Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 12, 2021
Thank you, Demetri. And let me start by thanking all of our guests for joining us today, and all of our co-hosts and speakers for bringing attention to this important issue. And thank you, especially, to Jewher, for your remarks, for your determination, and for your courage.
Yesterday, I spoke to Rayhan Asat, whose brother Ekpar is one of the more than one million Uyghur people who have been detained in Xinjiang. Before his detention, Ekpar was held up as a model citizen, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist dedicated to helping older people and people with disabilities. In the latest video Ekpar’s family has seen, he looks gaunt – a shadow of his former self. He is just one of many victims of the atrocities in Xinjiang.
In Xinjiang, people are being tortured. Women are being forcibly sterilized. There are incredible reports, and credible reports, that many Uyghur people and other ethnic and religious minorities – who only wish to practice basic freedoms of religion, belief, expression, and movement – are being forced to work until they drop, manufacturing clothes and goods at the behest of the state. The New York Times reported that the goal is to – as one official put it – “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins.” Rayhan reminded me that this violence doesn’t just dehumanize the people it’s inflicted upon – it also dehumanizes anyone who stands by and let it happen.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins with the word “universal” for a reason. Indeed, the foundational unit of the United Nations – from the first sentence of the Charter – is not just the nation state. It is also the human being. Today, we have heard – and will continue to hear – how the rights of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are being abused and violated to the extreme. The victims of these abuses aren’t just victims. They are heroes, whose strength and bravery should serve as an example to all.
We will keep standing up and speaking out until China’s government stops its crimes against humanity and the genocide of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. And we will keep working in concert with our allies and our partners until China’s government respects the universal human rights of all its people.
Thank you very much.