cruel indifference of regimes that maliciously and regularly trample on the most basic human rights.
Liu Xiaobo was an eloquent advocate for democracy and human rights in China. He received the highest recognition the world can bestow when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010 - the first Chinese citizen to be so honored. I was privileged to be there in Oslo for the ceremony when he received the Prize but sadly, Liu was languishing in a Chinese jail and the ceremony took place around his empty chair. Even his wife, Liu Xia was forbidden to travel to Norway to receive the prize for her husband and she has lived in complete isolation under house arrest for the past 7 years.
There is no celebration at the release of this brave human rights hero. Only condemnation for a regime that despite its wealth, power, and size, shows itself to be a moral midget when it comes to honoring the fundamental rights of its citizens. We pray that Liu Xiaobo and his wife will be comforted in the knowledge that his courageous example is an inspiration to people around the world who are fighting for a more just and decent world. Our prayers are with him and the Chinese people on whose behalf he has made such a great sacrifice."
"Since July 10, Chinese authorities have been detaining human rights lawyers and activists in unprecedented numbers. An estimated 250 have been taken into custody. Police and thugs are grabbing people from their homes and offices, and even from restaurants, without warning or rationale. They are being interrogated, threatened and accused of fabricated crimes. Many are being held without access to family, friends, legal representation, or any other semblance of due process under the law."
Lantos Foundation, Catholic University, and Witherspoon Institute Applaud New Memoir by Chen Guangcheng
Leaders at the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, The Catholic University of America, and the Witherspoon Institute offered their congratulations today to Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng on the publication of his new memoir, The Barefoot Lawyer, released earlier this month by Henry Holt. The official launch of his book in Washington is scheduled for March 19 at the National Press Club
Chen has been affiliated with all three institutions since fall 2013.
The Barefoot Lawyer relates the events of Chen’s life, from his childhood to his struggles against the Chinese government. Blind since infancy, Chen became a self-trained “barefoot lawyer” who advocates for disabled persons and the interests of poor villagers in rural China, and against the brutal tactics used to enforce the state’s one-child policy, which include forced abortions and sterilizations.
As a result of his efforts, Chen was imprisoned for four years and illegally subjected to house arrest, before he eventually escaped on foot to the American embassy in Beijing. After his story made international news, Chen found asylum in the United States.
“Chen Guangcheng’s story is one of immense personal courage and conviction as well as a chilling reminder of the outrageous abuse and persecution endured by those who dare to advocate for fundamental human rights and justice in China,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. “Mr. Chen’s book will open the eyes of readers to some disturbing and inconvenient truths about China’s treatment of its brave reformers. This ‘blind and barefoot’ hero sees clearly and walks unafraid,” added Lantos Swett.
“This important book makes clear not only Chen's personal bravery against oppression, but it also reveals the systemic failure of human rights progress in China. Powerful and eye-opening book!” said Stephen Schneck, director of The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies.
“The Barefoot Lawyer is must reading for all who are concerned for the future of human rights and the rule of law, in China and everywhere else. It is a story that can make us all braver people,” said Matthew Franck, director of the Center on Religion and the Constitution, the Witherspoon Institute.
Since the fall of 2013, Chen Guangcheng has been a visiting fellow of Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, a distinguished senior fellow in human rights of the Witherspoon Institute and a senior distinguished advisor to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. He has continued his activism on behalf of religious freedom, self-government for the people of Hong Kong, and the basic rights of the Chinese people.
An author discussion and book signing for The Barefoot Lawyer is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19 at the National Press Club (NPC). Lantos Swett, Schneck, and Franck are scheduled to attend the event. For more information about the NPC event, visit press.org/events/guangcheng. For more information about Chen’s affiliation with Catholic University, contact Mary McCarthy Hines in the Office of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-319-5600.
“Tragically, 25 years ago the Chinese government used brute force to crush the 89 Movement but the spirit of the heroes of Tiananmen lives on. In the long run, the power of their moral and spiritual leadership will triumph over the brutality of the butchers and dictators. But the outcome of the struggle for democracy and human rights is not a foregone conclusion - it depends on the unwavering and outspoken support of the forces of freedom. It also requires leaders to see beyond economic and political considerations to the even more important values that make a decent society possible.”
Statement from Lantos Foundation Senior Advisor on internet freedom and human rights for people with disabilities, Chen Guangcheng:
"I am writing on behalf of Chen Guangcheng, who wishes to make known the death of human rights activist and lawyer Cao Shunli. She died while in government custody, after taking part in peaceful protests in Beijing, related to the drafting of the Human Rights Report in which the government prepares and delivers a report to the UN on its human rights situation. UN requirements dictate that the process be open to the public for comment and participation, but in China the work went on behind closed doors.
Cao Shunli was detained in September of 2013 when she was preparing to board a flight to Switzerland to take part "in human rights training on UN mechanisms," as Front Line Defenders reports. Only much later did her family learn about her whereabouts, at which point many human rights defenders and lawyers urged her to hire a lawyer and sign the proper paperwork. Unfortunately, she and her family were told by the security police that she shouldn't hire a lawyer, that they were just holding her until after the UN human rights conference regarding China's participation in the UNHRC last October was over. Soon after the conference, however, her family was given an official notice of arrest, at which point she was placed in a detention center.
For some time there had been news of her illness in custody, but her family's pleas to allow her to receive proper medical attention were ignored.
Then, around February 20th 2014, she was suddenly taken to hospital, but as a last and desperate measure. At that point, she was put on a ventilator in the ICU, where no one beside hospital staff was allowed to enter. Many supporters came to the hospital to protest outside, but were taken into custody.
As of today, Chen Guangcheng reports that her family and her lawyer was notified just this morning of her serious condition, but by the time they got to the hospital they found she had already died. They reported her body was covered with bruises, leading them to believe that she had been the victim of torture before her death. They were prevented from changing her clothes, as is Chinese custom, by guards in and outside her room. The family suspects that the authorities were worried that they would see yet more evidence of torture on her body. Later, her body was taken away, and no one is sure of the whereabouts.
This tragedy at the hands of the Chinese authorities is emblematic of the cruel and arbitrary measures that are used against innocent, law-abiding citizens in China. In fighting to bring clarity and transparency to the Chinese human rights situation through the UN, Cao Shunli was working on behalf of all people. The community of nations on whose behalf she was working should take pause to remember her, and should stand together to bring her case to justice. Those who murder with impunity should be held accountable."