Uighurs, China

By | November 1, 2021

Uyghurs, Uighurs, Turkic people in East, Central and Central Asia, about 10 million members, Sunni Muslims.

Around the middle of the 8th century, the Uyghurs took over power in the khanate of the Eastern Turks (Kökturks, Orkhon Turks; Orkhon inscriptions) and in northern Mongolia. Mediated by East Iranian Sogdians, who gained influence as traders at the Uighur court, Manichaeism became the official state religion of the Uighurs in the 8th century; in addition, many Uyghurs adhered to Buddhism, and a small number professed Nestorian Christianity. After the Uyghur empire was destroyed by the Yenisei-Kirghiz (Kirghiz) in 840, two successor states emerged on the southern periphery. The eastern part was subject to the Tangut state of Xixia in 1030. A small population group in China’s Gansu Province is still called today yellow Uighurs (around 15,000 members). In the western state (in eastern East Turkestan) the Uyghurs, who had meanwhile become settled, contributed to the development of the Turfan culture. At the beginning of the 13th century, the Uyghur state became part of the Mongol empire of Genghis Khan.

For the descendants of these Uyghurs, partly mixed with other ethnic groups, the Autonomous Region (today the Autonomous Region) Sinkiang was created in China in 1955 (around 9.4 million Uyghurs). The name Uyghurs was recognized by China in 1934, before that they were referred to as Eastern Turks. In the 19th century, some of these Uyghur groups (including Kashgarians, Tarantschen) fled to neighboring Russian areas after unsuccessful uprisings against China, a second wave of emigration (to Kazakhstan) followed in the 1960s (around 300,000 Uyghurs in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan). A minority (around 20,000 Uighurs) live in Mongolia.

The Uyghurs in Sinkiang, led by organizations in exile such as the “East Turkestan Association” in Istanbul, are resisting the domination of the Chinese. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Chinese government has increased the reprisals against the Uyghurs and declared them to be the fight against international terrorism. Most of the Uyghurs who were captured by the US in Afghanistan and brought to Guantánamo were released again. The World Uyghur Congress (WUC), founded in 2004 and based in Munich, also urges self-determination and compliance with human rights in Sinkiang, without, however, explicitly demanding independence. As President of the association, in 2009 and 2012 2006 Rebiya Kadeer (* 1948) elected. As a wealthy businesswoman, she represented the Uyghurs in the People’s Congress of China, served several years in prison for criticizing the grievances and went into exile (USA). The WUC is considered a terrorist organization in China.

Human rights organizations have repeatedly complained about the suppression of the Uyghur language and culture and the high number of executions in the Sinkiang Autonomous Region (around 500 in the ten-year period from 1997). In the run-up to the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, protests broke out by Uyghurs, which were massively suppressed. In the most violent unrest between Uyghurs and Chinese in decades in July 2009, numerous people were killed. Tensions persisted in the years that followed. Separate efforts, to which the Chinese central authorities responded with increased repression, became radicalized. The Chinese leadership has been expanding the high-tech surveillance of the Uyghurs since 2017. It is increasingly using the security apparatus against the Uighur population, to curb the growing Uighur religiosity and to suppress the aspirations for autonomy. With the law on “deradicalization” in the Autonomous Republic of Sinkiang, over 1 million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities have been interned in re-education camps, which are declared as “educational centers” and are intended to serve the fight against terrorism. The law provides for the assimilation of Uighurs, religious Muslim names, “beards that do not look normal”, full veils and the like. should be eliminated in the conflict region. which are declared as »educational centers« and are intended to serve the fight against terrorism. The law provides for the assimilation of Uighurs, religious Muslim names, “beards that do not look normal”, full veils and the like. should be eliminated in the conflict region. which are declared as »educational centers« and are intended to serve the fight against terrorism. The law provides for the assimilation of Uighurs, religious Muslim names, “beards that do not look normal”, full veils and the like. should be eliminated in the conflict region.

The prestigious Chinese major infrastructure project “New Silk Road” also leads through the Sinkiang region, which is populated by Turkic peoples. The Chinese Communist Party is taking drastic measures to combat alleged Islamic radicalization and extremism.

China is demanding the extradition of imprisoned Uyghurs from other states. In October 2019, the US blacklisted 28 Chinese trade and government organizations for suppressing the Uyghurs.

In 2019 the university professor, publicist and government critic Ilham Tohti (* 1969), who was sentenced to life imprisonment, received the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which is awarded by the European Parliament. He was committed to the understanding between the Han Chinese and the Uighur minority.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published secret documents of the Chinese Communist Party, “China Cables”, in November 2019. They prove that the mass internment of the Uyghurs in supposed further education institutions is actually an accommodation in strictly guarded re-education camps, which violates human rights. The government had always emphasized that the stay was voluntary.

Uighurs, China