DUSHANBE/JUNE 10 2021 (The Bulletin) — The Tajik government is rounding up Uyghurs and sending them to China where they are imprisoned in so-called re-education camps, rights activists told the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.
In a statement to the ICC, the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE), an Uyghur group that wants to see an independent Xinjiang, said that Chinese agents were directing Tajik police in raids against Uyghurs. It said that the number of Uyghurs living ins Tajikistan had dropped to 100, from around 3,000.
“Those without the ‘correct paperwork’ are then deported back into China by Chinese authorities in small groups of up to 10 to avoid international attention,” the ETGE told the ICC. “The remaining Uyghurs are completely controlled by the Consulate and have to participate in weekly meetings with informers who report back to the Consulate.”
Neither the Tajik nor the Chinese government has responded to the accusations. Tajikistan is a member of the ICC but China isn’t.
Western governments have accused China of trying to wipe out Uyghurs by imprisoning 1m Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz living in Xinjiang. China has denied the claims and said instead that it has set up a network of camps to re-educate Muslims to help them succeed in modern-day China.
Activists have accused the Kazakh and Kyrgyz governments of ignoring the plight of their people in China but this is the first time that a government has been accused of rounding up Uyghurs for the Chinese authorities. Activist hope that they are able to bring pressure on China by highlighting Uyghurs’ plight in Tajikistan.
Tajikistan has built up strong relations with China over the past decade, taking cheap loans to build roads and infrastructure and to beautify its towns and cities.
In return, China has built up major political and economic patronage, controls many of Tajikistan’s most valuable mineral and energy assets and has reportedly set up a military base in the Tajik section of the Pamir Mountains.
— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021
— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021