World Uyghur Congress
|Formation||16 April 2004|
|Purpose||"To promote democracy, human rights and freedom for the Uyghur people"|
|Uyghur, English, German, Turkish, and Mandarin Chinese|
|Affiliations||World Uyghur Youth Congress, Uyghur American Association, East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association, Uyghur Human Rights Project Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization|
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The World Uyghur Congress (WUC)[note 1] is an international organization of exiled Uyghur groups that aspires to "represent the collective interest of the Uyghur people" both inside and outside of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. The World Uyghur Congress describes itself as a nonviolent and peaceful movement that opposes what it considers to be the Chinese occupation of East Turkestan and advocates rejection of totalitarianism, religious intolerance and terrorism as an instrument of policy. The Congress is funded in part by the National Endowment for Democracy or NED of the United States. It has been called a terrorist organization by the Chinese government and Chinese state-controlled media.
The Congress was formed in mid-April 2004 at a meeting in Munich, Germany, as a collection of various exiled Uyghur groups, advocating for "greater autonomy," including the World Uyghur Youth Congress (WUYC) and some members of the East Turkestan National Congress (ETNC) following a split among the East Turkestan National Congress over the issue of autonomy vs independence. Dolkun Isa is the current president, elected in November 2017. A prominent Uyghur activist, Isa has been living in Germany since 1996 after fleeing from China.
The World Uyghur Congress is an umbrella organization of Uyghur nationalist groups such as the World Uyghur Youth Congress, and was formed in November 1996 and some members of the East Turkestan National Congress. The East Turkistan National Congress split in early 2004 over the issue of independence vs autonomy. On 18 April 2004, some Uyghur groups united to create the pro-autonomy World Uyghur Congress, with Erkin Alptekin serving as the first president and Dolkun Isa as General Secretary since 2004 of the unified group; Alptekin served until 2006, when Rebiya Kadeer was elected as President at the second General Assembly meeting held on 24–27 November 2006. While other Uyghur, Kazakh, and other Turkic groups formed the pro-independence East Turkistan Government in Exile in September 2004. The Congress has convened seven assemblies since its inception—in 2004, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2021. It is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, and is based primarily in Munich, home to a large Uyghur diaspora. There are no known links between the WUC and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. In 2019, the World Uyghur Congress, represented by Dolkun Isa, received the Democracy Award for advocating for democracy, human rights, and freedom for the Uyghur people and the use of peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to help Uyghurs achieve self-determination.
The WUC has accused former Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong of colonizing Xinjiang and reneging on promises to allow self-determination for the region. According to the WUC, its main aim is to "promote the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine the political future of East Turkestan." It has declared its intention to work with world governments and form a "peaceful opposition" to the policies of the Chinese government in Xinjiang, whose treatment of Uyghurs, it alleges, risk turning the region into a "time bomb". The first president, Erkin Alptekin, described the Han Chinese as "colonists who want to replace us with their own people and assimilate those of us who remain, wiping out our culture." The Congress has also said China is exaggerating the threat from terrorists in order to justify repression in the region.
The Congress, like the Uyghur American Association based in Washington, D.C., use mass media and their own websites in an aim to inform the international community of human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. It has been described as "cyber-separatism" which is supported in part by wealthy Uyghurs in the Middle East. Some newspapers in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan reprint articles from the websites in Uyghur and Russian.
As the Congress is made up of a number of international Uyghur groups, its leaders are based in a number of countries as follows:
|Special Leader||Rebiya Kadeer||USA|
|Chief Advisor||Erkin Alptekin||Germany|
|Vice President||Perhat Muhemmed
|Chairman of the Executive Committee||Omer Kanat||USA|
|Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee||Semet Abla
|Director of the Youth Committee||Haiyuer Kuerban||Germany|
The Congress also maintains representatives in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom. President Kadeer met United States President George W. Bush in June 2007, and British Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials in October the same year.
Its President, Dolkun Isa was on the Red Notice List of the International Criminal Police Organization, though the German government did not recognize the notice, nor did the United States. Fair Trials, an organization working "for fair trials according to internationally recognized standards of justice" has noted that in practice, "INTERPOL's Red Notices are being used as political tools by NCBs, and are being issued and maintained on the basis of criminal cases which have been recognized as being politically-motivated by extradition courts and asylum authorities." The notice was removed in early 2018.
Dolkun Isa is a former student-leader of the pro-democracy demonstrations at Xinjiang University in 1988. He founded the Students' Science and Culture Union at the university in 1987 and worked on programs to eliminate illiteracy and to promote science and to lead other students in East Turkestan. He was then dismissed from university but completed his physics degree via independent study, and went on to receive a master's degree in Politics and Sociology from Gazi University in Turkey and a degree in Computer Science in Munich, Germany. After enduring persecution from the Chinese government, Isa fled China in 1994 and sought asylum in Europe, and became a citizen of Germany in 2006.
Erkin Alptekin (born 4 July 1939 in Kashgar) is a Uyghur activist. From Germany, he has helped found many Uyghur nationalist organizations, the best known of which are the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the World Uyghur Congress. Alptekin is the son of Isa Alptekin, who opposed both East Turkistan Republic(s) and sought ‘autonomy’ for the Uyghurs under the Republic of China. After the Peaceful Liberation of Xinjiang in 1949 and succession by the new People's Republic of China, Alptekin's family fled to Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. There he attended Catholic school and then Convent College, completing his studies in the Institute of Journalism in Istanbul. Alptekin is based in Germany.
Rebiya Kadeer (born 15 November 1946) is an ethnic Uyghur, businesswoman and political activist. Born in the city of Altay of China, Kadeer became a millionaire in the 1980s through her real estate holdings and ownership of a multinational conglomerate. Kadeer held various positions in China's parliament and other political institutions before being arrested in 1999 for, according to Chinese state media, sending confidential internal reference reports to her husband, who worked in the United States as a pro-Xinjiang independence broadcaster. After she fled to the United States in 2005 on compassionate release, Kadeer assumed leadership positions in overseas Uyghur organizations such as the World Uyghur Congress. Kadeer speaks Uyghur and Mandarin Chinese.
1st General Assembly
On 18 April 2004, the first General Assembly of World Uyghur Congress was hold in Munich, Germany. In the Assembly, the World Uyghur Youth Congress, which was formed in November 1996, and the East Turkestan National Congress declared their unification by forming the World Uyghur Congress. At this assembly, Erkin Alptekin was elected as the first president and Memet Tohti as the vice-president.
2nd General Assembly
From 24 to 27 November 2008, the World Uyghur Congress has successfully held its Second Assembly in Munich, Germany. WUC delegates from the United States, Canada, the Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan attended this assembly. Prominent Uyghur political leader and human rights activist Ms. Rebiya Kadeer was unanimously elected as the new President of World Uyghur Congress. Ms. Kadeer's election has given new hope and strength for WUC and the Uyghur people all around the world.
3rd General Assembly
From 21 to 25 May 2009, the World Uyghur Congress successfully held its Third General Assembly in Washington D.C. WUC delegates from the United States, Canada, the Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan attended this assembly. Held in conjunction with the meeting was a conference on the Uyghur conflict entitled: East Turkestan: 60 Years under Communist Chinese Rule, that took place on 18 and 19 May, prior to the Assembly. During the week beginning on Monday, 18 May – officially designated by the WUC as "Uyghur Week" –WUC delegates, Uyghur human right activists, government officials, legislators and academics attended these two important events.
4th General Assembly
From 14 to 17 May 2012, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) successfully held its 4th General Assembly in Tokyo, Japan, attended by more than 120 Uyghur delegates from 20 countries around the world. During the four-day assembly, delegates in six commissions discussed new strategies for the peaceful promotion of human rights and democracy for the Uyghur people, in light of China's current political conditions and its upcoming change of political leadership later this year. They also held a peaceful protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo with the participation of Japanese supporters. During the rally, a representative delivered a letter to the Chinese government calling for an end to ongoing grave human rights abuses suffered by Uyghurs in their homeland. Japanese and international media covered the protest. During the Assembly, Uyghur delegates also elected a new WUC leadership. A Uyghur democracy movement leader, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, was reelected WUC President.
5th General Assembly
On 13 July 2016, the World Uyghur Congress, under the cosponsorship of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Uyghur Association of France (Association des Ouïghours de France) successfully completed its 5th General Assembly in Paris, France. The Assembly brought together over 140 WUC delegates from 18 countries to elect new representation, amend the charter of the organization and to discuss a forward-looking strategic advocacy plan over the next four years. The public opening session brought together members of the Uyghur community with representatives of civil society in France as well as WUC affiliate organizations from around the world to highlight the successes of those groups as well potential areas for improvement. Speeches during the ceremony were delivered by WUC President, Rebiya Kadeer and UNPO Secretary General, Marino Busdachin, along with leaders of WUC affiliate organizations.
6th General Assembly
From 10 to 12 November 2017, the World Uyghur Congress successfully completed its 6th General Assembly on 12 November in Munich, Germany. The assembly brought together over 100 WUC delegates hailing from 18 countries from 10 to 12 November to amend the Charter of the organization, discuss the most effective direction of the organization in the coming years, to develop a working strategy to more effectively raise the Uyghur issue in international fora, and elect new leadership. Long-time Uyghur activist and co-founder of the WUC, Dolkun Isa, was elected as WUC President and former vice-president, Omer Kanat was elected as Chairman of the Executive Committee. In addition, the delegates recognized the unparalleled contributions of former president and long time Uyghur activist Rebiya Kadeer with an honorary role with the organization. The closing ceremony was centered around a Uyghur cultural event that included a performance by members of the London Uyghur Ensemble, traditional dance and the recitation of poetry. The event allowed members of the Uyghur community from around the world to share in their common culture and heritage as the WUC looks to protect Uyghur identity going forward.
7th General Assembly
The WUC engages in a wide range of awareness raising and advocacy campaigns about the human rights situation for Uyghurs in China, concentrating on United States Congress in Washington, EU member states, and EU and UN human rights mechanisms. The WUC also works with European Parliament (including the EU Sub-committee on Human Rights), NGOs, UN Treaty Bodies, to which it submits alternative reports as well as UN Special Procedures (Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups). The WUC also participates actively with the UN Human Rights Council and submits written statements and reports, delivers oral statements to plenary sessions, and organizes side events that focus on Chinese human rights abuses. The WUC also attends the UN Forum on Minority Issues.
Once Voice One Step
15 March 2018, hundreds of Uyghurs demonstrated in cities around the world to draw attention to the Chinese government's repression of the Uyghur people in East Turkestan and urge the international community to take action. Demonstrations were held in 15 cities in 14 countries around the world, including: the US, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Turkey, Sweden, the UK, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, France, Finland and Japan.
On 18 October 2019, an exhibition named "A Prison Without Walls – East Turkestan Today", was opened, featuring photographs of reeducation camps, the everyday lives of Uighurs, and the July 2009 Urumqi riots opened at Taipei's 228 Memorial Museum. The exhibition was originally organized by the Uyghur American Association and the One Voice, One Step initiative and has been presented in 33 cities in 15 countries. The exhibition was to run for one month.
March in Brussels
On 27 April 2018, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and its member organization, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) held a protest march in Brussels, Belgium to demand that China release one million Uyghurs having been arbitrarily arrested and currently being detained within Chinese "reeducation camps." The participants also demanded that China stop the destruction of the Uyghur's cultural, religious and linguistic identity. This march brought together Uyghurs from many different diaspora groups from around the world and it is estimated that there were around 2,000 participants.
Chinese government response
The government of the People's Republic of China has accused the World Uyghur Congress of fomenting unrest in Xinjiang, and added the WUC to its list of terrorist organizations in December 2003. It has labeled the WUC's president as a "terrorist" who "conspired with separatists and religious extremists to plan terror attacks." Kadeer rejected the accusations, saying that "anyone who is unhappy with China's harsh rule is a 'separatist'". During the July 2009 Ürümqi riots, the Chinese government said it had intercepted phone calls of overseas Turkestan groups and groups inside the country. The government has also alleged that Kadeer has close ties with the Dalai Lama, accused by China of inciting unrest in Tibet in 2008, and claimed that WUC president Kadeer said that "something similar should happen in Xinjiang."
- Xinjiang internment camps
- East Turkestan independence movement
- East Turkistan Government-in-Exile
- East Turkistan National Awakening Movement
- Human rights in China
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The main objective of the WUC is to promote democracy, human rights and freedom for the Uyghur people and use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine their political future. By representing as the sole legitimate organization of the Uyghur people both in East Turkistan and abroad, WUC endeavors to set out a course for the peaceful settlement of the East Turkistan Question through dialogue and negotiation.
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