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Understanding the Uighur Situation in Xinjiang

10 January @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

In August of last year, human rights experts in the UN called on the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to release the nearly one-million Uighurs that have been interned in re-education camps, under the pretext of countering terrorism. The historic parallels of detentions based on religious identity in the 20th century are obvious. And yet, rather than attempt to ameliorate the damage to its reputation by stopping or slowing the arrests, Beijing has continued to expand the facilities for more prisoners and attempted to re-brand them as “labour training” camps. The province of Xinjiang – far in the West of China – has a significance for all of us.

This approach toward detentions and extra-legal measures is a dark sign of China’s approach toward power and indicates what kind of order Beijing may seek to build. Second, its utilization of technology and media highlights the dangers of any authoritarian state using both to create a surveillance society. Frankly, it is an Orwellian techno-nightmare. Finally, while some Western media have reported on the Uighur situation, the fact is that the PRC’s economic leverage has silenced many voices on this issue in the global and Islamic media, which is another sign of the type of order the Party intends to export.

By kind invitation of Lord Hannay of Chiswick, The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to join the panel discussion in which Benedict Rogers, Rosie Blau, Dr. Enver Tohti and Rahima Mahmut will discuss the Uighur situation in Xinjiang.



Benedict Rogers is a British human rights activist and writer based in London. His work focuses on Asia, specialising particularly in Burma, North Korea, China and Indonesia, but has also covered the Maldives, East Timor and Pakistan. He is the East Asia Team Leader at the international human rights organization CSW, and a regular contributor to international media including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Diplomat and the Huffington Post and has appeared on BBC, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and other television and radio stations. He is the co-founder and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party’s human rights commission, and authored its 2016 report on China, The Darkest Moment: The crackdown on human rights in China 2013-2016, its report on forced organ harvesting in China and its forthcoming report on China’s Confucius Institutes. He is also the founder and Chairman of Hong Kong Watch, and was refused entry to Hong Kong in 2017. He is co-founder of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea, a member of the advisory board of the International Coalition to End Organ Trafficking in China (ETAC), and a trustee of the Phan Foundation and the Chin Human Rights Foundation. He has written three books which focus on Burma and co-authored two others on Christian human rights obligations.



Rosie Blau is Editor of 1843, The Economist’s lifestyle and culture magazine, named for the year The Economist was founded. From 2014-17 she was based in Beijing as China Correspondent for The Economist. She reported from across the country on everything from politics and foreign policy to society, culture and ethnicity. She joined The Economist in May 2011 as a reporter on the Britain section. Prior to that she worked at the Financial Times. Her jobs there included Books Editor, Leader Writer and Assistant World News Editor. She served as a judge for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2010.



Enver Tohti – is a human rights activist and public speaker on the atrocities carried out against the Uighur. Tohti’s former role as a surgeon brought him in contact with the horrifying crime of organ harvesting. In 1995, he was compelled to carry one out, an experience he has never forgotten, and one for which he will not forgive the Chinese authorities. It is alleged that the Chinese state carries out up to 60,000 to 100,000 transplants each year on political opponents, which often kill the subjects.



Rahima Mahmut – is a singer, translator and human rights activist based in London. Her translation of The Land Drenched in Tears, by Soyungul Chanisheff won English Pen Translation Award and published in July this year by Hertfordshire Press.




On the 10th January, Lord David Hannay was joined by Benedict Rogers, Enver Tohti, Rahima Mahmut and Rosie Blau to discuss the Uighur situation in Xinjiang.

Lord Hannay introduced the talk by recounting his visit back to Xinjiang in 1995 where he experienced the growing anxiety facing Uighurs. Lord Hannay emphasised that Uighurs should not be labelled as terrorists even if that’s what the Chinese call it and it is our first job as outsiders to try and understand what is going on.

Benedict Rogers began by highlighting that as many as one million people are detained without charge in re-education camps in Xinjiang for crimes such as having Whatsapp on their phone, to relatives who live abroad, to accessing religious materials online, to visiting ‘sensitive’ countries or engaging in religious activities. Those people have no access to legal services, no ability to appeal and their families are not told where they’re held or when they will be released. The conditions in which they are held are dangerously unsanitary. They are beaten, tortured, held in solitary confinement and sleep deprived.

He raised the question: What is the United Kingdom’s response to this appalling crisis? British Diplomats went to Xinjiang in August 2018 and confirmed the reports, the British Ambassador signed a letter to the Chinese Communist Party alongside 15 other countries and the situation in Xinjiang was raised in China’s periodic review at the UN. He queried the programme of DNA testing, organ harvesting and transportation of Uighurs, saying that the United Kingdom should really be speaking out much more publically in a severe crisis that he deems a ‘Cultural Genocide.’

Enver Tohti started his talk by stating the disheartening truth that by not complying to the Chinese ways means the Uighur do not have a right to exist. The ultimate duty of the Chinese Communist Party seems to be eliminating the ‘barbarians’ and having realised their actions are under surveillance of western satellites so transfer prisoners at night. Enver revealed the hidden agenda of the redistribution of prisoners across the country meant they no longer have enough man power to rebel and have a meaningful existence. The truth has to be told and reconciliation made.

As an ex-citizen, Rahima Mahmut spoke of her childhood growing up in what was then East Turkestan and discussed how her entire education was in Mandarin. She was one of many tens of thousands of students who was part of the Democratic Movement which ended in the notorious June 4th massacre. As she has lived in the UK since 2000, Rahima has been unable to return to her homeland because of speaking out against the human rights violations by the Chinese government. The last time she had contact with her brother was over a year ago as he asked her not to call out of fear of what the government would do. Her accounts of the torture were horrendous, stating that what we are reading in the newspaper is only the tip of the iceberg.

Finally, Rosie Blau zoomed back out to look at why this is all happening and where it might be going. She outlined how new Xinjiang is as a territory and the terrorists’ acts driven by the Uighurs for example the 2013 car attack in Tienman Square. The resulting re-education camps arise from a genuine fear of Islamic extremism. The Chinese Communist Party’s main concern is itself and its sustainability in the forthcoming future. Not reform, not economic growth and not a positive global reputation, it simply seeks to pacify the next generation.


Committee Room 4, House of Lords
London, SW1A 0AA United Kingdom


Henry Jackson Society
+44 (0) 20 7340 4520


Benedict Rogers


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