Key Issues

Oppressive Chinese Issues Facing East Turkistan

During the 60 years of occupation of East Turkistan by the communist Chinese, the freedom and independence loving people of East Turkistan have been constantly subject to various forms of repression and have not been at peace even for a single day. The support of Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission, the struggle of the courageous people of East Turkistan to lead their lands under occupation to freedom and to establish their own state, and actions of the people of East Turkistan directed against the oppression of the Chinese has caused anxiety with the communist Chinese government. Therefore, the Chinese government has decided to settle Chinese people on a massive scale by force in East Turkistan in order to maintain control over these fertile lands forever. On the other hand, it has initiated a state terror directed towards the elimination of our language, our religion, our alphabet, our civilization and culture and an inheritance of more than a thousand years common to all Turks.

1.  Education

Laws and regulations demand that people who do not know the Chinese language will not be admitted to schools or that those who refuse to learn will be thrown out of schools. People who do not know Chinese will not be admitted to professional formation schools and to universities, and are not allowed to be employed. These savage laws and rules aim at the eradication of the identity, lifestyle, independence, religious beliefs and the mother language of the people of East Turkistan from their lives and the subordination of the coming generation to the service of Chinese interests.  The prohibition of the Uyghur language and the replacement with Chinese is compulsory and any non-conformist action by anyone and any institution against this decree of the central Chinese government will be considered a crime.

2. Media, Press, and Publications

In the time the Chinese have taken over East Turkistan, they have gone to lengths to repress the language and culture of Uyghur citizens who will not conform to their way in the area of education. By controlling the education system of East Turkistan, it ensures the Communist ideology for those immigrants coming into East Turkistan.  The eradication of the opportunity for the Uyghur population to attend schools because they do not speak Chinese goes against the basic principles of human development. Citizens have a right to education. Parents have a duty to ensure their children are educated for their futures. Education is a right. If education is available to men, women and children, they have to right to pursue this course.

3.  Culture and Religion

People of East Turkistan are restricted in practicing Islam freely, attend a Mosque freely, or to do their religious activities without Chinese government approval.

After accepting Islam, East Turkistan children learn not only reading, writing and Islamic subjects, but also such familiar subjects as logic, arithmetic, geometry, ethics, astronomy, medicine, and agriculture from Islam. East Turkistan people have been completely isolated in religious aspects in the past 45 years from the outside world. People who do not believe in religion have been placed in charge of it. Approximately 95% of mosques have been built with private funds and donated labor. In rural areas reconstruction is completely banned. Religious practitioners cannot be Party members, which affects access to housing and employment as well as political influence. religious rituals; festivals and meetings can be banned on the grounds of disrupting social order. Religious education is banned from schools.  New laws promulgated in January 1994 sharply increase the Communist government’s control over religious activity in China and Eastern Turkistan, banning foreign proselytizing and forbidding mosques from “destructive, independent, unauthorized or overseas-financed activities”, strengthening the isolation of Uyghurs from the out

Underlying Chinese Communist Party policy on religion is a commitment to the “natural withering away” of religion. The guidelines “Concerning our Country’s Basic Standpoint and Policy on Religious Questions” (1982) set out a “magnificent goal” for Party members: “an era when all the various religious expressions of the actual world finally disappear”. The practice of religion in East Turkistan is subject to strict controls within carefully prescribed limits. It is these controls which are destroying the root of Uyghurs’ religion, Islam, an integral part of East Turkistan society. 

Lastly, imposed restrictions to the foreign travels of East Turkistani citizens. It is banned for Muslims here to perform the pilgrimage. In 1999, as 1200 Uyghur people were about to go the pilgrimage to Mecca, their passports were commandeered by China police and 122 people objecting were arrested.

Chinese policy on religion in East Turkistan over the last 45 years can be divided into five periods

1. 1950-59: Religion was officially endorsed in the 1954 Constitution, but religious activity was strictly controlled through state-run associations. 

2. 1959-66: China consolidated its control over Eastern Turkistan – mosques were targeted as the backbone of Uyghurs’ society. By 1966, before the Cultural Revolution began, most of mosques had been destroyed. 

3. 1966-77: During the Cultural Revolution, all religious activity was banned; religious institutions were razed; texts and sacred objects destroyed; religious leaders imprisoned and tortured; many were killed. Abuses of religious freedom reached its peak. 

4. 1977-early 90s: In 1977, some religious activities were allowed. Liberalization policies were initiated by Hu Yao-bang in 1980. Uyghurs rebuilt or newly built many mosques using private funds and donated labor. The period between 1983 and 1987 was one of rapid growth for mosques and religious practitioners with little government interference. 

5. Early 90s-present: The Chinese government placed severe restrictions on building new mosques and completely banned all private religious schools (There are no public religious schools in East Turkistan except an Islamic College located in the capital city, Urumqi, but this school is used exclusively by the government to re-educate Uyghur religious leaders). They have also exercised very strict control over all the religious activities among Uyghur.

One of the tenants of a free society is the ability to practice, without government interference, your religious beliefs as you see fit. Practicing your religion gives one the ability to call on a “higher” being for comfort, guidance, and direction. Religion should not become a political tool used against people whose beliefs do not align with a government. The situation in East Turkistan is akin to religious prosecution by the Chinese government against the Islamic Uyghur population. The continued repression, since 1950, of Islam and the punishments that have come from this repression leaves a population devoid of any comfort in the beliefs of Islam. The Chinese government sees the practice of Islam as a direct threat to the ruling Communist party ideology.

4.  The Field of Historical and Cultural Inheritance.

Kashgar, with its Uyghur culture, handcrafts, agricultural methods, trade and as a place of gathering ethnic activities of many people is catching the attention of millions of tourists from within and outside China and has become a focal point for research by famous historians and archaeologists. The aggressive Chinese government is destroying the preciousness of regions like Guldja, Börtala, Chöchek, Kumul, Turfan, Korla, Kuchar, Aksu, Atrush, Yarkent, Yenihisar and Hotan in order to settle Chinese migrants there thus causing the loss of historical sites and artefacts, witnesses to our peoples and religions history.

Bintuan was founded again with the name of ‘10th Production Unit’ in 1981 and it still works actively.  The main aim of Bintuan is to be able to colonize East Turkistan. Bintuan was established on a line which separated the south and the north of East Turkistan. It is independent from Uyghur Autonomous Government and it has its own security forces, law courts, agricultural and industrial investments. Beside these, working camps and jails covering a big area are also under control of Bintuan.

Beside these, working camps and jails covering a big area are also under control of Bintuan. More interesting is that these so-called production associations which violate human rights have been financed by the World Bank. So, China brought out some programs called ‘Advance Project’ and these programs were also supported by the World Bank. According to this, it was going to found various working areas so as to help the East Turkistan region to develop, and thanks to these areas, the economic improvement of the region was going to be supplied. However, the project wasn’t implemented this way because these areas were working camps founded to punish Chinese criminals and especially Muslims. Derived income wasn’t contributing to the region but Chinese economy. As you see, it was the real face of Advance Project supported by the World Bank. It is guessed that the lands of Bintuan will expand more in the following years because an independent Chinese state is being founded on the lands of East Turkistan. Bintuan has always been seen as one of the fundamental factors in East Turkistan by China.

5. Population Transfer

Over the years, the continued population transfer of Chinese immigrants to East Turkistan has seen the East Turkistan people become a minority in their own land. Chinese officials give those Chinese immigrants preferential treatment in education, jobs, finance, and private enterprises. East Turkistan people are treated as second class citizens in their own country.  The Chinese government sees this migration of Chinese to East Turkistan as a social and potentially economic development program further oppressing the Uyghur population.

The railway line between Urumqi and Beijing has given further impetus to this vicious policy of flooding East Turkistan with Chinese migrants. The railway brings thousands of Chinese to Urumqi every day and most of them settle in East Turkistan indefinitely. If this continues, Beijing’s “final solution” to the question of East Turkistan will have achieved its desired effect.

6. Universal Human Rights – Fuel for Discontent – Discrimination and Forced labor

The Chinese state has failed to protect Uyghurs from employment discrimination which has resulted in extremely high rates of unemployment among Uyghurs in East Turkistan and fueled discontent. Many Uyghurs report seeing ‘Uyghurs need not apply’ signs posted by employers at job fairs demonstrating the state’s inaction in enforcing anti-discrimination laws. Even university graduates who speak fluent Chinese have difficulty finding employment.

East Turkistan is the only area of China where the general population (non-prisoners) is systematically subject to a government policy of forced labor. Under a system referred to as ‘hashar’, farming families are fined if they fail to send a family member, sometimes several times each year, to labor on agricultural, infrastructural and other public works for up to two to three weeks at a time. The individuals are given no compensation for their labor, no room or board, and are expected to pay their own transportation costs. Many describe sleeping out in the open and eating nothing but instant noodles for days while doing hard labor. Families that do not have an able-bodied young man to send are not exempt – men and women as old as 70, and children as young as 12, are reported by Uyghurs to have participated.

The systematic erosion of Uyghur ethnic identity by the Chinese authorities is characterized by repression and human rights abuses. The Chinese authorities must immediately reverse policies that limit use of the Uighur language and severely restrict freedom of religion and Uighurs’ ability to enjoy and replicate their culture.

7. The Environment

The past 50 years has seen widespread environmental destruction resulting in deforestation, soil erosion, extinction of wildlife, overgrazing, uncontrolled mining and nuclear waste dumping. Today, the Chinese continue to extract various natural resources – often with foreign backing – without any environmental safeguards.

The environmental dangers East Turkistan is facing are potentially harmful to the Uyghur way of life. Uyghurs have developed sustainable practices in order to live in a fragile environment composed of deserts, oases and mountains. For example, the underground water transportation system of the Turpan area called “karez” has provided drinking water and water to grow crops for centuries to communities living in an exceptionally arid part of the region.

Since the early 1990s, the Chinese government has targeted East Turkistan with a series of economic development initiatives demonstrating a cumulative effort to exploit the region’s strategic location in Central Asia to boost China’s political and economic presence in the wider region. These centrally led campaigns have transformed East Turkestan bringing Chinese migrants and increased economic activity to the region that have had a profound effect on the environment.

Nuclear weapons testing from 1964-1996 caused a health catastrophe due to nuclear fallout and polluted land. Lack of Uyghur participation in environmental decision-making and a deprivation of knowledge sharing by the Chinese government on environmental conditions in East Turkistan is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Disregard of Uyghur knowledge on sustainable practices in state economic and agricultural policies is the Chinese governments answer to potential environmental issues in this region.

8. Deforestation

More than 3,000 plant species have been identified in Xinjiang, of which some 300 have economic or medicinal value. 1950s and 1980s, East Turkistan saw a huge decrease in the total surface area of its lakes. In the late 1950s, thirteen dams were built on the upper reaches of the Kongque River for irrigation purposes. By 1964, Lake Lop Nor (Luobupo), which was fed by the river, completely dried up.

With naturally salty water, East Turkistan also faces problems with water salinization. There are only three freshwater lakes in East Turkistan—out of a total of one hundred and thirty-nine. Over the past few decades, the salinity of East Turkistan’s lakes has increased as many lakes have begun to dry up. As lake water depths have decreased, the proportion of salt in the water has likewise increased.

East Turkistan’s deserts were estimated to be expanding at a rate of 10,700 hectares per year, but this was a great improvement over previous years that had seen an expansion of 38,400 hectares a year. Most of East Turkistan’s desertification is caused by excessive farming and over-grazing. Experts consider impacts of climate change—particularly reduced rainfall—as another challenge to the abatement of desertification. The areas surrounding the Lop Nor nuclear test site—on the eastern edge of the Taklimakan Desert—have a cancer rate that is 35 percent higher than the rest of China and higher than average rates of Leukemia, tumors, and birth defects such as cleft palates. An anonymous doctor claimed that during the testing period, 80 percent of the children he was seeing had cleft palates.

9. Soil Erosion and flooding.

Ultimately, if nothing is done to counter climate change, within one century the glaciers in East Turkistan may disappear. East Turkistan’s reliance on glacial water is one of the highest in Asia, and the disappearance of these glaciers would be catastrophic for the 20 million people living in the region. Besides long-term water shortages, melting glaciers can also pose a threat by causing landslides or floods.

The Tarim River once stretched to Lake Lop Nor and supported the ancient Loulan Civilization, but due to population increases and subsequent water shortages, Loulan City, one of the largest cities along the Silk Road, was eventually abandoned. In recent history, the basin experienced substantial environmental pressure when East Turkistan (Xinjiang) Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) began agricultural production in the 1950s. Between 1950 and 1970, the XPCC increased from less than 20,000 people to 420,000, and then to 460,000 by the year 2000. As the population in this area grew, so too did the area of cultivated land—almost doubling between 1950 and 2000. This in turn led to a lower quality and quantity of water reaching the Tarim River’s downstream areas. By the 1980s this large-scale agricultural enterprise shortened the Tarim River by 320 kilometers and severely degraded the land and water in the lower reaches of the Tarim River, which seriously affected human health—one of the factors causing an overall out-migration of people in this area in the 1990s.

Drinking water containing high levels of fluoride is another problem for residents in East Turkistan. The maximum level of fluoride allowed in China is 1 milligram per liter (mg/L). Water from Kuitun and some other areas in East Turkistan has been found to contain up to 21.5 mg/L. High levels of fluoride can cause arthritis, tooth decay, and can impair children’s physical and mental growth.

10. Global Climate Effects

East Turkistan one of the driest regions in the world. Because of nuclear test and mining lands of East Turkistan, East Turkistan experienced a significant warming and increasing wet trend. The significant impact of human activities on land-surface water sources, especially in arid/semi-arid regions where fresh available water largely results from runoff.

The effects of climate change in East Turkistan have risen faster than the global average over the past 50 years. With no snow, there is not enough water.

11. Extinction of Wildlife

Many types of wildlife are facing extinction in East Turkistan. With 731 types of vertebrates found in the region, it is also home to some of the most ancient species, such as East Turkistan Salamander. Around 2,900 animals living in the TianShan mountain range. The population had dropped to 2,000. The horses living in the wild in East Turkistan became extinct in the 1960-70s. Ili pika population had seen a dramatic decline. They don’t exist in the sites where they used to be anymore.” The Ili pika isn’t included on China’s List of Wildlife under Special State Protection — part of the country’s 1988 Wildlife Protection Law.

Coal mining has destroyed precious habitats in East Turkistan where many animal species have disappeared. A major coal mining project has got underway in the reserve at a section called Zhundong. Multiple pieces of research have shown that as that development has proceeded, many species have disappeared. in many years of observation, he’d almost never seen animals use those routes – there’s just too much human activity on the south side of the road.

12. Uncontrolled Mining

The area is rich in oil and gas resources with a reserve of more than 30 billion tons. East Turkistan’s coal resources are extraordinarily rich and account for more than 40 percent of China’s total coal reserve and rank the number one in the whole country. There are only ten basins with over 500 billion tons coal resources, and East Turkistan has two of them. These coal mines have not only a large reserve but also full variety of coal sorts, including gas coal, fat coal, cooking coal, lean coal and lignite etc., which are of good quality and used widely.

There are rich resources of building materials, such as marble, granite, asbestos ore and limestone, with great variety and good quality. Mineral resources not only directly provide mineral products for market needs, but also stimulate the rise of many industry chains like energy, chemical, metallurgical and building material industries. In the 1950’s China built its first large-scale oil field in Karamay and thus retorted upon experts’ prediction that China had no oil reserve. After half a century, East Turkistan has once again demonstrated a favorable mining development pattern. Increased mining activities further reduces vegetation cover and thereby increases the danger for severe landslides, massive soil erosion, loss of wildlife habitat and the pollution of streams and rivers.

13. Nuclear Testing

China is keeping the troops belonging to the army forces known as ‘People’s Liberation Army’ (PLA) in the region and protecting a big portion of the nuclear missiles here. China has been objected by so many international organizations since 1961, it is implementing its various nuclear tests in Lap-Nor region of East Turkistan. These tests are violating the ecologic balance, the nature of the region being destroyed and human life at risk because of the poisonous waste mixing with water. Because of these tests, so many humans lost their life and the ratio of the birth of disabled babies increased. The official number of the victims of nuclear tests in East Turkistan wasn’t brought out entirely and moreover it is supposed that nearly 210,000 people lost their life because of radioactive waste. As it is known, the radioactive waste also causes cancer and it was recorded that there was an increase in the number of the people who were ill with cancer of ten percent. A report regarding the records of Urumchi Peoples Hospital in 1993, stated that many people contracted the cancer in the 1970’s while a few people contracted fatal cancer. This region is where cancer and the other illnesses are rising because of radioactive waste and was not assisted with medicine.