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Baking Samsas, the Go-to Uyghur Street Snack

This week, we decided to have some fun and explore Uyghur culture by making a classic Uyghur recipe, the simple yet too-delectable-for-words meat pie known as the samsa. If you noticed the similarity between “samsa” and “samosa”, it’s no accident. They both come from the Persian root word sanbosag. Unlike samosas, however, samsas are baked and not fried, resulting in a toasty, fresh-baked and grease-free crust around a savory, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth meat filling. Despite hailing from a region underestimated and unexplored by the Western palate, samsas can easily be made in your own home with simple ingredients available at any supermarket. Let’s go!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Grade A large eggs for the dough, and 1 or 2 more eggs to add later.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • A fatty cut of meat or ground meat with extra fat (for our recipe we used ground beef with extra fat)
  • Olive oil, vegetable oil, or butter
  • Onions
  • Salt and black pepper

Instructions (approx. 1 hour work, 1 hour to rest the dough, 15 minutes to bake)

Clear off a good counter space, or get a large cutting board or tray for the dough-making process. Things will get quite messy. We First tried laying down a garbage bag to keep our counter clean, but quickly realized it was gonna be a mess anyway, but if you’ve ever made dough, you know it can be a very fun mess!

Add the 3 cups of flour to a large, sturdy bowl. We used a plastic bowl, but we found that it wasn’t suitable for stirring the dough, and it unfortunately broke in the process! If you can, use a metal or wooden bowl.

Make a little crater in the middle of the pile of flour and put the two eggs into it.

Cool! Now, add the cup of water, and start mixing with a sturdy spoon or spatula. This is the beginning of our dough. It will be very sloppy and sticky at first.

Stir and stir until the dough starts to thicken. Like with any dough, this is the gluten starting to form. Keep at it until you get a nice blob of dough, thick and elastic enough that you can pick the whole thing up with the spatula or spoon. Time to knead!

If you want to put some music on, now is the time. You won’t have clean hands for quite a while! Look for a “Muqam”, a traditional song for dancing, to really get the Uyghur vibes going. Dust up your dough making station with some more flour, so the dough doesn’t stick to the surface. Drizzle some olive oil on your hands and so the dough doesn’t stick to them. Now you will knead. Start with the “turn and slap” method, a good way to build up the gluten while it’s still gooey. Pick up your dough blob by the edge and slap it down on the counter or board like you’d slap the dirt out of a rug. Then grab the edge further away from you, and flip it with the same vigorous slap. As you do this, the dough might pick up some of the flour, and if that happens you can sprinkle a little more. If the dough picks up too much of the flour and starts sticking badly, return it to the bowl and keep mixing until it’s really ready. Try to avoid adding flour as much as you can, otherwise you’ll end up with a very stiff crust that’s not good at all. Have faith in your dough!

There will be a lot of slapping, you will end up with a bouncy, elastic ball of dough that you can work with your hands. Now you can knead like in the movies, eh? Use the bottom of your palm and roll that ball of dough around until it’s smooth and has lost all of its former slimy, gooey nature. Now your dough is all grown up and ready to take on the oven. This was our first experience making a dough, and it was quite a tough lesson in how long and painstaking the process is. My advice: don’t get too stressed out! Take the time to enjoy the childlike fun of playing with something messy, and appreciate the magic as your dough takes shape.

Finally, you will have a smooth ball of dough that can be tossed between your hands with ease. Take this beautiful creation and place it into a clean bowl. Cover the dough with a damp towel so that it won’t dry out and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour. During this time, you can make the filling.

Compared to the dough, the filling is quite easy. First, dice your onion. If you have a whole cut of fatty meat, chop it up into small bits the same size as the pieces of onion. If you used ground meat like we did, get an amount approximately twice as large as the amount of onion. The rules for a good filling are quite lenient. Garlic, coriander and cumin seeds can be added if you have them. Add some olive oil or butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix it all up and now you have your filling.

Once your dough is rested, roll it up into a snake and cut equal segments of it for each samsa.

Take each segment and roll it out into as much of a circle as you can. Roll the edges out such that they are thinner than the center.

Looking good. Now, place a bit of filling about the size of a walnut into the center.

Fold the dough around the filling. You can fold them either into squares, like a burrito, or into triangles like you would for samosas. We opted for triangles, because they can be held with one hand and bit into easily. Up to you!

Preheat your oven to 430℉. Grease a baking tray and lay out the samosas. They will not expand much, so they can be placed fairly close together and not risk sticking to each other. Brush the samsas with some beaten egg. Put them on the middle tray of the oven, and bake for about 15 minutes, more or less, until they are golden brown on the top. Now they are done! Congratulations!

Interview with Uyghur Protestor, 10/1/2020

On October 1st, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers, Southern Mongolians, Taiwanese, Chinese, and others held demonstrations in 90 cities throughout the world as part of the inaugural Global Day of Action against the Chinese Communist Party.  In Washington, DC the Uyghur American Association performed a unique political theater action in front of the U.S. Congress to draw attention to the Chinese government’s horrific treatment of the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan. Over 100 Uyghur Americans kneeled in shackles, black blind folds and face masks, and wore blue prison uniforms with Kashgar Detention Center ( “喀什市看守所” ) displayed prominently on their backs. The costumes closely resembled the official prison uniforms worn by Uyghur detainees, as captured in the infamous, September 2019 drone footage from the City of Korla in East Turkistan. During the political theater action, Uyghur Americans held up over 150 photos of relatives, scholars, and ordinary Uyghurs who have been victimized by the Chinese government. Many of those victims have been disappeared, tortured, and killed in the Chinese concentration camps. Photos of the demonstration can be found on UAA’s Facebook page, and video coverage of the demonstration can be found on Radio Free Asia’s Facebook page
We interviewed a member of the Uyghur American community that participated in the political theater action to hear her thoughts on the demonstrations and what it accomplished. The interview is transcribed here. To protect her identity, the interview was not recorded, and conducted entirely over Whatsapp chat. She is identified by the pseudonym “Rena”.

Note: There are some grammar and spelling errors on the part of both the interviewee and the interviewer. To avoid editorializing, these are left unchanged.

UAA: Can you set the stage for me? How did the protest go? Where was it and what took place?


Rena: Sure. The volunteers and UAA organizers arrived early around 8 am at the front of U.S. Congress to setup the stage and make other materials ready.
Around 10 am, most of the protesters arrived to the scene. Max Gelber and other organizers started to distribute prisoners outfit, handcuffs, blindfolds, and the pictures of actual victims of the concentration camp. After everyone got dressed up, we all lined up to recreate the actual scene of the camp.

At 11 am, event started off with a several statements given by UAA board members, Tibet leaders, Mongolian leaders as well as the congressman (sorry that I am really bad at remembering names, if you need their names, I can find out later and get back to you).

Around 12 pm, Max Gelber and several other protesters performed as Chinese cops who suppress and torture prisoners in the camp. As part of the performance: there was a little kid who was crying and seeking for her parents among the prisoners, which was sad and devastating for many, and people around me started to shedding tears. The cop took her away forcefully and said you don’t have parents. The cops also announced several crimes of the prisoners and what is the reason that they need reeducation, such as for contacting relatives outside of the country, for having long hair and beard, for wearing hijab, etc. They also showed how women were tortured in the mimicking Tiger Chair, and how they were forced sent [sic] to sterilization.

All of these scene was recreated [sic] almost perfectly with the help of almost everyone in the protest. However, it was also very terrifying and heartbreaking for all of us.

After the performance, along with Kuzzat and other people made their statements.

Too bad that I had an interview on the same day in the afternoon, so I had to leave and couldn’t participate the rest of the protest. I heard that they walked around the national mall.

UAA: That sounds very emotional. Whose idea was it to stage a re-enactment? Did any non-protestors get to witness it?

Rena: I believe it was initially Max Gelber’s idea, then after some discussion, the rest also agreed. As we , as Uyghur community, have been protesting around 5-10 times a year, we welcome any new ideas to make every single protest more successful.

And yes, i personally noticed many pedestrians, and people who were just simply jogging and running in the area intentionally stopped for a while to see what is going on.

UAA: That’s an impressive work ethic. After so many demonstrations, do you feel optimistic about what’s happening in Washington? What about the response of news media? The general public?

Rena: I do feel like we made a stronger impact and statement this time for several reasons. First of all, I witnessed a lot more reporters present at the event. Secondly, after our protest, many Uyghur community [sic] in other countries also organized many protests in front of their Chinese embassy. There’s protesters in London, France, Berlin, Oslo, Istanbul that I know of.

Last but not least, through all these protests and media response, I believe now there’s lot more people are aware of the Uyghur issue. Which is good and sad at the same time.

Good: because five years ago, if I talk to 20 people, only one or none of them know anything about Uyghur. Now every one out of five people in DMV area that I talk to, can hold a conversation with me, because now they are aware.

Sad: because Uyghur are known in the world level because of this suppression of communist. [sic] Narrative can be easily changed if you change the narrator. I know there are some government still support all the decisions made by CCP. And CCP can easily portrait [sic] us as “bad guys”.

Uyghur culture is profound and colorful. We have so much more to share with this world. But too sad that that’s not the part that we are we’ll know for at this moment.

UAA: How can readers learn more about Uyghur culture?

Rena: There are certainly many books written by our scholars, and most of them can be found in English. From which, readers can learn more about our culture.
The UAA official website also has short introductions and some resources about our culture.
The easiest way I would say is through YouTube. Instead of searching “Uyghur” or “Uyghur Issue”, I suggest readers to search for “Uyghur Songs” , “Uyghur Movies”, “Uyghur Dance”, “Uyghur Food”.


Additionally, we have around 5 Uyghur restaurants in DMV area where people can have some hands on experience. Whether to observe the decorations/atmosphere, or to taste the food, I highly recommend people to go check out some of the Uyghur restaurants.

UAA: Very cool. One more question: I saw a video of the D.C. protest in which Rushan Abbas, from the Campaign for Uyghurs, said “we will use our words as weapons” in a speech addressing the protestors. Do you agree with this? Can words truly be used as weapons against the repression of a dictatorship? How do you feel about the effectiveness of protest in general? What do protests accomplish? What did this specific protest hope to accomplish?

Rena: In our contemporary society, I also would like to think words can be used as weapons. With the help of advanced technology, almost everyone in the whole world has easy access to social media. With that said, having such frequent and “loud” protest can definitely stir up some heated discussion. And the more social media report/discuss our issue, the more people will be aware of it.

However, merely words cannot put an end to the repression and dictatorship, more concrete actions need to be taken.

As for the effectiveness of our protest in general, I truly believe we have made some progress. Nury A. Turkel is an Uyghur American attorney, public official and human rights advocate, who is also the organizer of the Uyghur Human Right Project. With his help and statement given in U.S. congress in November 2019, President Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Bill, which I believe is the accumulative results of many protests, and efforts put in by the activists like Nury Turkel, Rushan Abbas, and other UAA members.

As for this specific protest we held on October 1st, the proven accomplishment is how Uyghurs in other countries also added their own contribution towards making a world level “loud” statement. Only when the words are loud enough then it can be considered as a weapon.

I just want to add a few things.
In fact, the protest could be bigger and louder. But many Uyghurs are afraid to go out in public, or make an open statement online. Because Chinese spies are everywhere to find out which individuals are behaving/saying things against the Chinese authorities. To take myself as the example: when I first came to America, I was actively participating all the possible protests and conferences (2015-2016). Then in May 2016, my mom disappeared, later on I found out that she was taken to the concentration camp. In February 2018, one Chinese policeman contacted me and asked me to provide all the school paperwork to prove that I am a full time student (since I came to U.S with F1 student visa), and asked me not to contact my father ever, then threatened me if I do not cooperate, they would take my dad to the camp. … There are many Uyghurs facing the same threat like I do, some are brave enough to do something about it, but most are not.
Recently, one Uyghur girl who came to U.S almost a year ago told me that her mother and two sisters are taken to the reeducation camp. She is so brave that she started to post blogs and tweets online exposing the inhuman actions of CCP. She said anytime when Chinese authority post something on WeiBo, she added comments on each post, asking her family’s whereabouts. Then, Chinese cops contacted her and asked her to be quite and take off all the posts. She did not just listen, she negotiated. She said:”if you don’t release my family and allow them to contact me, my posts will be just louder and bigger.” Finally, Chinese authority released one of her sisters and her mother. She is doing everything she could to rescue her another sister. [sic]
After listening to her story, I realized we need more brave activists like her. And her story encouraged me to get back to what started in the beginning without any fear. If every single one of the Uyghurs can come into the same state of mind, I am positive that we can make bigger impact. And by doing so, we will get more help from UN and U.S government, and finally put an end to CCP’s dictatorships.

UAA: Thank you very much, I appreciate you talking to me today.

Rena: You are very welcome, it’s my pleasure.

What Despotism Looks Like, Part 1

History and politics, in the age of mass media and flickering screens and constant streams of information captured in headlines and blurbs and carefully selected pictures, is increasingly understood aesthetically first and theoretically second. A word like “despot” conveys frantic and violent images of men in dark suits, hollering at the top of their lungs to baying crowds of devotees. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, you’ve seen the photos, the news reels, the documentaries often accompanied by foreboding music and the unnerving flicker of decayed filmstrip. A frightening, chaotic noise defines despotism.

Xi Jinping has none of these qualities. Often wearing a clean-pressed business suit, Xi is soft-spoken. He has a warm smile, a friendly face, and a calm demeanor in comparison to  the aggression of his Western contemporaries. His speeches are reserved, but proud and optimistic. Radical ambitions to global military and economic dominance — and the measures  needed to achieve that — are cloaked in a new and refined form of propaganda that seamlessly fits into the social media timeline as if it were another snippet of the daily news. 

In a figure like Donald Trump, it’s not surprising that many see the “look” of despotism. His brash and unruly approach to politics, his strongman image and unapologetic cruelty towards political opponents and dissent, his winking nods to the cultural prejudice and racial resentment of his support base — we have heard from commentators across the political spectrum how well Trump seems to capture the image of the despot. The debate, then, is whether his policy decisions and governance actually match up with this image. Defenders will point to an apparent moderation in what he actually does as Commander-in-chief, while critics warn that he is only checked by other branches of government and his own cabinet, therefore his  despotism is never total in its emergence. The image of despotism in Trump, as well as his contemporaries in Right Wing populism like Bolsonaro and Orban, is determined to be enough evidence that they are.

Xi has profoundly expanded the surveillance of citizens and imprisoned dissidents on an unprecedented scale. The campaign to occupy and transform East Turkestan has ramped up aggression into a genocidal program of arbitrary detentions, sterilizations, and forced labor most recently used to abate economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by transferring Uyghurs around the country while the middle class safely quarantines at home. The region has become a testing ground for a new and recumbent network of data collection and surveillance. Xi is determined that China will be the dominant power of the 21st Century at any cost, including the lives of an ethnic group never included in the “union of five races”. These actions, even to a layperson, look authoritarian. But the man behind the podium doesn’t.

Trump will aggressively denounce members of the press that criticize him. In May of this year, MSNBC morning show host Joe Scarborough was subject to a barrage of harassment from Trump and his loyalists after Scarborough suggested that he may have been involved in the death of a former aide in 2001, Lori Klausutis. Meanwhile in China, after penning an essay criticizing Xi’s handling of the COVID pandemic, former real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang mysteriously disappeared without a trace. After months of silence, the press finally reported that he had been sentenced to  18 years in prison on corruption charges. Ren isn’t the first dissident to “disappear” like this. In 2013, Xi introduced new laws essentially sanctioning arbitrary and secret detention. A notable detention was movie star Fan Bingbing, who disappeared for 100 days to the shock of 63 million fans on Weibo. Of course, the majority of arbitrary detentions were Uyghur muslims and other minority groups, “upwards of a million” according to human rights advocate Michael Caster.

Images alone cannot tell us whether despotism is taking place. Words like “totalitarian” and their implicit meaning were not widespread in the time of Mussolini. The aesthetic appearance that tyranny takes is as unpredictable as the choice of clothes the tyrant makes.

The mass detention and destructive campaign against the Uyghurs of Xinjiang is known to many, but fades in and out of public consciousness in the face of more eye-popping political drama. Perhaps Xi’s subdued profile is by design. Governments don’t necessarily want to advertise that they’re ethnically cleansing their country of a population. Trump’s antics make almost any leader seem stately in contrast. War crimes have passed the United States by because the commander in chief’s personality is the top story.

Continued in Part 2

Mulan, the Uyghurs, and the #Fakewokeness of American Companies

The recent release of the Disney live action film Mulan, a rendition of the Chinese poem “The Ballad of Mulan,” has faced scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers and the general public for filming some scenes in East Turkistan (also known as Xinjiang). 

Over the last several years, the government of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have subjected the Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority group indiginous to East Turkistan, to a campaign of mass incarceration, mass surveillance, forced labor, population control, and cultural genocide. The issue of Uyghur forced labor has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to labor shortages in China as Han Chinese workers are quarantined or refuse to work.

It is my belief that any and all foreign commercial activity in East Turkistan perpetuates the persecution of Uyghurs and legitimizes the state of affairs in Xinjiang. Disney, however, went a step further in directly cooperating with eight Xinjiang government and party agencies, whom they also thanked in the credits of their film. One of these agencies is the Turpan Municipal Bureau of Public Security, an entity that is directly involved in the management of the Uyghur internment camps; and which is also on a U.S. government blacklist that forbids American companies from selling or supplying them products.  At least two of the agencies, the Publicity Departments of both the CCP Xinjiang Committee and the CCP Turpan Committee, are in effect propaganda agencies that have been developing and distributing material for foreign audiences, in order to legitimize the existence of the internment camps and obfuscate the true nature of the situation in East Turkistan. 

The controversy seems not to have impacted Disney’s bottom line, as the movie has done well in the United States. Mulan’s poor performance in China has nothing to do with the Uyghur controversy and everything to do with the movie being terrible. Regardless of the apparent lack of financial consequences, this is a bad look for Disney. The press coverage of the controversy has been extensive, and a quick glance at Disney’s social media posts about Mulan shows that almost all of the top ten or fifteen most liked comments are those criticizing Disney’s disregard for Uyghurs. The clamor around the controversy had become so loud that the CCP issued guidance to news agencies in China directing them not to cover the release of the film.  

Assuming that Disney has no moral compass and does not care about Uyghur lives, surely they do care about their own image. So how could Disney have been so irresponsible?

One logical reason is that Mulan was filmed in 2018, after the internment camps were established, but before they were regularly in the headlines. However, this is no excuse — Disney should do their research when choosing filming locations — however, it might explain why it never occurred to Disney that this move would attract controversy.

Disney’s blatant hypocrisy becomes apparent when one examines their behavior concerning human rights and social justice issues in the United States. In May of 2019, Disney CEO Bob Iger told journalists from Reuters that he would consider pulling Disney productions out of the state of Georgia if their controversial fetal heartbeat abortion bill became law.  This bill would have prevented physicians in Georgia from performing abortions if they could detect a heartbeat in the fetus, which is typically possible at six weeks. A federal district court ruled the proposals in the bill to be unconstitutional, so Iger never had to make a decision about pulling Disney out of Georgia. Opinions on this bill aside, where is Iger’s outrage over the forced abortions and forced sterilizations of Uyghur women in Xinjiang? With these and other atrocities widely documented, why was there no discussion of Disney pulling out of Xinjiang, or out of China altogether?

Why the double standard? The cynical view (which I hold) is that Disney cares about nothing other than their own financial success, and that their #woke approach to social issues in the American context represents a calculation concerning their own financial interests.

The amount of bending over backwards that Disney does for China (removing Winnie the Pooh from its Shanghai Disneyland park — working closely with the Chinese government to make sure movies, including Mulan, do not contradict so-called Chinese values) is something that is morally questionable notwithstanding the Uyghur issue. And censorship (which is what takes place when you have the PRC standing over your shoulder while you write a screenplay) also leads to terrible art — again, Mulan was a terrible movie.

Disney could be sure that the Chinese audience would not be bothered by the Uyghur issue to the extent that they would boycott the film. They made the same assumption about the American audience, but they appear to have miscalculated. Perhaps now Disney will consider the human rights records of their overseas filming locations, but they likely will not do so out of genuine concern — only for their bottom line. 

Disney is not the only perpetrator of #fakewokeness for commercial gain. Consider Nike’s outspoken advocacy for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and their early support of Colin Kaepernick, who was shunned by the National Football League (NFL) for kneeling during the national anthem to bring attention to police brutality against Black Americans. I have no doubt that there are many people within the Nike organization who have genuine concern for the treatment of Black Americans at the hands of American police. However, there are a lot of people in a lot of organizations that have genuine concern for any number of causes, but companies only act on these concerns if it is in their financial interest to do so.  Nike made a calculation that highlighting certain social issues would gain them more customers than it would lose them. Last week Nike released an all-black Colin Kaepernick football jersey commemorating four years since he first took a knee — it sold out in under a minute. 

This is all well and good, but what about the Uyghurs? A study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) — “Uyghurs for Sale” — found that, as recently as January 2020, Nike sneakers have been made by Uyghurs who had been forcefully relocated to work in factories in Qingdao in north-eastern China.  Nike has released several statements since this news became public in which they express general concern for the issue of Uyghur forced labor, but neither confirm nor deny the specific findings of the ASPI report.  If Nike is so concerned about social issues, and has made such an effort to highlight the BLM movement and Kaepernick even though Nike themselves are not culpable in the oppression of Black Americans, then Nike should be pulling out all of the stops to help the Uyghurs, a group whose oppression they are in part culpable for. There should be advertising campaigns — blue and white East Turkistan soccer jerseys — sponsorship of Uyghur athletes. This will never happen though, because it would be extremely financially detrimental for Nike to lose the Chinese market. The very least Nike can do, and should do, is to make absolutely sure that they are not benefitting from the forced labor of Uyghurs, and to encourage their peer companies to do the same. 

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is perhaps the most hypocritical #fakewoke organization of all. For several years the NBA had maintained a basketball academy and training facility in Urumqi, the capital of  Xinjiang. Nike closed the facility in July of this year after scrutiny from US lawmakers. In other words, it was closed when the NBA decided it might hurt them financially to keep the facility open — and not a moment sooner. 

In an attempt to address systemic racism and police brutality, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and the NBA agreed on twenty-nine social justice slogans that players can wear on the back of their jerseys in place of their names. No slogans supporting Uyghurs have been approved. In fact, during the last NBA season fans wearing pro-Hong Kong democracy slogans on their clothing were escorted out of a game in Philadelphia, and fans at a game in Washington had “Google Uyghur” signs taken away from them by NBA security.

This #fakewoke behavior extends to individuals as well. Lebron James is very active in the BLM movement and is an outspoken advocate against police brutality towards black Americans. This is fantastic — he can leverage his prominent position as the most talented basketball player in the world to exert powerful influence.  It is regrettable then that he actively tried to shut down anti-CCP statements from other individuals within the NBA. In October of last year Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters, which led the Chinese government to ban Rockets games from broadcast in China. James said that Morey was “either misinformed or not really educated on the situation,” – later clarifying that he was concerned about the financial fallout of Morey’s statement. 

There are better role models in sports — athletes who stand up for the rights of marginalized groups even when it is financially detrimental to themselves and their team. Take for example the Turkish-German soccer player Mesut Ozil, whose club Arsenal fell all over themselves releasing a clarifying tweet when he voiced his concern for Uyghurs. Ozil continued his support for the Uyghurs, even as his jerseys were removed from stores and online retailers in China and as Arsenal games were pulled by Chinese broadcasters. Like Colin Kaepernick, Ozil took a major financial hit and put his career at risk by speaking out. 

Polling has shown that for the first time ever the majority of Americans support the BLM movement — and companies are jumping on the bandwagon. Take a look at the list of American companies that have benefited from the forced labor of Uyghurs in the ASPI study — almost all of them have voiced support for BLM over the last year. Their support for social issues is a lagging indicator, a simple mathematical equation — the company will only support a cause after, and not a moment before, the majority of their customers support it. After years of oppression of black people in America and countless tragic deaths, it took another profound tragedy, the death of George Floyd, to change the conversation. Let’s hope that we can change the conversation about Uyghurs before the situation worsens, before some profound tragedy forces us to act. 

The United States Congress must take action to forbid companies from continuing to benefit from the forced labor of Uyghurs, and from conducting any commercial activity in Xinjiang. Furthermore, Congress must take action guaranteeing the right of free speech for individuals who speak out in support of the Uyghurs. Allowing the promotion of some social justice slogans while disallowing others is certainly in contradiction with the spirit of the First Amendment right to freedom of expression, if not legally opposed to it. Furthermore, congressional action would take pressure off of individual companies and instead shift China’s wrath to the U.S. government. Companies would be able to claim adherence to the law when confronted by China over the speech of their employees, athletes, and fans. 

It did not take government action for companies to change their tune about the BLM movement — it was the grassroots actions of individuals and NGOs that fomented change. The same blueprint could be followed with regards to the Uyghur genocide. So inform your family and friends, educate your students and colleagues, share on social media, change your consumption habits and encourage others to do so, and contact companies and your elected representatives to advocate for the Uyghurs.