Uyghurs slam Islamic delegation praising China's policies in Xinjiang

A group of 30 experts from various Muslim-majority countries visited China's far western region, praising its fight against terrorism. They said nothing about abuses. The World Uyghur Congress spoke out against the persecutions and criminalisation of ordinary things like wearing a headscarf and reading the Qurʾān.

Dubai (AsiaNews) – A delegation of some 30 Islamic religious experts and scholars from 14 Muslim-majority countries – including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates – recently visited Xinjiang.

During their stay, they praised China’s goals and policies, including its effective and rigorous fight against "terrorism", but kept silent about the rights of the region’s Uyghur Muslims and the human rights abuses and persecution they have to endure.

Uyghur academics, scholars and leading figures slammed what they call "propaganda" perpetrated by the multinational Islamic delegation. Beijing, they warn, will use them as part of its political marketing to deny more forcefully reports that thousands of Uyghur Muslims have been jailed or sent to re-education and labour camps.

The delegation was organised by the World Muslim Communities Council (WMCC), which promoted the visit to China’s westernmost regions, home to Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking groups, who are mostly Muslim.

Emirati scholar Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi led the delegation; his picture was prominently displayed several times in Chinese official media.

The WMCC’s tasks include supporting Muslims in nations where Muslims are not the majority, protecting them "intellectually, spiritually, and from racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing.”

In a press statement by the WMCC, Nuaimi, who has championed normalisation between Israel and the Arab world, repeated China's claims that the crackdown against the Uyghurs is part of its policy to fight terrorism in Xinjiang province.

Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), hit back at Nuaimi's claims, saying that China often uses the pretext of fighting terrorism to justify criminalising, "everyday and legal forms of religious behaviour, such as wearing a beard or hijab and possessing a Qurʾān”.

Speaking to the Middle East Eye, he added that, “It is outrageous that the WMCC has participated in this propaganda visit and is now echoing the Chinese government's narrative”.

Abduweli Ayup, an Uyghur language activist from Kashgar, described the trip as "whitewashing" China's crimes against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

He was particularly upset by the presence of representatives from Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, and disappointed at the sight of Bosnian scholars participants.

"When the Bosnian genocide took place, I remember how Uyghurs in Kashgar, where I am from, raised money for the Bosnians," Ayup explained. “Now those same Muslim men and women are languishing in Chinese concentration camps because they dared to practise their faith in China."

Beijing’s abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang remain an unresolved issue at the UN Human Rights Council, which recently rejected an internal report on human rights violations in the province and refused to open a debate.

Most of the countries that rejected the motion to hold a debate have a Muslim majority, but have been subjected to Chinese pressure.

The list of abuses includes locking up almost two million people, mainly Uyghurs, in concentration and forced labour camps.

China has denied the allegations, claiming that it set up vocational training centres in Xinjiang and offered poverty reduction programmes to fight terrorism and separatism.