Leading rights organizations appeal to UN on behalf of vanished Uyghur media owner Ekpar Asat

Press release

Today, the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) is joined by Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Foundation and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in petitioning the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to urgently intervene on behalf of Ekpar Asat, a 34-year old Uyghur tech entrepreneur. Mr. Asat, founder of the largest media platform for the Uyghur community, disappeared in 2016. Four years later, Mr. Asat’s family in the US learned verbally from Senator Chris Coons’ office that Mr. Asat was allegedly sentenced to 15 years in prison.

“The mystery shrouding Ekpar Asat’s fate is a looking glass into the CCP’s attempts to hide the fate of over a million Uyghurs held in secretive internment camps, who are subjected to systematic torture, prison labour, rape, and other forms of abuse,” said former Justice Minister, RWCHR Chair, and member of the international High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom, Irwin Cotler. “We cannot remain indifferent and allow the pandemic to further cover up this culture of repression against the Uyghurs, which constitutes a mass atrocity crime. We must act, and impose Magnitsky sanctions on the Chinese officials responsible for atrocities against the Uyghurs.”

Rayhan Asat, Mr. Asat’s sister and first ethnic Uyghur to graduate from Harvard Law, added, “when I last saw my brother, he told me he’d be at my graduation in a couple of months. I spent the next four years searching for answers, until I learned of his 15-year prison sentence by word of mouth this year. This cruelty has only driven me to expose the injustice to the world, and I will not relent until my brother is free.”

Mr. Asat disappeared shortly after attending the US State Department’s most prestigious exchange program with a focus on journalism, as a representative of the People’s Republic of China. Mr. Asat was well known in China as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and was even praised by the Chinese government as a bridge-builder between ethnic minorities and the Han majority. Despite his reputation, he was senselessly convicted on the charge of “inciting ethnic hatred.”

The story of Ekpar Asat is emblematic of the lengths the Chinese Communist Party will go to eradicate the Uyghur and Muslim minorities in China. Despite being praised by the State as a model Chinese citizen, he was still disappeared, tried in secret and sentenced to 15 years in prison, simply for who he is.

For more information, please contact Irwin Cotler at irwincotler@rwchr.org or 1 (514) 497-3671, or Rayhan Asat at Rayhan.asat@icloud.com

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