Kaiser sat down with Nury Turkel, chairman and founder of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, at the recent Association for Asian Studies conference in Denver for an impromptu catch-up on the current crisis in Xinjiang. Nury last appeared on the Sinica Podcast half a year ago. They discussed the policy options available to the U.S. as well as the difficulties of trying to get through to Chinese elites and ordinary Chinese people alike.
What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:
2:31: The conversation begins with a recap of vote counts and support behind bipartisan bills that are currently working through the U.S. Congress: the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response (UIGHUR Act) and the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. Nury says that there could be more news on these bills in the coming months: “We were told that there’s a chance that [the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act] will be finalized…sometime this summer.”
6:44: Nury calls for a larger international coalition to decry the horrors in Xinjiang, and highlight the shadow that Uyghur internment will cast on the longer history of China, stating, “In the end, we want two things. One, we want the camps to be shut down. It’s an embarrassment to the Chinese people, even in their history. It needs to be shut down. And, two, we want to be able to restore the Uyghur people’s basic dignity. Give them their dignity and respect back.”
17:48: After reporting emerged on the supposed death of famed Uyghur musician Abdurehim Heyit, Beijing pushed back with a dubious “proof of life” video. This has resulted in a social media movement to raise awareness about the horrors being committed in Xinjiang, #MeTooUyghur. Nury comments: “So, this #MeTooUyghur movement is building up still. What is amazing about this is that a lot of Uyghurs who were not comfortable sharing their stories are coming out. So, the more people show up and come out telling their stories, the more people know about it. Eventually, it will result in some tangible action.”
27:12: The Uyghurs’ ongoing internment has taken a heavy toll on them. Nury explains: “The Uyghur communities around the world [are] going through a really tough time. Crippling anxiety, a sense of guilt, hopelessness…basically [making] the Uyghurs feel disconnected from their family members. Just basic things, such as calling your parents to say, ‘How are you?’ Just imagine that you hear your mother died in a concentration camp through Radio Free Asia. Just imagine that you recognize your children in the Chinese government propaganda material as a happy child…just imagine that you manage to go to your homeland and you are not able to see your sister because your iris was not scanned or [not] part of the government data. Just imagine that you walk out and try to go to your parents’ cemetery and the Chinese government prevents you because of your religion.”
39:58: How can individuals reach out and help sympathetic Han Chinese who are in China and willing to make a stand for the Uyghurs in Xinjiang? Nury underlines the high stakes involved, not only for the Uyghurs, but for all of China: “At least recognizing that what the Chinese government is doing in the 21st century, criminalizing the entire population [of Uyghurs] collectively, is not good for Chinese civilization.”