The Uighur version of what’s happening in East Turkistan (Xinjiang) - opinion

East Turkistan is not an internal matter for China.

 DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST in front of the US State Department, urging the international community to take action against China’s treatment of the Uighur people in East Turkistan. (photo credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)
DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST in front of the US State Department, urging the international community to take action against China’s treatment of the Uighur people in East Turkistan.
(photo credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)

On May 3, The Jerusalem Post published an opinion editorial article written by China’s ambassador, which argued that the Chinese government was not engaging in genocide but rather, in “vocational education and training” programs as part of “anti-terrorism” efforts in East Turkistan. In reality, what the Chinese government is doing is waging a systematic campaign of colonization, genocide and occupation under the false pretext of so-called anti-terrorism, anti-extremism and anti-separatism.

At present, China’s ongoing brutal atrocities against Uighurs and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan have been officially recognized as genocide by the US government and the parliaments of Canada, Belgium, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands and the UK. 

In 2021, Israel also voted in the UN Human Rights Council to condemn China’s atrocities against Uighurs/Turkic peoples in East Turkistan.

East Turkistan’s affairs are not China’s so-called internal affairs as it is an occupied country. East Turkistan-related issues are not about so-called “counter terrorism,” “de-radicalization” and “anti-separatism” but about external self-determination, de-colonization and a nation striving to maintain and ensure its existence. 

The people of East Turkistan historically have resisted Chinese occupation and striven to restore their independence. China’s ongoing genocide is aimed at eradicating the Uighur and other Turkic peoples and ensuring that East Turkistan becomes an “inseparable part of China.”

A Chinese pagoda overlooks the old city in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 4, 2021. (credit:  REUTERS/THOMAS PETER)A Chinese pagoda overlooks the old city in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 4, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/THOMAS PETER)

The Chinese government falsely claims East Turkistan, which China calls Xinjiang, has been a part of China “since ancient times.” Historical records show that China’s claims are nothing but baseless lies. Despite over 2,000 years of contact with China, East Turkistan was never a part of China and the people of East Turkistan have a long history of independence. In 1884, the Manchu Qing Dynasty invaded and occupied East Turkistan and formally annexed into as “Xinjiang,” meaning “new territory” or “the colony” in Mandarin.

During the early 20th century, the people of East Turkistan, including Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Tatars, Mongols and even Sibe (Manchus) rose up against Chinese colonial occupation and declared independence as the East Turkistan Republic in November 12, 1933, and once more in November 12, 1944. On October 13, 1949, the People’s Republic of China invaded East Turkistan and overthrew the independent East Turkistan Republic on December 22, 1949. Despite China officially calling its occupation of East Turkistan “the peaceful liberation of Xinjiang,” Chinese media reported that over 150,000 “enemies of China” had been eliminated during the first five years of occupation.

At the time of Chinese occupation in late 1949, the Chinese made up less than 5% of East Turkistan’s population compared with over 90% Uighur and other Turkic peoples including Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. As a result of China’s decades-long campaign of colonization and occupation, the demography of East Turkistan has shifted to where the Chinese colonists comprise over 40% of the population as of 2022 and Turkic peoples make up around 55%.

Following the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Chinese Government manipulated the Global War on Terror, using the fact that majority of the Turkic peoples of East Turkistan are Muslims, to label their struggle for freedom and external self-determination as “separatism,” their religious piety as “extremism,” and all resistance, including peaceful protests, against Chinese occupation and colonization as “terrorism.”

With the rise of Xi Jinping and the public declaration to “achieve Chinese national rejuvenation,” like that of Hitler and the Nazis, in 2014 the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party elevated its atrocities against the Turkic peoples of East Turkistan to a new level. Starting in May 2014 under the so-called “People’s War,” the Chinese government sent over 3 millions Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Turkic peoples to “re-education” concentration camps where they were subject to forced indoctrination, torture, slave labor, organ harvesting, systematic rape, and forced sterilization. There have also been numerous credible reports of crematoria being built in the Muslim majority country of East Turkistan.

The Chinese government claims it has brought “development and modernization” to East Turkistan, when in reality it has brought nothing but colonization, genocide and occupation which has only benefited the Chinese colonists. Uighurs and other Turkic peoples have been marginalized and driven into poverty and millions of Uighurs and other Turkic people are currently being used as slave or forced labor by Chinese companies.

To date, the Chinese government has refused to allow international bodies to conduct an unfettered investigation into its crimes in East Turkistan. The plight of East Turkistan and its people is in many ways synonymous to the plight of Jews and their struggle to restore their rightful independence in Israel.

The writer is the prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE).