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Swedish PEN Releases New Report on Systematic Human Rights Violations in Xinjiang, China

Tuesday 22 December 2020 - 1:33pm

PEN International

Swedish PEN

Swedish PEN’s new report, Writing against Oblivion – Culture and Language as Means of Oppression and of Resilience in the Xinjiang Region, shines a light on the Chinese government’s systematic persecution of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region by focusing on the devastating impact that cultural assimilation has had on Uyghur language and literature.

Through the lenses of ethnicity and minority-majority relations, the report provides a broad overview of the history of Xinjiang, highlighting how regional policy has evolved from the promotion of cultural pluralism to the repressive enforcement of monoculturalism under General Secretary Xi Jinping’s rule. The resulting cultural assimilation of Xinjiang’s Muslim population into a homogenised national identity has had a disastrous impact on the Uyghur culture, with even the most benign expressions of cultural identity used as grounds for persecution. With over a million Uyghurs and other minorities having been extrajudicially detained in Xinjiang’s re-education camps, the pursuit of cultural assimilation by China’s government has resulted in one of the gravest human rights violations in modern times.

The report is enriched by its inclusion of detailed accounts from five exiled Uyghur writers, who provide first-hand testimony of how China’s government has targeted Uyghur language and literature, imposing severe penalties on anyone who wishes to express their cultural identity as a Uyghur. Taken together, these accounts illustrate the crucial role that literature plays as a part of Uyghur culture, making it both a target for authorities who seek the erasure of the Uyghurs' distinct identity, and as a source of resilience among Uyghurs themselves, who continue to use literature as a means to assert and preserve their cultural identity at a time of profound crisis.

Please click here to read the report.

For further information please contact Ross Holder, Asia Programme Coordinator at PEN International, Unit A, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: