The World Uyghur Congress, a Germany-based Uyghur rights group, has been nominated for the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize.
Canadian lawmakers and a leader of the Young Liberals in Norway, the youth wing of Norway’s Venstre political party, nominated the organization. The rights group was cited for its work toward peace, democracy and the plight of the Uyghur and other Turkic people who live under what the nomination letter described as a “repressive regime in China.”
“The World Uyghur Congress has the main purpose of promoting democracy, human rights, and freedom for the Uyghur People and supporting the use of peaceful, non-violent, and democratic means to help the Uyghurs achieve self-determination,” stated the nomination letter. Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, one of two Canadian members of parliament who nominated the group, shared the letter with VOA.
The committee that selects the eventual Nobel Peace laureate does not disclose the names of the nominees to the news media or to the candidates. Under its rules, such information must remain secret for 50 years. The awards ceremony takes place in December in Oslo.
The nomination letter noted the WUC has drawn global attention to China’s treatment of Uyghurs with “the overwhelming campaign of physical, religious, linguistic, and cultural repression” by the Chinese government.
“To achieve this, the WUC has a wide range of activities, including campaigning for the rights of people being forcefully disappeared, advocating for the release of political prisoners, protecting the rights of asylum seekers to prevent forcible repatriation to China, and advocating at the UN, EU, and national level, where the WUC has successfully contributed to numerous achievements, which led to the international community developing policies and actions to help secure the rights of the Uyghurs,” Brunelle-Duceppe said in the letter.
Beijing has repeatedly denied mistreating Uyghurs, with China’s state news agency, Xinhua, describing the allegations as “lies” concocted by “anti-China forces in the West.”
“Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights, ethnicity or religion at all, but about combating violent terrorism and separatism,” stated Xinhua in a 2021 article, as it pointed out the region has experienced economic and social development.
The Chinese embassy in Washington criticized the WUC’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“It is hoped that the prize will contribute to global peace and development, rather than falling into a political tool at the disposal of a few politicians,” embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu told VOA in an email. “The so-called ‘World Uyghur Congress’ has close linkages with terrorist organizations. Nominating such an organization for the Nobel Peace Prize is highly detrimental to world peace and is a great irony of the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Last August, the U.N. human rights office released a report on Xinjiang, stating that the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in so-called vocational education and training centers could constitute crimes against humanity. The United States and several other countries have classified human rights abuses in the region as genocide.
“The Chinese government has perpetrated the same lies for decades,” Zumretay Arkin, advocacy manager of the WUC, told VOA.
“The fact that the WUC was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize is proof that the free and democratic world has recognized the WUC’s work as valuable and important. Instead of defaming such organizations, the Chinese government should listen to the democratic world,” Arkin said.
According to the group’s website, the WUC was founded in 2004, in Munich, Germany, after the East Turkistan National Congress and the World Uyghur Youth Congress merged into one organization.
“The main objective of the WUC is to promote democracy, human rights, and freedom for the Uyghur people and to use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine their political future,” the group’s website states in its mission statement. “By representing the sole legitimate organization of the Uyghur people both in East Turkistan and abroad, WUC endeavors to set out a course for the peaceful settlement of the East Turkistan Question through dialogue and negotiation.”
East Turkistan is the name some Uyghurs prefer to use instead of Xinjiang, which means “new territory” in Chinese and is what China calls the Uyghur homeland.
“It makes me very proud to see that the World Uyghur Congress’ hard work to end the Uyghur genocide has not gone unnoticed,” Dolkun Isa, the president of the WUC, said in a press statement.
The nomination was also significant because it was “a show of support for the Uyghur people,” Isa said.