Press Advisory: CFC stands in solidarity with oppressed in China and their request for Secretary Blinken to place human rights, and Chinese political prisoners at the center of discussions

Press Advisory

Center for a Free Cuba stands in solidarity with oppressed in Communist China and their request for Secretary Blinken to place human rights, and Chinese political prisoners at the center of discussions with officials.

Contacts: John Suarez (612) -367-6845 and Janisset Rivero 786-208-6056

Washington D.C., January 6, 2023   

The Center for a Free Cuba (CFC) stands in solidarity with oppressed diaspora communities in the Peoples Republic of China and their request to Secretary of State Antony Blinken ahead of his visit to Beijing “to place human rights, and particularly the plight of political prisoners unjustly detained by the Chinese Communist Party at the center of his discussions with PRC officials.”

These communities also call on the Secretary of State “to demand that the concentration camps, forced labor facilities, and coercive boarding schools be shut down, and all political prisoners be released immediately.”

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas on December 17, 2002 in an address to the European Parliament explained the importance of prioritizing human rights and solidarity in the age of globalization.

“The cause of human rights is a single cause, just as the people of the world are a single people. The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized. If there is no solidarity between people we will be unable to preserve a fair world in which it is possible to continue living as human beings.”

“It is in the spirit of these words of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas that we stand in solidarity with oppressed diaspora communities in the People’s Republic of China and their request that Secretary Blinken place human rights, and the plight of political prisoners at the center of his discussions with Communist Chinese officials. The plight of political prisoners is one of special concern to Cubans. Currently there are over a thousand political prisoners in Cuba, and like their counterparts in China are both unjustly imprisoned, and enduring harsh conditions.. As part of the international community we also demand their immediate release”, said John Suarez , executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

Below is their press release that we have reproduced.

For Immediate Release

Contacts:

Babur Ilchi (Uyghur)|bilchi@uhrp.org

Joey Siu (Hong Kong)|joeysiu.hk@protonmail.com

Teng Biao (China)|tengbiao89@gmail.com

Tseten Lobsang (Tibet)|lobsangtseten@studentsforafreetibet.org

Joint Letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken:

Center Human Rights and Plights of Political Prisoners during Upcoming Visit to China

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 31, 2023) — Coalition of U.S.-based civil society organizations representing communities facing oppression of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) issue a joint letter to Secretary of State Blinken ahead of his upcoming visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The coalition calls for the Secretary to place human rights and political prisoners detained under the CCP regime center of forthcoming discussions with PRC officials.

The full text is below.

The Honorable Antony J. Blinken

Secretary

U.S. Department of State

Harry S. Truman Building

2201 C St. N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20520

January 31, 2023

Dear Secretary Blinken:

We are a coalition of civil society organizations representing communities facing oppression by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In light of your upcoming visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), we request that you place human rights, and particularly the plight of political prisoners unjustly detained under the CCP regime, at the center of your discussions.  The unjust detention of human rights activists, political dissidents, labor organizers, religious practitioners, and ethnic minorities across all territories China controls should, as a matter of U.S. foreign policy, be presented as inseparable from any discussions of collaboration with the PRC, and the release of these prisoners conditional on any improvement of bilateral ties. 

As you prepare for your visit, our communities are facing escalating levels of harassment both at home and abroad, while the treatment of political prisoners has only worsened. Those who advocate for them overseas continue to face exacerbating trans-national repression in forms of harassment, attack, and threats.

Following are just some of the notable recent political persecutions taken by the CCP against members of our communities,

In Hong Kong, 47 pro-democracy politicians, whose only “crime” was to participate in a democratic primary election in 2020, will be tried starting next month; most have been held in pre-trial detention for nearly two years. The human rights activist and media mogul Jimmy Lai has been sentenced to over five years in prison over trumped-up charges, and continues to await trial on national security charges for “colluding with foreign forces” in the publication of his pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily. Pro-democracy protesters are being regularly convicted in “rioting” trials with often a dozen or more defendants at a time. In these mass trials, little attention is given to the factual allegations against the individual defendants and many have been convicted and sentenced to years in prison for simply being near a protest clash while wearing the wrong clothes or having pro-democracy political beliefs. Last month, Beijing stripped the courts of their remaining independence, with Beijing declaring that its representative body in the city may intervene in any case, at any time, to declare it a national security matter and dictate the outcome.

In Tibet, close to 1 million young Tibetan students are involuntarily placed in Colonial Boarding schools by the CCP, in an attempt to assimilate the Tibetan community by wiping their identity, culture, and language. These Colonial Boarding schools are core elements of the Chinese Communist Party’s systematic effort to co-opt, undermine and eliminate Tibetan identity to neutralize Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule. As per two recent reports from Human Rights Watch and Citizen Lab from University of Toronto, more than 1.2 million Tibetans’ DNA have been forcefully collected by the Chinese government as they attempt to build the world’s largest police run DNA database. Not only does this state run DNA collection drive violate individual’s privacy rights and the right to bodily integrity, it will also undoubtedly heighten China’s repression in Tibet. Tibetans, who are subjected to cultural, religious and language repression in Tibet under Chinese occupation, are facing a new high tech form of mass surveillance which will increase the magnitude of China’s Human Rights violation. Tibetan climate and language right activists who continued advocating for Tibet’s environment and language within the now-occupied territory suffered from political persecution. Prominent Tibetan writer and educator Go Sherab Gyatso has been held in incommunicado detention for over a year in 2020, and was handed a 10-year imprisonment in a secret trial in December 2021. Tibetan environmental activist A-nya Sengdra was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment in December 2019, and his health continued to deteriorate rapidly under harsh conditions in prison.

In East Turkistan (or the “Uyghur Region”), the Uyghur community continue to suffer an ongoing genocide that invokes the worst parts of human history. The United Nations Human Rights Council recently found that the PRC government is responsible for “serious human rights abuses” that “may constitute international crimes, including crimes against humanity.” The recent “Xinjiang Police Files” presented by Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC)’s Dr. Adrian Zenz revealed the brutality of the Uyghur genocide, evidenced by a large collection of photographs that exposed the PRC’s secretive mass incarceration system, including shoot-to-kill policy against any Uyghurs who try to escape. The hacked files contain photographs and information of over 5,000 Uyghurs, alongside many unknown ones, who continue to suffer from torture, forced medical treatment, sexual and gender-based violence including forced sterilization in detention camps. This includes Dr. Gulshan Abbas, a retired medical doctor, who was forcibly disappeared in September of 2018, only to be confirmed two years later as having been imprisoned on sham charges. Her daughters, both American citizens, have yet to speak with her or see any concrete proof of life. While victims escaped from camps have similarly been banned from contacting family outside of the region or traveling abroad, many remain imprisoned in clear retaliation for the work of family members abroad, including Qurban Mamur, father of U.S. citizen and journalist Bahram Sintash, and Ahmetjan Juma, brother of Radio Free Asia Uyghur Service journalist and U.S. citizen Memetjan Juma.

In China, following the Urumqi fire, courageous citizens took to the streets to protest the CCP’s oppressive policies, kicking off the week long A4 Revolution. Untold thousands of brave protesters risked their futures and lives to demand freedom from one of the world’s most brutal authoritarian regimes, and many now face mass retaliation. A recent report confirmed the names of dozens of detainees in relevance to the protests, including Peng Lifa, Cao Zhixin Zhai Dengrui, Li Yuanjing, and Li Siqi, with countless others whose fate has not been reported. Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist who posted videos at the beginning of the pandemic questioning the government’s handling of the outbreak, has been imprisoned since May 2020. She has reportedly been ill, and her weight dropped below 40 kilograms after she staged hunger strikes in prison.

These cases are representative of the millions of people who are unjustly targeted and suffering. We believe the many U.S. officials who often claim that human rights is a priority for them, but we regret that this sentiment is not often enough reflected in official government policy. Promoting basic human rights standards should be a priority for the United States government, and a prerequisite to doing business with a foreign regime. This principle is not merely one of morality, but of self-interest: Any State actor that cannot commit to human dignity will not be a reliable partner, and a regime that does not respect the rights of its people will not respect the rights of foreign government partners; the CCP has proven this time and time again. We urge you to demand that the concentration camps, forced labor facilities, and coercive boarding schools be shut down, and all political prisoners be released immediately and returned back to their families.

Business as usual is not a viable option. It is time to draw a line in the sand with the CCP: Respect the rights of the people under your control, or take your business elsewhere.

We thank you for your commitment to ensuring a better future for humanity.

Undersigned diaspora communities:

Boston Uyghur Association

CSA Network

Campaign for Uyghurs

Center for Uyghur Studies

China Against Death Penalty

China Aid Association

Chinese Diaspora for Human Rights

Chinese Human Rights Defenders

Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation

Dialogue China

End Uyghur Genocide

Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.

GWU Democracy Wall

Hong Kong Affairs Association of Berkeley

Hong Kong Democracy Council

Hong Kong Forum, Los Angeles

Hong Kong Social Action Movements in Boston

Hong Kongers in San Francisco Bay Area

Humanitarian China

Institute for Chinese Democratic Transition

Lamp of Liberty

National Committee of Democratic Party of China

New Yorkers Supporting Hong Kong

Penn State Students for Hong Kong

Philly4HK

San Diegans Supporting Hong Kong

Students for Hong Kong

Students for a Free Tibet

Students for a Free Tibet (American University)

Students for a Free Tibet (Boston)

Students for a Free Tibet (New York/New Jersey)

Texans Support Hong Kong

Tibet Justice Center

Tibetan Association of Boston

U.S. Tibet Committee

Uyghur American Association

Uyghur Human Rights Project

Washingtonians Supporting Hong Kong

Endorsing organizations:

Candlelight Party in Cambodia

Center for a Free Cuba

Cornell Society for the Promotion of East Asian Liberty (SPEAL)

Eritrean Initiative on Refugee Rights

Friends of ZOKA

Georgetown Center for Asian Law

Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation

Jewish Movement for Uyghur Freedom

Nicaragua Freedom Coalition

Renew Democracy Initiative

Sassoufit Collective

Taiwan Parliamentary Human Rights Commission

Tharwa Foundation

Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

World Liberty Congress