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X. Recommendations

To the government of the People’s Republic of China:

The government should halt the persecution of Uighurs for exercising their right to practice their own religion and their right to hold their own religious beliefs. We recommend:

  1. Senior government and Party officials should explicitly affirm that the independent practice of religion, peaceful dissent, and advocacy for Uighur autonomy do not constitute criminal acts.
  2. Religion in Xinjiang, and the practice of Islam in particular, should not be subject to government interference or approval, save for those legal regulations necessary in a democratic society to protect national security, public security, health, order, and morals. In particular, the recruitment and training of clergy, the conduct of and attendance at religious services, the establishment and management of places of worship, the celebration of religious events and holidays, the writing and publication of religious material, and the provision of all levels of religious education, should be presumptively lawful and without need of prior approval.
  3. The right of children and young adults to worship, obtain religious education, and express their religion, including through dress, should be respected. The right of parents and legal guardians to provide religious education to their children likewise should be respected.

Thorough legal reform is an urgent requirement if China is to fulfill its obligations to respect freedom of religion, association, expression, and assembly; the right of minorities to their own culture; the right of parents to educate their children; and the right of all to liberty and freedom against its arbitrary deprivation. To this end, we recommend that Chinese authorities:

  1. Repealthe Xinjiang Provisional Regulations on Religion and bring national regulations on religion and freedom of association into conformity with international law and standards.
  2. Amend guidelines for religious freedom, such as the 2000 Manual, to conform with China’s obligations under international law. Guidelines such as those found in the Manual are problematic because they go far beyond what the regulations require, reflect the primacy of political criteria over law, and do not take into account international law.
  3. Publicly disclose all laws and regulations applicable to religious practice in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region.
  4. Ensure that peaceful religious observance and practice is neither equated with nor incurs liability for state security offenses.
  5. Amend article 36 of the constitution to explicitly protect the right to manifest one’s religious beliefs without state interference.

The unjustified detention, maltreatment, and torture of Uighur religious prisoners should halt immediately, and all those imprisoned for their peaceful religious practices or religious beliefs should be freed. To this end, we recommend:

  1. No person be imprisoned for the practice or expression of his or her own religious beliefs.
  2. No person be imprisoned or remanded to reeducation through labor without fair trial guarantees, including a public hearing, the right to be represented or advised by counsel of choice, the right to present a defense and to invoke and rely upon constitutional and human rights, the right to a presumption of innocence, and the right to appeal to a judicial authority.
  3. Prisons, labor camps, lock-ups and all other places of detention should be open to inspection; mechanisms to detect and investigate allegations of maltreatment and torture should be put in place; the use of evidence obtained by torture should be strictly outlawed; and the punishment of those who torture or maltreat detainees assured.
  4. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention should be invited to visit Xinjiang and, in accordance with their working methods, observe conditions and make recommendations for reform.
  5. The government should make publicly available information on all persons in Xinjiang detained or imprisoned for offenses related to religion in Xinjiang, including individuals brought before the courts and the reeducation through labor committees.

To the international community:

China has sought to justify its crackdown on any manifestation of an autonomous Uighur identity as necessary to suppress “terrorism.” The international community should challenge the legitimacy of this claim and make it clear that the burden is on China to prove this link in each case. The international community should make it clear to China that its overbroad and repressive policies in Xinjiang deepen local resentment and risk further destabilizing the region, and that such policies harm the credibility and conduct of global anti-terrorism efforts.

  1. Countries that conduct intelligence and criminal cooperation with China should insist that any cooperation be contingent on respect for human rights guarantees, and should urge China to distinguish between conduct that is genuinely criminal and peaceful dissent, such as expressions favoring Uighur autonomy and independent manifestations of religious belief.
  2. Uighurs who flee China and request asylum should be offered protection from return to China pending resolution of their claims to asylum, and such claims should be processed and decided in accordance with international standards.
  3. No country should cooperate in the return to China of Uighurs accused of crimes, including terrorism, until the proper treatment of returnees can be independently monitored and their rights to a fair trial assured. China’s practice of systemic torture of state security detainees and the particularly high rates of executions in Xinjiang make such returns unsafe and likely to violate the Convention Against Torture and the U.N. Refugee Convention.
  4. Countries that engage in counter-terrorism strategies, consultations, and educational programs with China should pay special attention to policies in Xinjiang with a view toward assisting China in developing policies that are respectful of human rights.

To international organizations and mechanisms:

Just as China has become increasingly integrated into the world economy, it now needs to become fully integrated into the international system of human rights promotion and protection, particularly via the United Nations. The United Nations and other international mechanisms and international organizations should pay special attention to repressive policies in Xinjiang and the plight of Uighurs as an important deviation from China’s international obligations.

  1. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture should request that Xinjiang be on the itinerary of his projected visit to China so he might examine the treatment of those accused of religious or security offenses and advise on the implementation of mechanisms to ensure that human rights obligations are fully protected in counter-terrorism strategies.
  2. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights should request China to report on measures it has taken to implement the 1994 recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom with respect to Xinjiang as well as other parts of China.
  3. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention should write to the Chinese government raising concerns about those arrested and detained for religious practice, including those held in reeducation through labor camps, and should request an invitation to conduct a mission to Xinjiang.
  4. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees should urge China to embark on reform of religious policy in Xinjiang to remove conditions that facilitate the persecution, and hence the flight, of religious Uighurs.
  5. In advance of the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s September 2005 review of China’s state party report to the Committee on the steps it has taken to give effect to the rights in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee should ask China what it has done to protect the right of children in Xinjiang to manifest their religion and receive religious education.
  6. The Counter-terrorism Committee of the United Nations should call on China to abide by its obligations under international human rights standards when pursuing counter-terrorism strategies, and should assist China in establishing a long-term plan for doing so.

To international donors and aid groups working in Xinjiang, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank

  1. As part of working agreements with Xinjiang authorities, require independent monitoring of discrimination against Uighurs and other ethnic minority groups in access to assistance and services. 
  2. Require consultation with independent NGOs on policies and regulations that affect Uighur and other ethnic communities.
  3. Support the development of independent NGOs run by Uighurs and other ethnic groups in Xinjiang. Advocate for the reform of national, provincial, and local laws and regulations on religion to ensure that:

    i. individuals and groups are free to practice their religion without having to register;

    ii. freedom of religion is not limited by national security clauses;

    iii. governmental discretion in application of religious regulations is constrained by criteria that accord with international standards, clear definitions, transparent processes, and procedural protections including opportunities for affected parties to challenge alleged abuses of discretion;

    iv. no Chinese official intervenes in internal religious affairs through substantive review of ecclesiastical structures, religious appointments, or religious materials.

  1. Advocate for the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association for Uighurs and other ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
  2. As part of any health or humanitarian program in Xinjiang’s prisons and detention facilities, monitor conditions and reports of abuse and raise any concerns with Chinese authorities.
  3. In all humanitarian programs, distribute in Chinese, Uighur, and other local languages translations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention Against Torture, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other international human rights documents.
  4. Support technical assistance programs to assist the Chinese government in creating legal clinics serving Uighurs and other Xinjiang ethnic groups.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>April 2005