Protesters gathered outside the United Nations headquarters in New York as the General Assembly met, to demand an end to forced labor in Turkmenistan's cotton industry. Each year the government of Turkmenistan forces tens of thousands of workers from both public and private sectors to pick cotton during the harvest season or else pay a bribe to supervisors to hire a replacement worker, according to protest organizer Cotton Campaign. This takes place under threat of punishment, including loss of wages from regular jobs, and termination of employment. The government treats refusal to contribute to the cotton harvest as insubordination, incitement to sabotage, and "contempt of the homeland." (Photo: AKI Press)
In Episode 18 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg looks back at the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement of the closing years of the Cold War, when the Western Shoshone people, whose traditional lands were being contaminated by the nuclear blasts at the US government's Nevada Test Site, made common cause with the Kazakh people of Central Asia who opposed Soviet nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk site. Kazakh activists travelled to Nevada to join protests at the Test Site, while Western Shoshone leaders travelled to Kazakhstan to join protests at Semipalatinsk. This initiative eventually evolved into the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons, which as recently as 2016 held an International Conference on Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World in Astana, Kazakhstan, again attended by Western Shoshone leaders. The Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement provides an inspiring example of indigenous peoples and their supporters building solidarity across hostile international borders and superpower influence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: National Digital History of Kazakhstan. Banner from protest at Semipalatinsk declares solidarity with anti-nuclear protesters in Nevada.)
China is denying claims aired by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that up to a million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in "re-education camps" in Xinjiang region. But Beijing appears to be imposing harsh surveillance and restrictions on freedom of worship on Muslims throughout China, even requiring those making the pilgrimage to Mecca to be fitted with GPS tracking devices. Yet such methods almost always prove counter-productive, leading to resentment that only fuels the unrest that Chinese authorities are responding to. This week saw mass protests in Weizhou, Ningxia province, after authorities attempted to demolish a newly built mosque which they said had not received construction permits. After days of protest, authorities backed down and agreed to postpone the demolition. (Photo of protest at Weizhou Grand Mosque from Weibo via BBC News)
In Episode 15 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reports on the 10-year commemoration of the 2008 Tibetan uprising held by Students for a Free Tibet in Astoria, Queens, New York City. A decade after the uprising was put down, struggles for land recovery and language preservation continue in Tibet, as well as among the Mongols, Uighurs and other indigenous peoples of the territory that constitutes the People's Republic of China. Weinberg provides an overview of these ongoing struggles, and draws parallels to related struggles in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and elsewhere in the Americas—including the movement against the Dakota Access pipeline. These parallels point to the urgent need for grassroots-to-grassroots international solidarity across superpower infuence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Uprising Archive)
Students for a Free Tibet held a 10-year commemoration of the 2008 Tibetan uprising at a hall n the Queens neighborhood of Astoria, New York City. The 2008 uprising, which began in Lhasa in March, continued for weeks and spread across the Tibetan plateau. It was put down at a cost of some 20 lives, by official Chinese figures. But Tibetan rights groups and the government-in-exile in Dharamshala, India, claim that hundreds were "disappeared" in a subsequent wave of repression, with some 200 presumed killed. Guest of honor at the commemoration was Dhondup Wangchen, producer of the 2008 documentary film Leaving Fear Behind, made in the prelude to the uprising, in which ordinary Tibetans spoke of their feelings about China hosting the Summer Olympics. Wangchen was subsequently arrested, convicted of "subversion," and served six years in prison. Upon his release, he fled Tibet and was granted asylum in the United States. He is shown here with his wife, Lhamo Tso, who waged a campaign for his release. (Photo: Rose Tang)
Respected Mongol historian Lhamjab A. Borjigin was placed under house arrest in Inner Mongolia's Xilingol League to await trial on charges of "national separatism" and "sabotaging national unity." At issue is his self-published book that purports to document the deaths of 30,000 in a campaign of "genocide" against ethnic Mongols during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Although Lhamjab, 74, is the author of several books on the history of the region, all state-run publishing houses refused to publish this work, and he resorted to taking the risk of self-publishing through an "underground" press. The book became popular, distributed through informal networks in Inner Mongolia. It was also reprinted by a formal publishing house in Mongolia. Lhamjab potentially faces a lengthy prison term. (Photo of traditional Mongol herder via UNPO)
Chinese police used tear-gas and baton charges to disperse Tibetan villagers protesting a mine project in Qinghai's Yulshul Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, following two months of demonstrations at the site. Rsidents said the project at a site called Upper Dechung was undertaken without informing the local inhabitants. Several were hospitalized following the police assault, including a 70-year-old man. There are also concerns for the whereabouts of a delegation of some 50 villagers who went to complain to provincial authorities about the mine, and have not been heard from since. The mine was seeminlgy initiated by private interests with little or no government oversight. "Local people suspect corruption is involved in connection with this joint venture," a source told Radio Free Asia. (Photo: AsiaNews)
Thousands of Uighurs, members of the indigenous Muslim and Turkic people of China's far-western Xinjiang region, have been detained in "political education camps," while authorities are placing sophisticated facial-recognition technology even in remote villages to enforce restrictions on residents' movements. DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types are being collected from all residents as a part of the surveillance program. The measures come amid a wave of arrests of Uighur community leaders on charges of "religious extremism." (Photo: Mvslim.com)
Relatives of Tashi Wangchuk waiting outside Yushu Intermediate People's Court in China's Qinghai Province. The trial of the educational rights activist ended with no verdict, and Tashi remains behind bars. He faces charges of "inciting separatism" for speaking to the New York Times about his work to advocate for Tibetan-language education, as guaranteed by China's constitution. Tashi told the Times that the lack of general instruction in the Tibetan language is "destroying our ethnicity's culture." The charge against him, dismissed as "ludicrously unjust" by Amnesty International, carries a 10-year sentence. (Photo: NYT via Phayul)
The Uighur people of China's Xinjiang province are coming under unprecedented surveillance and militarization amid official fears of terrorism in the far-western region.
A Russian court sentenced blogger Alexei Kungurov to two-and-a-half years in prison for "justification of terrorism" over a post criticizing Moscow's military intervention in Syria.
Climate change is found to blame for a massive avalanche that killed nine yak-herders in Tibet, as indigenous resistance continues to China's extractive agenda for the region.