Publishers Weekly today drew attention to an Open Letter signed by over 80 authors calling for the revocation of the choice of Chengdu, China as 2023 Worldcon host: “Speculative Fiction Community Condemns China Hosting 2023 WorldCon Awards”. (The full text of the Open Letter appears at the end of the post.)
The Justice For All Canada site announced the letter on March 2 in its post “80+ Global Science-Fiction Fantasy Authors Condemn China Hosting the 2023 WorldCon Awards In An Open Letter”.
In the midst of the Ukraine invasion, threats to Taiwan, and Uyghur genocide, over 80 award-winning and bestselling writers from across the world as well as Uyghur human rights groups have condemned China’s right to host the 2023 WorldCon awards in an open letter.
The joint letter is addressed to the WorldCon committee and voters, bringing together a coalition of global science-fiction and fantasy writers to condemn the WorldCon committee for allowing Chengdu, China to bid for the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) – a bid that they won.
The letter calls on the literary community to appeal to the committee and community in charge of allocating the honour of hosting the world’s most prestigious science-fiction fantasy awards, requesting them to relocate the 2023 event out of China. The author signatories, many of whom are New York Times bestselling authors and Hugo award winners, include members of the WorldCon community.
WorldCon community members vote on which country’s bid will win the right to host the Con. The vote was taken at DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon in Washington DC on December 18, 2021. The four bidders were France, United States, Canada, and China. Despite the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide against Uyghur and Turkic Muslim minorities in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang), the bid was won by Chengdu. Prominent signatories include Hugo winners, nominees and bestsellers Angie Thomas, N.K. Jemisin, G. Willow Wilson, S.A. Chakraborty, Zoraida Córdova, Tochi Onyebuchi, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Jeannette Ng, Tracy Deonn, Roseanne Brown, Usman T. Malik, and famous Uyghur writers like Tahir Hamut Izgil.
The people who crafted the letter are Sarah Mughal Rana, a Muslim writer and social outreach member of Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, and Dr. Ausma Khan, author of The Khorasan Archives quartet.
Rana told File 770 today, “It was our idea because we both are Muslim SFF writers but it was also done with Uyghurs who cannot be named for safety reasons. I lived in China, I also work for the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project – so this letter was made also in collaboration with most of the listed Uyghur rights groups that signed the letter to put their perspective, fact-check, and prioritize their opinions.”
The Publishers Weekly article is the effective debut of letter. Rana says she circulated it to potential signers through email and DMs and kept it under wraps until she had enough support from published writers. “I did not publicize the letter until Publishers Weekly wrote their article. …Justice for All Canada offered to publish the news release so journalists would be aware of this letter.”
A copy of the Open Letter has not yet been emailed to the Chengdu committee. Rana indicates she did previously reach out to them to discuss the bid and raise issues about the guests of honor: “I emailed Chengdu my complaints about the guests of honour and did not hear back. I tried to facilitate a discussion and am hoping they reply.” In February the Chengdu committee acknowledged another person’s tweeted complaint about guest of honor Lukianenko, so the potential exists for them to reply.
The Open Letter is not the only step the organizers have in mind. Rana says:
To be frank, I am completely aware that the bids happen via democratic vote. But my objective with the letter is to condemn the bid [the selection of Chengdu] and to draw attention and awareness about the horrific on-going Uyghur genocide — the worst in modern times. Other steps have been taken. I met with Worldcon 2022 to ensure there are plans to avoid Islamophobic rhetoric and to create a safe space for Muslims and Turkic peoples. I also am working on a constitutional amendment. At the very least, I hope for a boycott and for people to be educated on these matters so they do not gaslight and shutdown Muslim voices again. The last discussion about Chengdu’s bid, Muslims were gaslit and accused of being racist, and Western-centric.
The rules governing Worldcons and site selection presently only provide for replacing a seated Worldcon if it is “unable to perform its duties,” therefore the Open Letter’s call for “revoking the 2023 site allocation bid to Chengdu, China” sounds aspirational. File 770 asked Rana if they have advisors about Worldcon governance. She says:
Yes we do. We are aware of the process. We consulted a number of individuals who are part of Worldcon’s organizing teams or were chairs of the business meetings. We know that a bid cannot be revoked. But our purpose is more symbolic than that. We hope this shows the broken-nature of how bids are carried out with regards to human rights crises. Moreover, this emphasizes that 1. bids can be awarded during concentration camps and genocide, and 2. there is no way to undo this.
This is why we have plans to propose a constitutional amendment regardless of Chengdu happening. Any amendment that is passed takes two years through two host cities, so this does not affect Chengdu. We hope to introduce an amendment where bidding cities do not qualify if an on-going genocide is being carried out that is recognized by either an independent verified tribunal or international human rights organizations. Even though this would not affect Chengdu; Chengdu is an example of the broken nature of these bids and how they do not take into account marginalized, persecuted populations.
The full text of the “Open Letter to WorldCon Committee to revoke Chengdu Bid 2023” follows the jump.
Open Letter to WorldCon Committee to revoke Chengdu Bid 2023
To Members of the WorldCon Site Selection, WorldCon Community and Voters:
We the undersigned authors, human rights organizations, and members of the science fiction and fantasy community are asking you to revoke the 2023 WorldCon bid to Chengdu, China.
We do so in protest of serious and ongoing human rights violations taking place in the Uyghur region of China, formally labelled by the Chinese government as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). These human rights violations amount to atrocity crimes, as documented by Human Rights Watch, and numerous other human rights organizations, and as per the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The parliaments of Japan, France, UK, Belgium, Czech Republic, Canada, Lithuania and the Netherlands, along with the United States State Department, consider these crimes to have met the threshold of genocide. We will elaborate on these crimes below.
To cite the April 19, 2021 Human Rights Watch report on the oppression of China’s Uyghur population, entitled “Break Their Lineage, Break Their Roots”:
“Crimes against humanity are considered among the gravest human rights abuses under international law. The specific crimes against humanity documented in this report include imprisonment or other deprivation of liberty in violation of international law; persecution of an identifiable ethnic or religious group; enforced disappearance; torture; murder; and alleged inhumane acts intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to mental or physical health, notably forced labor and sexual violence.”
While the Chinese government’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples are not new, they have accelerated since 2014, when the Chinese government launched the “Strike Hard Campaign Against Violent Terrorism” in the Uyghur homeland. According to the United Nation and Human Rights Watch, “As many as a million people have been arbitrarily detained in 300 to 400 facilities, which include “political education” camps, pretrial detention centers, and prisons. Courts have handed down harsh prison sentences without due process…”. The Uyghur Tribunal (independent People’s Tribunal led by Sir Geoffrey Nice in London) concluded based on 18 months of assessment of evidence, that crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity were committed by the Chinese government against the Uyghurs and other Turkic people.
In its latest White Paper, the Government of China acknowledged that between 2014-2019, an average of 1.29 million people in the region per year have gone through “Vocational Training,” a term used to describe detention facilities.
Reports have also documented that within the concentration camps, millions of Uyghurs are subjected to severe physical, sexual, and mental torture, as well as forced labour on a wide scale. Uyghur Muslims have been forced to denounce their religious practices; China’s government has criminalized Islamic practices, destroyed mosques, shrines, and graveyards, banned Uyghur language, separated families from their children, and created a digital Gulag to eradicate Uyghur identity.
A recent report detailed a systematic campaign of forced sterilization and forced abortion of Uyghur women, alongside appalling measures deployed to prevent the birth of the Uyghur population. Forced sterilization and the transfer of children from their communities constitute acts of genocide under Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Numerous genocide and atrocity prevention organizations have also expressed their grave concerns at crimes against humanity and genocidal measures taken against Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim populations.
Recently leaked internal Chinese government documents document the inner workings and extent of detention facilities (concentration camps) and forced labor schemes. These leaks include Operating Manuals for the Mass Internment and Surveillance systems, a comprehensive logbook and more than 400 pages of other internal papers, including speeches from senior officials, providing an inside look at the implementation of genocidal measures against the Uyghur population.
In addition, enforced separation of Uyghur children from their parents has reached an unprecedented level. The Government of China has not disclosed the whereabouts of these children and has blocked access to their families. The number of disappeared Uyghur children is estimated at 880,000 from 2019. Furthermore, according to witness accounts and testimonies, frequent deaths, physical and mental torture, enforced disappearances, mass rape, and enforced marriage of Uyghur girls to Han Chinese, have become widespread in the region.
As science fiction and fantasy authors, we imagine brave new worlds in our fiction. We challenge power, authority and the status quo, where grave injustices may be perpetrated without accountability or reparation. We write underdogs and outsiders who disrupt power structures and overthrow cruel overlords. So often, our characters make unthinkable sacrifices, and undertake impossible quests to bring down tyrants and oppressive regimes. They do so for a chance at a just and more inclusive future, where their people no longer suffer violence and discrimination.
The human rights atrocities committed by the government of China against the Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim populations are in total opposition to everything we as a community stand for. We cannot, in good conscience, celebrate the achievements of the best and brightest in our field, against a backdrop of catastrophic human suffering. To participate in WorldCon in Chengdu, China, would be equivalent to giving WorldCon’s imprimatur to genocide and to crimes against humanity.
Therefore, we ask, that in solidarity with the Uyghur and Turkic peoples suffering ongoing atrocity crimes, that the site allocation bid for WorldCon 2023 be changed to any other reasonable contender. We hope that as a community that strongly advocates for human rights, you will take the appropriate action now that you are aware of the government of China’s actions. Given the egregious human rights violations that are ongoing in the Uyghur region, we are urgently asking the organizers of WorldCon 2023 to join us in condemning these violations by revoking the 2023 site allocation bid to Chengdu, China. This is not a protest against the citizens of China, with whom we stand in solidarity, but rather against a government that is committing crimes against humanity, as documented above.
Please note, also, that many members of our community had to prioritize the safety of their families in China, and thus could not publicly add their names. This is one of many reasons our petition is urgent.
We look forward to a positive response.
The Undersigned Authors and Organizations
The undersigned authors, civil society and human rights groups:
- N. K. Jemisin, author of THE BROKEN EARTH TRILOGY
- Angie Thomas, author of THE HATE U GIVE and ON THE COME UP
- G. Willow Wilson, author of ALIF THE UNSEEN and MS. MARVEL
- S. A Chakraborty, author of CITY OF BRASS
- Jeannette Ng, author UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN
- Xiran Jay Zhao, author of IRON WIDOW
- Tochi Onyebuchi, author of RIOT BABY and GOLIATH
- Zoraida Córdova, author of THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINA and STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
- L. D. Lewis, author, editor, Publisher at FIRESIDE MAGAZINE, Project Manager FIYAH Literary Magazine, Director FIYAHCON
- Tahir Hamut Izgil, Uyghur poet of DISTANCE AND OTHER POEMS and author of article ONE BY ONE, MY FRIENDS WERE SENT TO THE CAMPS
- Tahir Imin, writer, translator and founder of UYGHUR TIMES
- Uighur Abdulla, author of Uyghur works
- K. Tempest Bradford, author, educator, and activist
- Tracy Deonn, author of LEGENDBORN
- Sona Charaipotra, author of SYMPTOMS OF A HEARTBREAK
- Roseanne Brown, author of A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN & A BLACK PANTHER GRAPHIC NOVEL
- Bethany C. Morrow, author of A SONG BELOW WATER and SO MANY BEGINNINGS
- J Elle, author of WINGS OF EBONY
- Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of BLOODPRINT
- Usman T. Malik, author of MIDNIGHT DOORWAYS
- Uzma Jalaluddin, author of AYESHA AT LAST
- N. H. Senzai, author of SHOOTING KABUL
- Tasha Suri, author of THE JASMINE THRONE
- Anna Smith Spark, author of THE COURT OF BROKEN KNIVES
- Lauren Blackwood, author of WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS
- Hannah Whitten, author of FOR THE WOLF
- Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, author of YOUR NAME IS A SONG and ONCE UPON AN EID
- Intisar Khanani, author of THORN
- June Hur, author of THE SILENCE OF BONES
- Susannah Aziz, author of HALAL HOT DOG
- Ava Reid, author of THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN
- Aamna Qureshi, author of THE LADY OR THE LION
- Jessica & Jacinta, authors of LUNAR BOY
- Ciannon Smart, author of WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD
- Mike Brooks, author of THE BLACK COAST
- Vaishnavi Patel, author of KAIKEYI
- N.E. Davenport, author of THE BLOOD TRIALS
- S.B. Divya, author of MACHINEHOOD
- Alechia Dow, author of THE SOUND OF STARS
- Saara El-Arifi, author of THE FINAL STRIFE
- EK Johnston, author of AHSOKA
- Claire Holroyde, author of THE EFFORT
- Farah Naz Rishi, author of HOPE YOU GET THIS MESSAGE
- M.O. Yuksel, author of IN MY MOSQUE
- Linden A. Lewis, author of THE FIRST SISTER
- Deborah Falaye, author of BLOOD SCION
- Kat Howard, author of AN UNKINDNESS OF MAGICIANS
- Greta Kelly, author of THE FROZEN CROWN
- George Jreije, author of SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA
- M.T. Khan, author of NURA AND THE IMMORTAL PALACE
- Josh Monken, host of CONTRIBUTE A VERSE podcast
- J. Austin Yoshino, FRESH PULP MAGAZINE
- Liselle Sambury, author of BLOOD LIKE MAGIC
- London Shah, author of THE LIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD
- Nafiza Azad, author of THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME
- Natasha Khan Kazi, author of MOON’S RAMADAN
- Rowenna Miller, author of THE UNRAVELED KINGDOM series
- Tracy Banghart, author of GRACE AND FURY
- Kat Dunn, author of DANGEROUS REMEDY
- Victor Manibo, author of THE SLEEPLESS
- Chelsea Abdullah, author of THE STARDUST THIEF
- Tej Turner, author of BLOODSWORN and THE JANUS CYCLE
- Tanvi Berwah, author of MONSTERS BORN AND MADE
- Shirin Shamsi, author of THE GIRL WHO DARED
- Joanne Hall, author of THE ART OF FORGETTING
- SHENG Xue, Chinese-Canadian author, poet, and human rights activist
- World Uyghur Congress
- Uyghur Human Rights Project
- Uyghur Revival Association
- The Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project
- Uyghur Times
- Justice for All Canada
- Stop Uyghur Genocide Canada
- International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China
- Boston Uyghur Association
- Canadian In Support of Refugees In Dire Need
- NG Medical PC
- Uyghur Hjelp Project
- Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need