By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 15: Around a hundred activists gathered outside the White House on Sunday to urge US President Joe Biden to voice concerns of human rights abuses ahead of the virtual meeting with Xi Jinping on Monday. Tibetan, Uyghur and Hongkonger activists have gathered in front of the White House for more than 24 hours and plan to remain there to protest till the end of the summit. The youth activists also began a continuous vigil at Lafayette Square outside the White House on Saturday.
Activist Tenzin Yangzom from Students for a Free Tibet who was present at the rally urged Biden to hear the voices of Tibetan-Americans and others who have been severely impacted by the Chinese government, “We know the true nature of the Chinese Communist Party, and we know the only way to effectively engage with China is to confront these issues head on and push openly for accountability. Human rights matter not just for us, but they crucially impact every other aspect of the US-China relationship.”
The activists have laid out six demands for President Biden, including diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, an end to the assault on Tibetan identity, language and cultural ways of life, and unrestricted access to the international media in Tibet. The campaign groups also want the US government to press for release of all political prisoners and assurance for their health and well being; especially Hong Kong activists Ma Chun-Man and Tong Ying-kit, Tibetan nomad and environmental activist, A-Nya Sengdra, and Uyghur economist and scholar Ilham Tohti.
Other demands include repealing the controversial ‘National Security Law’ in Hong Kong, an end to the Uyghur forced labor in the so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and release of family members of US citizens unjustly held by Chinese authorities. The rally also held a press conference where activists, survivors of atrocities and human rights experts gave testimonials to the press.
China Director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson said, “President Biden should announce that the US is mapping out with allies pathways to investigations and prosecutions. It’s what the US has done in the face of other such crimes, and the Chinese government should be no different.”
The Uyghur human rights activist Jewher Ilham reminded the complicity of American businesses in the forced labor industry. “I’m sure consumers in the US and around the world don’t want to unknowingly buy products or wear clothing made in conditions of forced labor by my fellow Uyghur brothers and sisters. I don’t know the answer to many questions in this world, but I am sure of this. I have confidence in people and in humanity,” he said.