Uighurs to China: Post a video of my missing relatives, too

Turkey on Saturday called China’s treatment of Uighurs “a great cause of shame for humanity.” (File/AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Uighurs to China: Post a video of my missing relatives, too

  • The campaign follows the release of a state media video showing famed Uighur musician, who many believed had died in custody
  • China has come under increasing scrutiny for the camps holding an estimated 1 million minority Muslims in its far west Xinjiang region

BEIJING: Members of the Uighur Muslim ethnic group are calling on China to post videos of their relatives who have disappeared into a vast system of internment camps.
The social media campaign, launched early Tuesday under the hashtag #MeTooUyghur, follows the release of a state media video showing famed Uighur musician Abdurehim Heyit, who many believed had died in custody.
“China, show us their videos if they are alive!” Halmurat Harri, a Finland-based Uighur activist, wrote on Twitter. He urged the government to also release videos to prove that others believed detained are in good health amid reports of neglectful and sometimes brutal conditions in the camps.
China has come under increasing scrutiny for the camps holding an estimated 1 million minority Muslims in its far west Xinjiang region. Former detainees who fled overseas say that while they were held captive, they were ordered to renounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the ruling Communist Party through indoctrination tactics reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.
Beijing, which long denied the existence of such facilities, now says they are vocational training centers where Uighurs, Kazakhs and others receive free skills education. Surveillance cameras, security checkpoints and riot police have become ubiquitous in Xinjiang in recent years, but the government maintains that such measures are necessary to combat separatist violence and latent religious extremism.
In a rare show of public criticism from a majority Muslim nation, Turkey on Saturday called China’s treatment of Uighurs “a great cause of shame for humanity.” Citing reports of Heyit’s death, the Turkish foreign ministry condemned the “concentration camps” and “systematic assimilation” to which Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang are subject.
At a regular press briefing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called Turkey’s statement “a very bad mistake.”
Hua said the video of Heyit, released by the state outlet China Radio International, showed that claims of his death were an “absurd lie.” She said the renowned musician and poet was being investigated for allegedly endangering national security.
The video shows Heyit in a gray sweater against a nondescript, gray wall. He states his name and gives the date as Feb. 10, 2019, then says that he is in good health and has not been abused.
The authenticity of the video could not be verified, and it was not clear where and by whom it had been filmed.
Many Uighurs outside of China have said they are unable to contact relatives still in Xinjiang . Fearing that their loved ones have been ensnared by the security dragnet, they say they do not even know whether their family members are dead or alive.
The mere act of communicating with someone overseas could spur detention, Uighurs say, and as a result many of their relatives in China have blocked them on social media. On Twitter, Uighurs abroad posted photos of themselves holding up images of their missing parents, children and siblings.
If they are still alive, the posts said, the Chinese government should release videos of them too.


Trump declares emergency for US-Mexico border wall, House panel launches probe

Updated 16 February 2019
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Trump declares emergency for US-Mexico border wall, House panel launches probe

  • The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall
  • Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval, an action Democrats vowed to challenge as a violation of the US Constitution.

The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that Trump insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration he blames for bringing crime and drugs into the United States.

Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners, saying that Trump’s declaration violates the US Constitution and that the planned wall would infringe on their property rights.

Both California and New York said that they, too, planned to file lawsuits.

Hours after Trump’s announcement, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee said it had launched an investigation into the emergency declaration.

In a letter to Trump, committee Democrats asked him to make available for a hearing White House and Justice Department officials involved in the action. They also requested legal documents on the decision that led to the declaration, setting a deadline of next Friday.

“We believe your declaration of an emergency shows a reckless disregard for the separation of powers and your own responsibilities under our constitutional system,” said the letter, signed by Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other top Democrats on the panel.

Trump has been demanding for a wall on the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) southern border

Trump on Friday also signed a bipartisan government spending bill that would prevent another partial government shutdown by funding several agencies that otherwise would have closed on Saturday.

The funding bill represented a legislative defeat for him since it contains no money for his proposed wall — the focus of weeks of conflict between Trump and Democrats in Congress.

Trump made no mention of the bill in rambling comments to reporters in the White House’s Rose Garden.

He had demanded that Congress provide him with $5.7 billion in wall funding as part of legislation to fund the agencies. That triggered a historic, 35-day government shutdown in December and January that hurt the US economy and his opinion poll numbers.

By reorienting his quest for wall funding toward a legally uncertain strategy based on declaring a national emergency, Trump risks plunging into a lengthy legislative and legal battle with Democrats and dividing his fellow Republicans — many of whom expressed grave reservations on Friday about the president’s action.

Fifteen Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced legislation on Thursday to prevent Trump from invoking emergency powers to transfer funds to his wall from accounts Congress has already committed to other projects.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer swiftly responded to Trump’s declaration.

“The president’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” they said in a statement. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

Members of the migrant caravan that has made its way from central America to the US-Mexico border

The first legal challenge, filed in federal court in Washington, came from three Texas landowners along the Rio Grande river claiming they were informed the US government would seek to build a border wall on their properties if money for the project were available in 2019.

The lawsuit, filed on their behalf by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, also named the Frontera Audubon Society as a plaintiff whose “members’ ability to observe wildlife will be impaired” by construction of a border wall and resulting habitat damage.

The suit contests Trump’s assertion of a national emergency at the border to justify the president’s action.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, describing the supposed border crisis touted by Trump as “made-up,” and New York state’s Democratic attorney general, Letitia James, both said they planned to challenge Trump in court.

Trump acknowledged his order would face a lengthy court fight.

“I expect to be sued. I shouldn’t be sued. ... We’ll win in the Supreme Court,” he predicted.

Trump may have also undermined his administration’s argument about the urgency of the situation when he told reporters, “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”

In their letter to Trump, House Judiciary Democrats said that language had left them “troubled.”

Both the House and the Senate could pass a resolution terminating the emergency by majority vote. However, any such measure would then go to Trump, who would likely veto it. Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

Although Trump says a wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs coming across the border, statistics show that illegal immigration via the border is at a 20-year low and that many drug shipments come through legal ports of entry.

Confronted with those statistics by reporters at the Rose Garden event, Trump said they were “wrong.”

Also present were a half-dozen women holding poster-sized pictures of family members killed by illegal immigrants. Trump noted their presence in announcing the emergency declaration.

He estimated his emergency declaration could free up as much as $8 billion to pay for part of the wall. Estimates of its total cost run as high as $23 billion.

As a candidate, Trump repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for the wall. It was one of his biggest applause lines at his campaign rallies. Mexico firmly refused to pay, and now Trump wants US taxpayers to cover the costs.