Nithin Coca for Foreign Policy
To many Uyghurs and Tibetans in exile, a July letter sent by several climate, environmental, and anti-war organizations to the Biden administration confirmed their worst suspicions—that the climate and environmental movement did not care about them or their causes.
“That made us upset,” said Omer Kanat, director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project. “We felt they were sacrificing Uyghurs to convince China to come to the table for climate change.”
The letter—in which CODEPINK, an organization pushing genocide-denying content, joined environmental organizations Friends of the Earth, the Union of Concerned Scientists, 350 Action, Earthworks, and the Sunrise Movement—argued U.S. President Joe Biden’s confrontational approach would harm climate change action. It made no mention of the reason for some of that confrontation—the situation in Xinjiang, Tibet, or Hong Kong—implicitly making the argument that silence on human rights was an acceptable cost for climate action.
“I do believe that many of those groups signed because they really were kind of ignorant of the issue,” said Pema Doma, campaigns director for Students for a Free Tibet. “But the organizations that are leading it are definitely aware and making an active decision to put the voices of white climate activists above the voices of actual Tibetan and Uyghur front-line, impacted communities.”
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