Rights organization calls for respect of Uyghur linguistic rights in China’s Xinjiang

URUMQI (TCA) — On the occasion of International Uyghur Language Day, June 15, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) has called on all concerned individuals, human rights groups and governments to speak out against Chinese government policies aimed at undermining the linguistic rights of the Uyghur people in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. UHRP has also encouraged the international community to protect linguistic diversity as a critical aspect of building resilient ethnic minorities in an age of cultural assimilation.

“International Uyghur Language Day is an opportunity to celebrate the vibrancy and richness of the Uyghur language. Uyghur scientists, philosophers and poets have made remarkable contributions to humanity in their own language. Uyghurs are rightfully proud of these achievements and wish to secure a future for their children as speakers of Uyghur,” said UHRP Director Omer Kanat in a statement.

Mr. Kanat added: “As an international community, we have a responsibility to promote diversity across the globe. China has implemented a series of policies that undermine the Uyghur language with the goal of establishing Chinese as the Uyghurs’ first language. Despite guarantees in international and domestic law, the Chinese authorities have unilaterally prioritized communication in government, commerce and education among Uyghurs toward Mandarin Chinese.”

Mr. Kanat went on saying that in 2007 UHRP detailed how the Chinese government was implementing an education policy that effectively marginalized the Uyghur language from the education system. “Despite the fact that right to develop and use minority languages is protected by Article Four of the Chinese constitution, in reality centrally formulated policies undermine and marginalize the Uyghur language. The ‘bilingual education’ policy was designed to transition Uyghur students at all levels from education in their mother tongue to education in Chinese.”

UHRP has called on China, among others, to:

Realize Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Ratify the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and implement the provisions protected in Article 27:
In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is a human rights research, reporting and advocacy organization. Its mission is to promote human rights and democracy for the Uyghur people, raise awareness of abuses of Uyghurs’ human rights, and support the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, democratic means to determine their own political future.

In Xinjiang, Beijing is pursuing a policy of suppressing what it calls separatism and religious extremism among the Uyghur population.

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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