WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Uighur-American whose mother has been held captive in a Chinese detention camp was one of several witnesses to testify on Tuesday before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the unfolding human rights crisis in China.
The hearing was titled “Authoritarianism with Chinese Characteristics: Political and Religious Human Rights Challenges in China” and was hosted by the Foreign Affairs’ Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and Nonproliferation.
“Stop allowing China to take away freedom so totally in Xinjiang, in Tibet, increasingly in Hong Kong, and even here on your own soil,” said Ferkat Jawdat, a Uighur American who testified before the subcommittee.
“Xinjiang security officials freely deliver threats, psychologically torture, and extortion, against your laws, to silence your own citizens here,” he told memebrs of Congress on Dec. 10.
“China is effectively taking the world hostage. Please do not let your voices be silenced. Begin to speak with meaningful actions,” he said in testimony that was published on the committee’s website.
Jawdat explained that while most of his family moved to the United States in 2011, his mother remained in China as she had been denied a passport. She has since faced the consequences of her son speaking out against the Chinese government. He said that he had been labeled a “terrorist,” and his other family members in China have been convicted of “bogus crimes” and sentenced to prison.
His mother was sent to a re-education camp for Uihgurs.
“On February 6th, 2018, my mother left me her last message on WeChat, the Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp and other messaging platforms that it does not allow in China,” said Jawdat. “She told me she was going to the ‘school’ – the euphemism the whole world now knows China uses for its concentration camps. She then disappeared.”
His mother was eventually released from the camp in June 2019.
Jawdat was critical of how President Donald Trump has handled the situation in China, and pleaded with the president to “stop allowing China to silence you.” He said he hopes that Trump would sign the “Uighur Act of 2019” into law before the end of the year, and that Congress will pass legislation prohibiting companies in the United States from using products produced by forced labor in the province of Xinjiang.
“Find a voice that speaks of freedom and justice, like Reagan’s, to the world to end tyrannies. Do not succumb with envy for their rich autocrats who have stolen billions from their own people and treat their suffering as badges somehow making them ‘great leaders.’ They are tyrants who rule for life, secured only by the wealth they steal,” he said.
The United States, said Jawdat, should “Rededicate (...) our commitment to ‘Never Again!’ by taking action to convince China to empty its concentration camps and dismantle, rather than export, its high-tech mass surveillance police state.” Additionally, he feels as though the U.S. should fund organizations that will expose the human rights abuses happening in Xinjiang.
“The Chinese government is spending billions every year to spread its propaganda around the world,” he said.
“We should counter its propaganda by denying it such unequal access here and empower those who tell the truth with more resources and manpower to ensure facts pierce through China’s fiction,” Jawdat said.