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CAN WE EXPECT HUMANITY FROM HAN CHINESE SETTLERS?

| by Rukiye Turdush |

People have wondered a great deal about why Chinese people in East Turkistan are always so supportive of their government’s genocidal policies against native Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims in the region. Some Uyghur activists continue to appeal to their humanity, charity and morality to gain support against the Chinese government. Before expecting morality we need to understand the relationship between the Han Chinese and Uyghurs in East Turkistan and who created this relationship. There are many policies and practices including Chinese government indoctrination, nationalism, propaganda and the impact of Chinese culture itself that have contributed to negative perceptions of the Uyghurs by the Chinese.  However, there are also fundamental insights that are very simple and very real, to which we need to draw attention, based around the colonial-type relationships which exist between invaders and the invaded.

Colonial relationships have been well analyzed in the rest of the world, but China’s colonialism is ignored as if the relationship between China and East Turkistan is only China’s domestic issue, based on the extent of the Manchurian Empire or Qing, as well as the Mongol Yuan Empires, under the pretence that this region is not a new colony of Han China, as if the relationship between Han Chinese settlers and Uyghurs in the region is somehow not colonial in nature. However, if we analyze the relationship through the colonial lens, then the morality of the Han invaders remains unexamined by the majority world nations, who have effectively granted the communists a “free hand” in their tacit, unquestioning support for the idea of Tarim and Jungaria as historically Han provinces claimable by Beijing.

Not only must we analyze how the mentioned Chinese government policies create the social conditions for eradicating colonized Uyghurs and other muslim ethnicities, we also need to analyze how these polices are designed to enact a colonial relationship between Han Chinese colonizers and Uyghurs in East Turkistan. A confusing factor for Europeans in the identification of colonization in East Turkistan has been that while the European style of colonization focused on overseas invasion, Eurasian imperialism has traditionally focused on adjacent territories.

The Chinese government has educated the whole of China with a distorted history of East Turkistan by propagandizing that East Turkistan is an inseparable part of China. None of the Chinese history textbooks talk about the history of an independent East Turkistan. Ethnic Han Chinese and young generations of Uyghurs have had no chance to learn anything about how the Uyghurs had a very civilized kingdom called Qaraqhanid [1] as China claims East Turkistan since China’s Han dynasty. In fact, the Han dynasty only  captured the Turpan, a minute portion of the vast countries of Tarim and Jungaria, for a short period in 120BCE. The fact that the Han Chinese nation state were never able to rule East Turkistan until 1949 [2] is completely absent from the Chinese propaganda narrative. Also absent are any references about the people of East Turkistan defeating the Manchu empire and regaining their independence in 1864, called the  “yette sheher state”, before the Manchurian Empire’s second invasion in 1884 [3] Even the recent political history of the Uyghurs during World War Two has been effectively distorted in China’s official history. It is impossible to find any books or historical documents in China about how the Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims in East Turkistan established Islamic East Turkistan Republic as an independent republic in 1933 and the East Turkistan Republic in 1944 [4] The second East Turkistan republic was in existence for six years before the establishment of the Chinese communist nation state and Chinese national identity.

Only elderly Uyghurs who witnessed the East Turkistan republic can whisper to their children of how the People’s Republic of China hatched a plan with Stalin and invaded East Turkistan in 1949. [5] Ironically,  the territory of East Turkistan was recognized by the United Nations as Chinese territory during the decolonization period at that time, despite China’s invasion. It gave huge legal assurance to China to deny the colonization of the East Turkestan Republic. However, the real owners of East Turkistan, the Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims, are a challenge to China’s total satisfaction with its assertion that East Turkistan is an inseparable part of China. This is because the people of East Turkistan are of a different race, culture, and religion, and have a different ideology from the ethnic Han Chinese. Specifically, it is the religion of Islam and the visibly different appearance of Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims that sharply differentiate them from the ethnic Han Chinese, which has resulted in China’s intense hatred and strategic attack against Islam in the region.  The Great Wall, China’s natural and logical boundary with East Turkistan is also visible evidence that Uyghur territory does not belong to the Chinese state. The Chinese government intends to eradicate Uyghurs and other ethnic nations in the region as a genocidal “final solution” for the relationship between invaders and the invaded. These intentions are actively supported by the Chinese people in East Turkistan as the Chinese government not only distorts or hides the history of East Turkistan, but also indoctrinates the people with Chinese government propaganda materials, text books, Chinese state media and political doctrine courses. Recent indoctrination in a new white paper [6] that was published by China’s State Council Information Office is very effective in on most Chinese people as it creates a false justification for their illegal occupation of East Turkistan.

Many Chinese professors and international Chinese students who have travelled to western countries and had a chance to read about China’s imperialist history and its invasions of East Turkistan, Tibet, and South Mongolia from other sources, angrily reject and ignore historical facts. There is no doubt that any Chinese nationals who believe in the concept of an independent East Turkistan quickly undermine their communist country’s national interest, so these cultural authorities condemn or deny any rights of the Uyghurs to their own country, as well as their internationally enshrined basic human rights.

Moreover, the territory has geostrategic significance for China as it is the main gate through central Asia to Europe, facilitating China’s expansion. Since Chinese president Xi Jin ping’s New Silk Road initiative, that emphasized the geostrategic value of East Turkistan, [7] Chinese people have vigorously supported all communist government policies in the region. For them, even the existence of the people of East Turkistan means losing the territory of East Turkistan.  For most Chinese, it is a matter of national pride to support everything that is for the Chinese national benefit, no matter how cruel. The geostrategic importance of East Turkistan in the New Silk Road Project has intensified Han Chinese nationalism and ambition to be a hegemonic power to the point that they are now prepared to support the extermination of the Uyghurs in a form of slow genocide. In this way the Chinese people are also the victims of the Chinese government´s distorted national-socialist education and have themselves been manipulated to become enemies of human rights and national liberty. At the same time, if these victims have vigorously supported the brutal policies of their government against the basic rights of the Uyghurs, it is because they benefit from it to some extent—assured by their status of territorial colonizer on behalf of Beijing.

For the last decade, the Chinese government has hijacked the impetus of the US´ Bush government’s “War on Terror” and labelled the peaceful oasis-dwelling Uyghurs, moderate traditional Muslims, as terrorists. The Chinese Communist Party has declared “Islam is a thought virus” and spread Islamophobia to create the necessary preconditions for its genocide against the Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims.  There is no doubt that such propaganda has been successful in its aim of cultivating hatred by Han Chinese toward the Uyghurs and other Muslims. Ironically, the Party didn’t create any hatred against China’s close Muslim allies, both China and its people didn’t bother to generate the illusion of any kind of threat from these Muslim countries under this pretext that Islam is a so-called “thought virus”. Let us suppose that there exist Chinese people who are sympathetic and not influenced by the distorted education of the Chinese government; would it take them long to recognise the injustices against the Uyghurs, and would it even be impossible? What would they think if they encountered the question of whether or not the independence of East Turkistan is the legitimate right of the people of East Turkistan? Why do even those Chinese democrats who come from mainland China and live in Western countries firmly reject the independence of East Turkistan, while Hong-Kongers and Taiwanese do not? I have asked those questions of many Chinese democrats. Their answers are very similar: “There is injustice against the Uyghurs because of the CCP, it has nothing to do with Chinese people; the Chinese people are victims of the CCP too; if you tried to be independent, there would be violence involved. That is why I don’t support it.” When I asked them, “Do you agree that the sovereignty of East Turkistan is the legitimate right of the people of East Turkistan?” or “What about peaceful independence?” they answered: “If the United Nations decides that the independence of East Turkistan is the legitimate right of the people of East Turkistan, I will agree; if not, I don’t.” However, it is very clear to them that the decision in the UN body must be made by the Security Council and that China holds a veto power in the council. Unlike those mainland Chinese democrats, our Taiwanese and Hong Kong supporters believe that Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims should be independent from Chinese colonization. The difference is obvious: they are not communist colonizers in East Turkistan acting out of self-interest.

We may complain about the Chinese people’s culture of obedience to their government, no matter whether this government is bad or good, arising from the traditional Chinese cultural value of filial piety that was based on strict principles of hierarchy, obligation, and obedience. [8] Obedience to the authorities may justify silence, but cannot justify their active support of an inhumane, internationally illegal policy against the Uyghurs.  Obedience alone does not create the Han Chinese national eagerness for dominating the Uyghurs.  The Chinese state has manipulated and blended obedient family culture with nationalism, historical distortion and pride in order to claim a position of Chinese greatness and overcoming its historical humiliation as a “weak” nation.[9]

Dominating the people of East Turkistan offered an opportunity for the Han to feel superior to others. American anthropologist Darren Byler interviewed his Han Chinese friends and asked their opinion about the suffering of the Uyghurs. Many of them, in fact, believed that dominating all aspects of Uyghur life was the only way to move forward with the project of the Chinese nation.[10] They have posted videos when they were appointed by their government to invasively sleep in Uyghur homes as a spy. Most of these videos show how much pride and pleasure they feel when dominating Uyghurs. These nationalistic behaviours are not only limited to Han Chinese invaders in East Turkistan itself, but are reported outside of China too; the answers of international Chinese students were shocking when a TR news journalist interviewed them last year at a Chinese students’ protest in Australia. These students firmly answered “yes” when the journalist asked them, “Do you think your government did the right thing when they jailed millions of people for practicing religion and preventing the freedom of speech?”[11]

Chinese national pride and national benefit, in conjunction with economic and geopolitical aspects of Chinese imperialism, enhance Chinese colonizers´ fundamental relationship to the colonized, a relationship that directly benefits Chinese settlers: jobs are guaranteed, careers are more rapid, and business more profitable. Chinese men are offered beautiful Uyghur girls whom they can dominate; if these girls resist, their entire family will be placed in concentration camps. In fact, many Uyghur women are coerced to into marrying the Han Chinese man in a bid to save theirselves, theirfamilies from the concentration camps. Chinese men will get a free house and 50 mous of land ( 33,325 square metres) if they marry an Uyghur woman and settle East Turkistan.[12] What a profitable condition! Everything is done for the welfare of the Chinese invaders; they believe they deserve the benefits as they have justified gaining these benefits by saying that the region somehow belongs to Han Chinese, and that all others should be subordinate to them.

China’s policies to promote and encourage Han Chinese settlers to colonize East Turkistan when combined with the direct economic benefits they receive shape their individual desire for superiority— paralyzing the Uyghurs into a position of inferiority.. Every little deprivation of the people of East Turkistan is the direct result of the Chinese invaders´ hunger for power. When Uyghurs lose their ability to resist, the Chinese invaders are filled with the joy of domination. When Uyghurs are not allowed to speak their own language, the Chinese invaders not only feel national pride but also feel personal satisfaction at the subordination of the natives. When Uyghurs are forced to disown Islam, they not only cheer and praise their government’s announcement: “Islam is a thought virus”, but are also  foolishly feel assured of their superior level of civilization. When they humiliate and degrade Uyghurs, each of them feel personal power over them.  When Uyghurs are tortured and forced to believe in the Chinese communist party, they believe their communist ideology is supreme, and that they are a truly just and honest people. When Uyghur children are forcibly removed from their Uyghur homes and sent to Chinese orphanage camps for Sinicization, they think the future belongs to the Han Chinese nation; when more than 3 million [13] Uyghurs are incarcerated in Chinese concentration camps, they think this fate is deserved.

There are so many factors involved in contributing to the vigorous Chinese settlers´support of their imperial communist government, and all of these factors result cumulatively in a fixed relationship between invaders and invaded. No matter how these Chinese invaders deny and lie or simply choose the way of will full ignorance, they cannot change historical facts.  As long as the Han settlers remain in East Turkistan, support its government’s brutal policy, and do not want to differentiate themselves from their autocratic government, expecting that they behave humanely towards the people of East Turkistan, and respect international human rights law, is most foolish thing in the world.

[1] Millward, J. (2020). Euroasian Crossroads. New York: Colombia University Press, p.52.

[2] Millward, J. (2020). Euroasian Crossroads. New York: Colombia University Press, p.24.

[3]  Bovingdon, G. (2004). Strangers in their own land. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Dissertation Services, p.32.

see also: Millward, J. (2020). Euroasian Crossroads. New York: Colombia University Press, p.123.

[4] Millward, J. (2020). Euroasian Crossroads. New York: Colombia University Press, pp.201-203,216

See also : Forbes, A. (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.82-90.

[5]Beson,L.(1990). The Ili Rebellion: Muslim Chalange to Chinese Authority in Xinjiang, 1944-1949. 1sth ed. M.E.Sharpe Publisher,P.10

[6] Chinadaily.com.cn. (2019). Full Text: Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang – Chinadaily.com.cn. [online] Available at: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201907/22/WS5d351a66a310d830564003f2.html  [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].

[7] Anna Hayes (2020) Interwoven ‘Destinies’: The Significance of Xinjiang to the China Dream, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Xi Jinping Legacy, Journal of Contemporary China, 29:121, 31-45, DOI: 10.1080/10670564.2019.1621528

[8] Teon, A. (2016). Filial Piety (孝) in Chinese Culture. [online] The Greater China Journal. Available at: https://china-journal.org/2016/03/14/filial-piety-in-chinese-culture/  [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020].

[9] HERNÁNDEZ, J. and Qin, A. (2018). How China’s Rulers Control Society: Opportunity, Nationalism, Fear. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/25/world/asia/china-freedoms-control.html  [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020].

[10] Darren Byler, P. (2020). Why Chinese civil servants are happy to occupy Uyghur homes in Xinjiang. [online] CNN. Available at: https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/09/opinions/uyghur-home-visit-opinion-intl/index.html  [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020].

[11] Watch: Are these the most deluded Chinese people in the world?. (2019).

Directed by A. Yemini. Melbourne: TR News.  Available at: https://www.tr.news/deluded-chinese-people/  [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020]

[12] De Ming, www.ntdtv.com. (2019). 新疆扩大汉化政策 汉人娶疆女可得50亩田及7万元现金.( Xinjiang’s policy of expanding the localization of Han people can get 50 acres of land and 70,000 yuan if they marry a Xinjiang woman) [online] Available at: https://www.ntdtv.com/gb/2019/10/30/a102696368.html  [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020].

[13] Stewart, P. (2019). China putting minority Muslims in ‘concentration camps,’ U.S. says. Reuters. [online] Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-concentrationcamps/china-putting-minority-muslims-in-concentration-camps-u-s-says-idUSKCN1S925K  [Accessed 27 Aug. 2019]

 

 

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