East Turkestan independence movement

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This flag (Kök Bayraq) has become a symbol of the East Turkestan independence movement.

The East Turkestan independence movement (ETIM) is a broad term that refers to advocates of an independent, self-governing East Turkestan in the region now known as Xinjiang, an autonomous region in the People's Republic of China.

Historical background[edit]

Prior to the 20th century, the cities of present-day Xinjiang, hosting Turkic ethnicities such as Uyghurs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and persophone Tadjiks, held little unified nationalistic identity. Identity in the region was heavily "oasis-based", that is, identity focused on the city, town and village level. Cross-border contact from Russia, Central Asia, India and China was significant in shaping each oasis' identity and cultural practices.[1]

Under Qing Dynasty and Republic of China rule, a largely Uyghur, but also multi-ethnic Turkic, based identity began to coalesce. A rebellion against Chinese rule led to the establishment of the short-lived First East Turkestan Republic or Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan (1933–1934), with secret aid from the Soviet Union (Russia used consistent effort to annex Chinese territory since the 17th century). Sheng Shicai, a secret member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, came into power after a military coup. He disobeyed the decree and order from the Chinese central government, but still ruled the region under the name of the Republic of China.

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

Sheng Shicai later became anti-Russian when he became aware of the Soviet's intent to control his government. He expelled Soviet advisors and executed many Han Communists. Joseph Stalin was very angry with his convert and dispatched troops to invade Xinjiang. The Soviet troops helped the rebellion at Ili (Yining City) during the Chinese civil war. The rebellion lead to the establishment of the Second East Turkistan Republic (1944–1949), which existed in three northern districts (Ili, Tarbaghatai, Altai) of Xinjiang province of the Republic of China.

After winning the Chinese civil war in 1949, the People's Liberation Army reasserted control of East Turkestan, ending its independence.

After the declarations of independence of the constituent republics of the area of West Turkestan (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) from the Soviet Union in 1991, calls for the liberation of East Turkestan from China began to surface again from many in the Turkic population.[citation needed]

Uyghurs[edit]

Those that use the term Uyghurstan tend to envision a state for the Uyghur people. Those groups that adopt this terminology tended to be allied with the Soviet Union while it still existed (Indeed, Russia incited and aided the rebellion in attempt to annex these regions in the future). Since then some of the leaders of these groups have remained in Russia, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, or have emigrated to Europe and North America. It is worth noting that none of these identities are exclusive. Some groups support more than one such orientation. It is common to support both an Islamic and Turkic orientation for Xinjiang, for example, the founders of independent Republic in Kashgar in 1933 used names Turkic Islamic Republic of East Turkestan and Eastern Turkestan Republic the same time.

Pan-Turkic Jadidists and East Turkestan Independence activists Muhammad Amin Bughra and Masud Sabri rejected the Soviets and Sheng Shicai's imposition of the name "Uyghur people" upon the Turkic people of Xinjiang. They wanted instead the name "Turkic ethnicity" (Chinese: 突厥族; pinyin: tūjué zú) to be applied to their people. Masud Sabri also viewed the Hui people as Muslim Han Chinese and separate from his own people.[2] The names "Türk" or "Türki" in particular were demanded by Bughra as the real name for his people. He slammed Sheng Shicai for his designation of Turkic Muslims into different ethnicities which could sow disunion among Turkic Muslims.[3]

Since 1995 the Chair of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization has been Erkin Alptekin, the son of the Uyghur leader Isa Yusuf Alptekin.

Kirghiz[edit]

Kirghiz are another Turkic Muslim group who have aspired for independence. They rebelled against the Xinjiang government in the Kirghiz rebellion, but were defeated by the Chinese Muslim Tao-yin Ma Shaowu. They joined the Uighurs to fight against the Chinese Muslim 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army) at the Battle of Kashgar (1933) and Battle of Kashgar (1934), under the First East Turkestan Republic but they were defeated.

Attempts at Independence[edit]

Yaqub Beg Revolts in East Turkestan against the Qing Dynasty[edit]

Yaqub Beg revolted against the Qing dynasty during the Dungan revolt to establish an independent state.

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 Talk pass to the Ili valley.[4]

First East Turkestan Republic[edit]

The first republic established by the Uighurs was short lived, the Uighur army was defeated by the Chinese Muslim 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army) which destroyed the Republic at the Battle of Kashgar (1933).

Second East Turkestan Republic[edit]

A Soviet backed state was created by Uighur rebels in northern Xinjiang. It was absorbed into the newly founded People's Republic of China in 1950.

Official Chinese position on ETIM[edit]

People's Republic of China[edit]

Republic of China (Taiwan)[edit]

The Republic of China's (Taiwan) ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chinese Muslim General Ma Bufang, in response to a request by a former Uyghur Mufti living in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Ahad Hamed for accommodations to be granted to Uyghurs living outside of China who held Republic of China passports, sent the following letter which rejected Abdul Ahad Hamed's demands and his usage of the term "East Turkestan", upholding the official position of the Republic of China (Taiwan) that Xinjiang was a part of China and that it did not recognize the East Turkestan Independence Movement.[5]

Dear Brother,
With all due respect to your previous position in the Government of Sinkiang and to the confidence placed in you by His Excellency the President of the Republic of China, I hope that you will refrain from using expressions which should not be used by one who occupied the position of a mufti. We are all serving our beloved country trying to do our best for our countrymen. I also hope that you will refrain from using the expression "The Turkestani Nation" which was the creation of one Abdul Qayyum Khan while he was living in Germany. We are working for the welfare of the true people of Sinkiang not for the Turkestanis living outside Sinkiang or the followers of Abdul Qayyum Khan.
Best regards,
Ambassador of Nationalist China in Saudi Arabia

[6]

Turkic nationalism[edit]

During the First East Turkestan Republic, the Turkic nationalist ideology of the Republic led to hostility between different Muslim ethnic groups. The Uyghurs and Kirghiz, who were both Turkic Muslim peoples, fought against the Chinese Muslims of southern Xinjiang and sought to expel them with the Han Chinese. This led several Chinese Muslim Generals like Ma Zhancang, Ma Fuyuan, and Ma Hushan to fight against the Uyghur attempts and independence.

The Chinese Muslim General Bai Chongxi wanted to settle disbanded Chinese soldiers in Xinjiang, which the Uyghurs opposed.[7]

Literature[edit]

Anti Tungan (Chinese Muslim) political graffiti was painted by Uighurs on Khotan's city gates.[8]

Revolution is an edifice built of many bricks
Each brick is an injustice
Blood is Mortar
Each wall is a mountain of sorrow
The foundation is most important
Alone, it must sustain the structure
Martyrdom is the Excellent Foundation!

Mustafa Ali, the Turkish advisor to the Uyghurs in the First East Turkestan Republic was an anti kemalist. Muhsin Çapanolu was also anti kemalist, and they both had Pan Turanist views. Mahmud Nadim Bay, another anti kemalist Turk, was also an advisor to the Uyghur separatists.[9][10]

Argument for East Turkestan independence[edit]

ETGIE members at Capitol Hill on 14 September 2004
Flags of Turkey and Eastern Turkestan at Doğu Türkistan Vakfı-Kültür Merkezi (Eastern Turkistan Foundation-Cultural Center) in Fatih district, Istanbul.

Many Uyghurs are forced to assimilate to a Han Chinese way of life and feel threatened by the spread of Han Chinese culture. In Xinjiang, school instruction is in Mandarin and very few pieces of literature are published in Uyghur or other Turkic languages.[11] Millions of Han Chinese have settled in Xinjiang.[12]

Many Uyghurs face religious persecution and discrimination at the hands of the government authorities. Uyghurs who choose to practice their faith can only use a state-approved version of the Koran;[13] Many nationalists are killed or tortured or jailed for their independence efforts, and even non-violent protesters have said to have been facing human rights abuses. Their dress, language, and culture are slowly being eroded away as more and more ethnic Han are moving there. The religion and way of life are misunderstood and the government cracks down on any sign of resistance. The "Uyghur Human Rights Project" alleges that children under the age of 18 were banned from a mosque in southern Xinjiang.[14]

Argument against East Turkestan independence[edit]

China claims to have a historic claim on modern-day Xinjiang dating back two thousand years. East Asian migrants arrived in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, while the Uighur people arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, based in modern-day Mongolia, around the year 842.[15] It fears that independence movements are largely funded and led by outside forces that seek to weaken China. China points out that despite such movements, Xinjiang has made great economic strides, building up its infrastructure, improving its education system and increasing the average life expectancy.[16]

Some Chinese Muslims criticize Uyghur separatism, and generally do not want to get involved in conflict in other countries over Islam for fear of being perceived as radical.[17]

Groups[edit]

The flag of Jihad is used by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement
East Turkistan Patriots, including Hussain Qari Islami (2nd from left), Abdul Qadir Ahmad Turkistani (4th from left), and Abdul Qadar Turkistani (5th from left), meet with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan -1994

In general, the wide variety of groups who seek independence can be distinguished by the type of government they advocate and the role they believe an independent East Turkestan should play in international affairs. Groups who use the term East Turkestan tend to have an orientation towards western Asia, the Islamic world, and Russia. These groups can be further subdivided into those who desire secularism, and identify with the struggle of secular Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, versus those who want an Islamic theocracy and identify with Saudi Arabia, the former Taliban government in Afghanistan, or Iran. In many cases the latter diminish the importance or deny the existence of a separate Uyghur ethnicity and claim a larger Turanian or Islamic identity. These groups tend to see an independent East Turkestan in which non-Turkic, and especially non-Islamic minorities, such as the Han Chinese would play no significant role.

Some of the groups that support independence for East Turkestan have been labeled terrorist organizations by both the People's Republic of China, the United Nations and/or the United States. Pro-independence organizations overseas include the East Turkistan National Freedom Center, the East Turkistan Government in Exile, and the East Turkestan Liberation Organization (Transnational Hizb ut-Tahrir).[18] The most noticeable event towards the East Turkistan Independence Movement was the establishment of the East Turkistan Government in Exile by a group of East Turkistani immigrants led by Anwar Yusuf Turani in Washington D.C. on 14 September 2004.[19] The target audience of these organizations is generally the Western governments and public, as almost none of the websites are in Chinese or Uyghur, and most Uyghurs in China and Central Asia have never heard of them.[20] The East Turkestan Islamic Movement(ETIM)(also East Turkestan Islamic Party), which has claimed responsibility for attacks in Xinjiang, has been identified as a terrorist organization by the governments of China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and the United States, as well as the United Nations.[21][22][23][24][25]

Recent events[edit]

There continues to be concern over tensions in the region, centering upon Uyghur cultural aspirations to independence, and resentment towards what Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch describe as repression of non-Han Chinese culture.[citation needed]

Conversely, many Han Chinese perceive PRC policies of ethnic autonomy as discriminatory against them (see autonomous entities of China). Independence advocates view Chinese rule in Xinjiang, and policies like the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps as Chinese imperialism. The US and the UN have labelled the East Turkestan Islamic Movement a terrorist group.

The tensions have occasionally resulted in major incidents and violent clashes during the PRC period. For example, in 1962, 60,000 Uyghur and Kazakh refugees fled northern Xinjiang into the Soviet Union to escape the famine and political purges of the Great Leap Forward era; in the 1980s there was a smattering of student demonstrations and riots against police action that took on an ethnic aspect; and the Baren Township riot in April 1990, an abortive uprising resulted in more than 50 deaths.

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.[26] The Urumqi bus bombs 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 emphasise dialogue and warn our youth against the use of violence because it de-legitimises our movement”.[27] 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 the late nineties through mid-2006. In 2005, Uighur author Nurmemet Yasin was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for inciting separatism following his publication of an allegorical short story, "The Blue Pigeon".[28]

On 5 January 2007 the Chinese Public Security Bureau raided a suspected terrorist training camp in the mountains near the Pamir Plateau in southern Xinjiang. According to the reports, 18 terrorists were killed and another 17 captured in a gun battle between the East Turkestan Independence Movement and PRC forces. One police officer was killed and "over 1,500 hand grenades... were seized." [29]

Olympics[edit]

In 2008, the Chinese government announced that several terrorist plots by Uyghur separatists to disrupt the 2008 Olympic Games involving kidnapping athletes, journalists and tourists were foiled. The security ministry said 35 arrests were made in recent weeks and explosives had been seized in Xinjiang province. It said 10 others were held when police smashed another plot based in Xinjiang back in January to disrupt the Games. However, Uyghur activists accused the Chinese of fabricating terror plots to crack down on the people of the region and prevent them airing legitimate grievances. Some foreign observers were also skeptical, questioning if China was inflating a terror threat to justify a clampdown on dissidents before the Olympics.[30]

In the run-up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, during which world attention was drawn by pro-Tibet protests along the Olympic torch relay, Uyghur separatist groups staged protests in several countries.[31] According to the Chinese government, a suicide bombing attempt on a China Southern Airlines flight in Xinjiang was thwarted in March 2008.[32]

Four days before the Beijing Olympics, 16 Chinese police officers were killed and 16 injured in an attack in Kashgar by local merchants.[33] Chinese police injured and damaged the equipment of two Japanese journalists sent to cover the story.[34] Four days later a bombing in Kuqa killed at least two people.[35]

On 27 August, two Chinese police officers were killed and seven more wounded near the city of Kashgar when their patrol was ambushed by at least seven militants, including one woman, wielding knives and automatic weapons. Apparently the patrol was lain upon in a corn field while acting on an erroneous tip from another woman that had been suspected of assisting militants. According to Uighur sources Chinese officials have been "cracking down" on ethnic Uighurs, detaining large numbers in recent weeks and view the incident as Uighurs resisting arrest. Reportedly, 33 people died in Xinjiang due to clashes in the month of August.[36][37]

On 5 July 2009, riots broke out in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang. The state media reported close to 150 people dead. While the riots occurred after a demonstration protesting the deaths of two Uyghurs in the June 2009 Shaoguan incident, the central government claimed that the riot had been masterminded by separatists abroad, particularly exiled leader Rebiya Kadeer.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Burhan Shahidi, Xinjiang wushi nian [Fifty Years in Xinjiang], (Beijing, Wenshi ziliao, 1984).
  • Clubb, O. E., China and Russia: The 'Great Game’. (NY, Columbia, 1971).
  • Forbes, A. D. W. Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republic Sinkiang, 1911-1949 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1986).
  • Hasiotis, A. C. Jr. Soviet Political, Economic and Military Involvement in Sinkiang from 1928 to 1949 (NY, Garland, 1987).
  • Hierman, Brent (2007). "The Pacification of Xinjiang: Uighur Protest and the Chinese State, 1988-2002". Problems of Post-Communism 54 (3): 48–62.
  • Khakimbaev A. A., 'Nekotorye Osobennosti Natsional’no-Osvoboditel’nogo Dvizheniya Narodov Sin’tszyana v 30-kh i 40-kh godakh XX veka' [Some Characters of the National-Liberation Movement of the Xinjiang Peoples in 1930s and 1940s], in Materially Mezhdunarodnoi Konferentsii po Problemam Istorii Kitaya v Noveishchee Vremya, Aprel’ 1977, Problemy Kitaya (Moscow, 1978) pp. 113–118.
  • Lattimore, O., Pivot of Asia: Sinkiang and the Inner Asian Frontiers of China (Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1950).
  • Rakhimov, T. R. 'Mesto Bostochno-Turkestanskoi Respubliki (VTR) v Natsional’no-Osvoboditel’noi Bor’be Narodov Kitaya' [Role of the Eastern Turkestan Republic (ETR) in the National Liberation Struggle of the Peoples in China], A paper presented at 2-ya Nauchnaya Konferentsiya po Problemam Istorii Kitaya v Noveishchee Vremya, (Moscow, 1977), pp. 68–70.
  • Shichor, Yitzhak. (2005). Blow Up: Internal and External Challenges of Uyghur Separatism and Islamic Radicalism to Chinese Rule in Xinjiang. Asian Affairs: An American Review. 32(2), 119—136.
  • Taipov, Z. T., V Bor'be za Svobodu [In the Struggle for Freedom], (Moscow, Glavnaya Redaktsiya Vostochnoi Literaturi Izdatel'stvo Nauka, 1974).
  • Wang, D., 'The Xinjiang Question of the 1940s: the Story behind the Sino-Soviet Treaty of August 1945', Asian Studies Review, vol. 21, no.1 (1997) pp. 83–105.
  • Wang, D., 'The USSR and the Establishment of the Eastern Turkestan Republic in Xinjiang', Journal of Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, vol.25 (1996) pp. 337–378.
  • Yakovlev, A. G., 'K Voprosy o Natsional’no-Osvoboditel’nom Dvizhenii Norodov Sin’tzyana v 1944-1949', [Question on the National Liberation Movement of the Peoples in Xinjiang in 1944-1945], in Uchenie Zapiski Instituta Voctokovedeniia Kitaiskii Spornik vol.xi, (1955) pp. 155–188.
  • Wang, D., Clouds over Tianshan: essays on social disturbance in Xinjiang in the 1940s, Copenhagen, NIAS, 1999
  • Wang, D., Under the Soviet shadow: the Yining Incident: ethnic conflicts and international rivalry in Xinjiang, 1944-1949》Hong Kong, The Chinese University Press, 1999.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Justin Jon Rudelson, "Oasis Identities" (1997), p 39, ISBN 0-231-10786-2
  2. ^ [1] Wei 2002, p. 181
  3. ^ [2] Millward 2007, p. 209
  4. ^ Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons (1871). Accounts and papers of the House of Commons. Ordered to be printed. p. 35. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  5. ^ 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, 19 September 1960.
  6. ^ Page 53, 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, 19 September 1960.
  7. ^ Diana Lary (1974). Region and nation: the Kwangsi clique in Chinese politics, 1925-1937. Cambridge University Press. p. 124. ISBN 0-521-20204-3. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  8. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911-1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 307. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  9. ^ ESENBEL, SELÇUK. "Japan's Global Claim to Asia and the World of Islam: Transnational Nationalism and World Power, 1900–1945". The American Historical Review. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  10. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911-1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 247. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  11. ^ "What's Being Done On ... Enhancing the Political Participation of Minority Peoples? Profile: The Uyghur Community in China". World Movement for Democracy. 8 December 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2009. [dead link]
  12. ^ Lydia Wilson and Poppy Toland (25 March 2008). "Xinjiang: China's 'other Tibet'". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
  13. ^ "Crackdown on Xinjiang Mosques, Religion". Radio Free Asia. 14 August 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
  14. ^ "China Bans Officials, State Employees, Children From Mosques". Uyghur Human Rights Project. 6 February 2006. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
  15. ^ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/a-meeting-of-civilisations-the-mystery-of-chinas-celtic-mummies-413638.html
  16. ^ China White Paper on Xinjiang 5/26/2004
  17. ^ Van Wie Davis, Elizabath. "Uyghur Muslim Ethnic Separatism in Xinjiang, China". Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  18. ^ Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang: II. Background at hrw.org
  19. ^ Voice of America, China Protests Establishment of Uighur Government-in-Exile in Washington, 21 September 2004, 20 December 2011
  20. ^ Gladney, Dru C. (2004). Dislocating China: Reflections on Muslims, Minorities and other Subaltern Subjects. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-1-85065-324-0. 
  21. ^ Edward Cody (10 May 2006). "China demands that Albania return ex-U.S. detainees". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 August 2007. 
  22. ^ "Country Reports on Terrorism". US State Dept. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2007. 
  23. ^ "Governance Asia-Pacific Watch". United Nations. April 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2007. 
  24. ^ The New Face of Jihad
  25. ^ Additions to Terrorist Exclusion List, United States State Department, 29 April 2004, accessed on 10 August 2008
  26. ^ "China: Human Rights Concerns in Xinjiang (Human Rights Watch Backgrounder, October 17, 2001)". Hrw.org. 
  27. ^ "China's Secret Separatists:". Prospect.org. 2001-12-19. 
  28. ^ Hamish McDonald (12 November 2005). "China battles to convince terror sceptics". The Age. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  29. ^ [3] CCTV
  30. ^ "China 'foils Olympic terror plot'". BBC News. 10 April 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2008. 
  31. ^ Uyghurs protest Olympic Torch in Istanbul - NTDTV on YouTube
  32. ^ Elizabeth Van Wie Davis, "China confronts its Uyghur threat," Asia Times Online, 18 April 2008.
  33. ^ 16 Chinese police officers killed in attack, Globe and Mail, 4 August 2008, accessed on 10 August 2008
  34. ^ "Behind the scenes: Internet police out in force for the Olympics - CNN.com". CNN. 7 August 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  35. ^ Blasts kill two in China's restive Xinjiang, Xinhua via Reuters, 10 August 2008, accessed on 10 August 2008
  36. ^ [4][dead link]
  37. ^ [5][dead link]
  38. ^ Bovingdon, Gardner (2010). The Uyghurs: Strangers in Their Own Land. New York: Columbia University Press. 

 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.

External links[edit]