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09-12-05, 23:25
World Human Rights Day – Remember Abduhelil Zunun.

For Immediate Release
December 9, 2005, 6:00 p.m. EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project, +1 (202) 349 1496

(Washington, D.C., December 9, 2005.) The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) takes the opportunity of World Human Rights Day on December 10 to remind the world of the case of Abduhelil Zunun, a Uyghur sentenced to 20 years in prison in November 2001 for translating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) into the Uyghur language.

Zunun’s case is a graphic illustration of the UDHR’s irrelevance to the Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), referred to by Uyghurs themselves as East Turkistan.

“When a Uyghur reads the UDHR, a catalogue of human rights violations springs to mind for almost every single one of the 30 Articles it contains,” said Nury Turkel, President of the Uyghur American Association (UAA). “For a document that represents the highest aspirations of humanity to provoke such a reaction should be a cause of profound shame for the Chinese government.”

December 10 is the 57th anniversary of the UDHR. Less than a year after it was issued, the PRC assumed full administrative control of East Turkistan. In the two generations since, the Uyghur people have been subjected to some of the worst human rights violations witnessed in the PRC. Uyghurs continue to be the only people executed for non-violent political ‘crimes’; and crushing restrictions placed on Uyghurs’ religious and traditional social practices, as well as broad exclusion from China’s development strategies, all amount to increasingly intolerable pressure on the Uyghur people.

However, there is currently no effective, formal forum for the Uyghurs’ growing grievances to be expressed to the Chinese authorities. The Chinese government has systematically undermined human rights mechanisms established by the United Nations over the decades, stalling deliberations in Geneva with procedural hurdles while unilaterally claiming an exemplary record of human rights protections.

Even in the face of expert opinion – expressed most recently by Dr Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture – that human rights abuses remain “widespread” in China, the Chinese authorities insist that he must “correct his conclusion” when he submits his report to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva next year.

“We’ve closely watched the events in Geneva over the years with mounting frustration,” said Mr Turkel. “Of course, it’s not just the Uyghur people living under severe repression in the world today, but we share the despair of all oppressed peoples that abusive regimes are just not being held to account on the world stage.”

UHRP adds its voice to the those of the growing number of oppressed peoples and their supporters around the world calling for UN member states to establish a standing Human Rights Council. Any eventual replacement of the Human Rights Commission must allow for the full and frank discussion of human rights abuses in a format which cannot be undermined by offending governments’ attempts to protect themselves from censure while making no effort to address the concerns expressed.

Abduhelil Zunun is due to be released from prison in or around 2021, in time to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the UDHR. He should never have been imprisoned on charges relating to translating the UDHR in the first place; his continued imprisonment is a direct challenge by the Chinese authorities to everything represented by the UDHR.

Oppressive governments the world over must be made to answer to their people.

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The Uyghur American Association (UAA) works to promote the preservation and flourishing of a rich, humanistic and diverse Uyghur culture, and to support the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, democratic means to determine their own political future.

The UAA has undertaken the Uyghur Human Rights Project for the purpose of promoting improved human rights conditions for Uyghurs and other indigenous groups in East Turkistan, on the premise that the assurance of basic human rights will facilitate the realization of the community’s democratic aspirations.

Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP)
Uyghur American Association (UAA)
1700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20006, USA.
Tel: (202) 349-1496
Fax: (202) 349-1491
Email: info@uhrp.org