Female human rights activists from Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong jointly highlighted China’s forceful repression of women at the UN Human Rights Council calling it the worst human rights violations in the country. They mentioned about China’s 2023 review by the UN Women’s Rights Committee during a side event at the 54th UN Human Rights Council titled “Findings of the UN Women’s Rights Committee on China: Perspectives of affected communities”.
The Committee of the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in its final observations based on experts’ recommendations in May this year, asked the Chinese government to ensure the protection of women’s rights to comply with the Convention. The Committee listed a series of areas of concern and recommendations. It included abolishing the coerced residential (boarding) school system imposed on Tibetan girls and authorising the establishment of and subsidising private Tibetan schools.
Regarding Uyghur women in the Xinjiang province, the CEDAW recommendations asked China to end, prevent and criminalise the use of coercive measures, such as forced abortions, forced sterilisations, other forms of gender-based sexual violence and other cruel, inhuman or degrading family planning practices that are allegedly inflicted on women in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and in predominantly Uyghur-populated areas. Zumretay Arkin of the World Uyghur Congress raised the separation of Uyghur children from their parents. Uyghur children are sent to state-boarding schools, where they are subjected to another form of re-education and repressive language policies.
Speaking to ANI, Zumretay said, “According to the report (UN) and our own reporting Uyghur women are facing multiple challenges such as extrajudicial detentions in concentration camps. We estimate that around 3 million Uyghur and Turkic people and of course among these numbers there are also women and children”. “Beyond this, there are also forced marriages between Uyghur women and Han (Chinese) men who are also receiving incentives and also subsidies from the government to encourage these inter-ethnic marriages”, she said.
Zumretay also said that Uyghur women are also separated from their children who are taken to state-run boarding schools where they are eroded of their linguistic rights, cultural, and religious rights as well. Also, Uyghur women are also subjected to forced labour where they work in small factories to produce garments and other products”. “Uyghur women are also discriminated in daily life and most importantly they are forcibly sterilised. I think this is great concern that we have is forced sterilisation that started in recent years with this ongoing campaign that the Chinese government has been carrying”, she added by doubting China implementing recommendations by the UN Women’s Rights Committee.
Pema Doma, a Tibetan-born human rights and climate activist highlighted the issue of coerced residential (boarding) school system imposed on Tibetan girls. She said, “The Chinese government has shown an unwillingness to listen to the international committee’ calls to listen to the voices of Tibetans from inside Tibet and around the world and that actually highlighted the reason why it’s more crucial now than ever for international communities and governments to come out and say `this is wrong’ – the separation of over 1 million Tibetan children from their mothers and families – `this is not rights’.”
“There is no way which any society or any media spokesperson from the Chinese government can ever speak in a way that this could be something that would benefit the Tibetan people”, Pema added. Linda Wong, a lawyer from Hong Kong and Faye Chan of Chinese Human Rights Defenders virtually joined the side event.
The UN also recommended in the report that China must ensure girls and women belonging to ethnic minorities have access to instruction in their mother tongue, such as Tibetan, Uyghur and Kazakh, and reverse the closure of schools providing instruction in minority languages.