Australian Uyghur Association Protests To Demand Action from Government

Australian Uyghur Association Protests To Demand Action from Government
Photo Credit: William Ho

What you need to know

Uyghurs staged a protest in Adelaide, South Australia, to demand that the Australian government condemn China's repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and ban imports of goods made with forced labor in the region.

By William Ho

On February 20, the East Turkistan Australian Association (ETAA ) held a march in Adelaide, South Australia, to condemn Chinese atrocities against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. More than 100 people attended the rally.

The U.S. State Department and Canada’s House of Commons have recently declared China’s repression of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang to be genocide. Protesters at the Adelaide rally demanded that the Australian government also exert pressure on China by banning imports of goods produced by forced labor in the region.

South Australian Senator Rex Patrick, Queensland Parliament Member Bob Katter, and student activist Drew Pavlou participated in the protest.

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Photo Credit: William Ho
Rex Patrick, Senator for South Australia, speaks at the rally in Adelaide, Australia, February 20, 2021.

“Everyone thought Winston Churchill would bend the knee. And every single person here today and every single person on earth knows that he did not,” Katter said in front of South Australia’s Parliament House. He said the protesters were all “Winston Churchill’s.”

In December 2020, Patrick sponsored a bill banning goods produced by Uyghur forced labor. Earlier this year, the U.S. announced a sweeping ban on imports of goods made with forced labor in Xinjiang due to human rights violations and the use of forced labor.

Evidence suggests that many Uyghurs in Xinjiang’s detention camps are being sent to “walled factory compounds for forced labor assignments,” the Australian Strategic Policy Institution (ASPI) pointed out. Many multinational companies, including Nike, Apple, and Samsung, are linked to the abuse, but some have resisted government regulations to crack down on imports of goods involving the use of forced labor in Xinjiang.

Since 2017, China has been building a network of internment camps, which it claims to be vocational education and training centers, for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. In its latest report, ASPI identified at least 380 such facilities, ranging from re-education camps, detention centers, to fortified prisons, across the region.

In addition to forced labor, the BBC this month reported that Uyghurs in Xinjiang face systematic rape, abuse, and torture. A former detainee said she was forced to assist guards in stripping, handcuffing, and showering Uyghur women.

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Photo Credit: William Ho
Uyghur protesters hold a banner at the rally in front of South Australia’s Parliament House in Adelaide, Australia, February 20, 2021.

South Australia is currently home to around 400 Uyghurs. Many have relatives or close friends with whom they lost contact. Some said their missing relatives and friends have been taken into an internment camp.

Headquartered in Adelaide, the ETAA was founded in 1992 in light of the growing Uyghur community in Australia. To preserve cultural heritage among the diaspora population, the association offers language courses and organizes Meshrep events, a traditional gathering for Uyghur men that involves performing arts, poetry reading, and games.

The ETAA, which has received funding from the South Australian Government, has also been raising awareness in Australia about their compatriots still in China by staging protests.

In February, Human Rights Watch urged the Australian government to strengthen legislation to suspend the import of goods made with forced labor in a submission to its Senate. The organization also called on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to convene discussions with Australian businesses to raise awareness about the risks of doing business in Xinjiang.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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