John Sullivan at lectern (State Dept./Ron Przysucha)
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan co-hosts an event on "The Human Rights Crisis in Xinjiang” on September 24 in New York. (State Dept./Ron Przysucha)

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan called on nations to join the United States in pressuring China to end the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of the people of Xinjiang province.

“Too many individuals have suffered at the hands of the Chinese government,” Sullivan said as he co-hosted a September 24 panel discussion at the United Nations in New York.

Sullivan said the panel would “separate truth from fiction when it comes to China’s brutal campaign of repression of Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, ethnic Kyrgyz and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.”

The discussion was sponsored by the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Thirty-three delegations attended from all regions of the world, including those representing Muslim-majority nations, plus representatives from the United Nations.

Side-by-side photos of a lone woman facing uniformed men, men patrolling a street and two grieving women in a crowd (© Ng Han Guan/AP Images)
A Uighur woman protests before a group of paramilitary police, armed civilians patrol the area outside the bazaar in Hotan, and Uighur women grieve for their men who were taken away by the government. (© Ng Han Guan/AP Images)

Since April 2017, China has detained more than 1 million ethnic Turkic Muslims in internment camps in Xinjiang. There are credible reports from the camps of deaths, forced labor and torture. In the camps, the Chinese government forces detainees to renounce their ethnic identities, culture and religion.

Countering Chinese government propaganda, Sullivan refuted the idea that the camps in Xinjiang are vocational training centers. “Detainees include accomplished medical doctors and academics, successful business people and other professionals, as well as young children and the elderly,” Sullivan pointed out. “Doctors, professors, and children don’t need job training.”

At the event, three Uighur survivors of China’s brutal crackdown shared their stories of torture and abuse:

  • Zumrat Dawut, a survivor of the camps, described the torture and abuse she endured at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.
  • Dr. Rishat Abbas recounted how the Chinese government arrested his sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, to punish their family for advocating for Uighur rights abroad. 
  • Nury Turkel, the chairman of the board of directors of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, detailed his family’s experience with Chinese oppression and talked about the ongoing persecution happening in Xinjiang, including forced marriages and massive surveillance.

Sullivan said, “The U.N. and its member states have a singular responsibility to speak up when survivor after survivor recount the horrors of state repression.”