The Struggle for Human Rights in China with Joey Siu, Rushan Abbas, Tenzin Tsundue, Luke de Pulford

Full Transcript

Moderator: Good morning. My name is Luke de Pulford. Friends, we have 45 minutes together and we need to use every moment of that time because as I speak to you from this podium the People’s Republic of China is perpetrating atrocities on a scale not seen since the darkest moments of the 20th century.

Often in conferences, we revel in the opportunity to preach to the converted. It can become very comfortable, insular, and ineffective. We get used to the spectacle of people reliving their traumas through telling their testimonies. We become desensitized to their pain. We start to assume knowledge and focus on peripheral technicalities that matter only really to the tiny number of people in our little policy spaces. If we’re not careful we create talking shops. Except, we aren’t talking to the people who need to hear us we’re talking to the people who already agree.

We are not going to do that today. I hope that after these 45 minutes you will leave this conference hall seized of the urgency of the situations you are going to hear about and – dare I hope – a plan for how you can help bring these situations to an end.

Why? Because the continuance of these abuses is on all of us.

I want to congratulate the organizers of this superb conference for bringing here people who may not be as familiar with the severe, urgent, and massive abuses meted out to Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Hong Kongers.

I similarly congratulate them for inviting people who instinctively recoil from what they perceive to be the hawkish position on China which is often characterized as too rightist, too Trumpian, too lacking in nuance. Today’s session is for you.

I speak to you today as a reluctant China hawk. It was my work with Arise an anti-slavery charity that I run that drew me into China work. I couldn’t understand why nobody in the anti-slavery community back in 2018 was talking about the treatment of Uyghurs – easily the most brutal and widespread example of state-sponsored forced labor this century. I quickly realized that the anti-slavery NGO community, my community, was heavily dependent on philanthropic capital derived from businesses that rely on China for their profits. This led me to come to a fuller appreciation of the longer-term atrocities perpetrated against the people of Tibet and to recognize Hong Kong as the fault line between two competing ideologies.

In time I came to know about the strategic expansionism of Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party exemplified by the capture of strategic industries abroad and the Belt and Road Initiative which is buying up swathes of the developing world as we speak, inculcating dependency, and introducing fear of retribution into the foreign policy vernacular of governments worldwide.

They know that if they dare to criticize the behavior of Xi’s regime they will suffer. Just look at Australia and Lithuania, both of which had illegal trade restrictions imposed upon them by China in 2020 and 2021. To say nothing of the sanctioning of foreign politicians, think tanks, and organizations who dared to raise their voices.

All of this has to be taken together with the slow highly strategic undermining of the international rules-based system and its custodian institutions including the United Nations, which have increasingly fallen under the control and influence of the People’s Republic of China. Just as the US has retreated. Taken together, we have no option but to see China as a systemic threat to the rules-based system and as an abuser of human rights on a scale that poses a major challenge to the people in this room and everybody else listening.

What are we going to do about it? How in our spheres of influence are we going to confront it? These questions are particularly pertinent against the backdrop of Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine we’ve just heard about. They’ve rightly dominated attention. But, sadly, they have also allowed some respite to those who would like the spotlight to be taken away from China.

Bismarck is quoted as having said that politics is the art of the possible. He could easily have said that politics is the art of priorities. Let us today renew our commitment to inalienable rights and refuse to allow the plight of the three peoples represented here today to be deprioritized.

We have three speakers with us today who are going to do exactly that. I ask you please to listen to their voices attentively in the knowledge that it costs them to share their struggles.

First, we’re privileged to hear from Tenzin Tsundue, a writer, activist, and Tibetan refugee living in India. He’s come from Dharamsala to join us today. He has been an activist for the last 25 years for the freedom of Tibet and for that cause he’s been jailed 16 times.

Tenzin is going to tell us his story woven together with a bit of the history of the suffering of his people. Tenzin the floor is yours.

Tenzin Tsundue: This is the national flag of Tibet and yesterday at the United Nations I tried to take a picture with this in front of the other flags that are raised and the security guard confiscated mine.

I felt very good, for the first time the United Nations has a Tibetan flag, and the head over there must be wondering “will China scold me for having a Tibetan national flag?”

And this guy whose flag it is is not coming here to take it away. So the United Nations this morning is a little confused.

This flag was first created in 1916. In the middle of the First World War, when half of the world was not independent, they were under foreign occupation. But I always believe that there is another way, it doesn’t have to be like this, we don’t have to be enemies. We don’t have to kill each other. We don’t have to hate each other.

You know many years ago I got imprisoned in Tibet and when I was in prison I felt that there was no hope for me because what happens in prison in Tibet is the Chinese security they cut all relationships that you have with the outside world. There is no access to your lawyer, no sense of schedule that is happening, they will not tell you what’s going to happen, when is the next hearing, when they would do the interrogation.

And even earlier I was beaten, I was blindfolded, beaten, tortured, denied food, denied sleep, in order to what they called “break the person”.

At the time there was only one thing that I could think about and that was basic survival as an individual. My Buddhist upbringing, the Tibetan culture, gave me this inner strength that the real force is not the one who is torturing from the outside but the one that is within you. Where you believe that there is a higher purpose you are dedicating your life to and for that, you need to empower yourself. That empowerment is not coming from your anger or hatred or desire for revenge, no nothing like that, in fact, you sympathize with the enemy who is undergoing a period of weakness being angry, hating you, with greed for you over your wealth.

Friends, I always believe that there is another way. It doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t have to be enemies. We don’t have to kill each other. When China first invaded Tibet in 1949, just after the end of the Second World War, just after the beginning of the United Nations. When most of the countries were at that time just beginning to become free and independent, that was the time when China invaded Tibet and they killed thousands and thousands and thousands. But internationally people were mostly not aware and those who were siding with China. China’s military, economic, and political power continued to rise to a point that today China is now aiming to replace the United States as a boss in the world. But I always believe that there has to be another way. It cannot go on like this. China’s occupation of Tibet was also happening at the same time as the occupation of East Turkestan, my friend Rushan will speak about it. It happened with the occupation of southern Mongolia. I wish there was a speaker from southern Mongolia also. It happened with the invasion of Manchuria and southern Mongolia. East Turkestan, and Tibet put together make 60 percent of China’s 9.6 million square kilometres of land. Friends, sixty percent of today’s China’s landmass is occupied.

It’s based on the same model as the former Soviet Union, all nationalities are clubbed together and formed a country. That’s the model of today’s China. But most importantly I’m not worried about the Tibetan people, I’m worried about the Chinese who are under their government – dictatorial government – and they are suffering there. They have no freedom, they have no democracy. You see today China is the biggest dictatorship in the world with a 1.4 billion population. and sadly international governments support China because many of them think ‘we support China because they have business interests. but I always believe that there has to be another way, it cannot go on like this. Dictators supporting dictators and speaking peace at the united nations but internally work only to suppress more human beings, torture people, and kill them. there has to be another way. I believe that as an activist myself for human rights, for freedom our solidarity is the way forward. Our solidarity can empower us because we understand each other’s pain, we understand each other’s suffering. and one of the things that I bring forward as a Tibetan: do not suffer, do not suffer, take this as a pride to work for the freedom and human rights and believe that this is the right thing to do and find joy in this.

I will tell you that then what is called the enemy will then start to feel insecure. They will feel “my god we are losing” and therefore I want to send this clear message to China: China we are not afraid of you, you are just so funny, you think your weapons and political power and all that you’re doing in Tibet, mining, bombing mountains, and taking away lithium, gold, copper and feeding cheap ‘made in China’ products to the rest of the world is a model for you? It’s not going to give you any happiness, in fact, your people are ready to rise for another revolution. My message to you China: your misadventure in empire-building is a great source of suffering to your people and in extension to the people of the occupied country and now in search of natural resources you are doing that in Asia, Africa, South America, and around the world. The blue monster you are rising into is not in the interest of peace in the world. Now is the time for China to reflect and bring genuine peace and happiness to your people and people around the world.

My time is coming to an end. I want to express my gratitude to Switzerland because this is one country that accepted Tibetan refugees in 1960 when Switzerland was not even connected to Tibet. And my most humble gratitude is to India which is hosting his holiness the Dalai Lama and 100,000 Tibetan refugees in India.

India gave us hope that we will be free and independent and I believe in this. We will be free and independent and peace will once again rise. China will only be our neighbour.

Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you very much. Thank you very much indeed Tenzin for that contribution, rich with hope, and with fortitude. I think it really meant a lot to everybody here. Particularly, thank you for raising the internal plight of the peoples of China, whose fate is too often forgotten in conversation around human rights when it comes to China. I’m going to hand over now to Joey Siu, an activist from Hong Kong who is working with the fantastic organization Hong Kong Watch. She also serves as an advisor to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, the largest group of parliamentarians in the world working to reform the approach of democratic countries towards China. Like so many of her contemporaries, sadly she is unable to return home, because of her courageous witness to the promises made to Hong Kong. Joey, the floor is yours.

Joey Siu: Good morning everyone. Thank you so much for attending our event and thank you to UN Watch and all the other co-organizers for hosting this very incredibly important and also meaningful event here in Geneva.

My name is Joey Siu. I’m an activist, the policy advisor to Hong Kong Watch, and also the policy advisor to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. I was born in the United States and moved to Hong Kong when I was really young. I grew up in Hong Kong, I attended college there, and I also became an activist in Hong Kong. In late 2020 I had to flee Hong Kong under the increasing risk of political persecution. After that, I decided to go to the states and I settled down in Washington D.C.

Hong Kong has always been a very unique place no matter what it is to me personally or historically speaking. The city was once colonized by the UK and in 1984 under the witness of the international community, the agreement on the future of Hong Kong was signed between the UK government and the Chinese government which set the conditions for the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. The joint declaration came into force in 1985 and in the same year, it was registered by the two governments in the United nations.

It was promised that a special administrative region would be established in Hong Kong and that our people in Hong Kong would be able to continue to self-govern with a high degree of autonomy while we maintain our existing governing and economic systems which are different and also separate from the systems in mainland China under the ‘one country two system’ framework. With Hong Kong being such a globalized international city with our very well-established judiciary system, with our protection provided to our basic human rights and freedoms, Hong Kong continued to flourish as an international financial center.

However, with that being said I want you all to understand one thing, Hong Kong has never enjoyed an electoral democracy. We were never able to elect our leaders of the city. A considerable number of lawmakers were chosen by the Chinese government. The chief executive leader of our city is hand-picked by Chinese officials in Beijing instead of the people in Hong Kong.

Over the years the people of Hong Kong have been trying hard to fight for democracy, we have been fighting for universal suffrage where we can really elect a leader of our city but that attempt failed. We saw that the room for political discussion and expression has been shrinking under the oppression from the Hong Kong government and the Chinese government but at that time at least there was still room for us to discuss but then everything changed in 2019.

In early 2019 the Hong Kong government introduced the ‘figurative offender’s amendment bill on extradition’ with the aim of establishing a mechanism that will allow any Hong Kong resident or any individuals in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China for trials. That is a direct erosion of Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and all of our core values. Fearing that from happening Hong Kongers started taking to the streets.

On June 9, 2019, one million people took to the streets to protest against the extradition amendment bill. On June 15, 2019, two million Hong Kongers took to the streets.

We have to know that Hong Kong is a very very very tiny place. We have only a 7.5 million population and 2 million is nearly one-third of our whole population. When one-third of your population is taking onto the streets marching you would expect the government to hear the people’s demands. You would expect the government to respond to your demands but that did not happen In Hong Kong. What came was severe police brutality. What came was an all-around suppression from the government.

At that time I was in Hong Kong. I was an activist. I was organizing these protests, demonstrations, and rallies. Sometimes I would be in the protest, on the streets marching, protesting against the government. Sometimes I have to take on the duty to provide legal assistance and the police brutality was so brutal that every day we have Hong Kongers worrying about being beaten to death by the police.

I have seen protesters who were only 15, 16 at the time asking me “hey I know that you are one of the members of a student union in Hong Kong can I give you my phone number and also my personal information if anything happens to me, tell my parents that I was arrested, I was beaten by the police”.

Some of them even handed me their wills.

I was 20 years old at that time and these protests were only 15, 16. They were in middle schools, high schools handing me their wills saying that they have to go on the front lines, they have to do something for Hong Kong and that was what happened in 2019.

At that time we thought it was bad enough because at that time we had over 10 thousand protesters that were arrested under ridiculous offenses including rioting and illegal assembly facing up to ten years imprisonment. We thought that was bad enough but then the Chinese government slapped us in the face.

On July 1, 2020, they introduced the National Security Law in Hong Kong.

Under the National Security Law any Hong Kong resident, any foreign individuals who are found to have violated the national security law under the names of secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces could be facing up to life imprisonment in Hong Kong or mainland China.

I still remember very distinctly the night when the national security law came into force. At that time I was helping a dear friend of mine, Owen Chow, with his election campaign in the democratic primaries in Hong Kong. At that time we were very very very worried because we know that the law is so broad, so vague we did not know how exactly it is going to be executed in Hong Kong. The only thing we knew is that if we continue with our election campaign if we continue with our activism we have to be ready to face the consequences of being in prison for a lifetime or being extradited to China or going into exile.

We paused our campaign for a week and we took the whole week to think, reflect, and think about whether we are ready to face the consequences. After a week of very long discussions, we decided to go on.

Now you see me as an activist in exile. I left Hong Kong in late 2020 and not so long after I left Hong Kong Owen Chow himself was arrested by the national security bureau in Hong Kong for participating in the democratic primaries. For subversion under the national security law and alongside him, it was another 46 pro-democracy activists were also arrested. Most of them have been in jail since January 2021. It has been over a year.

What came with the mass arrests and arbitrary detention is the total crackdown and dismantling of civil society. In Hong Kong, we saw that civil society organizations including labor unions, student unions, and protest organizations were forcibly shut down. We saw that independent pro-democracy media, including Apple Daily, and Stan News, being forcibly shut down.

Journalists, activists, protesters, or even everyday Hong Kongers are forced to flee the city.

Hong Kong has completely changed but then seeing all of you here gathering showing solidarity, showing support to Hong Kong, East Turkestan, Tibet, to the other regions and communities who are also under oppression I feel very empowered and I’m looking forward to that with your support and solidarity, we will one day win the battle, win the struggle and bring the glory back to our communities and our people.

Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Thank you Joey for that truly masterly overview of what has happened in Hong Kong. The last time we met each other was during the district council elections in Hong Kong, the last free elections that the city has had. We didn’t know that then, and I don’t think either of us would have predicted the depth of the crackdown since then. Thank you Joey. It is my great pleasure now to introduce Rushan Abbas. She started her activism at the age of 18, in Xinjiang University, protesting the crackdown in Urumqi. She is, I am sure you will all agree, if you haven’t heard her speak before, one of the most powerful activists and speakers for the Uyghur cause in the world. We are extremely privileged to welcome her today. Rushan, the floor is yours.

Rushan Abbas: I thank the Geneva Summit, Hillel Neuer, the organizers, and the volunteers for giving us this platform to be the voice for those millions of innocent voiceless people.

And thank you Luke for being a tireless advocate for the Uyghur people, to shed light on China’s crimes against humanity and the genocide. And thank you to my esteemed panellists Tenzin and Joey and the many courageous advocates in the room today. I am very honored to be here with you all.

I am speaking today out of necessity. I’m a mother who had a fulfilling life with a successful career but for the past 44 months now I am a sister to an innocent victim of China’s genocidal crimes.

I never thought that I would quit my job and become a full-time activist. I never thought I would have to fight for my own sister’s freedom, and I never thought the 21st-century china would conduct a genocide complete with concentration camps and slavery on our watch.

This Chinese government’s genocidal and ultra-nationalistic policies combined with racism and the cutting-edge technology in our homeland have been confirmed not only through Beijing’s own leaked documents but hundreds of experts and the survivor’s testimonies numerous times over.

China claims that these camps are humane vocational job training centers. This is a lie.

Detainees include university professors, famous writers, doctors, successful business owners, philanthropists, as well as young children and the elderly- none of whom need job training. The Uyghur economy has been destroyed and the government is distributing Uyghur’s wealth and reallocating their homes and their lands to Chinese settlers.

In January 2019 two-year-old Rahmatul Al-Sherbaki’s body was found drowned inside an irrigation ditch. Six months later three-year-old Parhat Drygaia was found drowned in the river. In December 2019 five-year-old Nasrullah Ystopid was found frozen to death in a ditch. What all these three boys had in common was their parents were detained in those concentration camps.

We only ever saw photos of little Rahmatul and Nasrullah’s bodies. How many hundreds and thousands of Uyghur children’s photos did not make it at all? How many remain missing?

The Uyghur women are subject to forced marriages with Chinese men and sent to the camps for refusing under the guise of extremism. China’s state media reported that 1.1 million Chinese cadres deployed to Uyghurs’ homes live inside of their homes, supervising and monitoring their daily lives. The Uyghur women are subject to sexual abuse in their own homes, in their beds.

Uyghur women’s bodies have been a battleground in this genocide. They face state-sponsored mass rape, forced sterilizations, forced abortions, and forcibly inserted IUD devices in their bodies. Survivors of such crimes have been immensely brave in sharing their experiences.

While the CCP tries to smear the reputation of courageous Uyghur women, Xi Jinping’s wife Peng Liyuan is a UNESCO special envoy for women’s and girls ‘ education. This is a direct betrayal of feminists and activists and organizations defending women’s rights.

Today I fight at the cost of my loving sister’s freedom. In 2018 my sister, retired medical doctor, Gulshan Abbas was taken by the Chinese regime as a hostage, in retaliation for my speaking out against the Chinese government. I participated in a panel like this and I was speaking about the Chinese genocidal policies outlining the fate of my in-laws. My husband is sitting here among us, his entire family has been missing since the summer of 2017.

But six days later the Chinese government took my sister. She is a kind, gentle, peaceful, and non-political soul. I was accused by the Chinese state media of stealing someone else’s photo and spreading lies about my missing relatives when I raised her case. More than two years after her detention the Chinese foreign ministry acknowledged and confirmed a harsh sentence against her.

Today we don’t know if she is still alive and we have no idea of her whereabouts. My niece Ziba, who flew over today to join us here, is now fighting to free her mother, instead of concentrating on her full-time job and raising her four-year-old daughter at home.

China’s war on humanity is belated. This is a war against women. A war against children. A war against freedom and democracy and human values.

And yet so much of the world remains quiet. China has successfully silenced the international condemnation of its shameful genocidal crimes. Look at the UN we have been pushing Mrs. Michelle Bachelet the UN High Commissioner to the Human Rights Council to release the report compiled on the Uyghur crisis for months now without success.

Is Beijing controlling her? I demand her to meet with my sister Dr. Gulshan Abbas and my in-laws and many other high-profile cases. If she goes to examine the situation of the Uyghurs.

China sits on the human rights council similar to a murderer being a judge for his own trial. The founding principles of the UN of a world that upholds the values of human rights are being upended and transformed into a shadow of itself that cow toes to authoritarian regimes like China’s.

It saddens me to see the world remain idle against the genocide of my people. It angers me to see my sister and the millions of innocent Uyghurs are becoming collateral damage dealing with china. It worries me to see China become a power able to strong-arm the world with trade threats, the power of the belt and road initiative, debt-trap diplomacy, and the manipulation of the UN.

There is no neutrality in this genocide, there are only the perpetrators and the enablers. While the CCP is the perpetrator those making this genocide a profitable venture for China are the enablers.

As members of the free world and upholders of freedom, liberty, and democracy we cannot stand idly by. The soul of humanity is being tested. Will we have the moral courage to pass the test?

History will remember those who act and do those who fail to do so. Our children will ask us what we did to defend freedom when we recognize this threat. If we do not speak out and act now the only voice and action left will be one of regret.

I’m going to conclude my remarks with Dr. Elie Wiesel’s quote from his famous work “Night”. Quote “there’s a long road of suffering ahead of you but don’t lose courage” unquote. And he continues. Quote “help one another it’s the only way to survive” unquote.

Hope, courage, and the help from each of you are the only things that we have left to fight onwards against this evident evil. Please fight with me.

Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you, thank you so much for sharing. I just want to add something to the powerful words that have just been delivered here. You’ve heard the word genocide mentioned on a number of occasions. People instinctively recoil from that word forgetting that it is a legal term with a pretty technical definition. I would strongly encourage those of you who don’t like to hear the word genocide used in connection with what’s happening to the Uyghur people in the northwest China to go to the Uyghur tribunal website, which is uyhgurtribunal.org, I believe where you can find a very long judgment that was the culmination of literally hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence assessed by an independent tribunal which assessed the evidence to the highest standard of proof ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ and they found beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes against humanity, genocide, and torture were being perpetrated by the Chinese communist party upon the Uyghur people and other minorities in northwest China.

So I strongly encourage skeptics amongst you of the Uyghur genocide to go and read that judgment it will help you to appreciate the depth of the depravities that are happening in that region.

I want to ask the panel a few questions here, we don’t have much time I’m afraid.

Joey, I want to come to you, a lot of us, some people in this room, I’ve seen Benedict Rogers here from Hong Kong Watch, and many others have been campaigning for the rights of hong kong in foreign parliaments. Sometimes we don’t know if we’re hindering or helping. Could you give me an answer to that? Do you think that the international community should be doing more and if so what?

Joey Siu: So since Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement broke out in 2019 and especially after the implementation of the national security law came into force in Hong Kong in July 2020 we saw a very instant and also very strong response given by the international society, by the different democratic governments, by different human rights organizations, allies and like-minded partners across the globe. We saw that governments have been implementing policies providing necessary humanitarian relocation channels for Hong Kong protesters who have had to flee Hong Kong. We saw targeted sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU and we also saw the constant assistance and also attention given to the people of Hong Kong from a lot of governments.

However, that is far from enough. We still see that China is sitting on the United Nations Human Rights Council. We still see that countries including the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and so many others are still having such closely related business ties with China, with these state-owned enterprises. Some of them have been complicit in the construction of surveillance systems in East Turkestan with the concentration camps, and some of them have been complicit in the violation of human rights in Hong Kong.

But then our countries, our governments are still doing businesses with them. There is more than our countries and international organizations can do. There is a lot.

For example, we have been demanding an appointment of a Special Rapporteur to Hong Kong for a while and also a transparent investigation into the violation of human rights by the Chinese government in Hong Kong. That is the least that the United Nations can do for the people of Hong Kong.

There is so much more that the other democratic governments can do for the people of Hong Kong, for the people of East Turkestan as well for now we are facing the same enemy. What we saw is that what the Chinese government is doing is not just happening in Hong Kong, in East Turkestan, or in Tibet. We are seeing transnational repression happening on our lands. We’re seeing that China has been using its economic coercion tactics to infiltrate and control our society.

So there is a lot more than our democratic governments can do and should be doing for the people who are under the oppression of the CCP.

Moderator: Thank you, Joey. Tenzin if I could come to you please. One of our frustrations again trying to advocate for the Tibetan people in foreign parliaments is that there’s just not that much appetite amongst those politicians. You know it. We’ve succeeded I think to some extent in raising the cause of Hong Kong and the cause of the Uyghurs, but it’s so difficult for Tibet. Why do you think that is and what message would you like to leave with the people in this hall today?

Tenzin Tsundue: Well, I see that and I understand where they’re coming from. China has in certain ways created a narrative where China has not only colonized these occupied countries ever since 1949, China is now going back into history and China is colonizing history. The story of Manchuria which used to rule over China has now been colonized and is now called China’s history. So this makes it a difficult case for international communities to counter that.

Until international communities look at the history of China and clearly understand 1911 as the dividing factor of China which was the end of Manchu rule. 250 years of Manchu rule over China, and the beginning of modern-day China’s independence from 1911 and 1912 began the Republic of China. This is a clear time all international communities must have a clear understanding of.

Like India and many other countries, China was under foreign occupation for far too long. The real history of modern-day China starts in 1911. So therefore this is one compelling reason how international communities must look at it because at the time when it started many countries thought: let’s assume China as it is. This would then in return dictate terms on you, this is important now when I try to speak for Tibet.

I do not speak in the hope that these governments are going to do a charity by supporting Tibet. They would come around only when they find an interest in Tibet. That is business or military or political interest and I’m very clear-cut, have a very clear understanding of this.

There’s no charity and at the same time, I also want to leave with this word, that internationally all the countries, I’m saying all the countries, who have traded with China, have benefited from the suffering of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongolians, Manchus, Hong Kong, Taiwan and all other countries who are under China’s influence, you have benefited from our suffering. You have a duty to work for the human rights of our people.

Moderator: Thank you. Now extremely briefly, I feel I must come to Rushan, and to say I’m constantly hearing from government officials the kinds of things they’d never say to your face, and they say things like, “what’s happening to your people isn’t as bad as Ukraine”, “it’s not as bad as northern Syria”,  What would you say to them? Why should we care? And please be extremely quick.

Rushan Abbas: What’s happening in Yemen right now or what’s happening in Ukraine, there are ample examples of what happens when we continue to appease a dictator and authoritarian governments. But in China’s cause, I’m not sitting here to ask you to help the Uyghur people anymore, it passed. We have been begging for the past five, six years when the Chinese government started this full speed genocide, eradicating, exterminating Uyghur people.

But now I am talking to you to save yourselves. Save this free country. Because the threat that China is being against the humanity is not thousands of miles away it’s here in your country, in the United Nations, in academia, in your universities, in the mainstream media, among the the world leaders, politicians, NBA, Hollywood. All these famous celebrities who are usually so vocal against any kind of social injustice where are they now?

When the perpetrator has the money and the power they all decide to be silent. What does that mean when everyone is willingly giving up their freedom of speech and freedom of expression? We are undermining democracy and the fundamental freedoms of this free world. So now what’s at stake is not just the future of the Uyghurs, it’s the freedom of the democracies of the world that your parents, and your grandparents worked so hard to establish in the fight against communism and authoritarianism in the last 50, 60 years.

If we don’t act now our children are going to face the consequences of an illiberal world. Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. So it just remains for me to thank the panel for their expertise but also for the continual sacrifice of your witness. Thank you to those in the room and to those listening. Do not look away. Renew your commitment to individual human dignity, the principle upon which this entire human rights project depends. Don’t allow it to be diluted and please join these courageous witnesses in doing something about it. Thank you very much.

Speakers and Participants

Rushan Abbas

Founder of Campaign for Uyghurs, sister of political prisoner Dr. Gulshan Abbas

Joey Siu

Policy Advisor at Hong Kong Watch, Advisor to Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China

Tenzin Tsundue

Tibetan refugee & writer arrested 16 times for his activism, completed 127-day Himalayan walk for Tibet

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