A young Uyghur-Australian chiropractor is running for a seat in Australia’s Parliament in part to address China’s threats to the continent and to Uyghurs in Xinjiang and elsewhere in the world.
Intezar Elham, 28, told RFA that she decided in October 2021 to run in the country’s May 2022 election after she was invited to become a candidate by the newly formed Drew Pavlou Democratic Alliance, a small party that promotes human rights in China.
On her website, Elham says she is the first and youngest Uyghur-Australian Muslim to run for parliament.
Elham said she wanted to serve as a voice for Uyghurs in Australian politics. She attended a demonstration on March 30 in front of the Chinese consulate in Adelaide in southern Australia.
In a speech there, Elham noted that Australians are now waking up to the reality that Uyghurs have faced for decades. She also described her determination to run for office because of what she said is the ruling Liberal Party’s failure to be tough on China.
“But even if we don’t win — our goal is bigger than that,” she said at the gathering. “My goal is to shift the national conversation and debate on major issues like the threat the Chinese government poses to this country and the world.”
Elham spoke of her admiration for late Australian Sen. Kimberley Kitching, an Australian Labor Party MP, lawyer and trade unionist who died of a heart attack on March 10.
Kitching was “a staunch advocate for Uyghurs cause in Parliament and around the world, standing up to China having founded the Inter-Parliamentary Group on China and was the main politician pushing for an Australian Magnitsky Act,” Elham said, referring to an act passed by
Australian Parliament in December 2021 to create a legal framework for sanctions.
“Kimberley’s legacy is a world where countries like this one stand up for those who need us, and for that she has the thanks of Uyghurs here and around the world,” she said.
Elham, who goes by the nickname Inty, says on her website that she never saw herself entering politics.
“But because my grandparents fled the brutality of the authoritarian Chinese government, I cannot sit by and watch the Chinese Communist Party corrupt Australia and our democracy,” she said.
“We can see this influence for example, in the imposing Chinese consulate in Joslin built without consultation with the community and spying on us,” she said, referring to the consulate, which opened in March 2021 in an area containing a large number of Uyghurs and near a Uyghur language school. “We must stand up.”
Dilzat, a Uyghur intellectual who lives in Adelaide and supports Elham’s campaign, said Uyghurs around the world are pleased that the aspiring politician who was born and raised in Australia is fighting on behalf of Uyghurs in China.
“What she made public to the media and the world there at the demonstration in front of the consulate was her political platform, what she’s fighting against, who is standing behind her,” he said. “This event was a formal opening ceremony of sorts.”
Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.