Australian Uighurs have condemned Muslim-majority member countries of the UN Human Rights Council for rejecting a debate on allegations of human rights violations against minorities, including Muslims and Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China.
Among the 19 members who voted against the debate were Pakistan, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Arslan Hidayat, a resident of Australia and an exiled Uyghur, described it as another “stab in the back” – pinpointing the votes of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, both Turkish countries with historical ties to the Uyghur community.
“There are Kazakhs and Uzbeks in the camps themselves,” he told SBS News.
‘We’re screaming, but nobody hears us’
Hidayat says there are “billions of dollars to be obtained” from Chinese investments in Central Asian countries, which is why he believes Muslim countries have voted against the UN debate.
But he blames the governments, not the citizens of the countries, and says he has received private messages from Indonesians and Pakistanis apologizing for their government’s decision.
“Those who voted against us, whether it be the Indonesian government or the Pakistani government, are not part of the Muslim community because if the tables changed, I would think we would defend them,” he said.
Hidayat said Muslims believe in the concept of “ummah”, referring to the global Muslim community as one body.
“Wherever we are, we are all Muslims. We are part of one community,” said Hidayat, Program Manager at Campaign for Uyghurs.
“But they (the countries that voted no) are clearly choosing the dollar, or in this case, the Chinese yuan, for us.
“We are screaming, but no one hears us.”
Why is it important that Muslim countries voted no?
Hidayat says China will use the fact that Muslim-majority countries voted against the resolution to bolster their narrative denying human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
“China uses the inertia of Muslim-majority states as proof that Uighurs are not persecuted,” he said.
“Those who propagate for China say that if Uighurs have been persecuted, then how come Muslim-majority states don’t condemn or demand resolutions to human rights atrocities?”
Ramila Chanisheff, president of the Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women’s Association, said the “so-called Muslim countries” that voted against the debate “were bought by China”.
“Most of these Muslim countries themselves are ruled by dictators and commit serious human rights violations, hence their support for a country that commits genocide against its own citizens,” he said.
“Uyghurs are protesting in front of the embassies of Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in the United States asking for answers as to why they turned their backs on their Muslim brothers and sisters.”
China has poured billions into Muslim-majority countries
In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), connecting Pakistan’s southern port of Gwadar to western China.
Part of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative, the CPEC is estimated to have brought at least $ 102 billion in investment to Pakistan.
Chinese investments have flowed into infrastructure and transport sectors, job creation and regions such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which due to terrorist waves, foreign direct investment from Western countries has been limited.
Economic relations between Beijing and Jakarta have also increased in recent years, with Chinese imports from Indonesia up about a third in the first half of 2022 from the previous year.
China is Indonesia’s largest trading partner, and after meeting Xi in early 2022, Indonesian President Joko Widodo described China as a “global strategic partner”.
Human Rights Watch’s Asian Deputy Director Phil Robertson says Indonesia “shamelessly abandoned the Uighurs” and voted “no” to the resolution for political reasons.
‘Shameless abandon’ of the Uyghurs
“They feared that crossing over to the Chinese government could cause serious problems with Beijing at the upcoming G-20 summit in Bali, which President Widodo has given such a high priority,” Robertson told SBS News.
Robertson said the Chinese government is a “resolute, very large and influential force” that uses a mixture of threats and rewards to get what it wants, which, according to him, “is by no means a check on its appalling rights record. “.
Because it is ‘confrontation’ to see Muslim-majority countries vote no
Martijn Boersma, an associate professor of modern slavery and human trafficking at the University of Notre Dame, says economic ties play a role in the geopolitical reasons why some Muslim-majority countries have voted against the debate.
He says the situation is comparable to that of African countries that have received foreign direct investment from China over the past two decades and, as a result, have changed their countries’ recognition of Taiwan as part of China (One China Policy), as Burkina Faso, which was the last to do so.
“They want to make sure foreign direct investment continues to enter the country and continues to enter the economy, and you don’t want to upset China by voting for a particular resolution,” Boersma said.
He says that while it is “confrontational” to see Muslim-majority countries vote against the debate, geopolitical and strategic interests may be more important to those governments than religious elements.
Complaints of human rights violations in the home
Boersma also says some countries may have voted against the debate to mitigate reports of human rights violations within their own countries.
“The UAE and Qatar, which have both been in the news for different types of human rights violations, may fear that if China is on the cutting board for this and is under this type of scrutiny, then similar investigations into these countries. it could be next, “he said.
Human Rights Watch Asia director Elaine Pearson shared the same view, stating that the principles of “non-interference” fit some of the voting countries.
“In addition to economic interests, the reality is that hiding in the principle of” non-interference “is suitable for governments such as Indonesia and Pakistan who also want to avoid international control over serious abuses at home, for example in Papua and Baluchistan”, Pearson wrote in a Twitter thread.