Beijing’s actions demand a rethinking of failed engagement.
Ekpar Asat is a Uighur philanthropist and cutting-edge entrepreneur who became a household name among Uighurs after establishing and successfully running a multifaceted media platform for the community in western China. He is also the brother of one of the authors of this article, who knows firsthand his compassion and determination. He worked tirelessly to build bridges between all the ethnic groups in the region and the local government. The Xinjiang government itself extolled him as a bright star in the tech world and a positive force for humanity. Soon, his reputation landed him international recognition as a successful innovative entrepreneur and peacebuilder.
But in April 2016, Asat was forcibly disappeared within weeks of returning from the United States on a premier exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), unlike the Han members of his IVLP cohort, who returned to their ordinary lives. He’s currently presumed to be held in one of the infamous internment camps in Xinjiang without access to anyone, including his family—one victim among hundreds of thousands of a government crackdown that the United States has just designated a genocide.