Launch of Lawyers for Uyghur Rights

There have been rare occasions since the second world war when a group of people has been  singled out for extraordinary victimization by a State. The situation for the Uyghur people of North West China is such a case.

From the moment the draconian former strongman of Tibet, Chen Quanguo assumed the helm of Xinjiang Province in 2017, his brutal crackdown unleashed against millions of predominantly peace loving Muslims has transformed the province into an Orwellian surveillance state unequalled since Mao, and resulted in the mass extra judicial detention of at least 1.6 million citizens.

Lawyers for Uyghur Rights (LFUR) has been set up to directly address these blatant affronts to dignity and freedom. Michael Polak, a London-based barrister specializing in criminal, human rights, and international law, has set up a forum for a worldwide coalition of barristers, solicitors, lawyers, law students, and legal academics to pool skills and strategies to combat the gross human rights violations being metered out by the Chinese Communist Government against the Uyghurs and other Turkic people in China. 

The existence of mass camps to intern the Uyghurs and other Turkic people was at first totally denied by the Chinese authorities however indisputable evidence emerged, including satellite imagery and the mass purchase of provisions for detention such as police batons, electric cattle prods,  handcuffs, and pepper spray. The Chinese Government now admits the existence of these camps but refers to them as “vocational training schools”.

The ultimate aim of the so-called "vocational training schools" according to the Communist Party, is to "cure" the "ideological illness" of religious extremism. "They must be admitted to a re-education hospital in time to treat and cleanse the virus from their brain," in order to "restore their normal mind," declared one Party missive. 

The "cure" involves forced teaching of the Mandarin language, memorization of Communist Party Dogma, imposition of alien Han Chinese traditions, and swearing of allegiance to Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party. 

Every moment of "students'" waking and sleeping lives is monitored, their small children are removed to state orphanages to be force fed Communist dogma, and older children are coerced into mixed marriages. Those on the outside live within the parameters of layers of razor wire, facial recognition cameras, police checkpoints at 500 metres, and the imminent threat of a knock on the door at midnight. A piece of Arabic calligraphy, a volume written by the increasing number of banned authors, cushions on the floor rather than a sofa and table, or an "unusual beard" or headscarf could result in summary removal to a camp or a kangaroo court behind closed doors.

Recent reports of up to 80,000 Uyghurs being transferred from the camps and coerced to work in a network of factories throughout China making clothes for western brand clothes and electronic products, has also garnered the attention of LFUR. Phase two of Beijing's plan to subdue the Uyghur people, their culture and their religion must also be challenged. Michael Polak's hope is that through the campaigning efforts of LFUR, and the employment of every legal and campaigning avenue at their disposal, the flagrant abuse of the Uyghur and Turkic peoples of Xinjiang will be challenged.

"We will make it clear that the mass detention and repression of the Uyghur people will not be tolerated," he said.  ‘The international community and companies and corporations who purchase or manufacture goods in China can no longer be silent about these mass atrocities which are aimed at destroying the Uyghur people.’

Notes to Editors

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Lawyers for Uyghur Rights, is a group made up of barristers, solicitors, paralegals, academics, and students who are working together to develop strategies to combat the mass oppression and atrocities being carried of the Uyghur people and other Turkic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (East Turkestan) The organisation is chaired by Michael Polak.

Michael Polak is a barrister practising in both international and domestic human rights law as well as criminal law defence. He practises from Church Court Chambers in London and is a Director of Justice Abroad ( He is chair of Lawyer for Uyghur Rights and works closely with the World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur community.


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