Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Central Asia
bishkek

Revolution in Kyrgyzstan: who is in control?

Protestors in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, occupied and set fire to the White House, the building that houses both the president’s office and parliamentary chamber. The headquarters of State Committee for National Security, which oversees the secret police, was also taken over. Opposition politicians imprisoned there were liberated—and one installed as prime minister, as contested election results were officially annulled. President Sooronbay Jeenbekov has gone into hiding, but released a statement from an undisclosed location claiming to be “in control.” Also released from secret police prison was his predecessor Almazbek Atambayev, who had tilted to Russia and booted the US from its airbase at Manas. Jeenbekov, in contrast, had been in a public spat with Vladimir Putin. With the current chaos in Washington, Moscow seems well-positioned to exploit the new upheaval in Kyrgyzstan. (Photo via Twitter)

Central Asia
Chamdo

Report: forced labor and relocation in Tibet

A new report by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and the Jamestown Foundation, a DC-based policy think-tank, has found evidence of a system of forced displacement and labor in Tibet, mirroring that put in place over the past two years in Xiinjiang. The report, entitled “Xinjiang’s Militarized Vocational Training System Comes to Tibet,” finds that over half a million people received instruction at “military-style” training centers as part of the program in the first seven months of 2020—around 15% of the region’s population. Of this total, almost 50,000 have been transferred to jobs away from their homes within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China. Many end up in low-paid labor, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture. Those targeted for the program are designated “rural surplus laborers,” which according to the report usually refers to traditional pastoralists and nomads. (Photo: military-style training of “rural surplus laborers” in the Chamdo region of Tibet, June 2016, via Phayul)

Central Asia
New York Tibetans

Cop spied on NYC Tibetans for China: feds

An NYPD officer and Army reservist was arrested by federal authorities on charges that he has been acting as an agent of China’s government and surveilling Tibetans living in the New York City area. Baimadajie Angwang of Nassau County worked as a community liaison officer at the 111th Precinct in Queens and held a “secret” security clearance as a member of the Army Reserves at Fort Dix, according to court documents. Prosectuors say Angwang, a native Tibetan and naturalized US citizen who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, sent information to officials at the Chinese consulate in Manhattan about the activities of local ethnic Tibetans. Angwang was allegedly working with officials at the consulate since 2014, including one who was part of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, responsible for “neutralizing sources of potential opposition” to the government of China, court documents state. (Photo: Central Tibetan Administration)

Central Asia
Xinjiang

Rights groups warn: Uighurs face ‘genocide’

Several human rights organizations signed an open letter declaring that China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province “strongly suggests that crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place.” The letter cited a recent UN report that raised concerns over “increasing practices of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, absence of judicial oversight and procedural safeguards.” The letter additionally cited evidence of widespread forced labor, forced sterilizations and abortions, separation of children from their families, and destruction of religious and cultural sites. The authors of the letter urged states to call on the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the situation in Xinjiang. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

Iraq and Afghanistan: US troops out, Chevron in?

Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years—but military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

Central Asia
mongolian

China: resistance to curbs on Mongolian language

Thousands of ethnic Mongolians in the remote north of the People’s Republic of China have gathered outside schools to protest a new policy that would restrict the use of their language in the public education system—a rare display of mass discontent. The policy change in Inner Mongolia means all schools in the region will now be required to teach core subjects in Mandarin, mirroring similar moves in Tibet and Xinjiang to assimilate local indigenous peoples. Students have walked out of classes and assembled outside school buildings shouting, “Mongolian is our mother language!” The protests have seen hundreds of students and parents face off against police. (Photo: Student holds banner reading “Foreign language is a tool, own language is soul,” via SMHIRC)

Central Asia
Uzbek migrants

Migrants stranded on Russian-Kazakh border

Thousands of migrant workers from Uzbekistan have been stranded for weeks at the Russia-Kazakhstan border. Left without work in Russia amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they sought to make their way home by land through Kazakhstan—only to find the border closed by Kazakh authorities. The migrants have set up a makeshift camp in an open field, where they are struggling without adequate food, water or supplies in severe summer heat. (Photo: Meduza)

Central Asia

Uighurs charge China officials with ‘genocide’ at ICC

Lawyers submitted a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC), demanding that an investigation be opened into senior Chinese leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed against the Uighurs and other Turkic peoples. The complaint was filed on behalf of the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM). China is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, but the lawyers argue that the ICC can exercise jurisdiction over these crimes because part of the criminal conduct occurred within the territory of two signatory states—Tajikistan and Cambodia. The complaint asserts that Uighur victims have been unlawfully deported to the People’s Republic of China from Tajikistan and Cambodia to face abuses including murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture, forced sterilization, and forced marriages. (Photo: ETNAM)

Central Asia
shaman

Demand release of dissident Siberian shaman

Russia’s Memorial Human Rights Center is calling for the release of Alexander Gabyshev, a shaman from the Siberian region of Yakutia, who has been forcibly interned at a psychiatric clinic. Gabyshev is best known for making multiple attempts to travel on foot to Moscow with the intention of “exorcising” President Vladimir Putin. The statement called Gabyshev a “political prisoner,” noting: “He was deprived of freedom solely because of his political and religious beliefs.” Memorial asserts that there are no legal grounds for involuntary hospitalization in Gabyshev’s case. (Photo via Hromadske)

Central Asia
Kyrgyzstan women's march

Women’s Day march attacked in Mexico, Kyrgyzstan

Police in Kyrgyzstan detained dozens of women’s rights activists—shortly after the International Women’s Day march was attacked by masked men. That same day, the women’s march in Mexico City was set upon by anti-abortion protesters, overwhelmingly men, some of whom gave the Nazi salute. There were scuffles between the two groups, and some marchers hurled Molotov cocktails over police lines toward the presidential palace. The following day, tens of thousands of women across Mexico walked off their jobs in protest of the government’s lack of action regarding the ongoing wave of femicide. (Photo via Twitter)

Central Asia
Kazakhstan

Hui Muslims targeted in Kazakhstan ethnic clashes

At least eight people were killed, dozens injured and nearly 50 homes and shops set on fire in ethnic clashes that broke out in a border region of Kazakhstan. The fighting was centered in southern Zhambyl province, near the border with Kyrgyzstan. Ethnic Kazakhs reportedly set upon members of the Dungan minority group and Hui Muslims, related groups that migrated from China in the 19th century and are more numerous across the border in Kyrgyzstan. Rioters also fought with police when they tried to intervene. While it is unclear what sparked the violence, rumors and incitement on social media appear to have played a role. Interior Minister Yerlan Turgumbayev said: “Provocateurs…called for violence through social networks. Hooligans used rebar, stones and other implements. Police officers sustained numerous injuries, two received gunshot wounds.” (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)