Thousands gathered in the Belgian and European Union capital Brussels and other cities around the world on Tuesday to collectively protest the erosion of human rights under Beijing’s watch on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC), the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), the Belgian Uyghur Association, and the Tibetan Community in Belgium were joined by representatives from Hong Kong and other rights activists in Brussels, where they jointly marched to demand that Beijing honor the basic rights and freedoms of all citizens of China.
The group gathered near the European Parliament where they held a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims of Chinese repression over the past 70 years and expressed solidarity with those enduring persecution under Beijing’s rule, before being joined by European lawmakers and marching to a roundabout near several EU institutions, where a demonstration was held.
Protesters highlighted that while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has pointed to economic growth and poverty reduction as its legacy over the past seven decades, the rights and freedoms of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongols, and the Chinese people themselves, have deteriorated.
WUC President Dolkun Isa, who delivered opening remarks at the demonstration, said that the Chinese people and the international community “cannot accept another 70 years of oppression and hopelessness,” and called for freedom and human rights—sentiments echoed by Belgium Uyghur Association President Yashar Yalkun.
The two Uyghur leaders in exile said that decades of Beijing’s rule in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) had culminated in repressive policies that include the detention of more than 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” in a vast network of internment camps in the region since April 2017.
Tibetan Community in Belgium President Phurbu Dhondup highlighted similar rights violations for Tibetans in China’s Tibetan region, where Chinese authorities regularly restrict their political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identity, and subject them to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
“Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols are all similarly suffering under Chinese rule,” he said, according to a tweet by ICT, adding that the ethnic groups “need to be united to press China to respect our rights.”
U.K. Members of the European Parliament Martin Horwood, Molly Scott Cato, and Phil Bennion also urged China to take “a more peaceful, respectful, [and] democratic path,” and expressed solidarity with the ethnic minorities enduring persecution in their homeland.
Along with the gathering in Brussels, protests against 70 years of Communist rule in China were held on Tuesday in Toronto, Oslo, Ankara, Adelaide, Almaty, and Bishkek, following similar demonstrations in Washington, Boston, Munich, Amsterdam, Sydney, and Melbourne over the weekend.