Uyghur group accuses China of intimidation, harassment against community in France

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A Uyghur organization said members of the ethnic group in France face “intimidation and harassment” amounting to “repression” by the Chinese state in a legal complaint filed Wednesday.

The European Uyghur Institute (IODE) said that acts of intimidation stepped up during the visit to France earlier this month of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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Beijing is behind “acts of intimidation, harassment and repeated threats towards members of the Uyghur diaspora in France, as well as towards people backing the Uyghurs’ cause,” it said in a statement.

Such acts are “multiplying and growing more systematic at a worrying speed,” it added.

The IODE said that “international repression intensified at the time of President Xi Jinping’s official visit to France” in early May.

Xi’s trip to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations with Paris saw him welcomed by President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace and treated to a traditional meal in the Pyrennees mountains.

Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen sought to talk Xi down from his close partnership with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, knitted tighter since Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The IODE cited specific allegations of Chinese harassment, including disruption of a theater performance it staged on May 5 as Xi was in Paris.

“Organizers were intimidated by different groups suspected of being orchestrated by Chinese security services,” it said.

It added that on May 8, Gulbahar Jalilova, a “refugee in Paris since October 2020” was targeted for intimidation or even kidnapping “by Chinese agents” outside her apartment building.

The IODE included photographs of the incident involving Jalilova, a former inmate of a Chinese detention camp.

There are “enormous impacts of these practices on the physical and mental health of members of the Uyghur community in France,” it said.

Newspaper Le Monde reported this week that France’s DGSI internal security service and the Paris police had identified “Chinese state agents belonging to the security services in... a failed ‘intimidation action’ on May 8 against a political refugee of Uyghur background”.

China’s Paris embassy on Wednesday blasted the report as “fake news”, “riddled with errors” and “obvious falsifications” in a post on its website.

The largely Sunni Muslim Uyghurs make up the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang province in northwest China.

Bloody attacks blamed on extremists and separatists have long plagued the region.

Since 2017, more than one million Uyghurs and members of other mostly Muslim ethnic groups have been held in “reeducation camps” inflicting widespread human rights violations, according to investigations and Western aid groups.

China describes some of the camps as “vocational training centers”.

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