China reported to be using its financial muscle to secure the arrest of ex-patriot Uighurs in foreign countries
This is an extract from the Uyghur* Human Rights Project. China is much in the news recently and the arrest of journalists and the closure of a popular newspaper in Hong Kong has featured strongly in the west. The systematic repression of Uighurs continues unabated however, both within the country and as this report discusses, overseas.
The report is the product of an effort to understand the means by which China targets Uighurs beyond its borders to silence dissent. In partnership with the Uyghur Human Rights Project, the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs gathered cases of China’s transnational repression of Uyghurs from public sources, including government documents, human rights reports, and reporting by credible news agencies to establish a detailed analysis of how the scale and scope of China’s global repression are expanding.
Since 1997, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has engaged in an unprecedented scale of transnational repression that has reached 28 countries worldwide. The China’s Transnational Repression of Uyghurs Dataset examines 1,546 cases of detention and deportation from 1997 until March 2021 and offers critical insight into the scope and evolution of the Chinese government’s efforts to control and repress Uyghurs across sovereign boundaries. Our data finds instances of at least 28 countries across the world complicit in China’s harassment and intimidation of Uyghurs, most notably in much of the Middle East and North Africa with 647 cases, and in South Asia with 665 cases. The dataset contains 1,151 cases of Uyghurs being detained in their host country and 395 cases of Uyghurs being deported, extradited, or rendered back to China.
China’s transnational repression of Uyghurs has been consistently on the rise and has accelerated dramatically with the onset of its system of mass surveillance in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) from 2017, showing a correlation between repression at home and abroad. In the first stage of China’s evolving system of transnational repression, from 1997 to 2007, a total of 89 Uyghurs from 9 countries, mostly in South and Central Asia, were detained or sent to China. In the second phase (2008–2013), 130 individuals from 15 countries were repressed. In the ongoing third phase (2014 to the end of our data collection in March 2021), a total of 1,327 individuals were detained or rendered from 20 countries. Unreported cases would likely raise these figures substantially, with our database presenting just the tip of the iceberg due to our reliance on publicly reported instances of repression.
International organizations and host governments, particularly those with close political and economic ties to the PRC, can often be complicit in China’s use of transnational repression against Uyghurs, many of whom have sought refuge abroad. China’s transnational repression exists as part of a wider trend of global authoritarianism that threatens to erode democratic norms worldwide. Stopping China’s transnational repression is a moral imperative and crucial to maintaining state sovereignty and the integrity of international organizations like Interpol and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
States that host Uyghur diaspora communities can take concrete steps to combat China’s transnational repression and protect Uyghurs and other vulnerable populations. Governments can refuse to extradite Uyghurs, increase refugee and emigration quotas, and restrict networks of enablers, including tech companies, as well as diaspora groups and organizations acting as fronts for the Chinese government.
This report describes transnational repression and the key actors and methods used by the Chinese government. It then traces the evolution of China’s campaign of repression, showing how that campaign has shifted in emphasis from Central and South Asia, to Southeast Asia, to the Middle East, following the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative. The full report can be read by following the link above.
*There are different spellings