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Kök Bayraq has become a symbol of the East Turkestan independence movement.
Kök Bayraq has become a symbol of the East Turkestan independence movement.
This emblem, featuring the basmalah-stylized tughra (calligraphic monogram), is sometimes used alongside the flag above.
This emblem, featuring the basmalah-stylized tughra (calligraphic monogram), is sometimes used alongside the flag above.

The East Turkestan independence movement (Uighur: شەرقىي تۈركىستان مۇستەقىللىق ھەرىكىتى; Chinese: 东突厥斯坦独立运动) is a political movement that seeks the independence of East Turkestan, a large and sparsely-populated region in northwest China, as a homeland for the Uyghur people. The region is currently administered as a province-level subdivision of the People's Republic of China (PRC), under the official name Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Within the movement, there is widespread support for the region to be renamed, since "Xinjiang" (meaning "new frontier" in Chinese) is seen by independence activists as a colonial name. "East Turkestan" is the best-known proposed name. "Uyghurstan" is another well-known proposed name.

Large parts of Xinjiang were under intermittent control of the Chinese, starting roughly 2,000 years ago during the Han dynasty. In 101 BC, the army of the Han Dynasty began to hoard fields in wheel platforms, canals, and ploughs.[citation needed][incomprehensible] Each cantonment point became the initial distribution area for the Han people after entering Xinjiang. After the establishment of the Western Regions' capital Hufu in 60 BC, Han people entered Xinjiang continuously.[citation needed] The Tang dynasty also controlled the Western Regions until it was lost in the 8th century, and direct control of the region would not resume until the Qing dynasty a thousand years later.

Xinjiang fell under the rule of the Qing dynasty in the 1750s. 1759 was the year of the establishment of the original form of the modern-day administrative region. Xinjiang was subsequently inherited by the Republic of China (ROC), which succeeded the Qing dynasty after the 1911 Revolution, and then by the PRC, which mostly succeeded the ROC after the Chinese Communist Revolution (1949), although Taiwan has remained under ROC rule until the present day. Throughout Qing and ROC rule, there were several periods of brief de facto independence for either the entire region of Xinjiang or parts of it, as well as foreign occupation and warlord governance. The PRC incorporation of Xinjiang occurred soon after the regime was established in 1949, and since then, Xinjiang has remained a region of China. The PRC claims that Xinjiang has been part of China for over 2,000 years, though evidence for this claim is scant. Historically, Xinjiang has constituted an independent "East Turkestan", though various non-Chinese regimes controlled the region at times prior to the 1750s. Xinjiang has been a hotbed of ethnic and religious conflict throughout much of the period that it has been governed by successive Chinese regimes.

The Chinese government considers all support for the East Turkestan independence movement to fall under the definitions of "terrorism, extremism, and separatism".[1] The East Turkestan independence movement is supported by both militant Islamic extremist groups which have been designated terrorist organizations by several countries and the United Nations, such as the Turkistan Islamic Party,[2][3][4][5][6] as well as certain advocacy groups, such as the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement. It is officially represented by the East Turkistan Government in Exile based in Washington, D. C., which denounced militant and jihadist groups.[7] The US removed East Turkestan Islamic Movement from the terror list, saying there's "no credible evidence" that it still exists.[8]

Proposed name

Main article: East Turkestan

The most common name for Xinjiang used by independence advocates is "East Turkestan" (or "Uyghurstan"). There is no consensus among secessionists about whether to use "East Turkestan" or "Uyghurstan";[9] "East Turkestan" has the advantage of also being the name of two historical political entities in the region, while Uyghurstan appeals to modern ideas of ethnic self-determination. Uyghurstan is also a difference in emphasis in that it excludes more peoples in Xinjiang than just the Han,[10] but the "East Turkestan" movement[11] is still a Uyghur phenomenon. The name "East Turkestan" is not currently used in an official sense by most sovereign states and intergovernmental organizations. Another proposed alternative is "Yarkand" or "Yarkent," which harkens back to the Yarkent Khanate, a powerful Uyghur state in the 16th and 17th centuries.

History

See also: Xinjiang under Qing rule, Islam during the Qing dynasty, and Migration to Xinjiang

Yaqub Beg establishment of Kashgaria

See also: Dungan Revolt (1862–1877)

The Kokandi Yaqub Beg invaded Kashgar during the Dungan revolt to establish an independent state after taking advantage of local rebellions.

Also, during the Dungan revolt, the Taranchi Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang initially cooperated with the Dungans (Chinese Muslims) when they rose in revolt, but turned on them, because the Dungans, mindful of their Chinese heritage, attempted to subject the entire region to their rule. The Taranchi massacred the Dungans at Kuldja and drove the rest through the Talk pass into the Ili valley.[12]

Within the Republic of China (1912–1949)

The Second East Turkestan Republic was a short-lived Soviet-backed unrecognized republic in northern Xinjiang.
The Second East Turkestan Republic was a short-lived Soviet-backed unrecognized republic in northern Xinjiang.

After the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the region became largely free of the control of the government of Republic of China (ROC). An early attempt at East Turkestan independence was the establishment of the short-lived "First East Turkestan Republic" (aka "Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan"), which lasted between 1933 and 1934. This republic was formed following a rebellion in Kashgar against the ROC, which had been in the process of asserting control over Kashgar after two decades of Warlordism in the ROC. The Chinese Hui Muslim 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army) suppressed the First East Turkestan Republic following Chinese (ROC) victories at the Battle of Kashgar (1933) and Battle of Kashgar (1934).

During the later years of China under the ROC, which was engaged against the Chinese Communists in the context of the Chinese Civil War, the Soviet Union under leader Joseph Stalin invaded Xinjiang and assisted a local rebellion at Ili (Yining City). The rebellion led to the establishment of the Second East Turkistan Republic (1944–1949), which existed in three northern districts (Ili, Tarbaghatai, Altai) of Xinjiang with secret aid from the Soviet Union. After emerging victorious at the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the People's Liberation Army annexed Xinjiang from the ROC and the Second East Turkestan Republic.

Within the People's Republic of China (1949–present)

Since the Chinese economic reform from the late 1970s exacerbated uneven regional development, while Uyghurs have migrated to urbanizing Xinjiang cities, some Hans have also migrated to Xinjiang for independent economic advancement. Increased ethnic contact and labor competition coincided with Uyghur separatist terrorism from the 1990s, such as the 1997 Ürümqi bus bombings.[13]

A police roundup of suspected separatists during Ramadan resulted in large demonstrations that turned violent in February 1997 in an episode known as the Ghulja Incident that led to at least 9 deaths.[14] The Ürümqi bus bombings of 25 February 1997, perhaps a response to the crackdown that followed the Ghulja Incident, killed 9 and injured 68. Speaking on separatist violence, Erkin Alptekin, a former East Turkestan National Congress chairman and prominent Uyghur activist, said: "We must emphasize dialog and warn our youth against the use of violence because it delegitimizes our movement".[15]

Recent events

See also: Xinjiang conflict and Xinjiang internment camps

Despite much talk of separatism and terrorism in Xinjiang, especially after the 9-11 attacks in the United States and the US invasion of Afghanistan, the situation in Xinjiang was quiet from around 1998 to mid-2006. In 2005, Uygur author Nurmemet Yasin was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for inciting separatism following his publication of an allegorical short story, "The Blue Pigeon".[16] Rebiya Kadeer claimed that Turkey is hampered from interfering with the Uyghurs because it recognizes that the Kurdish-Turkish conflict may receive interference from China in retaliation.[17]

Views on independence

Arguments in favor of independence

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Several proponents of independence state that the Uyghurs have had a defined history in Xinjiang for "over 4000 years",[18] a claim which has neither been proven nor disproven[citation needed]. There are historical arguments for the independence of Xinjiang, such as the argument that the People's Republic of China is a colonial occupier of Xinjiang, rather than it naturally being an integral part of the sovereign state which traditionally includes Xinjiang. Evidence for this argument usually consists of claims that the PRC is not the legitimate successor state to either the ROC (now based in Taiwan) or the previous imperial dynasty of China, which is the Qing dynasty, or that previous regimes were also illegitimate.[19]

Arguments against independence

The Government of China is strongly opposed to the idea of Xinjiang (East Turkestan) independence and its supporters are subject to harsh criminal penalties. China officially claims that Xinjiang has been part of China since the Han dynasty of China (220 BC - AD 206) established a Protectorate of the Western Regions in 60 BC.[20] China claims that Xinjiang has always belonged to China even at times when it was occupied by several other countries. Historically, various Chinese governments have described invasions of Xinjiang as a sort of "reconquest" of previously lost territories ever since the Han and Tang dynasties.

Some Uyghur nationalist historians such as Turghun Almas claim that Uyghurs were distinct and independent from Chinese for 6000 years, and that all other ethnic groups are later immigrants to Xinjiang.[21] Records show that military colonies (tuntian) and commanderies (duhufu) were set up by the Han Dynasty to control Xinjiang, while the Tang Dynasty (618–907) also controlled much of Xinjiang until the An Lushan rebellion.[22] Chinese historians refute Uyghur nationalist claims by pointing out the 2000-year history of Han settlement in Xinjiang, documenting the history of Mongol, Kazakh, Uzbek, Manchu, Hui, Xibo indigenes in Xinjiang, and by emphasizing the relatively late "westward migration" of the Huigu (equated with "Uyghur" by the PRC government) people from Mongolia the 9th century.[21] The name "Uyghur" was associated with a Buddhist people in the Tarim Basin in the 9th century, but completely disappeared by the 15th century, until it was revived by the Soviet Union in the 20th century.[23]

View of various Chinese governments

The government of the People's Republic of China considers all support for the East Turkestan independence movement to fall under the definitions of "terrorism, extremism, and separatism".[1] Xinjiang has made great economic strides, building up its infrastructure, improving its education system and increasing the average life expectancy.[24]

The Republic of China government, which ruled mainland China from 1912 to 1949 and now controls Taiwan has upheld the official position that Xinjiang was a part of China and that it rejects East Turkestan independence movement.[25] From 1949 to 1992, the ROC operated the Xinjiang Provincial Government Office in Taipei. All affairs are handled by the Mainland Affairs Council.

In a 2014 speech, CCP general secretary Xi Jinping argued that the dissolution of the Soviet Union demonstrated that economic development alone would not prevent separatism in Xinjiang. He elaborated “In recent years, Xinjiang has grown very quickly and the standard of living has consistently risen, but even so, ethnic separatism and terrorist violence have still been on the rise. This goes to show that economic development does not automatically bring lasting order and security.”[26]

In 2020, the Chinese government published a White Paper on Employment and Labor Rights in Xinjiang, which had been circulated via Xinhua, the Global Times and other public news channels. In this paper, the Chinese Communist Party and government maintain the view that its policies in Xinjiang are directed to realize the (constitutional) mandate to provide employment and the facilitation of employment as the most fundamental project for ensuring and improving people's wellbeing.[27]

Right to self-determination

While the earliest ROC constitutional documents during the Beiyang era already claim Xinjiang as part of China, Chinese political leaders also acknowledged the principle of self-determination. For example, at a party conference in 1924, Kuomintang leader Sun Yat-sen issued a statement calling for the right of self-determination of all Chinese ethnic groups: "The Kuomintang can state with solemnity that it recognizes the right of self-determination of all national minorities in China and it will organize a free and united Chinese republic."[28]

In 1931, the CCP had issued a constitution for the short-lived Chinese Soviet Republic in Jiangxi which states that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, "may either join the Union of Chinese Soviets or secede from it."[29][30][31] It is notable that China was in a state of civil war at the time against the Nationalist government and that the "Chinese Soviets" only represents a faction. Saying that Xinjiang may secede from the "Chinese Soviets" does not mean that it can secede from China. The quote above is merely a statement of Uyghurs' freedom to choose their political orientation. Despite declaring its first independence in 1933, the possibility of full secession was then rejected by Mao Zedong in 1938 who stated that: "They must have the right to self-determination and at the same time they should continue to unite with the Chinese people to form one nation".[31] This policy was codified in PRC's first constitution issued in 1954 which, in Article 3, reaffirmed China as a "single multi-national state," while the "national autonomous areas are inalienable parts".[31] The Chinese government insists that the United Nations documents, which states the principle of self-determination, provided that the principle shall not be abused in disrupting territorial integrity: "Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations...."[32]

Government in Exile

ETGIE members at Capitol Hill on 14 September 2004
ETGIE members at Capitol Hill on 14 September 2004

One of the most seminal events of the East Turkestan independence movement was the establishment of the East Turkistan Government-in-Exile by a group of Uyghur, Kazakh, and Uzbek East Turkistani independence activists from across the globe in Washington D.C. on 14 September 2004.[7] The East Turkistan Government in Exile was set up as a parliamentary government in exile and was initially led by Ahmet Igemberdi and Anwar Yusuf Turani[33] The East Turkistan Government in Exile is most active and leading official body advocating for East Turkistan's independence.

Organizations

In general, the wide variety of groups who seek independence can be distinguished as either civil ones excluding violence, or militant ones that do not rule out violence. Other difference are in the type of government they advocate and the role they believe an independent East Turkestan should play in international affairs.

Civil organizations

Militant organizations

Most militant organizations have been labeled terrorist organizations by the PRC, and some other governments as well. For example, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM, also Turkistan Islamic Party), which has claimed responsibility for attacks in Xinjiang, has been identified as a terrorist organization by the governments of China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Turkey and, until October 2020, the United States,[34] as well as the United Nations.[35][2][36]

Historical support

Historically, organizations which have supported the East Turkestan independence movement include:

Soviet Union

Main articles: Ili Rebellion, Second East Turkestan Republic, and Xinjiang conflict

The Soviet Union supported the Uyghur Second East Turkestan Republic in the Ili Rebellion against the Republic of China. According to her autobiography, Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Epic Struggle for Peace with China, Rebiya Kadeer's father served with pro-Soviet Uyghur rebels under the Second East Turkestan Republic in the Ili Rebellion (Three Province Rebellion) in 1944–1946, using Soviet assistance and aid to fight the Republic of China government under Chiang Kai-shek.[39] Kadeer and her family were close friends with White Russian exiles living in Xinjiang and Kadeer recalled that many Uyghurs thought Russian culture was "more advanced" than that of the Uyghurs and they "respected" the Russians a lot.[40]

Many of the Turkic peoples of the Ili region of Xinjiang had close cultural, political, and economic ties with Russia and then the Soviet Union. Many of them were educated in the Soviet Union and a community of Russian settlers lived in the region. As a result, many of the Turkic rebels fled to the Soviet Union and obtained Soviet assistance in creating the Sinkiang Turkic People's Liberation Committee (STPNLC) in 1943 to revolt against Kuomintang rule during the Ili Rebellion.[41] The pro-Soviet Uyghur who later became leader of the revolt and the Second East Turkestan Republic, Ehmetjan Qasim, was Soviet educated and described as "Stalin's man".[42]

The Soviet Union incited separatist activities in Xinjiang through propaganda, encouraging Kazakhs to flee to the Soviet Union and attacking China. China responded by reinforcing the Xinjiang-Soviet border area specifically with Han Bingtuan militia and farmers.[43] The Soviet Union supported Uyghur nationalist propaganda and Uyghur separatist movements against China. The Soviet historians claimed that the Uyghur native land was Xinjiang and Uyghur nationalism was promoted by Soviet versions of history on turcology.[44] The East Turkestan People's Party received support from the Soviet Union.[45][46][47] During the 1970s, the Soviets supported the URFET to fight the Chinese.[48]

See also

References

Citations

  1. ^ a b Hasan, Mehdi (15 September 2018). "Has China detained a million Uighur Muslims?". Al Jazeera (This is an interview published by the news channel Al Jazeera on the video-sharing website YouTube. The interview was conducted between the presenter of the show (named Mehdi Hasan), the chairman of the Uyghur Human Rights Project at the time (named Nury Turkel), and the vice president of the Center for China and Globalization at the time (named Victor Gao)). Archived from the original on 28 February 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2019. I know [what] the importance of law is in China. I really hope everyone respects the law. However, in Xinjiang, the major threat we face is terrorism and extremism and separatism, and I think the authorities have the right to ensure that innocent people are not harmed and that extreme versions of religions of all kinds are not penetrating through the population, and then people cannot misuse religion as an excuse to stir up trouble, to destabilize, and to bring the society to a halt. And I think the people are justified to that.
  2. ^ a b "Governance Asia-Pacific Watch". United Nations. April 2007. Archived from the original on 17 July 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2007.
  3. ^ "هؤلاء انغماسيو أردوغان الذين يستوردهم من الصين - عربي أونلاين". 3arabionline.com. 31 January 2017. Archived from the original on 14 August 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  4. ^ "Turkey lists "E. Turkestan Islamic Movement" as terrorists - People's Daily Online". En.people.cn. 3 August 2017. Archived from the original on 7 August 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  5. ^ Martina, Michael; Blanchard, Ben; Spring, Jake (20 July 2016). Ruwitch, John; Macfie, Nick (eds.). "Britain adds Chinese militant group to terror list". Reuters. Archived from the original on 14 August 2017.
  6. ^ "U.S.Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List" Archived 3 July 2019 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved on 29 July 2014).
  7. ^ a b "About the ETGE". East Turkistan Government in Exile. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  8. ^ DW, News (7 November 2020). "US removes separatist group condemned by China from terror list". dw.com. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  9. ^ Bellér-Hann, Ildikó (2008). "Place and People". Community Matters in Xinjiang, 1880-1949: Towards a Historical Anthropology of the Uyghur. Brill. pp. 35–38, 44–45.
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  14. ^ "China: Human Rights Concerns in Xinjiang". Human Rights Watch Backgrounder. Human Rights Watch. 17 October 2001. Archived from the original on 12 November 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
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  16. ^ McDonald, Hamish (12 November 2005). "China battles to convince terror sceptics". The Age. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014.
  17. ^ Kadeer 2009, p. 273.
  18. ^ "Who are the Uyghurs?". East Turkestan Australian Association. Archived from the original on 1 July 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  19. ^ "East Turkestan; Brief History". World Uyghur Congress. 29 September 2016. Archived from the original on 30 July 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  20. ^ "About Xinjiang". Sinkiang China Government Official Website. Archived from the original on 3 June 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  21. ^ a b Bovingdon 2010, pp. 25, 30–31.
  22. ^ Bovingdon 2010, pp. 25–26.
  23. ^ Bovingdon 2010, p. 28.
  24. ^ China White Paper on Xinjiang 26 May 2004
  25. ^ Page 52, Ismail, Mohammed Sa'id, and Mohammed Aziz Ismail. Moslems in the Soviet Union and China. Translated by U.S. Government, Joint Publications Service. Tehran, Iran: Privately printed pamphlet, published as vol. 1, 1960 (Hejira 1380); translation printed in Washington: JPRS 3936, September 19, 1960.
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  27. ^ Justifying Forced Labor in Xinjiang? A Review of the White Paper "Employment and Labor Rights in Xinjiang". Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344338157_Justifying_Forced_Labor_in_Xinjiang_A_Review_of_the_White_Paper_Employment_and_Labor_Rights_in_Xinjiang [accessed 18 Nov 2020]
  28. ^ Quoted from National and Minority Policies, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science: Report of China 277, 1951, pp148-149
  29. ^ "China, the Uyghurs and the left • International Socialism". 23 October 2021.
  30. ^ Brandt, C., Schwartz, B. and Fairbank, John K. (ed.), A Documentary History of Chinese Communism, 1960, pp223-224
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  32. ^ United Nations Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples
  33. ^ "China Protests Establishment of Uighur Government-in-Exile in Washington – 2004-09-21". Voice of America. 29 October 2009.
  34. ^ Lipes, Joshua (5 November 2020). "US Drops ETIM From Terror List, Weakening China's Pretext For Xinjiang Crackdown". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
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  38. ^ Eastern Turkistan Liberation Organization Archived 27 January 2006 at the Wayback Machine MIPT Terror Knowledge Base
  39. ^ Kadeer 2009, p. 9.
  40. ^ Kadeer 2009, p. 13.
  41. ^ Forbes 1986, p. 173.
  42. ^ Forbes 1986, p. 174.
  43. ^ Starr 2004, p. 138.
  44. ^ Bellér-Hann 2007, p. 37.
  45. ^ Dillon (2003), p. 57.
  46. ^ Clarke (2011), p. 69.
  47. ^ Nathan & Scobell (2013), p. 278.
  48. ^ Reed & Raschke (2010), p. 37.

Sources

  •  This article incorporates text from Accounts and papers of the House of Commons, a publication from 1871, now in the public domain in the United States.

Further reading