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Uighurs tell Australian inquiry of 'intimidation and harassment' from Chinese government

China has continued its persecution of Uighurs despite international pressure [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 9 October, 2020

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The 5,000 Uighurs resident in Australia, many of them former refugees and their families, say they 'continue to live in fear'.
Members of Australia's Uighur Muslim community have told of "intimidation and harassment" from the Chinese government at a parliamentary inquiry, the Guardian reported.

A parliamentary committee is looking into safety concerns as part of the ongoing inquiry into a range of issues which diaspora communities face in Australia. 

President of the Uighur Association of Victoria, Alim Osman, shared some of the issues facing the Uighur community at a hearing on Friday. 

Osman said the 5,000 Uighurs resident in Australia, many of them former refugees, live in fear. 

Osman shared his wife's feelings, saying: "I have left my homeland but I continue to live in fear. If I speak out for my people inside my homeland, I am afraid of retaliation on my family left behind. If I don't speak out, I feel guilty of keeping the freedom and democracy all just for myself in a free country."

This was "a common feeling among Uighur Australians today," Osman added.

Osman said the "the campaign of atrocities being waged by the Chinese government" was the biggest issue facing Uighurs.

In a submission provided to the committee before the hearing, Osman described "the intimidation and harassment of Uighurs in Australia by local authorities in China".

This included WeChat calls from relatives in China, urging their family abroad not to say anything negative about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) "lest something happen to these family members."

Osman said these calls are often made in the presence of local law enforcement. 

'Alarming rate'

President of the Australian Uighur Tangritagh Women's Association Ramila Chanisheff echoed Osman's comments.

She told the hearing that China was "increasing its oppressions and control of Uighurs at an alarming rate."

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"People are scared to call their families for fear of them being prosecuted and/or used as pawn to silence Uighurs living in the diaspora speaking up against the CCP", the association said in its submission to the committee.

The association warned that sending Uighur refugees back to China "with the CCP in power means they will be imprisoned for life, disappeared, and/or lose their lives."

Australia was among 39 countries, including the US, Japan and many EU nations, to call on China on Tuesday to respect the human rights of minority Uighurs.

"We call on China to respect human rights, particularly the rights of persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet," said German UN ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who led the initiative during of a meeting on human rights.

Immediately afterward, the envoy for Pakistan stood up and read out a statement signed by 55 countries, including China, denouncing any use of the situation in Hong Kong as an excuse for interference in China's internal affairs.

'Re-education camps'

China is believed to have held more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking residents in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.

An Australian think tank said last month that thousands of mosques in Xinjiang had been demolished by Chinese authorities.
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The report followed the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI)'s announcement it had identified a network of detention centres in the region much larger than previous estimates. 

China claims that its Xinjiang detention centres are not concentration camps but "re-education camps" where "students" can "train" to successfully reintegrate into Chinese society.

It claims the camps are a necessary measure to counter Islamic extremism.

However, human rights groups say that Uighurs and other Muslim minorities endure political indoctrination at the internment camps.

Agencies contributed to this report

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