EVENT TRANSCRIPT: UNDERSTANDING THE UIGHUR SITUATION IN XINJIANG
DATE: 10th JANUARY 2019, 6.00PM-7.00PM
VENUE: COMMITTEE ROOM 4, HOUSE OF LORDS, WESTMINSTER
SPEAKERS: BENEDICT ROGERS, ROSIE BLAU, DR. ENVER TOHTI, RAHIMA MAHMUT
CHAIR: LORD DAVID HANNAY
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Right. If everybody can sit down and grab a seat, we might get started. Please let me know if you can’t hear me, the acoustics in these rooms are not brilliant so when you ask questions could you please speak relatively slowly and very clearly because otherwise others won’t hear you. So welcome to what looks like an extremely crowded meeting and I do think.
I am David Hannay, I am a member of the House of Lords, I am a member of the House of Lord’s International Relations Committee, which writes reports on things like the Middle East, the West Balkans, United Nations, priorities for the Secretary General and we’re just starting one on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty but I am delighted to have the opportunity to chair this meeting called, as you may know “Understanding the Uighur situation in Xinyang”. It is both topical and urgent as we are beginning to see pretty harrowing accounts of the predicament of Xinyang’s Uighur population continue to emerge. Despite the Chinese governments best efforts to conceal what is going on in the province and the Henry Jackson Society is to be congratulated on assembling such a well-qualified panel to cast some light on a region and its population which has largely escaped outside attention until recently. Although it was actually referred to by a question in the House of Lords just this morning about human rights in China. My own qualification to chair this meeting is relatively modest but I did visit Xinjang as a tourist in 1995 and I visited Dunhuang, Turfan, Urumqi, Kashgar and Tashkurgan. We were very fortunate, we had a Kazakh first and then an Uighur tour guide, we got some feel for the anxiety that already was in 1995 and after all we are talking about 23 years ago, was already on the rise in population such as Uighur and Kazakh, Kazakh much smaller of course, anxieties were on the rise mainly caused by the inflow of Chinese and the concern that the minorities as the society was undergoing very rapid changes and transformation over which they had no say and no control. So even then, and that was 24 years ago, trouble was brewing and there was no doubt about that. I did actually write a diary at the time and had a look at it last night and I did actually identify some of the things that were likely to happen if the policies continued on the way they were going back then but of course it exploded some years later with the deadly riots in Urumqi and since then problems have spread and they can and should not be labelled, as the Chinese like to do, as terrorism, even if there is an element of that in the situation. The first priority for outsiders, like ourselves, is to try and understand what is going on and our panel here to my right and left is extraordinary qualified to do that for us.
So we will have 4 speakers and they will speak one after the other and then we should have plenty of time to take questions on the floor. So I have on my right, your left looking at me, Benedict Rogers, a human rights activist with much experience in Asia, a frequent contributor to radio, television and the written press. Then I have on my left Enver Tohti, a human rights activist also, originally trained as a surgeon who has focused on the plight of the Uighur population of Xinyang and then immediately to my left Rahima Mahmut, a singer and translator, whose translation of the book “The Land Drenched in Tears” has won the PEN translation award last July. And finally on my right, Rosie Blau editor of The Economist publication 1843, who worked for The Economist in Beijing and served as a judge on the Man Booker prize for fiction. So there you are, that’s the panel and I will now ask Benedict Rogers to start us off.”
BENEDICT ROGERS: “Lord Hannay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much firstly for hosting this important meeting and thank you everybody for coming, it’s a sign of just how important this issue is. And it is a privilege to be here once again with the Henry Jackson Society, an organisation that I have huge respect for and had the privilege of speaking at on a number of occasions in the past and also to speak alongside such a distinguished panel, including two people who are themselves Uighur.
I would like to sketch out in fairly broad terms some of the current concerns and I am sure the other speakers will develop those and add to them and speak from first-hand knowledge. But I would also like to speak a few words about what I see the UK and the rest of the international community has done in recent months and should do going forward. On Tuesday this week the House of Commons Foreign Office Affairs Committee was told by a panel of China experts that quote ‘grave human rights violations’ on a quote ‘vast scale’ were being perpetrated in what they described as the worst human rights crisis since the era of Mao. I worked for an organisation called CSW, Christian Solidarity World-wide, and we have through our research documented reports and other similar organisations have documented reports that suggest that at least 1 million and some would estimate recently as many as 3 million are detained without charge in political re-education camps in Xinyang, simply for a hand full of the following reasons: having a WhatsApp on your phone, having relatives abroad, accessing religious materials online, having visited certain particularly considered ‘sensitive’ countries, engaging in religious activities or simply being given no reason at all. They have no access to legal counsel, no mechanism for appeal, and their families are not told where they are held and when they are released. They are held in conditions in these camps which are dangerously unsanitary, overcrowded, they are subjected to widespread forms of beatings, torture, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement. In October last year CSW published based on both interviews with witnesses and family members of victims, but also on publically available material including for example government recruitment notices for construction firms to build these camps, procurement bids for the construction of these camps, statements in Chinese media and reports by other organisations, notably Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Uighur Human Rights Project. So what has been the UK’s response to this to this extraordinary and appalling crisis that thankfully in recent months has been receiving a lot more media attention than it had been? Well the Foreign Secretary General told Parliament that the UK does view the situation with quote “a lot of concern” and he has pledged to raise it in all appropriate forms. British diplomats went to Xinyang in August and confirmed the kind of reports that I just outlined as broadly accurate. The British ambassadors then wrote a letter signed by 15 other Western ambassadors, spearheaded by Canada, to the communist party boss of Xinyang Chen Quanguo. The Foreign Secretary has raised it with the Chinese Foreign Minister, it was raised in China’s universal periodic review at the United Nations and in particular what was raised in Britain’s recommendations to the UPR was the specific recommendation calling on China to implement recommendations by the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination and to allow the UN to monitor the implementation of that. That committee has described Xinyang as quote “a massive internment camp, shrouded in secrecy. A no rights zone with Uighurs and other Muslims regarded as enemies of the state based on nothing more than their ethno-religious identity”.
What more, given that description, what more should the UK do? Well in my view the first thing that the UK should be doing, we welcome the things that have been done very much, but we think that the UK should be speaking out much more publicly in the face of such a severe crisis. I think we ought to learn the lessons of what happened in recent years with the Rohingas in Burma, where our response was too slow and too late and that is now regarded as a genocide, I’ll come back to the question of genocide before I conclude. But speaking out more publicly, more public statements on the situation in Xinyang are merited. We would encourage the British government to work with others in the international community to establish an independent impartial and comprehensive UN-led investigation, perhaps something along the lines of a Commission of Inquiry. I was involved a few years ago in advocating for a UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, people said it couldn’t be done but it was achieved and it was a very important investigation and of course I’m conscious speaking in the presence of Lord Hannay, you may well have views to contribute on this given your wealth of experience of the UN but that would be my proposal and something to work towards and accountability mechanism recognising of course the huge challenge of doing that with the country that we’re talking about today. Thirdly, we would encourage the British government on a domestic front, the Home Office, to ensure that no individual who would be at risk of arbitrary detention and other abuses in Xinjiang who is currently in the UK is forcibly returned to China. We would also urge members of both House of Parliament to seek a full Parliamentary debate, we welcome the questions that have been raised in both houses quite regularly but I think it might be time now for a full debate in both houses.
Let me conclude with three final points and I will close with the words of one survivor of the camps before I hand over to the other speakers. The first point I want to highlight is in addition to all the abuses that I outlined very briefly. We have particular concerns about the program of DNA testing that has been carried out among Uighurs and the transportation of Uighurs from Xinjiang to other parts of China, particularly Heilongjiang province, and we are especially concerned about this because although we can’t prove this at this stage, DNA testing could well be used either for bio-metrics surveillance or for organ harvesting. It is worth just referencing it at this point the issue of organ harvesting is an extremely grave concern. There is currently an independent tribunal, the China tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice who prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic and that tribunal has received testimony from Uighur. The tribunal is ongoing but has come out with an interim judgment saying that organ harvesting is happening or has happened in China so we’re concerned for that reason for DNA testing. Second closing point, we, I believe now should talk about the situation in Xinjiang in terms of crimes against humanity and mass atrocities and if we don’t yet use the word ‘genocide’, I think we could certainly use the phrase ‘cultural genocide’, the elimination of a culture involving a campaign of sinicisation. The New York Times recently quoted Chinese state media stating that the goal in Xinjiang quote ‘to break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins’. As the Washington Post said ‘It’s hard to read that as anything other than a declaration of genocidal intent’. And thirdly it’s also important whilst it’s right to focus specifically on Xinjiang today, it’s important to see this in the context of what is the worst crackdown on human rights in China, certainly since Tiananmen, some would say since the cultural revolution, including what’s happening in terms of the crackdown of freedom of religion for Christians, the destruction of crosses and closure of churches, the imprisonment of church leaders, the situation in Tibet, the persecution of Falun Gong, the massive crackdown on freedom of expression both online and offline, the rounding up of human rights lawyers in recent years and the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong.
So let me close with some very powerful words from one Uighur, who recently gave evidence in the United States Congress, Mihrigul Tursun who said this and I think this encapsulates the experience of not just one person but potentially millions of people. ‘I was taken to a cell’ she said, ‘which was built underground with no windows, there was an iron gate and the door opened through a computerised lock system. There was a small hole in the ceiling for ventilation but we were never taken outside for fresh air, there was a toilet bowl in the corner out in the open without toilet paper. There were cameras on all four sides so that the officials could see every corner of the room and the light, the one light, was always on. We were given 7 days to memorise the rules of the camp and 14 days to memorise all the lines in a book that hails the Communist ideology. The women in the cell whose voices were weak or could not sing the songs in Chinese or remember the specific rules of the camp were denied food and beaten up. They forced us to take unknown pills and drink some kind of white liquid. The pills caused us to lose consciousness and reduced our cognition level, the white liquid caused loss of menstruation in some women and extreme bleeding in others and even death. I was forced to take some unknown drugs, they checked my mouth with their fingers to make sure I swallowed them, I felt less conscious and lethargic and lost appetite after taking these drugs. I clearly remember the torture I experienced in the tiger chair the second time I was incarcerated, I was taken to a special room with an electrical chair with the interrogation room that had one light and one chair. There were belts and whips hanging on the wall, I was placed in a high chair that clicked to lock my arms and legs in place and tightened when they press a button. My head was shaved beforehand for maximum impact. The authorities put a helmet thing on my head, each time I was electrocuted my whole body would shake violently and I could feel the pain in my veins. I thought I would rather die than go through this torture and I begged them to kill me’. Ladies and gentleman, I believe the time for action on this appalling crisis in Xinjiang is long overdue and I look forward to hearing the other speakers. Thank you.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Thank you. Now second we will have Enver Tohti and if you could speak now that would be really, really (inaudible). Thank you very much.”
ENVER TOHTI: “Thank you very much. It is my honour to sit here before you to give this speech. I would like to start with a picture, this is a boy, 2nd of September 2015, this boy was found on a Turkish beach. He was of Kurdish origin and this picture has changed the world view on migrants. There’s another boy, he’s two years old from (inaudible). His both parents were taken into camps and he was looked after his 78 years old grandpa and he has gone lost and frozen to death in a field and in this picture has almost become forgotten. Just two boys that lived a thousand miles apart have met same fate. However, one has changed the world, the other almost forgotten.
Life as it is a subject to another race is already a hell. Slaughtered as it’s a land for the reason that it is not (inaudible) for the ruler’s wishes means that it do not have the right to exist. Massive detention and arbitrary killing are no longer a myth but it is a fact now. The number of cases, the number of detainees no longer has a meaning because one is more than enough. With puzzled eyes closely looking at the CCP’s action, one could not comprehend it. One will question that didn’t know the CCP’s think tankers are educated, didn’t not they know what they are doing, what they’re trying to do has been tried by Hitler. To try and understand that, I decided to look back to history and there’s the answer. The Manchurians (inaudible) made the whole China apart from the language look like Manchurians and that is a way of true (inaudible) and here we are that Xinjiang is a place that sinicisation has gone badly wrong. So they found that they cannot bear that the so called barbarians are still pretty much alive because you heard my skin must be different. Therefore, eliminating the barbarians is the ultimate duty of the CCP, so I was puzzled but not surprised. The CCP now have realised that their action is under the Western surveillance of satellite so they come up with ideas to remove, transfer prisoners at night so your satellite will no longer be able to take pictures. The redistribution of the prisoners across the country has however a hidden agenda that is that in case of changes of regime collapse that the Uighurs who have power to rebel will not have enough manpower to form a meaningful resistance, that is my answer. And inside source told me that destinations of those prisoners are the major organ transplant centres of China. This explains how the CCP able to find an organ and short as 4 hours’ time, just imagine a Chinese fish restaurant, there is a water tank full of fish and you can come and you can choose which fish you want to eat and that is quite similar scenario. Sandwiched by the superpowers during the history and as it is the last keeper of Nestorian Christianity that the Uighurs have always been a victim of the power struggle in the region and never sought to conquer any other nation but always maintained peace with the neighbours. One example is because there was peace in 1940s when there were 5 million Uighurs and only 100,000 Han Chinese, they lived in peace. Therefore, the truth should be told and the reconciliation has to be made. Thank you very much.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Thank you very much too, and now our third speaker Rahima Mahmut, please.”
RAHIMA MAHMUT: “Thank you. First I would like to thank Dr John Hemmings for organising this event and inviting me to speak about violations suffered by the Uighur people and I feel very encouraged to see so many people showing interest.
My name is Rahima Mahmut, I born in Ghulja in the north of what was, is East Turkestan. I was brought up in a large religious family, since primary school by entire education has been in Mandarin. I studied at the (inaudible) university of technology from 1987 to 1992. During which time I was one of the many tens of thousands of students who participated the famous 1989 democratic movement which ended in the notorious June Fourth Tiananmen Massacre. On returning from the university I worked in the petro-chemical industry in (inaudible), one of the largest petro-chemical plant in East Turkestan where I found only 10% of the workforce were from ethnic minorities. During my time there I witnessed widespread discrimination against Uighur people in every aspect of their daily lives, especially in the opportunities for promotion and jobs. This was a common phenomenon throughout East Turkestan. On February 5th 1997, people in my hometown in Ghulja took to streets protesting against the government’s discrimination with discriminating policies against Uighur people, demanding religious and cultural freedom and equality. As usual the government crushed the peaceful demonstrators with military force where hundreds were killed, thousands were arrested which was followed by mass executions. I was on winter vacation visiting my mother and family with my two year old son. I witnessed how the military and police terrorised the whole city, searching homes and arresting innocent people. It was heart breaking to witness the helplessness and despair felt by my people. Many of my relatives and family friends were arrested and later sentenced to a long prison term. I came to the UK in 2000 to study and have lived here ever since, for the last 18 years I was unable to return to see my family and beloved homeland because of my involvements in speaking out against human rights violations imposed on my people by the Chinese government and my last contact with my brother was in January 2017. He told me ‘please hand us to God’s hand and we will hand you to God’s hand too’, which means he asked me to not call them again. Up until today I don’t know how they are, if they are safe or in turn in re-education camps. I have tried to find information indirectly but it has not been possible for ever I approach is terrified to get involved as a political environment is so terrifying.
Not long after I spoke to my brother, news about the mass detention of people and placing them into so called re-education camps started to emerge. The gruesome details of how people were targeted and criminalised in the claim of cracking down on religious extremism, which in fact applied to all ordinary practicing Muslims. We believe that there are possibly up to 3 million people held in the camps, as working as an interpreter I have been in involved with various organisations in interviewing people who have been detained in re-education camps or prison. Their accounts about the torture is chilling and horrendous, one person who was released only two months ago revealed that there are people kept in detention for over a year before being moved to re-education camps. He said that the place of detention was a nightmare, during his time of detention of over three months he was tortured daily. 60 people were crowded into a 60 square metre cell, his worst humiliation was to have to strip off his clothes in front of everyone and to walk in a circle in view of the CCTV camera and this was repeated by everyone else every night. Also, every day when the police siren was sounded all prisoners in the room had to dive on top of each other and remain there until sirens stopped, and sometimes this could be 30 minutes. When asked to why he was arrested, he stated he didn’t know, he believed that because he was Uighur. There was another detainee who spent a year in three different detention centres, he described his ordeal for over four hours. He revealed that many innocent people he knew falsely admitted making bombs despite never having seen a bomb in their life in order to stop their torture. He described when he was taken to interrogation room, the sound of women and men screaming which made his legs feel like jelly. The horrific details which he described affected me so deeply that I was unable to sleep for two nights. What we are reading in the paper is only the tip of the iceberg as there are many more horrendous crimes against humanity taking place at this very moment.
This is just an insight into what’s happening to the people held in detention and camps and people who are outside of these establishments are not free of intimidation either as they have no freedom of speech, language, dress, eat, drink and religion. The entire way of Uighur culture, heritage and tradition has been taken away from them including their funeral rights. Thank you for this.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Thank you very much. Now our fourth speaker, Rosie Blau”
ROSIE BLAU: “Thank you very much, I’m Rosie Blau from The Economist. I thank you very much for such moving testimonies, I think what I’m going to do is try and zoom out of it and think about why, what is happening, might be happening, and where it might be going.
So, we’re often told China has thousands of years of continuous civilisation, questions about that, but Xinjiang is a rather recent arrival, the word means ‘new frontier’ or ‘new border land’ and the area began to fall under the control of what we now call China in the mid-18th century, so the Xin dynasty, and even in 1949 when the Chinese Communist Party came to power the population of Xijiang was Han, in other words the majority population of mainland China, which is 92% of the whole of China, there is only 4% Han in Xinjiang and today it’s 42% so there we see one huge policy that has been happening over the last decade, huge migration encouraging and often at times forced by the Chinese Communist Party. So as Lord Hannay says that decades the region has been racked by insecurity, unhappiness and a low-level insurgency by a very small number of Uighurs against growing Han influence. But there’s been a huge ramping up of repression there in the past decades, in 2009 around 200 people died in ethnic clashes in Urumqi, the region’s capital, and security has massively increased since then but particularly since the arrival of Xi Jinping in 2012.
Now some of that is in the general context of China’s much greater demand to show loyalty but there have also been a few events which I think shocked the Chinese Communist Party and started to trigger some of these much greater oppression. In 2013, 5 people were killed when a car driven by Uighurs ploughed into pedestrians in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and burst into flames, and then in 2014 there was a knife attack by a small number of Uighurs in the south western city of Kunming in a train station and I think those two together, one at the heart of China’s political power, one in a kind of (inaudible) destination, a train station, were incredibly shocking to the Chinese central government. We’ve also had a small number of situations where a couple of Uighurs, where a few Uighurs were probably involved in a number of incidents abroad, there was the Thai shrine bombing in 2015 where a number of Uighurs may have been implicated, there are believed to be a small number of Uighurs in Syria with ISIS. So that’s some of the background of events and then a year and a half ago what we saw was the Chinese Communist Party decide right we’ve got to do something about this and they brought the party secretary of Tibet who was seen as very successful in Tibet in sort of silencing Tibet to Xinjiang and we’ve had a huge increase in repression there including these camps that we’ve been hearing about today.
Now when we’re talking about the camps we don’t know how many people we are talking about, it could be 500,000, it could be up to 3 million but what we do now is that a far greater number of people is living in a climate of fear in Xinjiang. Three main aspects of this; one is that ordinary manifestations of Islamic faith has been criminalised so rules came into effect that effectively banned what they called abnormal beards, long beards, women wearing face veils and full body coverings can be reported to police, you’re no longer allowed to give your children names that exaggerate religious further, a leaked list of banned names included the name Mohammed. Under 18s can’t go to mosques, you’re not allowed to be taught the Koran at home so you’ve got Islamic faith is very hard to be a Muslim in Xinjiang. Secondly we’ve had a repeating of many of the tactics we’ve seen in Tibet so a lot of Uighurs have had to hand in their passports, they have to seek permission to travel abroad, even travelling to the rest of the country is tricky. And then the third thing is a huge ramping up of security, massive displays of paramilitary troops on the streets of Xinjiang, extraordinary levels of surveillance, extremely intrusive, security cameras everywhere, massive increase on spending on security hardware and also personnel in Xinjiang. Vehicles in parts of Xinjiang have had to install satellite navigation system so they can be tracked wherever they go and then as Ben said there have been reports of giant DNA databases being collected. And then of course we’ve had the news of camps where Uighurs and Kazakhs and some others are being held, some for weeks, months, years and we don’t know why people have been sent, there’s no mechanism for them to leave, we know that the conditions in many of them are shocking.
So why is any of this happening? Well one reason is a genuine fear of Islamic extremism. A very small number of Uighurs have become radicalised, a small number of people in Xinjiang do want Xinjiang to be a separate state, there is some overlap between the two. It seems apparent that a small number of Uighurs within China may have links with extremists outside China. We also know that a small number of Uighurs outside China have joined other causes, such as ISIS. Now of course there is a completely wrong headed belief that repression and locking people away in camps is a good way to stop what’s happening but we’ll come onto that in a minute. A second reason for all of this happening is that I think the Chinese Communist Party has learnt from the Tibetan movement that it doesn’t want to repeat what’s happened there so we all know how well known the cause of Tibet is around the world and the Chinese Communist Party is absolutely desperate to stop any development of a vocal movement speaking up for Uighurs inside or outside China. So we’ve seen intimidation of Uighurs abroad, we’ve seen Uighurs with Chinese passports being forced back to China or as Rahima said not being allowed to return to China and not being allowed to maintain their ties. We know that Uighurs within China who have contact with people from outside the country are being surveyed often, ties cut off and they’re often punished. So again, giving Uighurs ever more egregious things to shout about is a funny way to shut people up but I think that’s part of the problem, all part of the reason rather. And then the third thing is that the Chinese Communist Party wants to make everyone like the Han Chinese. I think that’s one reason why there are a lot of Muslims in China, the Hui Muslims who although they are coming increasing pressure now have not been subjected to the same repression that Uighurs have in Xinjiang. What the Chinese government wants is to turn Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang into people who act like Han Chinese, speak Mandarin and have very few vestiges of any other cultural influence.
Now the thing about China, the Chinese Communist Party is it’s playing the long game and here is where an autocracy is so very different I think from a democracy. The Chinese Communist Party is essentially a dynasty, it doesn’t see itself going anywhere anytime soon and so I think what it’s trying to do is sit and wait this out. If it waits for a generation I think it thinks it will have pacified a population. So teach Uighurs in Mandarin even if that means they are less well educated which indeed they are because there aren’t enough Uighur teachers who speak good enough Mandarin to teach well. Remove any chance for children to read the Koran or to be taught about it, turn mosques into nothing more than tourist attractions, turn mullahs into tour guides as monks increasingly are in temples in Inner Mongolia and Tibet. Reduce the links between Uighurs and outside world just as once Inner Mongolia was completely separated from Mongolia and families were separated, and I think Inner Mongolia is an interesting example here of what we might think of as the Chinese Communist Party want to try and achieve. Inner Mongolia had an extraordinarily, bloody, cultural revolution, by some counts all but two monasteries were ransacked. At one point Buddhism was so strong there as it was in Tibet, now it essentially doesn’t exist but even so SWAT teams exist round the corner from large restored monasteries just in case and the yurt has become a symbol of a culture, something that the Chinese Communist Party thinks is OK because a lot of people would like to lean behind a rural life anyway.
So what can we see from what’s happening in Xinjiang about the Chinese Communist Party’s priorities? Something that we often hear being said about China is that it’s putting economic growth above all else. I don’t think it is, locking people up is hugely expensive particularly when you have no prospect of any clear means of letting most of them go. Security in Xinjiang is also extremely expensive, discrimination is a huge way waste of money, you ignore a lot of talent. The failure to use human capital or educate your workforce to the very highest standard at a time when the workforce is shrinking show that your priorities lie very much elsewhere and the chances are there are many other hidden costs here too, I no longer am covering the stuff but I would urge any journalist who is to try and follow some of the money trails between China and mainly Muslim nations, I suspect that a lot of money is changing hands because we’ve heard so little from most nations. So we’ve got this tragic case of perhaps a million, possibly more Uighurs locked up in Xinjiang and many more millions there living in fear and trepidation. It shows that the China’s Communist Party’s main priority is itself and its sustainability for forthcoming future, not reform, not economic growth and not a positive global reputation, that should give us all thoughts for thought. Thank you.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Right, we’ve had three very informative and very moving presentations. Now time for questions, could I just suggest that we’ve got a lot of people, we’ve got a limited amount of time so please could you make sure the questions are short and to the point. If you wish to address to a particular member of the panel please say so. If you yourself represent any organisation please say so before you put your question, and with that let’s get started. Yes please, I’ll take three at a time and then ask the panel to comment, yes please.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: “Thank you very much, Ewan Grant, Institute for Statecraft here in a personal capacity. I have on my phone photo of a very brave young man who received a liver transplant in China and is well aware of where that came from. Questions for all the panel: Are there any particular institutions or organisations in Western countries whose response to what you’re saying has particularly encouraged you or conversely, and you know where I’m coming from on this, has particularly discouraged you.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Yes please, yes”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: “(Inaudible) at the (inaudible). Can I just make the point that the British government had raised this issue with the United Nations. Does the panel feel that there should be further diplomatic pressure applied on China through the UN?”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “And yes please”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: “(Inaudible) of the Henry Jackson Society. My question is to either panellists there, so building on the point that the main Muslim nations not speaking enough, there’s Pakistan that gives hour long speeches about (inaudible) year after year but called its relationship with China deeper than the ocean and sweeter than honey. What do you make of that?”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Right, let’s take it in reverse order. Rosie could you start?”
ROSIE BLAU: “Thank you. Have any institutions done a good job of their response? I can’t think of one, disappointed at most of them I would say. Yes there should be much more pressure. Yes there should be more pressure at the UN, that’s going to be hard, China has done a very good job. The Chinese Communist Party has done a very good job of changing debate at the UN and making it hard to raise human rights issues. China and Pakistan I will leave to others.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Yes please”
RAHIMA MAHMUT: “My response is very similar because I do feel there’s so much to be done that up until now we don’t even see. There are countries, not just institutions, countries that could have done more but still remaining in silence.”
ENVER TOHTI: “I think this (inaudible) can be categorised with one sentence that when there’s bag of gold on the table, everything is possible.”
BENEDICT ROGERS: “I agree with all previous answers. The word that was coming to my mind thinking back to Rwanda and Srebrenica and other tragedies and genocides in recent years. Every time it has happened, the word, the phrase that has been used is ‘never again’ and I feel like we’re in danger of ‘never again’ all over again in this instance. As I outlined in my remarks, I welcome the things the British government and other governments have done but are they proportionate to the scale that we now know? Definitely not. But in a way I’m perhaps even more disappointed by the lack of response from the OIC and Muslim majority countries, but I want to emphasise this should never be made a Muslim issue, this should be an issue of global concern and a human rights issue but it does surprise me that Muslim majority nations have not just been silent but actually I think the case of Pakistan is particularly shocking that they, I was told recently that they said very vacantly they take the Chinese government’s position and I think too many people are too afraid to stand up to China and if collectively it’s understandable nation by nation that they may feel worried by the consequences but if collectively Western democratic nations with OIC nations spoke with one voice, that could have an impact.”
ENVER TOHTI: “Can I add a little about Pakistan because Pakistan is very, very grateful for the Chinese. In 1990 it was Chinese in (inaudible) in Xinjiang detonated Pakistan’s very first nuclear bomb, so they can’t afford to forget that.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “No, right, now. Yes there please.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: “(Inaudible) and I’m speaking on my own. I have seen (inaudible). They have seen situations in Kashmir, situations in Palestine and nothing has happened with these things. So they now give reference to their own (inaudible) than talking about international (inaudible) whether it is in China or Rohingya, so that is the main reason. Where is the international, the international community do not take any interest when they become human rights situations, (inaudible) in Rwanda, South Africa or India so everybody is talking about their own interests. When they have interest (inaudible) and whenever they don’t have interest (inaudible), so I think (inaudible) are in the United Nations a permanent member of the Security Council (inaudible), they can make an investigations whether they have don in the case of Rohingya, Myanmar. What happened to them? So I have no questions because I don’t think if I make any questions that will not be answered. We are frustrated, the Muslims are frustrated the way the international community are dealing with the human rights (inaudible) in the world. (Inaudible) take interest from that.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 5: “Matthew (inaudible), former diplomat and now independent consultant. Question mainly to Rosie but I think it’s one that everybody can have a view on. Rosie talked about the abuse of the Uighurs has been centre of the matter of China’s Communist Party domestic agenda but I think we should also note that Xinjiang’s the runway for the Belt and Road Initiative. To what extent do you think the situation there is connected with the trajectory of the BRI into Central Asia and beyond and that it is so connected, which I personally believe, what does this tell us about the benevolence of other ways of BRI as a wider strategic scheme? Thank you.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Please”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 6: “Thank you that was an excellent, excellent speeches. I’m Dr (inaudible), one of the representatives of the Muslims community in United Kingdom and Imam of Oxford University. What I have to (inaudible) it is Islam, the word of Islam is (inaudible) upside down and inside out. However, we were talking about Uighurs. Its look like a Muslim against Buddhist or this thing come to. What we can do, which the United Nations cannot do, for example we can ask the Buddhist I invite the head of the (inaudible) temple in London, when we were talking in the Central Mosque 1.2 billion people looking at it. (Inaudible). 1.2 billion on this (inaudible) looking at it. Therefore why we don’t go onto this channel as well, United Nations if we want to confront China as our friend says they can stop it. But if we can go to the head of the (inaudible), if we can invite him here. If we save our own brothers, let’s respect each other’s religion, let’s speak together, we are interfaith, 6 billion people goes for the faith, they are interfaith. Very strong interfaith which (inaudible) which we can do these tools can be used, can be used to bring peace between two because if they, Buddhist say I am not, I’m not safe from this person they lock him up. Therefore if we can do this one, this channel goes forward. The second one is I would like to make a (inaudible) 35,000 people perhaps in London. Can (inaudible). Can anybody help? It’s for promotion, we have nothing called genocide at the moment. We have Rohingya genocide, we have Uighurs (inaudible), several things we do. However, we can promote it and we can go for one and of course save these people (inaudible). Thank you for this.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Right, well let’s go in the first order. Benedict.”
BENEDICT ROGERS: “Thank you. Well, a number of comments there, I think I’ll leave the question about Belt and Road to Rosie as was addressed primarily to although my basic view is yes I agree with the premise of the question. I’ll just comment on the idea of a rally, I think yes absolutely, if among our different organisations and networks we can rally public protests that is one way to push our government and other governments round the world to do more. So in principle I’d support it, I would help promote it on social media and least you’d have one person coming along.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 6: “I’m sure we can get a minimum of 25,000.”
BENEDICT ROGERS: “Great.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 6: “But we can put it for 100,000. 25,000 from the BBC to Trafalgar Square. Usually we go there from that and of course I know that people wish they can do it but how we can do it and what we can do (inaudible) that would be great. Let’s work on that.”
ENVER TOHTI: “Well, it is really interesting topic. You brought this into the religious side and what I can see is that there are so many Uighur people they had been lured into the Turkey and into the Syria. They didn’t know that, they went there by spatial forces, we don’t know. So many of them they run back, we come out it’s not for like go to work no, so many people they raised one question: ‘if Allah cannot save us then we may need any saviour’.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 6: “On that reason I can tell you one thing which we were talking to the head of the defence of the United Kingdom is a very close friend of mine and I said I’m going for the Rohingya’s. Rohingya’s he said ‘we’re going to help us’. What? It is great because China is behind it. I said ‘do you know who is behind me? He said ‘who?’ I said ‘Allah’. He said ‘Yes sir (inaudible)’. Head of the defence, he’s very, very gentleman of course, he said ‘Yes sir’. God, he’s very powerful, God, he is a God.”
RAHIMA MAHMUT: “The problem in the region in my view is actually not religion, it’s not genuinely because of religion, because of Islam. Although the Chinese are using this term and trying to use this against the Uighur people, I believe the Chinese government also understand actually there are very, very small minority of the Uighur people are so called extremists. That is just an excuse to crack down and to cultural genocide or ethnic cleansing in order to use that policy because Buddhist’s are also being targeted for many, many years. Christians are suffering too, now all religions, people who believe in different religion are suffering so for me to look at the solution itself is that the Chinese government has to feel the pain, the Western countries including UN and many organisations really not using more effective ways to stop the Chinese government doing what they are doing.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Yes, Rosie. Belt and Road”
ROSIE BLAU: “Thank you, Belt and Road. I crossed out that bit actually that I was going to say about Belt and Road because I already had too much to say but yes I think it’s another reason why we have had a sudden ramping up of extraordinary repression. The Chinese Communist Party thinks that it needs to right now sort out whatever the problem it is that it sees in Xinjiang because it is launching these trade routes, so called, across the world through Xinjiang and through the ‘Stans’ and across Asia to Europe, and Xinjiang is potentially a problem there. Whether that is a security problem in the short term, whether that is about people mixing with people from other nations and people from Xinjiang with others from elsewhere in Asia. So there are those aspects but we also again coming back to what we see as the Chinese Communist Party’s priorities, the priority is to keep itself in power and that goes ahead of the even of economic growth and so you see with all of those that comes first, Belt and Road two, and it will affect how it treats people from other nations, including particularly those near neighbours.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Well I think we’ve got time for one more round of questions. Yes.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 7: “My name is (inaudible), I’m here in a private capacity. I can’t help but disagree with what has been said regarding what has to be done. I’m not a China expert but I know about business. Business only care about profits, that’s what see about the Belt and Road Initiative, that what we see happening pretty much anywhere (inaudible) happy to give out technology to Chinese businesses and so on, the only thing the Chinese authorities say they care about is law enforce and spending on the armed forces. If we don’t stand up to them on that then we have no chance. United Nations is pretty much fake, a fake institution with regard to dealing with regimes like China, you’re not going to get anywhere with that. There has to be some education of the authorities that, for instance, allow the Chinese to come in and finance what is it about 30% of nuclear power station (inaudible) in the UK. Crazy initiatives like that. (Inaudible) Chinese networks and so on in West, it’s insane what’s going on and that has to be stopped.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Yes please.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 8: “Rob Gray from Doctors Against (inaudible). Is there currently reports, either confirmed or unconfirmed, in connection to the number of the 1-3 million people currently incarcerated in Xinjiang that have been transferred to other detention centres around China. The reason for asking for the question is Ben quite rightly highlighted is with the recent China tribunal, it’s been, the threat of live organ harvesting has been taking place and is very real. There are confirmed reports of people being transferred from Xinjiang to other detention centres around China, if there is a connection to that?”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “And this one here, I think, yes please.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 9: “I pick up on a, mentioned by Rosie Blau about the money trail and I wonder if there are any prospects of making a distinction between the Communist Party itself and what it does and the public in that country at large and what they might be able to think about, notice and do. So if there is a distinction between those two entities, how might we explore that and (inaudible).”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Rosie, could you start?”
ROSIE BLAU: “Sure. The first was more of a comment and in terms of the organs I’ll leave Ben to answer that. In terms of the money trail, are you referring to in other nations or within China? Your question?”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 9: “I’m asking you that question, you raised (inaudible).”
ROSIE BLAU: “OK, so when I was talking about the money trails I was talking about the Chinese government and the money trails that are likely to be leading to many other nations, particularly Muslim majority nations. I think that is very likely to be one reason for the silence. In terms of the general populous speaking up, yes I’m surprised that there are more people speaking up within Muslim nations, I’m not surprised that there are not more people speaking up within China. I think most people within China do not know what is happening in Xinjiang and the Chinese government has done an extraordinarily good job of making people within China fear Uighurs, Islam, what is happening in Xinjiang and believe that they, the people, the ordinary people of China are the ones who are at threat, who are under threat and not the Uighurs so I’m not surprised there is not a response and to speak about the Uighurs within China would be I think immediately quashed.
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Please.”
RAHIMA MAHMUT: “Yes I agree with you including some lawyers who defended the Uighur, who speak up some journalists, also some photographers and also I know one student who went to Harvard University and he mentioned about the (inaudible), this prominent Uighur intellectual was placed in re-education camp about 8 years ago and he mentioned about her case in Harvard university and there was an article published there. After he returned he was sentenced to 5 years, the Chinese man.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Please.”
ENVER TOHTI: “That question to you, we don’t have evidence to link the transfer the prisoner into transplantation centre but in China rumour always has its truth. So now if there is a rumour, in a few years later it will be the truth so now it is the rumour stage but I do believe because otherwise they cannot achieve to find an organ in 4 hours’ time, they cannot achieve that.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 8: “But is there confirmed reports.”
ENVER TOHTI: “No.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 8: “Of the large numbers of prisoners being transferred from Xinjiang just to other areas, not specifically to transplant centres but to other areas.”
ENVER TOHTI: “Yes, yes. To Heilongjiang and (inaudible) and the (inaudible) yes, yes. Because just police officer they come to Xinjiang first to have training, how to lock them, take these prisoners back to their own province. And another one I would like to add, when you have that very clear vision under Chinese Communist Party because Chinese Communist Party is the party born to the chaos and its grow under terror and when there’s order and peace achieve the party will collapse so this party whatever they are doing this is to maintain chaos, they, principle. Violent revolution and maintain chaos, that is the way they are surviving and Uighur people say they are Muslim and they become a very convenient target.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Yes.”
BENEDICT ROGERS: “Thank you. Well I’ll just make a closing comment in response particularly to the comment about business because the other questions have already been addressed. I have a lot of sympathy for the view you expressed, I mean I don’t think it means that we shouldn’t pursue the things I outlined but I certainly agree that business and China’s economic strength and technology are all probably the biggest questions in this and I think the situation in Xinjiang, together with all the other issues that I mentioned briefly happening in China at the moment, including the erosion of freedom in Hong Kong ought to make us completely re-evaluate how we see China and how we relate to China. There used to be a view which was one I held and many people hold that as China grew economically, it would gradually liberalise politically. That manifestly has not happened, in fact the reverse has happened under Xi Jingping and that ought to cause us to rethink how we relate to China. I think the examples recently of Huawei, the remarks by Lord West about technology here and the security implications of that and just recently the filing by Peter Humphrey who had previously lived in China doing business for many years being jailed, was subjected to a forced televised confession and he has now filed a complaint with Ofcom in this country about the presence China Central Television establishing a massive new media centre in London and his argument is that their conduct breaches our own broadcasting standards. All of those things I think are good initiatives and we should be doing much more along those lines of challenging China where they really feel it so I agree with the premise of your comment.”
LORD DAVID HANNAY: “Well thank you very much all for coming along. I’m sorry, I think we really do have to bring this to a close now because we’re over our time anyway. Thank you all very much for coming along, thank you to the four panellists who I think have admirably fulfilled the title of what we were here tonight which was to find out more about the situation in Xinjiang and the fate of the Uighurs and other minorities because don’t forget the Kazakhs too were also suffering discrimination in Xinjiang, though they are much smaller in number. And I do think that part of the answer to all the questions is to find ways of shining more light on what is happening because if the Chinese government is spending an enormous amount of time and effort trying to stop people from finding out about it, finding out about it is obviously embarrassing to them and something they don’t like. So the more that can be done in that way, the more light that can be shone on this and the more facts that can be got out, the better. I don’t think one should have excessive hopes that this will influence Chinese policy very quickly but they do actually mind about being pilloried in the world’s view, they don’t like it. I don’t think we should underestimate the extent that having had the universal review at the Human Rights Council will have cause them quite a lot of pain, they won’t have liked it and so ways in which more can be known about the situation is really quite important. Anyway thank you all very much for coming along and thank you to our panellists.