As the People’s Republic of China marked the 74th anniversary of its founding Sunday, minority communities along with Japanese supporters in Tokyo united in protest, demanding an end to alleged human rights abuses.
Groups supporting Tibet, Uyghurs, Inner Mongolia, Hong Kong and Taiwan came together to condemn China over what they called repression, genocide and expansionist policies, which have fueled regional tensions since communist China’s inception.
Daniel, a university student from Hong Kong who declined to give his full name, said reports of overseas Chinese police stations in Japan had instilled him with a sense of fear, but said it is his responsibility as a Hong Konger to continue fighting.
In December, Japan’s Foreign Ministry shared findings about overseas Chinese police stations from a human rights organization with lawmakers. According to the group, there are two such stations in Japan. The stations are said to be involved in monitoring and potentially intimidating Chinese citizens abroad.
“I don’t want to be famous (for the wrong reasons), so we hide our faces,” he said, referring to how he and some other Hong Kongers were wearing masks and sunglasses to hide their identities out of fear of being targeted.
Olhunud Daichin, 57, the standing vice chairman for the South Mongolia Congress, a Tokyo-based rights group representing Mongolians, said that coming to Japan gave him a new perspective.
“I was able to see what fate loomed over us in Mongolia,” Daichin said. “Over the past 70 years, our history is being massacred, our grasslands being destroyed. If we don’t raise our voices now, there will be nothing left for Mongolia.”
Tenzin Kunga, 44, of Tibetan Community in Japan, said one of his nieces in Tibet was taken away by Chinese officials as part of what he describes as a “brainwashing” program, where the ruling Communist Party allegedly alienates young people from their cultural identity. He said participating in protests in Japan is a way of giving a voice to those who remain in Tibet.
Kunga recalled that a few years after he came to Japan and called his family in Lhasa to ask how they were doing, the authorities came to check on what they spoke about. He has not spoken to his sister since.
Afumetto Retepu, 45, the chairman of the Japan Uyghur Association, said that after 2017, the situation in China changed dramatically, with many Uyghur people forcibly detained and their families at home having to cut ties with those outside.
Retepu said they were protesting against an alleged Uyghur genocide that has been condemned worldwide.
“If we succumb to this pressure and stay quiet, we send the wrong message that they can manipulate the world as they please through threats,” Retepu said.
When he began protesting in Japan 20 years ago, Retepu said people didn’t understand how terrifying the Communist Party was at the time. But he said information is now disseminated globally, helping groups like his oppose what he said are the party’s intimidation tactics.
“As humans, we should first and foremost not tolerate this. … Let us all send a message to China that we do not tolerate this,” Retepu said.