From June 6-7 2019, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) in cooperation with the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), Uyghur American Association (UAA) and the Central Asia Program at George Washington University held a two-day international conference in Washington DC, Confronting Atrocities in China: The Global Response to the Uyghur Crisis.
The conference proceedings began with an opening ceremony on the morning of June 6th at Capitol Hill. Speakers at the opening ceremony were: President Dolkun Isa of World Uyghur Congress, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice G. Wells of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (see the remarks by the Acting Deputy Assistant David Ranz here) President Carl Gershman of the National Endowment for Democracy (see his remarks here), Former UK Minister of State Norman Baker, Ambassador Sam Brownback, Congressman Jim McGovern and Brad Sherman, Taiwan ombudsman Peter Chang, former member of European Parliament Csaba Sógor, Secretary General Ralph Bunche of Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (see her remarks here), Senator Marco Rubio, and US Congressman Chris Smith sent messengers to convey their support for the conference.
The conference came at a critical time as Uyghurs are facing an unprecedented attack on their identity through an extensive network of political indoctrination camps where three million or more people have been arbitrarily detained since April 2017. The primary aim of the conference is to bring together political leaders, international agencies, human rights activists, academic experts, Uyghur leaders and the Uyghur community abroad to provide updates on the responses underway and to collectively develop additional strategies to pressure the Chinese government to close the camps and respect Uyghurs’ and other Turkic Muslims’ fundamental rights.
The event included speakers from various disciplines to discuss and address key questions on how best to galvanize further support for Uyghurs’ rights, to mount a coordinated campaign to pressure China to close the camps, ensure accountability for those responsible for ongoing abuses, and adopt measures to safeguard the fundamental rights of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in China and abroad. Discussion focused on witness testimony, a review of evidence, legal and academic approaches, media responses, government responses, and the status of international human rights advocacy. Thus, the conference marked the first instance in which activists, political leaders, academics, lawyers and experts from a wide range of disciplines were brought together to share expertise and collectively work towards solutions to push China to close the camps.