In November, the seventh general assembly of the World Uyghur Congress took place. Representatives of the Uyghur minority elected new leadership and condemned China's actions in Xinjiang. The assembly took place in Prague, yet the organizers faced trouble finding a place to host the event.

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) was established in 2004 by the merger of two organizations, the World Uyghur Youth Congress and the East Turkestan National Congress.  The WUC is a democratic organization that represents the collective interests of the Uyghur people and raises awareness about the situation in Xinjiang. 

The nonviolent opposition movement aims to promote human rights, democracy, and freedom for the Uyghur people through dialogue and negotiation. On the contrary, the People's Republic of China (China) believes the WUC is a violent terrorist organization and plays a key role in trying to split China.

Background of the WUC

China is accused of crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other mostly Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang). The Uyghur people are facing mass arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances in Xinjiang. China denies these allegations.  

Being a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, the WUC is partially financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). As almost all funds of the NED are provided by the American Congress, Chinese media are calling the US a “sugar daddy”. 

The Chinese authorities consider the WUC to be an international separatist network masquerading as a “human rights organization”. The WUC is supposedly a key organization in the US attempt at a new Cold War against China. Although the organization has links with the US, the WUC is seated in Munich, Germany, where a large part of the Uyghur diaspora lives.

Call for sanctions against China

The seventh general assembly took place in Prague in November. Dolkun Isa was re-elected as the president of the WUC. The assembly adopted a resolution on the Situation of Uyghurs and other Turkic People in East Turkistan. The WUC demands the Chinese government to immediately shut down the camps, to release all journalists, scholars, and religious believers that are imprisoned. They also demand the Chinese government to grant access to allow the investigation by the UN Human Rights Council. 

In addition to appealing to the Chinese government, the WUC asks the international community to impose full sanctions and demands that states end their complicity in the use of Uyghur forced labor. If an independent international observation mission concludes that there have been crimes against humanity, the WUC asks the International Olympic Committee to relocate or postpone the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games. 

Prague was chosen to hold the seventh general assembly as the Czech Republic is considered to be aware of the importance of promoting democracy and human rights. Still, the organizers of the 7th General Assembly faced problems. While looking for a place to host the event, the Marriott hotel refused to be the host on the grounds of political neutrality. The Prague hotel later apologized. Marriott International operates 56 hotels in China.

China’s response to the 2021 WUC

The reaction of China was delivered by the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in Prague. In his statement, he strongly condemned the activities of the WUC, called them anti-Chinese separatist activities, and accused the organization of incitement to terrorist and separatist activities. The words “genocide” and “forced labor” connected to the situation in Xinjiang were, according to him, complete lies. 

Furthermore, the spokesperson invited the international community to visit the region to familiarize themselves with the real situation in Xinjiang. Only a few weeks earlier, 43 UN members strongly condemned the human rights violations in the region. The EU demanded China to grant meaningful access for independent observers earlier this year.



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Former President of the World Uyghur Congress Rebiya Kadeer. Uyghur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, tells MEPs she is willing to talk to Beijing. 2009-09-01, author: European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari, 1 September 2009, source: Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, edits: cropped.