Dr. Askar Yunus, a prominent Kyrgyz Historian was arrested in late November 2018. We are unaware of the reason for his arrest nor his whereabouts. To the best or our knowledge he has not been charged with a criminal offense, been allowed to see his family members, nor seek representation by an attorney. CCS has written the President of China requesting he review this situation and release Dr. Yunus as well as assure his safety.
His Excellency Xi Jinping
The State Council General Office
Xichengqu, Beijingshi 100017
People’s Republic of China
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to express our concern over the treatment of Askar Yunus, a prominent historian at the History Research Department of the Academy of Social Sciences of Xinjiang, who was arrested on November 30, 2018. We are not aware of the reason for his arrest. We are extremely concerned for the safety and well-being of our colleague, Dr. Yunus, and we write to seek information as to his whereabouts and exact legal status.
A citizen of China, Askar Yunus is ethnically Kyrgyz and has a brother who serves in parliament in Kyrgyzstan. For such a prominent academic to be detained for no apparent reason is of great concern. It is unknown if he has been able to meet with his family or an attorney to assist him in his current situation.
In September 2007, your government joined 142 other countries in endorsing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Among many other things, this Declaration establishes in Article 31 that:
“Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts.”
This declaration builds on Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), a seminal human rights treaty which your government ratified in 2001. Article 15 states, in part:
“1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone: (a) To take part in cultural life; (b) To enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications….
As an emerging leader in the global academic and scientific world, it is critical that China respect human rights and academic freedom. We urge you to release Askar Yunus if he is not being charged with any criminal offense and to provide him with an attorney of his choice.
We thank you for your attention to this most serious matter, and we look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Ambassador Cui Tiankai,
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
3505 International Place, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202 495 2266 I Fax: 202 495 2138