February 8, 2021
Secretary of State Antony Blinken
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Blinken,
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 today to express our grave concern for the fate of ethnic Uyghur scholars in China, in particular Gulshan Abbas and Ekpar Asat.
As you know, the government of China is conducting a concerted effort to turn ethnic Uyghurs into “loyal citizens and supporters of the party.” The campaign, which has included the use of re-education camps, in which an estimated 1 to 2 million Uyghur Muslims have been incarcerated, seeks to erase Uyghur culture by specifically targeting cultural and intellectual elites, and has been called a genocide by the U.S. government, a declaration with which you have expressed agreement.
Dr. Gulshan Abbas, a medical doctor, was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison, apparently because of the human rights advocacy in which her family members in the United States have been engaged. In December 2020, the U.S. Government called for her release, and we urge you to reiterate that call and take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that Dr. Abbas is released.
Ekpar Asat was detained in 2016 after participating in the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program. He was eventually sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for “inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination”. His sister, Rayhan, is a graduate of Harvard Law School, and we, along with more than 70 Harvard student organizations, have called for the U.S. State Department to demand that Ekpar Asat be immediately and unconditionally released.
Genocide is the gravest crime in international humanitarian law. We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to take robust action to defend the Uyghur people, and their scholars, scientists, and intellectuals like Dr. Gulshan Abbas and Ekpar Asat.
We thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter, and look forward to receiving your response.
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500