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LIBG forum on China and the plight of the Uighurs: uncovering China's oppression in Xinjiang

April 2, 2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
National Liberal Club, 1 Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2HE

The Han-based Chinese government has controlled what is now Xinjiang province intermittently since the Qing Empire. Chinese domination of the region from time to time, including Tibet, has long been associated with periods of strong Chinese power.

The last re-colonisation took place after World War Two and the Long March which heralded the rise to power of the Chinese Communist Party.

Xinjiang was always however a poor region under Chinese control, which continued after the 'opening up policy' of Deng Xiao Ping, as more than 400 million people moved from the interior to the coastal region as the 'Chinese economic miracle' proceeded.

However this began to change in the new millennium as trade across Central Asia grew in importance. Han Chinese began to be encouraged to settle in Xinjiang, and now the government controversially claims that the indigenous Uyghur population is no longer a majority.

President Xi Jinping's 'Belt & Road' Trans-Asia initiative, and oil exploration, have seen large scale investment, but this has been accompanied by harsh measures to enforce loyalty to the communist regime, and restrict adherence to Islam as a faith and culture distinct from the Party, with steps to surpress mosques and religious leaders who are not 'approved' and loyal.

Following protests, some of which involved violence, the crackdowns intensified and a series of large 're-education' camps were constructed, with the stated aim of dealing with 'terrorism' and discouraging broadly-defined 'extreme views'.

Severe media restrictions make assessments difficult but it is claimed that between 250,000 and 2m Muslim Uyghurs have been incarcerated.

This forum explores the evidence for the oppression and considers Chinese Communist Party strategy for the province, amidst claims from the Chinese authorities of religious freedom; but with measures against 'terrorism' in parallel to the West's 'war on terror'.

The views of Uyghurs about the future, and the scope to pressure China to take a different path, are also examined.

Speakers include:

Alistair Carmichael MP. British Liberal Democrat politician who has been pressing for specific international actions to end oppression in Xinjiang.(tbc)

Rachel Harris. SOAS Reader in Ethnomusicoloogy specialising in China and Central Asia, having conducted fieldwork in Xinjiang and region for 20 years.

Rahine Mahmut. London-based Uyghur Muslim who is a human rights activist, singer and translator of 'The Land Drenched in Tears', a history of Uyghur culture and independence.

Paul Reynolds. international adviser on economics and security, working both in the region and with the Chinese authorities in Beijing (Central Party School, State Council, MoF), and executive member of Liberal international (BG)

Merlene Emerson (chair). Is a lawyer, originally from Singapore, co-founder of Chinese Liberal Democrats and vice-chair of the Liberal Democrats Federal International Relations Committee. She has a keen interest in China and Central Asia and is currently learning Russian.