A group of Uighur people protested outside the State Department on Friday, calling for the U.S. government to boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics and to prosecute Chinese ambassadors for genocide.
Around 30 demonstrators asked the Biden administration to allow Uighurs to seek asylum in the U.S. They said between 2,000 and 3,000 Uighurs live in the U.S. and asked that they receive permanent resident status.
“Right now, under the genocide designation, the U.S. has a moral and legal obligation to act,” Salih Hudayar, head of the unrecognized East Turkistan government, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
China occupied East Turkistan, an area home to Uighurs, in December 1949 and renamed the region Xinjiang, according to East Turkistan’s website.
“China is a threat to America. We hope that the U.S. implements its own laws and punishes Chinese officials,” Mahira, a woman who attended the demonstration, told the DCNF. She did not give her last name because she feared repercussions.
“We don’t want what is happening to us today to be what will happen to America tomorrow,” Mahira said.
Most of the Uighurs in the U.S. aren’t able to contact their families who are held in concentration camps in Xinjiang, she told the DCNF.
“A lot of kids are afraid to show up to protests because they are scared of what will happen to their families,” Mahira’s daughter, Sarah, told the DCNF. She broke down in tears as she spoke.
“They’re just so scared to speak in public because the Chinese government will send them threatening messages, threatening their families over social media,” Sarah said.
“They’re all wanting to speak about what is really happening to them, but they’re afraid of what will happen to their families. So the U.S. government needs to help these kids.”
Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang have been sent to concentration camps and are faced with forced sterilization, forced labor and torture, Hudayar said. Over one million people in the region have been detained by the Chinese government, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
“Time is running out for East Turkistan and its people,” Hudayar told the DCNF.
“Our women are being systematically raped and sexually abused by Chinese forces in East Turkistan. Men are being killed, organs are being harvested and our children have been forcibly taken away from us and sent to state-run orphanages to be raised as loyal Chinese citizens.”
Hudayar was born in Xinjiang before seeking political refuge in the U.S. with his family in 2000. He was elected prime minister of East Turkistan in November 2019 and also founded the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement.
Hudayar said that boycotting the 2022 Olympics would be a more significant action than a diplomatic statement and that it would affect China’s political and economic standing with other countries.
“The Olympics would be one thing China uses to show off its prestige. So this would be hitting back against China prestige, saying, ‘We’re boycotting this because you are engaging in genocide,’” Hudayar told the DCNF.
If the U.S. declared East Turkistan an occupied country, then it would be subject to international law and Chinese control over the region would be considered illegal, he said.
“The only way we can truly end this genocide in East Turkistan is if we restore our country’s independence because over the past 100 years we have had multiple Chinese administrations, not just the [Chinese Communist Party] today. All of them have engaged in the same atrocities, except in the CCP is much worse on a much larger scale,” Hudayar told the DCNF.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed in January with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that China has committed genocide against Muslims in the Xinjiang province.
Azat Mahmut Srekashdari, a man who attended the protest, told the DCNF that he fled to America to provide a better life for his children.
He said dozens of his family members have been jailed in China since 2016, and many of them received 20-year sentences for praising America to other Uighurs.
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