Last week, Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service published a report on famous Uighur biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov’s alleged cooperation with Chinese companies on DNA research. The report drew a great decry and criticism against Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov among the Uighur diaspora.
The East Turkistan Uyghur Intellectuals Forum, a forum of Uighur intellectuals in diaspora issued a statement on this matter.
Following is the statement of The East Turkistan Uyghur Intellectuals Forum:
“For immediate release
15 April 2019
The Uyghur Intellectuals Forum (UIF) is deeply concerned by the news reported in Uyghur language by the Radio Free Asia (RFA) on 11 April 2019 that Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a famous Uyghur scientist and the Director of the Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), has been collaborating with a Chinese company conducting DNA research. There has been some unsolicited suspicion that Uyghur inmates in China’s concentration camps are subjected to his experiments. This news has sent shock waves among Uyghur diaspora communities across the world.
In February 2019, the New York Times reported that China uses DNA information to track Uyghurs. Thermo Fisher, a Massachusetts company and Dr. Kenneth Kidd, a prominent Yale University geneticist, among others, helped China create a mega-system of surveillance and control. If Dr. Mitalipov is among these experts assisting China in building scientific facilities to persecute the Uyghurs, then this is clearly not a scientific issue, but a serious moral and ethical issue.
One could argue that science has no boundaries and that scientific discoveries make the whole world a better place. However, doing science with principles of ethics is the foundation of scientific activity. In this sense, Dr. Mitalipov, like any scientist, should maintain the boundaries of his scientific research based on, but not limited to, universal ethical values and principles. Moreover, Dr. Mitalipov should have a clear understanding about how and why the Chinese government has been illegally profiling the DNA information of Uyghurs against their will, and subjecting them to other cutting-edge technologies, such as facial and voice recognition systems, on a massive scale. He must know how this DNA profiling could be used by the Chinese regime in the future for political purposes, namely the cultural genocide of Dr. Mitalipov’s own people.
Despite this, Dr. Mitalipov has so far been utterly silent over the illegal activity of China in regards to the DNA profiling of Uyghurs. Even worse, he is now believed to be helping China with a gene-editing technology, in which the Uyghur inmates are allegedly subjects of these experiments in the concentration camps.
We notice that he has also been silent over the mistreatment of the prominent Uyghurs scientists, who are languishing now in these horrific concentration camps in China. In particular, he has been silent over the fate of the two famous Uyghur scientists, Dr. Tashpolat Teyip and Dr. Halmurat Ghupur, currently detained in China’s notorious concentration camps. These two intellectuals had previously played key roles in promoting and facilitating Dr. Mitalipov’s scientific exchanges in East Turkistan (aka Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region).
We emphasize that Dr. Mitalipov should not ignore the consequences of his cooperation with the Chinese regime from an ethical perspective. That is, he should not ignore the fact of the inhuman treatment of his fellow Uyghurs in the camps, who are forced to denounce their culture. He cannot absolve himself from the ethical responsibility to reflect on the consequences of his cooperation with the Chinese regime in the name of science. Chinese regime does not have any respect for the human rights and freedom of the Uyghurs. His action will ultimately cause grave harm to Uyghurs who have previously taken pride in his scientific achievements. We urge him to explain to the world what the true nature of his research in China is. If he has made any unintentional mistakes in this matter, he should stop and denounce these collaborations without delay. If he fails to do so, he is considered as somebody who is complicit in exterminating the Uyghurs with China. Then he negates the difference between China as a perpetrator state suppressing Uyghurs and a Uyghur scientist used by this state as a mere convenient tool to commit atrocities against his own people.”
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