Dr David Tobin and his colleague Nyrola Elimä from the University of Sheffield have shed light on the pressing issue of transnational repression of the Uyghur diaspora worldwide. After conducting some of the most comprehensive research on the topic to date, the duo has interviewed and surveyed more than 200 Uyghur individuals living in several different countries throughout the globe.
Their findings paint a dismal picture of the current state of the Uyghur diaspora. All Uyghurs living outside of China are deemed victims of transnational repression, suffering from a multitude of hardships and abuses that can be collectively labeled as ‘transnational repression’. These people are also subjected to a far-reaching campaign of Chinese surveillance and control, whose consequences are far-reaching and still unfolding.
For those who are unfamiliar, Uyghurs are a Turkic Muslim minority in China, largely residing in the Xinjiang region. Ever since the Chinese government launched its “Strike Hard” campaign in the region in the early 2000s, Uyghur communities have been pushed out of their ancestral homelands.
Dr Tobin described the situation as an “internal exile”, as Uyghurs have been reeling from the effects of migration for the past two decades. They have experienced a range of abuses and hardships stemming from a wide array of restrictions. These include the denial of security services such as police protection, travel bans, difficulty accessing welfare, and forced migration from their bewildered homelands.
As if these transnational repressions were not enough to bear, Uyghurs now living overseas are increasingly subject to Chinese state surveillance. The Chinese government has heavily invested in monitoring its diaspora, partaking in many nefarious and manipulative activities in the process. This includes using rewards and threats to coerce and control the behavior of diasporic communities, as well as deploying state surveillance on their members.
The research conducted by Dr Tobin and Ms Elimä is yet another proof of the Chinese government’s indiscriminate attempts to repress the Uyghur diaspora. To help tackle this issue, the pair has recommended implementing restraining measures to reduce excessive interference within the diasporic community.
Overall, it is clear that Chinese interference in Uyghur affairs must cease. The plight of this minority ought to be at the heart of the international community’s agenda, and their rights must be robustly defended. It is only through continued pressure and collective efforts that Uyghurs will be able to achieve the autonomy that they so desperately need.