Uyghur Perspective: Understanding Chinese colonialism
Understanding Chinese colonialism
Oppression is painful, and not being able to express it increases the pain 10-fold. This level of pain is something that Uighurs, Tibetans, and Mongolians understand all too well.
A question often posed to Uyghurs in the international arena is: “You say you are facing genocide, but why don’t we see corpses, like in Rwanda and in Bosnia?”
If you were a Uyghur, what would you say?
What if you replied: “The source of the problem is your lack of vision. It’s an indication of your weakness and China’s strength, and it is not a matter of our sincerity.”
Such a harsh response would sadden friends who are paying attention to the Uyghur situation. To truly answer the question, one should say: “All the killers in the world are hiding their actions. The genocide in Rwanda was committed by the Hutu, who could not firmly establish domination in their own country. The genocide in Bosnia was committed by the successor to fallen Yugoslavia. China, which has the world’s most advanced technology and communications, and a greater ability to hide its crimes and silence others, was able to hide the corpses.”
Naturally, this answer might be considered a lecture on theory, but it does not go beyond logic.
Another question is: “We have watched the children of refugees from Syria die in the seas and Rohingya refugees were dying on their journey to escape — you do not have such tragedies. How can we believe in a Uyghur genocide?”
One could answer: “The Rohingya Muslims have the opportunity and ability to flee their communities and country, but Uighurs must report to the police station to visit their neighbor’s house.”
Such a statement would only make sense to those who have lived under Chinese rule.
What can you say to your religious brethren — those who you expect to help you — when they say: “We have witnessed that you have your own Uyghur language TV channel and there is Uighur music playing from restaurants in your cities — no one complains about the government and it looks like you are happier than other Muslims in the world.”
An answer might be that the Uyghur channel is a tool of language that has survived, but this is not due to mercy from the government. This channel is waiting in line to be destroyed, along with other cultural formats.
You might also ask: “Have you been able to conduct an independent investigation? Uighurs are being sentenced to 10 years in prison for receiving phone calls from blacklisted people in their neighborhood. Is it possible for them to share their feelings with a foreigner?”
It should be clear to any independent thinker what the fate of local people in this colonial land and under a one-party regime with a dictatorial leadership would be.
As Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has acknowledged, in this case, the problem is not the lack of vision, ignorance or misunderstanding, but rather the need for (or love of) China’s money.
Historically, Uighur leaders have used unique ways to explain this unprecedented oppression. For example, Ehmetjan Qasimi, one of the leaders of the second East Turkestan Republic, established in 1944, said: “The saddest part of our destiny is that we have become slaves of the slaves,” because East Turkestan was occupied by the Manchu in 1876, and governed by Han Chinese soldiers and staff.
Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) put an end to Manchurian rule (the Qing Dynasty) but inherited an empire. With that statement, Qasimi emphasized that the Chinese, who had been living under Manchu rule for 300 years, have a weak sense of human rights and freedoms, and that when it comes to power in East Turkestan, China is more brutal than its predecessors.
Comparing Chinese colonialism to European colonialism, Abdurehim Isa, other Uyghur statesmen of the East Turkestan Republic, said: “The motivation of European colonialism was looking for a natural resource for its needs for industrial development, but the motivation of Chinese colonialism was looking to shelter its poor population.”
He continued with an extremely rude expression which can be softened to: “It is better to live in a British kennel than a Chinese palace.”
As a Muslim leader, he is not longing to be British, he is expressing what it is like to be part of China.
Today, Uyghur leader Rabiye Qadir has warned nations interested in China’s new colonial policy under the One Belt, One Road initiative: “In the world, the goal of all colonists is to be self-sufficient, self-reinforcing and the slogans are basically the same: ‘Unification’ or ‘Exploration.’ The measures are the same as well: to hold cattle (livestock) in your pasture, to make soup, to eat the meat of the soup himself and to leave the bones to you. But Chinese colonialism is much different. He eats the meat, bones, and soup, with nothing left for you. When he gets stronger, he starts eating you and your cattle together. The decades-long plundering with the brand “Great Western Development Project” in East Turkistan and the ongoing Uyghur genocide is nothing more than a scene characteristic of Chinese colonialism.”
Kok Bayraq is a Uyghur American.