Inside the World Uyghur Congress: The US-backed right-wing regime change network seeking the ‘fall of China’
While posing as a grassroots human rights organization, the World Uyghur Congress is a US-funded and directed separatist network that has forged alliances with far-right ethno-nationalist groups. The goal spelled out by its founders is clear: the destabilization of China and regime change in Beijing.
by Ajit Singh
Part 2 - The World Uyghur Congress, brought to you by the US government’s regime change arm
The WUC promotes itself as an “opposition movement against Chinese occupation of East Turkistan [sic]” that “represent[s] the collective interests” and is “the sole legitimate organization of the Uyghur people both in East Turkistan and abroad.”
Headquartered in Munich, Germany, the WUC is an international umbrella organization with a network of 33 affiliates in 18 countries around the world. The WUC and its affiliates — particularly the Uyghur American Association, Uyghur Human Rights Project, and Campaign for Uyghurs — are cited in nearly every Western media report on China’s Uyghur Muslims.
From its inception, the WUC has been backed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). With millions in US taxpayer money, the NED and its subsidiaries have backed opposition parties, “civil society” groups, and media organizations in countries targeted by the US for regime change.
Philip Agee, the late CIA whistleblower, described the work of the NED as a more sophisticated version of the old-fashioned covert operations that Langley used to engineer. “Nowadays,” Agee explained, “instead of having the CIA going around behind the scenes and trying to manipulate the process by inserting money here and giving instructions secretly and so forth, they have now a sidekick, which is this National Endowment for Democracy, NED.”
Agee’s assessment was confirmed by Allen Weinstein, a former Trotskyist and founding member of the NED. Weinstein told the Washington Post in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
When the WUC was founded in 2004, the NED’s then-senior Asia program officer, Louisa Coan Greve, praised the move as a “great accomplishment.”
The NED has provided the WUC with millions of dollars in funding, including $1,284,000 since 2016 alone, and millions of dollars in additional funding to WUC-affiliate organizations. The grants are earmarked for training Uyghur activists and youth in media advocacy and lobbying “to raise awareness of and support for Uyghur human rights,” with a particular focus on US Congress, European Parliament, and the United Nations.
In 2018, the NED provided the WUC and its offshoots with close to $665,000, according to the former organization’s website.
The NED has played a direct role in molding the direction and politics of the WUC. Besides honeycombing WUC-affiliated organizations with NED operatives like Coan Greve, the NED has sponsored and organized annual “Leadership Training Seminars” for the WUC since 2007.
Many leading members of the WUC have also worked in senior positions for Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). These US government-run news agencies were created by the CIA during the Cold War to project propaganda into China and the Soviet Union, and to stir up opposition to communism on these countries’ frontiers.
Unsurprisingly, the WUC is tightly aligned with Washington’s foreign policy agenda and hostile new Cold War strategy which seeks to contain and impede the rise of China. The WUC regularly meets with and lobbies US and Western politicians, urging them to isolate and “increase the pressure on China”; ratchet up economic sanctions; curb ties with China, and withdraw Western companies from the region.
The WUC celebrated the passage of The Uighur Act of 2019 by the US House of Representatives, in December 2019. The bill, which called on the Trump administration to enact sanctions against the Chinese government, was the latest in a string of anti-China achievements.
This regime change apparatus has made its strongest impact through the media, providing a constant source of self-styled Uyghur dissidents and human rights horror stories to eager Western reporters. The exposure the WUC and its affiliates receive extends well beyond corporate media outlets known for echoing Washington’s foreign policy talking points; even ostensibly adversarial, progressive, and left-wing media such as The Intercept, Democracy Now! and Jacobin Magazine have provided them with an uncritical platform.
While adopting the WUC’s narrative, these self-styled alternative outlets never seem to mention the close bonds the organization and its offshoots have forged with the US national security state and right-wing ethno-nationalist movements abroad. But the relationships are no secret. In fact, they appear to be a source of pride for WUC leadership.