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IFC Statement on Chinese State Suppression of Uyghur Environmental Activism

IFC applauds the Uyghur Human Rights Project’s newly released research report, “Without land, There Is No Life: Chinese state suppression of Uyghur environmental activism,” which has documented in details how the Chinese government policy destroyed the Uyghur people’s way of life and their environment for survival.
IFC is shocked to learn the magnitude of the environmental damages done in the region where the Uyghur people reside, particularly the negative health consequences caused by China’s nuclear weapon tests and subcritical nuclear tests, including high levels of cancer of the Uyghur people who lived close to the test sites, as well as the irreversible contamination of their land.
Additionally, IFC is alarmed that the Chinese government completely ignored Uyghurs’ traditional methods for a sustainable agricultural activity in the region, but allowed the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps to ruin the limited water source by planting unsustainable crops and conducting other commercial activities that caused extreme water shortage and serious pollution.
IFC is very concerned that more Uyghur farmers lost their land to rural land grabs by the fast growing number of Han Chinese migrants in the region, resulting in massive displacement of Uyghurs and rapid disappearance of traditional Uyghur communities.
IFC urges the Chinese government to understand the critical importance of the land to the Uyghur people’s culture and their livelihood, ensure their right to life, and right to protect their own land, respect their sustainable practices to live in a fragile environment, and most of all take immediate measures to stop suppression of the Uyghur people, and rectify its policies to reverse the environmental damages before catastrophes strike.

Initiatives for China
Citizen Power for China

Without land, there is no life: Chinese state suppression of Uyghur

environmental activism

The Uyghur Human Rights Project releases a report on the limits placed

on environmental activism among Uyghurs

For immediate Release
July 20, 2016 10:30am EST
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920
Without land, there is no life: Chinese state suppression of Uyghur
environmental activism, a new research report by the Uyghur Human
Rights Project, is a detailed examination of Uyghur environmental
activism and the response by the Chinese state. Based on interviews
and extensive research in Chinese, Uyghur and English, UHRP has
compiled a full length report analyzing environmental dangers in East
Turkestan and widespread suppression of Uyghurs’ environmentalist


The intimate connection between the Uyghur people and the land of East
Turkestan is celebrated in songs and poetry written and performed in
the Uyghur language. Proverbs in Uyghur convey how the existence of
the Uyghur people is tied to the availability of land and that an
individual’s identity is inseparable from the land from which they


Given the physical survival and cultural integrity attributed to the
land of East Turkestan, Uyghurs have developed sustainable practices
in order to live in a fragile environment composed of deserts, oases
and mountains. For example, the underground water transportation
system of the Turpan area called karez has provided drinking water and
water to grow crops for centuries to communities living in an

exceptionally arid part of the region.

Since the early 1990s, the Chinese government has targeted East
Turkestan with a series of economic development initiatives
demonstrating a cumulative effort to exploit the region’s strategic
location in Central Asia to boost China’s political and economic
presence in the wider region. These centrally led campaigns have
transformed East Turkestan bringing Chinese migrants and increased
economic activity to the region that have had a profound effect on the
environment. In addition to economic motives for regional
intervention, the Chinese authorities exploited the vast landscape of
East Turkestan to conduct nuclear weapons testing from 1964 to 1996.
The full consequences of these tests are unknown, but credible
evidence suggests a health catastrophe has occurred due to nuclear

fall out and polluted land.

Without land, there is no life: Chinese state suppression of Uyghur
environmental activism reports on three aspects of the environment in
East Turkestan that indicate clear violations of the Uyghur people’s
democratic rights to voice concerns over environmental degradation and
to contribute to the development of sustainable regional policies. The
three topics explored are: government policies and their impact on the
purity of water, air and land; nuclear testing, the development of
other types of weapons and related health issues; and Han Chinese

migration to East Turkestan, predominately in the south of the region.

Following an examination of these topics, the Uyghur Human Rights
Project concludes the following concerns with environmentalism in the


Suppression of the right to protest environmental problems stemming
from government actions, particularly the rights to association and


Lack of Uyghur participation in environmental decision-making and a
deprivation of knowledge sharing on environmental conditions in East


Disregard of Uyghur knowledge on sustainable practices in state

economic and agricultural policies.

Public participation in environmental affairs is an internationally
acknowledged right and protected in Chinese law. Participation in the
decision making process is understood to be a contributing factor to
equitable environmental policies and recognizes the integral role of
grassroots communities in solving environmental problems. Public
participation provides a means with which individuals and civil
society groups hold the state and private enterprise accountable for
obligations in regard to sustainable development and ensures
transparency in environmental governance. Accurate and complete
information is essential to effective and meaningful public
participation in environmental affairs. Therefore, respect for the
principle of access to and freedom of information is necessary for the
public to evaluate environmental policy and to seek forms of redress.
Public participation allows for the development of a democratic form
of governance that places individuals and communities as key
stakeholders in environmental matters thus forming a broad legitimacy

for policy formation.

Without land, there is no life: Chinese state suppression of Uyghur
environmental activism concludes with the following key

recommendations for the Chinese government:

Guarantee the fundamental right of the Uyghur people to participation
and consultation in the decision making process regarding
environmental impacts of development and agricultural planning as

outlined in international and domestic legal instruments.

Open public forums for genuine and meaningful debate on environmental
issues. This includes the freedoms to seek, receive and impart
information online. Uyghurs should be free to conduct research into
the causes of environment degradation in East Turkestan and to access

government information on the environment.

Respect the fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and association.
International human rights standards assert the right for individuals
to form non-governmental organizations to monitor the state’s

compliance with environmental benchmarks.

Mainstream Uyghur knowledge of the environment into decision-making on
development and agricultural planning. The government should pursue a
balanced approach to development planning that considers the interests

of small-scale Uyghur farmers.

Without land, there is no life: Chinese state suppression of Uyghur
environmental activism can be downloaded at:

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The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is a human rights research,
reporting and advocacy organization. Our 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


UHRP was founded in 2004 as part of the Uyghur American Association
(UAA), a Uyghur diaspora group which works to promote the preservation
and flourishing of a rich, humanistic and diverse Uyghur culture. In
partnership with UAA, in 2016 UHRP began operations as an independent


If you wish to stop receiving e-mails from the Uyghur Human Rights
Project, please send an e-mail to
Uyghur Human Rights Project
1420 K Street N.W. Suite 350
Washington, D.C.  20005
Tel: +1 (202) 478 1920
Fax: +1 (202) 478 1910
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