Students dressed in blue carried signs saying “Uyghur rights are human rights” and “Cultural Genocide” at a campus demonstration aimed at bringing attention to the injustices suffered by Chinese Uyghurs. The event was organized by Delta Phi Epsilon, an international relations and foreign service fraternity.
More than 30 students joined the 30-minute walk from Tutor Campus Center to USC Village chanting “What do we want? Human rights. When do we want them? Now.” and “What do we want? Justice. Who is it for? Uyghurs.” Attendees were encouraged to dress in blue in honor of the East Turkestan flag.
Humanitarian Affairs Vice President Breana Stanski said the organization decided to bring attention to the cause after briefly studying it in international relations classes. Students were frustrated that their classes didn’t go into much detail about the injustices.
“We all feel very strongly about the injustices that Ughyurs are facing in Western China,” said Stanski, a sophomore majoring in international relations. “By devoting an entire week to study the subject, it means that we’re able to learn more about what’s happening and advocate for what’s right and for our legislators to make a difference.”
The event was organized as part of DPE’s Week of Action to raise awareness about Uyghurs being placed in Chinese concentration camps, which has included fundraising for the advocacy group Uyghur Human Rights Project. The project will place pressure on legislators to take a stance against China, and organize a professional panel with experts on China and human rights to discuss Xinjiang and the future of the Uyghurs.
Stanski said the number of Uyghurs in concentration camps has increased exponentially since 2017, and a number of atrocities were committed against the Uyghurs including sexual abuse, young girls getting injected with serums to stop their periods and men being forced to trim their beards.
“There is actually a lot of surveillance going on,” Stanski said. “Chinese officials are being placed into their houses and if they, for example, do something that is considered extremist such as fasting for Ramadan, then they get placed in a camp. It’s really horrific what’s going on in and outside of the camps within Xinjiang.”
Sean Liew, a senior majoring in international relations, said he suggested focusing on the Uyghur issue to Stanski and other members because it had not received much attention, especially internationally, because countries have been afraid of how it would affect their economic ties with China.
“A lot of countries are afraid to speak out on [the Uyghurs’] behalf for fear of repercussion from the CCP,” Liew said. “I think, whether it’s Hong Kong or the Uyghurs or Tibet or anywhere, it’s the same teams, the same fight — human rights.”
Liew said that raising awareness on the issue was necessary since governments, companies and organizations were afraid to do so, and if students didn’t take a stance, nobody else would.
“All these students here today who are coming out, we all have [classes], we all have better things that we could be doing,” Liew said. “At the end of the day, I think the most important thing is to be able to go to bed at night knowing that you did the right thing.”
Thomas Kim, a senior majoring in international relations, said he joined the demonstration because of the lack of conversation about the genocide taking place in China and hoped they could bring more attention to the issue.
“I felt just by being a part of this demonstration, if we can make one more person more aware about the issue, that we will have done our job,” Kim said.
DPE President Jong Su Kim ended the demonstration by thanking everyone for attending and doing their part in raising awareness for the cause.
“I think we’re really setting a good precedent as an organization,” Kim said. “We all study these issues, we all study human rights, international law. When there’s injustice happening somewhere, even though all we can do is wear blue and march around, we should at least do that.”