Thousands of Uyghurs from around Europe and the world are scheduled to flood the streets of Geneva in a mass demonstration on November 6. The rally will coincide with China’s Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record by the UN Human Rights Council.

According to organisers, the protest aims to highlight the human rights situation in China, especially the mass arbitrary detention of an estimated 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnicities in internment camps by the Chinese authorities in East Turkistan.

Demonstrators will meet outside Palais Wilson and march to the Palais des Nations, at the Broken Chair. They will hold a static demonstration at the Broken Chair where representatives of civil society, national governments, the institutions of the European Union and Chinese human rights defenders will address the crowd.

According to a press release issued by organisers, the human rights situation in China has deteriorated dramatically in the last five years since Xi Jinping became president, especially for groups that have historically faced persecution, such as the Uyghurs, Tibetans and Southern Mongolians.

“In almost every aspect the human rights situation has gotten worse,” reads the press release. “Freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are virtually non-existent, as a series of restrictive laws and policies from the Chinese government have cracked down on these fundamental rights. Human rights defenders have been arbitrarily detained, disappeared or tortured en masse and the families of those who speak out have been punished in acts of reprisals.”

It has been reported that more than 1 million Uyghurs and ethnic Kazakhs have been placed in arbitrary detention in a series of internment camps across East Turkistan.

Uyghurs living in the diaspora have reported losing all contact with family members in East Turkistan since April 2017.

“It quickly became apparent that Uyghurs were being rounded up by Chinese police and placed into a system of internment camps where they are subjected to political indoctrination aimed at eroding ties to their Uyghur identity and religious beliefs, held in miserable, overcrowded conditions against their will for indefinite periods of time and are subjected to torture and other serious human rights violations. The camp system is one of the largest instances mass arbitrary detention in modern human history and may constitute a crime against humanity.”

‘Join our march’

Protest organisers warn that all those who call for freedom, democracy and their basic rights to be respected in China are under threat and being subjected to serious human rights violations. “We therefore call on all those who are concerned with human rights in China to join our march and demonstration on November 6th. In particular, we welcome the Tibetan, Southern Mongolian, Hong Kong, Taiwanese, ethnic Kazakhs and Chinese Christian communities to join us on November 6 to highlight the human rights situation in China at the start of its UPR.”

From the UN side, its Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as well as the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, have all expressed deep concern at the situation in East Turkistan and called for action to be taken.

“Member states must now follow through on those calls and raise the issue substantively during China’s UPR,” reads the press release. “China’s UPR is a very important occasion to highlight the current human rights crisis in China. Momentum has been building is recent months and the UPR of China presents an important occasion to put China’s serious human rights violations on the centre stage. Now is the time for states to speak up for human rights and human dignity in China. It cannot wait. The fate of the Uyghur people and all those who long for human rights in China is at stake.”

Demonstrators are urging the UN and the International Community to demand that Chinese close the internment camps and immediately release all those held in arbitrary detention. They also want China to disclose the names, whereabouts and current status of all those who have been subjected to enforced disappearance in China. Another demand is for China cease its policies of forced cultural assimilation and social re-engineering focused on the Uyghurs, Tibetans, Southern Mongolians and other ethnicities.