Nobel tiff loads as rights group against China’s ‘oppression’ of minorities nominated for peace prize

The Nobel Peace Prize medal

The Nobel Peace Prize medal.

Photo credit: Courtesy | AFP

The Norwegian Nobel Committee may touch off a new spark of protests from Beijing if it decides to award its prestigious prize to an exiled Uyghur rights group, this year.

The details emerged on Thursday after Canadian legislators and a wing of the Norwegian party nominated the World Uyghur Congress for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

The Congress, formed in 2004, is based in Germany. But according to the Canadian lawmakers and the Young Liberals in Norway, the rights group has contributed to peace, democracy and the welfare of the minorities in China’s Xinjiang Province, including the Uyghurs and other ethnic communities in the country’s northwestern region that is also known as East Turkistan.

The group itself says it promotes democracy, human rights, “and freedom for the Uyghur people and to use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine their political future.”

“By representing the sole legitimate organization of the Uyghur people both in East Turkistan and abroad, WUC endeavors to set out a course for the peaceful settlement of the East Turkistan Question through dialogue and negotiation.”

The Canadian legislators say the group deserves this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for working against repression in China.

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, one of two Canadian members of parliament who nominated the group, shared the letter with VOA, indicating that the desire to achieve self-determination through non-violent means promotes democracy.

The legislators argued that Congress has helped alert the world about the overwhelming campaign of physical, religious, linguistic, and cultural repression.

Traditionally, the Nobel Committee does not publish or confirm any nominations of people deserving of the prize. However, individuals or entities may routinely suggest names of those believed to deserve the award. The Committee usually withholds such information for as long as 50 years.

On Uyghur, however, such nomination could touch off a spark in Beijing, which protests the Western characterisation of programmes in Xinjiang as repressive.

Last week, China criticised a statement by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borell, welcoming the alignment of certain countries concerning the EU’s restrictive measures against human rights violations and abuses including sanctions against key Chinese officials seen as conducting the repression.

According to the EU, the US, and several other Western countries, China has been forcibly reorienting minorities in Xinjiang to abandon Islam even though China calls it a counter-terrorism programme.

“The progress of the human rights cause in Xinjiang is widely recognized in the world,” argued Mao Ning, Spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We ask relevant countries to see clearly the facts and truth, observe international law and the basic norms in international relations, and refrain from undermining China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests,” she said on Friday at a press briefing, referring to the EU’s move.

In March 2021, the EU issued unilateral sanctions on Chinese officials including barring travel or financial dealings, something Beijing says was based on “lies and disinformation.”

At least nine Chinese scientists and activists have in the past won various categories of the Nobel even though most won while living abroad.

But in 2010, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while serving a jail term.

Beijing accused the Norwegian Committee of violating the intent of Albert Nobel, the founder of the prize, by warding it to a troublemaker. Beijing refused to free him to attend the ceremony. He died in 2017, aged 61, while on medical parole.


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