Has the world abandoned the Uighur Muslims?

We speak to a Uighur refugee, and debate if data theft, interference and illegal spending tainted the Brexit referendum.

In this week’s Special Interview, Uighur activist and president of the Uyghur American Association, Ilshat Hassan, discusses China‘s detention of religious minorities, and the effect it has had on him and his family.

On our Reality Check, we examine some of French President Emmanuel Macron‘s policies and whether it can still be claimed that he is a champion of liberal democracy.

In the Arena, we debate if the 2016 Brexit referendum was a free and fair vote, or if it was tainted by illegal spending and foreign interference.

Special Interview – Uighur refugee: I’m not very optimistic

Since April 2017, Chinese authorities have arrested at least 800,000 and possibly more than two million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minorities in so-called “re-education camps”, according to testimony from the United States State Department official, Scott Busby, before Congress on December 4.

The Chinese government initially denied these camps exist. However, they’ve now legalised them and say these are merely vocational, educational training centres intended to “combat extremism” – despite the fact that some of those arrested are reportedly university presidents or other Communist Party officials. Some say this is one of the world’s most ignored human rights crisis.

Ilshat Hassan, a Uighur activist and president of the Uyghur American Association, who was forced to leave China in 2003 and has been separated from his family ever since, tells his story on UpFront.

“They [police] used electric baton and they electricised me twice in one interrogation,” Hassan recalls his experience of being monitored as a teacher at a vocational training college and having been arrested twice, beaten and electricised.

Since losing contact with his family three years ago, Hassan’s sister and two nephews have allegedly been arrested.

In this Special Interview, Hassan speaks about China’s internment of Uighurs and the international community’s response.

Reality Check: Emmanuel Macron’s empty liberalism

The initial celebrations following French president Emmanuel Macron’s election in 2017 seem a long way off as the embattled leader and his government backed down in the face of violent protests.

But wasn’t avoiding unrest and the entrenchment of populist rage precisely what his presidency was supposed to achieve? After his election, many saw Macron as the saviour of the political centre in a time of extremes.

On this Reality Check, we examine the ways in which Macron’s government has apparently taken a cavalier attitude to civil liberties, labour protection, human rights, as well as the standards of accountability essential to a functioning democracy.

Arena: Was the Brexit vote free and fair?

The last year has seen mounting evidence of illegal campaign spending, data theft and foreign interference during the Brexit referendum campaign. Two pro-Brexit campaign organisations, Leave.Eu and Vote Leave, were fined and reported to the police by the Electoral Commission.

The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency also started investigating billionaire Brexit campaigner, Arron Banks, who gave £12m to Brexit campaigns, including UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Nigel Farage’s campaign Leave.EU, making him the biggest donor in the country’s history.

So, was the 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK a free and fair vote?

Carole Cadwalladr is an award-winning investigative journalist for the Guardian and The Observer, and broke many stories about wrongdoings in that 2016 vote.

“If you’re going to have a referendum, that is going to affect the foundation, the constitution of our country forever, you better do that within the law,” she says.

Steven Woolfe, member of the European Parliament and former member of the UKIP disagrees, saying “we absolutely won fair and square”. He emphasises that the criminal inquiries that Cadwalladr referred to are “not beyond a criminal level of proof”.

On this UpFront Arena, we debate the extent of interference in that referendum and whether it could have affected the result.

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