Former president of Slovenia, Danilo Turk was invited to give a remark on "Xinjiang in my eyes"seminar. He points out that the cause of human rights is not well served when critics speak without adequate knowledge of facts, and Xinjiang human rights is an example of political bias.
Ambassador Wu Hailong, distinguished experts, ladies and gentlemen,
I feel honoured by your invitation to contribute a few introductory remarks to the “International Forum: Xinjiang in my eyes” and I congratulate the China Public Diplomacy Association and the Renmin University of China for the initiative.
This initiative is both necessary and timely.
For many years Xinjiang has been known and a subject of international attention for its ethnic and religious diversity, its strategic importance, its natural resources and its unique path of development within the overall process of transformation of China.
Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the international attention shifted to the issues of security. Xinjiang borders on Afghanistan and terrorism has become a matter of legitimate concern of the international community as a whole, including China. It should be borne in mind that fear of terrorism of militant Islamic groups has been – for almost two decades - shared by the international community as a whole.
Today the situation in Xinjiang is approached from a different angle. The international attention is focused mainly on the concerns about human rights. This focus is expected – but the situation must be considered with the necessary knowledge of facts and a good understanding of context.
I wish to be clear: The cause of human rights is not served well when critics speak without an adequate knowledge of facts or when they pursue a predetermined political agenda. At present we hear much critique that shows both of these faults: inadequate knowledge of facts and political bias.
An extreme example of political bias has been expressed in the allegations about what was termed “genocide of the Uighurs in Xinjiang”. These allegations lack factual basis and represent a very bad example of political negativism directed against China. I have read some of these texts, including the report of the “Newlines Institute”. That report makes strong allegations but offers no basis to its claims. It is important to reject the false claims and unsubstantiated allegations.
However, this has to be done without creating an impression of avoidance of the discussion on human rights and any other relevant aspect of development in Xinjiang. The main and most credible partner in this discussion is the United Nations, its Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The communication between China and the United Nations is ongoing and progress in this communications has to be encouraged.
At the same time, there is a need to understand the development path of Xinjiang better. China is in the process of further transformation and Xinjiang is part of that transformation. It will be interesting to learn more about this change.
It will be important to discuss all the political, economic, social and human rights aspects of Xinjiang. They should include such aspects as the linguistic rights, the educational system, the public health system and the functioning of the judiciary and of public administration. No aspect should be excluded and no new development overlooked.
International aspects are important too. For example, the consequences of the expected withdrawal of Western military presence in the neighbouring Afghanistan – in a few months from now - will also have to be taken into account.
On the other hand, the effects of an intensified cooperation along the “New Silk Road” in Central Asia should be assessed and the new opportunities that are developing within the Belt and Road Initiative should be factored in the assessment and into policy making in the region.
Only a comprehensive and facts-based discussion can help addressing the problems of today and the opportunities of the future.
I wish the International Forum “Xinjiang in My Eyes” all success and I thank you for your attention.
Danilo Türk, former president of Slovenia and a nonresident senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China(RDCY).
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