US Lawmakers Form Uyghur Caucus to Address Rights Abuses in China’s Xinjiang

The US ‘cannot be silent as Xi Jinping tortures and seeks to eradicate an entire population,’ says Rep. Chris Smith.

US Lawmakers Form Uyghur Caucus to Address Rights Abuses in China’s Xinjiang

Lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives formed a Uyghur Caucus on Thursday to highlight the Chinese Communist Party’s abuse of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The caucus led by Reps. Tom Suozzi and Chris Smith also will support legislation aimed at addressing the human rights abuses, including the detention of about 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps, torture of inmates, sexual assaults, forced sterilization of women, and the use of forced Uyghur labor, and efforts to eradicate Uyghur culture and religion.

“Put simply, we’re talking about the largest coordinated human rights abuse campaign of the 21st century being perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party,” Suozzi said in a statement. “Not only as Members of Congress, but as human beings we have a responsibility to uphold the values of fundamental human dignity and religious freedom abroad.”

Smith, a veteran lawmaker who for decades has criticized Beijing over its human rights record, said the U.S. must speak out on egregious abuses being perpetrated against the Uyghurs and others in northwestern China, which have been well-documented by rights organizations, international media, and the United Nations.

“The United States cannot be silent as [Chinese President] Xi Jinping tortures and seeks to eradicate an entire population,” he said in the statement. “In solidarity with the oppressed, the Uyghur Caucus will call attention to the Communist Chinese government’s atrocious human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and work to end one of the world’s worst human rights tragedies.”

In January, the U.S. State Department determined that the Chinese government’s actions against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the XUAR constituted genocide and crimes against humanity.

There was no immediate response from the Chinese government to the announcement about the Uygur Caucus.

Rushan Abbas, executive director of the Washington-based Campaign for Uyghurs, hailed the creation of the caucus.

“Day after day, we are faced with new horrors coming out of East Turkistan,” she said in a statement on Thursday, using the name for the XUAR that Uyghurs prefer. “These atrocities, this genocide, require a response that is proportional to its depravity.”

“With this caucus, we now have a way to organize our allies in the United States and turn activism into concrete policy actions that address this unspeakable crime,” Abbas said. “Together, we will see this genocide ended, and those responsible brought to justice.”

The Germany-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) also welcomed the development.

“This is such a welcomed initiative, and it comes at an opportune time when Uyghurs most need strong allies to restore their freedoms, and end the Uyghur genocide,” said WUC president Dolkun Isa in a statement.

The Uyghur Caucus joins other such caucuses — groups where U.S. lawmakers meet to pursue common legislative objectives — focusing on ethnic minorities or people living in territories that are repressed or targeted by China.

A bipartisan Congressional Taiwan Caucus set up in April 2002 has 139 members and is focused on enhancing and strengthening U.S.-Taiwan relations and ensuring that Taiwan remains democratic. Its counterpart in the Senate was established in September 2003 and has 24 members.

Smith created a Congressional Hong Kong Caucus in September 2014 to monitor China’s actions in the territory where at the time pro-democracy activists held massive street demonstrations clamoring for free elections.

Two former Congressmen formed a Congressional Tibet Caucus in 2009 to draw attention to the Chinese government’s policies there and to mobilize support for the Dalai Lama, Tibetans’ exiled spiritual leader.

Neither of those groups appear to be active, but the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, formerly known as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, now takes up rights issues concerning Uyghurs in the XUAR, Hong Kong, and Tibet.

The 17-member bipartisan, bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (ECCC), an independent agency of the U.S. government, also monitors human rights and rule of law developments in China.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Wife of North Korean Consul in Russia Dies from COVID-19

Cost of vaccination in Vladivostok too high for the North’s privileged diplomats.

Wife of North Korean Consul in Russia Dies from COVID-19

The wife of a North Korean consul stationed in Vladivostok, Russia, contracted COVID-19 and died this month, RFA has learned from sources in Russia, who said the North lacked the cash to vaccinate its diplomats in the Pacific coast city.

The woman, whose name was not disclosed, had been living in Vladivostok since 2018, when her husband became one of only five people working at the tiny consulate in the major Pacific Ocean port city near Russia’s borders with North Korea and China.

Though the Russian-made Sputnik coronavirus vaccine is available in the city, production cannot keep up with demand and doses command top ruble.

North Korea’s government would not cover the costs of vaccinating the consulate staff and their families, and there was no vaccination plan in place, sources in the city told RFA.

“A close North Korean acquaintance informed me that the wife of a North Korean consul here in Vladivostok died of coronavirus, so the North Korean mission officials here and all over Russia are on high alert,” a Russian citizen of Korean descent told RFA’s Korean Service July 25.

“The news of her death came during a diplomatic office meeting. The consulate sent an emergency notice to the human resources company that manages dispatched workers, instructing them to raise their awareness that there was a coronavirus death in the family of the consulate,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

Vladivostok is home to many North Korean government-owned firms that sell the labor of workers sent to the Russian Far East by Pyongyang to earn foreign cash for the regime, usually in the construction sector.

The companies, which forward the lion’s share of the workers’ earned wages to Pyongyang, have a close-knit relationship with the consulate.

The consul’s wife was hospitalized on July 15, after she had coronavirus symptoms including a high fever and coughing that started at the beginning of the month. The woman, who is in her early 40s, died while receiving treatment in the hospital, according to the source.

“The Russian coronavirus vaccine costs 7,000 rubles, which is about U.S. $95 per dose. People say that the North Korean diplomats and their families have not yet made a plan to vaccinate because it costs at least $190 to get both doses, and they suffer from economic difficulties,” the source said.

“Under the direction of North Korea, the consul’s wife was immediately cremated, and a quiet funeral was held.”

Another source, a resident of Vladivostok, confirmed the death to RFA on July 26, saying that all the North Koreans in the city are now living in fear after seeing that even such a high-profile person could not afford the vaccine.

“Although we have a Russian-made vaccine, production is insufficient, so it costs too much. So there are many non-vaccinated people in the Vladivostok area,” the second source said, adding that the consulate had convened several meetings related to the woman’s death.

“Due to shortages in the supply of the Russian coronavirus vaccine, most people living in Vladivostok have not yet been vaccinated… Vladivostok is also known as a region with high medical costs in Russia. If you are hospitalized for more than 10 days at a general hospital, it costs nearly $10,000 on average,” the second source said.

People who die in the hospital will have about $1,000 extra added to their bills for cremation, the source added.

“So it’s not only the North Korean dispatched workers in nearby areas, but also mission staff that cannot really go to the hospital, even if they are sick.”

Russia has recorded 6,195,232 coronavirus cases and 156,178 deaths as of Thursday.

According to CNN, in January 2018 an estimated 50,000 North Koreans were working in Russia – many in construction – in what the U.S. Department of State called “slave-like” labor.

Following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2397 in Dec. 2017, all North Korean workers in Russia were supposed to have been repatriated by the end of 2019, and host countries were forbidden from issuing new working visas.

North Korea had been able to get around this by sending workers to Russia on student visas and having them apply for work permits. Pyongyang had hoped to continue doing this beyond 2019, but the pandemic in early 2020 shut down cross-border travel and put a snag in those plans.

A source familiar with the North Korean labor situation in Russia told RFA in February that there were 2,000 to 3,000 North Koreans in Russia working to earn foreign cash for Pyongyang in violation of sanctions.

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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