Restoring Freedom and Independence to East Turkistan and its People

AUTHORITY MAGAZINE: Salih Hudayar, Prime Minister of the East Turkistan (Uyghur) Government In Exile, On What Each Of Us Can Do To Stop The Uyghur Genocide

The below article was published by Authority Magazine via Medium, photo credit: ETNAM

The first thing that everyone can do is simply learn about what’s happening in East Turkistan and inform everyone around them, whether it’s their family, their neighbors, or their colleagues. Then they need to urge their elected officials at all levels, whether it’s their City Council and up to members of parliament, Congress, and even the President, to take decisive action.

We all need to realize that every time we buy something made in China, whether it’s phones — anything that is made in China, we’re ultimately contributing to the Chinese government’s genocide that is taking place in East Turkistan. So even if it’s just ten cents out of a dollar, the Chinese government profits from that. So even if it’s just one cent, we have essentially just contributed $.01 to a genocidal regime.

Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Salih Hudayar, the Prime Minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile. He is an Uyghur political refugee from East Turkistan (Xinjiang) now based in Washington, DC. Over 100 of Prime Minister Salih Hudayar’s relatives have been taken into East Turkistan (Xijiang) concentration camps. Four have died.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series Salih. Before we get to the core of our interview, can you tell our readers about how you grew up and your childhood?

Iwas born into a Uyghur merchant family in East Turkistan, which the Chinese government calls the “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” some 43 years after it occupied East Turkistan. I had a good childhood other than when I was four years old. That was the first time that I remember interacting with the Chinese State and seeing the brutality of the Chinese State. This was after the 1997 February Ghulja Massacre, in which thousands of Uyghurs protested peacefully against the Chinese government’s oppression of our people, peacefully demanding independence, and it was brutally crushed. The Chinese launched the so-called “Strike Hard Campaign targeting all Uyghurs across the country they felt were so-called separatists or ethnic nationalists.

One of the people targeted was my uncle. Someone reported him for reading a political book, and because of that, they raided our house, which was my grandparent’s house, in the middle of the night, trying to find this book and get my uncle to confess to his crimes. I was the youngest child in the house at the time. They pointed a gun at everybody’s head, including mine, threatening to shoot us if my uncle did not confess his crime. That was the first time I ever encountered the Chinese State or my first memory. It is a very traumatic memory.

I had this childhood dream of becoming a military officer, a general specifically, with the hope of one day freeing my people. However, it wasn’t until I came to the US in June of 2000 that I met my father, who had fled East Turkistan in 1995 when I was very young because of his political activities. So we came to the US as political refugees. He was the first person who sat us down and taught us about East Turkistan, our history, and that we were an occupied nation.

When he brought us from the airport to his apartment, the first thing he said was: “I didn’t bring you guys here to the US to forget about who you are and where you came from. I brought you guys here so you can become educated and return to a freer country and our people and do the things I couldn’t do.” That is what led to my interest and passion in East Turkistan and our plight.

Thank you so much for that. So can you tell our readers a bit about what brought you to your role as the Prime Minister of East Turkistan? What kind of process is that, and how did it take you to achieve this leadership status?

I wanted a military career. So I joined the ROTC and was a member of the Oklahoma National Guard. However, after about two years, I developed a kidney issue, and my military career ended because of it.

I studied political science and international studies, and in 2017, I realized that none of our organizations were doing anything effective to address our cause in East Turkistan. So I moved to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the Uyghur Policy Act to recognize East Turkistan as an occupied country, like Tibet, and recognize the atrocities we face, such as genocide.

In June 2018, we formally launched the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement. It was a global awakening movement across our global diaspora, especially the younger Uyghurs and other East Turkistanis. Soon our efforts were able to convince the US Congress to introduce the Uyghur Policy Act. In addition, we were raising more awareness about East Turkistan, not just in the US but in other parts of the world. This led me to gain prominence across our global diaspora. By the summer of 2019, the East Turkistan Government in Exile announced its parliamentary elections ahead of its 8th General Assembly. Many Uyghurs were happy with me and nominated me, and even the East Turkistan Government in Exile said: “We’d be happy if you would work with us. We see the great work you’re doing. You’ve achieved a lot of things that we have not been able to achieve in the past decade.”

Then I was nominated as a member of Parliament, representing our diaspora community in Washington and the United States. Our government in exile is a parliamentary-based government like our neighbors in Tibet. The Tibetan government in exile were local diasporas, which elected representatives or members of parliament to represent them at the National Assembly every four years and at the General Assembly of our government in exile in November 2019. Eventually, two other people and I were nominated for the position of Prime Minister. I got the most votes and was elected as the prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile.

For the benefit of our readers, who aren’t fully aware of the background, can you explain, were the Uyghur people and Xinjiang always a part of China? How did it change? What was the history behind how East Turkistan became occupied by China?

Historically, the East Turkistan people have a long history of independence. The name Xinjiang itself was first coined in 1884 after the Manchu Qing Dynasty invaded East Turkistan and annexed it as Xingjian, meaning the colony or the new territory. This was in 1884. In the early 20th century, in the 1920s as part of the things that were going around across the world and national movements, our people strove for our independence. Still, it wasn’t until 1933 that we were able to declare our independence again as the East Turkistan Republic. But unfortunately, because of Soviet intervention and subsequent Chinese invasion, our first Republic was overthrown within a period of six months.

A Chinese Warlord, aligned with the Soviet Union, ruled East Turkistan for over a decade. However, in 1942, this Chinese Warlord, Sheng Shicai, switched sides after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union and aligned himself with the Republic of China or Nationalist China, and began to colonize East Turkistan. This time the Soviets supported our national liberation movement. We declared independence once again on November 12th, 1944, and maintained our independence until December 22nd, 1949. In August 1949, our government leaders — our President, Defense Minister, General Secretary, and their staff were all called to a meeting in Moscow. Several days later, the official narrative was that their plane had crashed.

Then, according to recently declassified CIA documents from the 1940s and 1950s, the Chinese communists and the Soviets assassinated over 30 senior leaders of the Eastern Turkistan Republic. Then Mao announced the People’s Republic of China and the Soviets assisted the Chinese communists in occupying East Turkistan. They were fearful that if East Turkistan remained independent, given the fact we border India, the British and Americans might get involved and try to push back against both the Soviet Union and the newly created People’s Republic of China.

Our conversation is occurring because new evidence has come out in recent weeks that genocide and systematic atrocities are occurring against the Uyghur people. Can you explain to our readers why the Chinese government is oppressing the Uyghurs right now?

Well, this is nothing new. This is part of their campaign of colonization and occupation. The Chinese government is essentially seeking a final solution, and they’re doing this because they’re claim to be fighting against “separatism and terrorism”. That’s the excuse they have been using. The fact that East Turkistan is not a Chinese territory and that the Uyghur, Kazakhs, and other peoples are not Chinese and they pose a security risk for China in the eyes of the Chinese government. One of the Chinese government’s top national defense goals is to prevent the creation and independence of East Turkistan. This is what it’s essentially all about: Controlling the land and its resources and ensuring that our people and our country don’t regain our independence.

Are there citizens in China who oppose this genocide, or are they so repressed or brainwashed that they’re not aware of it, and you don’t receive any help from Chinese citizens?

Well, it’s a bit of both. Most Chinese people are brainwashed by the Chinese government’s propaganda, which portrays Uyghurs as “foreign devils,” “barbarians” and post 9–11 as “terrorists.” A VICE journalist went to East Turkistan several years ago and asked random Chinese people on a train what they thought about the Uyghurs. The Chinese people responded that Uyghurs deserved to die and that they were “terrorists.”

So this is the misconception that the majority of the Chinese population has. Most of them have never been to East Turkistan, and they don’t know Uyghurs. So they assume that whatever the government is saying is essentially true.

Even before this campaign started in 2007, a Chinese scholar wrote a book called “My West China, Your East Turkistan.” He spoke to academics and Chinese liberal elites. There’s a section in the book where he writes that “I am more shocked by Han intellectuals, including some elites at the top. On any normal day, they appear to be open-minded, reasonable, and supportive of reform, but as soon as we touch the topic of Xinjiang [East Turkistan], the word “kill” streams out of their mouths with such facility. If genocide can keep Xinjiang [East Turkistan] under China’s sovereignty, I think it is possible that they will be able to stay composed and quiet if millions of Uighurs are killed.”

The Chinese authorities say that this is a complete lie. So for the sake of our readers, what proof is there that the Chinese are committing genocide?

The proof that exists is that the Chinese government has a documented policy to kill Uyghurs. They have forced organ harvesting of Uyghurs. They’re sterilizing our population. According to their own government, they’ve aborted, or “prevented,” is the word they use, over 3.7 million “illegal births”. So, even being born as an Uyghur is unlawful in itself.

The destruction, the physical destruction that’s happening, is estimated that around 25,000 to 35,000 Uyghurs are being executed annually for their organs. This is the evidence that is happening there. Chinese government leaders, like Xi Jinping and the communist party secretary, state they need to eliminate us and spray chemicals like weeds. They are using this type of terminology.

The government itself announced in 2018 that they collected the DNA samples, voice prints, and retina scans of 36 million non-Han people, so anyone that’s not Chinese in East Turkistan between the ages of 12 and 65.

There are crematoriums and special lanes at airports that state “for plant organ transplants only” All of this is evidence of the millions of Uyghurs disappearing into concentration camps. East Turkistan has the highest tuberculosis rates in all of the areas under the control of the People’s Republic of China. I believe this is not all a coincidence. This is what genocide looks like with advanced technology and the capability to hide that they’re committing genocide. Anyone can go onto Google Earth or Google Maps and view the thousand-plus concentration camps and prisons across East Turkistan.

Uyghurd and other Turkic peoples made up over 90% of the population of East Turkistan in 1949. The Chinese made up less than 5%. There were only 179,000 Chinese in December of 1949, and that was the Chinese PLA (People’s Liberation Army), remnants of the KMT armed forces, and Chinese officials that they sent to take over East Turkistan and administer it. Now you come to 2021 or 2022, the Chinese amount to over 40% of the population, and the Turkic Uyghurs, and Kazak peoples are about 55%.

The Chinese authorities say these camps are re-education vocational schools, and they’re trying to give them skills for work. How do you respond? How do you know that it’s not a vocational school, but it’s more sinister?

No, it’s not a vocational training school. It’s a concentration camp. Many of these people already have an education. Many of them are artists, some are lawyers, and some have PhDs. Some are professors. There are people from all walks of life. Some are wealthy billionaires. What kind of vocational training would they need? If you look at the recently uncovered Xinjiang police files, people from 14 to 73 years old plus have been taken into these camps for any reason or excuse. For example, one woman was taken into a camp because her son didn’t smoke or drink. Therefore, she must have raised him as an “extremist”. Or, if they listened to a religious lecture, traveled to a foreign country, or simply disagreed with some government policy. These are the reasons why these people have been labeled as terrorists.

They’re not being sent to vocational training. There’s no vocational training school with prison cells, watch towers and snipers, and a shoot-to-kill policy for anyone who wants to leave.

Why is the territory of Xinjiang so important to China? Why is it worth so much resources and the unfortunate world opinion? Why do they care so much about it?

Well, one East Turkistan is strategically located. It neighbors 10 countries, including China, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Tibet. It’s roughly one-fifth of the current territory of the so-called People’s Republic of China. It’s a massive piece of real estate, rich in oil, natural gas, and other resources.

Over 80% of China’s cotton supply production comes out of East Turkistan, roughly 22% of the global cotton supply. Over 50% of the global polysilicon used to make solar panel production comes out of East Turkistan. East Turkistan is what’s powering China’s cities. You have an electrical grid that runs from East Turkistan and powers over a hundred Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou, and other major cities. East Turkistan’s oil, natural gas, coal and rare earth minerals are fueling China’s rise.

And most importantly, East Turkistan is the cornerstone of China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative to achieve the so-called Chinese dream and achieve Chinese national rejuvenation. So if you free East Turkistan from China’s control, China would not be as powerful as it is today. That’s why the Chinese view East Turkistan as a strategic resource for their growth. But also, it’s a stepping stone that connects them to South and Central Asia and ultimately to Europe. So if East Turkistan becomes independent, that will be the end of China’s expansionist dream. That’s why they have been initiating this so-called ‘People’s War’ specifically to prevent the independence of East Turkistan.

The US government has declared the Chinese policy toward the Uyghurs as genocide, but it’s clearly not enough. It’s still being perpetuated. From your perspective, what should the US and other governments do to address the ongoing genocide? What has to be done to stop it?

Well, let’s be realistic here. Genocide is not going to end by itself. If you look at every other genocide that happened in the past 100 years alone, it took global action to stop it. In most cases, it took force to stop it. For example, the Nazis didn’t stop the Holocaust until the allied forces forced them to stop by liberating those concentration camps. Even in Yugoslavia, with the Bosnian genocide, it took NATO to respond before the Serbs stopped killing the Bosnians. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a similar situation. If the international community had just stood by silently, the Russians would’ve engaged in a much more brutal massacre and genocide of Ukraine than what’s happening today.

Luckily, the international community responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by supporting the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people politically, militarily, and economically. It also responded by invoking all types of targeted sanctions against Russian leaders and the Russian government, essentially pulling out of Russia and making it much harder for them to continue their atrocities.

This is what needs to happen in terms of East Turkistan as well. At the very least, the international community needs to acknowledge that this is not just about simple human rights violations. Instead, they need to address the root of the problem. This is an issue of a colonized nation struggling to regain its independence.

When you hear of colonialism, you think it ended completely by the mid-20th century. Still, you see colonialism continuing in the 21st century in the People’s Republic of China as the most prominent colonial power of the 21st century. They’re colonizing East Turkistan; they’re occupying Tibet and Southern Mongolia. They’ve completely colonized Manchuria to where it’s a lost hope. They’re engaging in neocolonialism in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia through the Belt and Road Initiative. So the international community needs to push back and act fast before we ultimately strengthen the modern age Hitler and the modern age Nazis to where it will be too late for us to even push back against them in a decade or so.

Often governments respond to pressure from their citizens, or at least in the west. Can you suggest five things every individual citizen should or can do to help ultimately free the Uyghurs? What can each of us do?

The first thing that everyone can do is simply learn about what’s happening in East Turkistan and inform everyone around them, whether it’s their family, their neighbors, or their colleagues. Then they need to urge their elected officials at all levels, whether it’s their City Council and up to members of parliament, Congress, and even the President, to take decisive action.

We all need to realize that every time we buy something made in China, whether it’s phones — anything that is made in China, we’re ultimately contributing to the Chinese government’s genocide that is taking place in East Turkistan. So even if it’s just ten cents out of a dollar, the Chinese government profits from that. So even if it’s just one cent, we have essentially just contributed $.01 to a genocidal regime.

We need to push back against this by boycotting all goods and services that are made in China. We have to hit them where it hurts economically. Hopefully, that will pressure them to reconsider, but ultimately, given the situation’s reality, that’s not going to be enough. We need to urge the United States government to uphold its commitments to the UN Genocide Convention and the UN’s responsibility to protect its obligations in specific cases like this. I mean, the whole point of the UN after it was created was to prevent another Holocaust from occurring, yet we are seeing something similar happening in East Turkistan today.

Suppose a Holocaust were to occur in the 21st century with the way humanity is now and with the advanced technology today. In that case, I think it would happen in the way it is happening in East Turkistan because the Chinese government uses advanced technology and has been able to essentially close East Turkistan off to the rest of the world. People simply are not aware of what’s happening in East Turkistan, even locally. You don’t know what’s happening in the next town over from you. That’s the sad reality. We need to learn more, inform others, urge our elected officials to do something, and boycott Chinese goods and services.

Are you ever fearful for your safety because you’re standing up against a very powerful government? Do you ever feel in danger?

I’ve been harassed a lot. I’ve been targeted by the Chinese government a lot. At this point, it’s fear that’s controlling our population in East Turkistan. It’s fear preventing our diaspora community from coming out and speaking. We have a million-plus strong diaspora community, yet not even 10% are willing to stand up because they’re afraid of what might happen to their family members who are held captive in East Turkistan or how they might be targeted.

Over the past several decades, the Chinese government has targeted many Uyghur leaders, especially pro-independence leaders. I can’t let that fear prevent me from doing my work. I’m not a very religious person, but in my culture, we have a saying: “It’s God who gives you life, and it’s God who takes life.” So nobody can take your life without the permission of God.

Pakistan is a strong ally of China. Pakistan is a Muslim country. Have the Uyghur people received support from Pakistan particularly, and from the broader Muslim community in general?

No. For the past 100 years, the Muslim world has been completely silent. Not only is it silent, but in many ways, it’s also complicit. Countries like Pakistan and other Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have deported the Uyghur population there, handing them over to China. The Chinese government either executes them immediately on the border or puts black hoods over their heads and parades them as terrorists — and we’re talking about children who are being deported. The Muslim world has essentially sold out East Turkistan and their fellow co-religionists for Chinese money.

I mentioned organ harvesting earlier. The Chinese government is harvesting our people’s organs and selling them as halal organs, meaning the organs came from people who have never drank alcohol, eaten pork, and had a strict Muslim diet. They are sold to wealthy Muslims from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. There is plenty of evidence of this. As mentioned earlier just two weeks ago, experts testified in front of Congress that an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 Uyghurs are explicitly killed for their organs every year.

Wow. That’s terrible. So is there anything that could be done to garner more Muslim support? If the global Muslim community could unite around this issue, it would be a very powerful force.

Yes, but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon because we have to look at the reality. We live in a world where every country is about its own national and economic interests. The Muslim world relies heavily upon their relationship with China and Chinese investments and funding. Many of the governments that run the Muslim world are authoritarian regimes engaging in human rights violations against their own people. The Western world is unwilling to give them funding and support unless they improve their human rights record and give more freedom to their own people. China is brazen. They don’t care about human rights. In fact, the more you oppress your people, the happier they are.

They won’t criticize whether someone targets non-Muslims in their countries or whether they oppress their people. That won’t prevent the Chinese from giving loans to those countries. They ask those countries to side with them on the East Turkistan / Uyghur issue. And the Muslim world is like: “Okay. Yeah, perfect.” It seems like a fair deal for them. They just sell us out so they can get Chinese money.

So realistically, I don’t ever foresee the Muslim world being supportive. Even a hundred years ago, when we declared our independence in 1933, our prime minister stated we were not going to get Muslim support, even though our population is majority Muslim. This is a sad reality. So we have to turn to the great powers like the US, UK, and the League of Nations to support us, to help us.

Wow. So thank you for your time, Prime Minister. I appreciate these really important insights. It’s very disturbing and unsettling. I hope this interview will make a difference. Would you like to share anything else before we conclude?

Yes, I think we need to end on the note that Michelle Bachelet with the UN Human Rights Commission visited East Turkistan. She said it wasn’t an investigation, but rather, they are looking to work with China on human rights issues. No mention of the concentration camps or the genocide. Instead, she stated that China needs to update its counter-terrorism policies. The UN is complicit in covering up China’s ongoing genocide in East Turkistan. The world needs to recognize that ending Chinese colonization and occupation and restoring East Turkistan’s independence is the only solution left to end China’s ongoing genocide and ensure the human rights, freedoms, and very existence of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can visit our websites:

East Turkistan National Awakening Movement: https://nationalawakening.org


East Turkistan Government in Exile: https://east-turkistan.net

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