Good morning, salam alaikum, and “Yahshimusiz”.
My name is David Ranz and I am the acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, within the Bureau of South and Central Asia Affairs (SCA). On behalf of our bureau and our Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells, I want to thank the World Uyghur Congress for its invitation to speak here today, as well as the Uyghur Human Rights Project, the Uyghur American Association, and the Central Asia Program at George Washington University.
It is a pleasure to be representing the State Department with Ambassador-at-Large Sam Brownback, who is a close friend of the SCA Bureau and a key partner in our efforts to promote religious freedom in an extraordinary – and extraordinarily diverse – region of the world. It is a further privilege to be speaking alongside such tireless advocates of human rights as Representatives Jim McGovern and Brad Sherman, along with speakers from the international community and the National Endowment for Democracy.
I wish to start by congratulating the WUC for having received the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy this week, along with China Aid and the Tibet Action Institute. The WUC’s efforts to promote democracy, human rights, and freedom for the Uyghur people provide hope and comfort to your community and inspiration across the globe for your bravery and determination.
While not directly responsible for Chinese issues, the South and Central Asia Affairs Bureau manages U.S. foreign policy with Central Asian nations such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, many of whose people share ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural ties with the Uyghur community and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
The Chinese government’s rampant abuse of the human rights and religious freedoms of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang is an urgent issue impacting the broader region. We call on China to end this campaign of repression, and immediately release the approximately 1 million arbitrarily detained in camps. We urge other governments of the region and the world to join us.
The deteriorating state of religious freedom in China, including the government’s increasing persecution of the Uyghurs and other Muslims minorities, is not only a bilateral issue with China; it is a regional and global one as well. It is a crisis that has engaged all corners of the State Department as we seek to build a global response to the Chinese government’s program of oppression.
I was privileged to visit Kashgar myself 25 years ago. I marveled at the vibrancy of its markets, the beauty of its mosques, the charm and culture of the old city, the incredible food, and of course the warmth and kindness of its residents. It is difficult to comprehend the changes that have taken place on Kashgar’s streets since that time, and across the region.
As Ambassador Brownback has said, the United States is deeply concerned about the Chinese government’s repressive campaign against Muslim minority groups.
The Chinese government’s detention, monitoring, and intimidation of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang represent a deliberate attempt to suppress the identity of these groups.
This campaign of mass detentions and internment; pervasive surveillance and collection of personal data; compulsory stays by Chinese officials in Uyghur homes; and controls on cultural and religious expression are shocking in their scope and devastating in their impact on individuals, families, and entire communities.
In the SCA bureau, as in the rest of the department, we continue to urge the countries in our region to speak out against China’s abuses in Xinjiang, following Turkey’s brave example, and we are committed to promoting accountability for those who commit human rights violations and abuses.
We encourage many countries, as we encourage all governments, to press China privately and publicly, in both bilateral and multilateral contexts, to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals, including members of its ethnic minority population.
We thank, for instance, the Kazakhstani government for resisting Chinese pressure to forcibly return Uyghurs and other members of Muslim minority groups back to China. We are grateful for their provision of protection and safe refuge to these asylum seekers. We urge all countries to provide this protection, to allow them access to asylum, and allow these individuals to travel to third countries of their choosing, as Kazakhstan has done.
We also recognize and support the important role that Kazakhstan’s civil society and rich family networks play in supporting victims and in documenting and recounting their stories, thus shining a bright light on these atrocities. These networks enable exposure of the breadth of abuses, and should galvanize the international community to urge China to end this repressive campaign.
And, we echo Turkey’s sentiment that: “The reintroduction of internment camps in the 21st century and the policy of systematic assimilation against the Uighur Turks carried out by the authorities of China is a great shame for humanity.”
There are strong indications that survivors of this campaign, and those who escaped China before being detained, are now being forcibly deported back to China. In China, there is a significant likelihood that they may be falsely charged with a crime and denied due process in accordance with international standards.
Through the work of those assembled here and others, the horrors of Xinjiang are being exposed. As these abuses are progressively brought to light, people will pressure governments to respond and to stand up for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Claiming ignorance or looking the other way is not credible in the face of such egregious atrocities as those we see in Xinjiang. As a Uyghur idiom goes, “A man can’t be blamed for not knowing, but [can be blamed] for not asking.”
The United States will continue to call on China to reverse its counterproductive policies that conflate terrorism with peaceful religious and political expression, to release all those arbitrarily detained, and to cease efforts to coerce members of its Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate.
Your advocacy continues to raise awareness and prompt action on this issue. Thank you for your passion, for your bravery, and for your tireless dedication to this noble work.