EAST TURKISTAN GOVERNMENT IN EXILE

Restoring Freedom and Independence to East Turkistan and its People

Second East Turkistan Republic (1944-1949)

Table of Contents

The second East Republic, officially known as the East Turkistan Republic [Sherqiy Türkistan Jumhuriyiti], was a short-lived independent state from 1944 to 1949. It was the second successful attempt by the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of East Turkistan to declare independence and establish a modern independent state in the 20th century.

The East Turkistan Republic was the primary product of an independence movement led by Uyghur and other Turkic people living in East Turkistan, and multi-ethnic and Turkic in character, including Kazakhs, Kyrgyz Uzbeks, Tatars, and even Mongols in its government and armed forces.

Following the assassination of its leaders in a “plane crash” in August 1949, along with an invasion by the then newly established People’s Republic of China (Communist China), the second ETR was overthrown on December 22, 1949. However, along with the first East Turkistan Republic (1933-1934), it serves as a basis and inspiration for the modern East Turkistan independence movement supported by Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic peoples aiming to re-establish the independent East Turkistan Republic.

Origins of the Second ETR

East Turkistan was governed, with Soviet influence, by the Han Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai between 1934 and 1943. Following Uyghur uprisings in 1937 aimed at restoring East Turkistan’s independence, Sheng began a great purge, imprisoning and executing Uyghur and other Turkic leaders, scholars, and anyone he deemed a threat to his power. Among those purged included Uyghur leaders like Khoja Niyaz, who was the Vice Chairman of the region at that time. Under Sheng Shicai’s rule, East Turkistan and its people were subjected to brutal repression, similar to Chen Quanguo’s rule today. Some 200,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples were arrested and executed under Sheng’s totalitarian rule.

Kazakhs in the Altay region of East Turkistan, under the leadership of Osman Islam (Osman Batur) and Delilqan Sugurbayev, rebelled against Sheng’s rule in the Koktokay Rebellion in 1941. By the end of 1941, Sheng’s brutal totalitarian regime in East Turkistan created widespread discontent amongst Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Tatars, and even Mongols living in East Turkistan, resulting in calls for independence to get stronger again.

Although he was initially aligned closely with the Soviet Union, taking advantage of Soviet setbacks in its war with Germany, Sheng shifted towards the Republic of China (Nationalist China) in Nanjing and expelled all Soviet personnel from the region in 1942.

In April 1942, Isaqbek Munonow, the Society for the Promotion of Kazakh and Kyrgyz Culture director, fled to the Soviet Union; around the same period, hundreds of other Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tatar, and Mongol leaders fled to the Soviet Union as well. The Soviet Union abandoned its policy of supporting Sheng’s regime and shifted towards supporting the Turkic national independence movement brewing in East Turkistan.

By mid-1943, the Uyghur and other Turkic peoples had established the East Turkistan National Liberation Organization and began to receive covert support from the Soviets against Chinese occupation. The Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai who by this time had accepted the Republic of China (Nationalist China) ’s authority and was named the head of the Kuomintang in “Xinjiang” by the Republic of China.

Following the Soviet’s victories against Germany in 1944, Sheng sent a letter to Stalin offering to incorporate East Turkistan (“Xinjiang”) into the USSR as its 18th Soviet Socialist Republic. Stalin, in turn, forwarded the letter to Chiang Kai-shek, who removed Sheng from his post and brought him back to Chongqing, China.

Following Sheng’s departure, a rebellion slowly broke out in East Turkistan. In mid-August 1944, Uyghur and Turkic rebels locals formed the “Nilka Guerrillas” group led by Gheni Batur to secure independence for East Turkistan. They succeeded in capturing Nilka County on October 8th, 1944.

On November 7th, 1944, members of the East Turkistan National Liberation Organization led by Abdulkerim Abbasov and Alihan Tore attacked the KMT (Republic of China) police headquarters in Ghulja. At the same time, groups of other Uyghur, Kazakh, and other Turkic rebels began to attack the outskirts capturing the city of Ghulja by November 12th as Chinese government forces fled the city.

Creation of the Second ETR

On November 12, 1944, the East Turkistan National Liberation Organization held a large rally at the Uyghur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz Club in Ghulja to proclaim East Turkistan’s independence as the East Turkistan Republic. The two prominent leaders of the East Turkistan National Liberation Organization, Alihan Tore, an ethnic Uzbek, was elected as the President, and Abdulkerim Abbasov, an Uyghur, was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs. Thus the East Turkistan Republic was officially declared.

Although the second East Turkistan Republic founders hadn’t drafted a comprehensive constitution for the newly established Republic before it declared independence, they announced the Nine Political Precepts (Toqquz Maddliq Siyasi Programma) as a precursor to a constitution. 

Summary of the Nine Political Precepts:

President Alihan Tore fiercely condemned Chinese rule over East Turkistan (what China calls “Xinjiang”) in his speech on November 12, 1944. He called on the Han [Chinese] government to stop creating pseudo-history about East Turkistan. He further called on China to “abandon its ambitions for the territory of East Turkistan, and find a way to liberate its own Chinese territories” from the Japanese.

He urged all the people of East Turkistan to “fight to liberate the entire nation from the tyranny of Chinese rule over the fatherland of East Turkistan,” stating it was not only a civic duty but also a religious duty.

On February 24, 1945, the Government Council announced Resolution No. 24.

"The most important objectives of the revolution for the liberation of East Turkistan are to topple the brutal rule of the Han Chinese, exterminate the savage Nationalist [Chinese] armies, and achieve the wish that our people have cherished for centuries: driving out the Han [Chinese] colonizers, and establishing a strong and prosperous [independent] state that cares for the people, with true equality for all ethnicities."

Resolution No. 24 - Government Council of the East Turkistan Republic

The second East Turkistan  Republic, like the first ETR, had all aspects of a modern state including a highly organized government with various departments and ministries, a national army, a judicial system, and it even issued currency known as the “East Turkistan Dollar.” It was much more professionalized and solid in comparison to the first East Turkistan Republic. 

East Turkistan National Army

On April 8, 1945, the founding of the East Turkistan Republic’s National Army was proclaimed with a large military parade. The armed groups scattered across that northwestern part of East Turkistan were organized into seven regiments, four independent battalions, and one independent company. General recruitment of all ethnic groups, except for the Chinese, was carried out by the East Turkistan National Army.

At its height in 1946, the East Turkistan National Army had over 50,000 active-duty troops and an estimated 100,000 reserve troops. Several departments were established under the East Turkistan National Army Headquarters, including Political Department, War Department, Military Administration Department, Cadre Department, Reconnaissance Department, and a Supply and Logistics Department. The Soviets had also embedded military advisors into the East Turkistan National Army to help train them and monitor their movements.

The East Turkistan National Army was armed with primarily German weaponry, some Soviet weaponry, and American weaponry captured from the Republic of China. Much of its initial arms were sold to the East Turkistan Republic by the Soviet Union. The East Turkistan National Army’s Artillery Division originally consisted of at least 12 field artillary cannons, two armored vehicles, and two tanks. A National Aviation Force was established with forty-two airplanes that the East Turkistan National Army had captured at a Republic of China (Nationalist China) airbase in Ghulja.

By July 1945, the East Turkistan National Army was conducting a three-front war advancing against the Republic of China’s positions in the rest of East Turkistan. On the Northern Front, the East Turkistan National Army succeeded in liberating the Targabatay and Altay region by September of 1945. On the Central Front, the East Turkistan National Army succeeded in liberating all territories west of the Manas River. The East Turkistan National Army crossed the Tengri Tagh (“Tianshan”) mountains on the Southern Front. It succeeded in liberating much of the northern parts of the Aksu region by September 1945 and set up a Kashgar Regiment to liberate Kashgar from Chinese occupation.

After hearing about the East Turkistan National Army’s impending arrival to all of southern East Turkistan, Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples across Kashgar, Yarkent, and other places across East Turkistan began to rebel against Chinese occupation. The East Turkistan Republic was rapidly expanding, but that came to a halt in October 1945.

The Republic of China (Nationalist China) sent Chinese warlord Ma Fuyang and his Hui (Chinese Muslim) army to reinforce the Republic of China troops and assist them in protecting Urumchi from an impending attack by the East Turkistan National Army. By early September 1945, over 100,000 Han and Hui Chinese troops had been deployed to East Turkistan under the command of the Republic of China’s KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party).

Soviet Pressure

In September 1945, the East Turkistan National Army captured Manas and made preparations to cross the Manas River to push eastward towards the main Republic of China stronghold in Urumchi. However, the Soviet military advisors suddenly pressured the ETR’s leadership to stop all of its military campaigns. President Alihan Tore, who had been given the nominal rank of “Marshal of the East Turkistan National Army,” tried to reject the Soviet pressure insisting that continuing the military campaigns were necessary to liberate all of East Turkistan and ensure its future survival.

Little did they, the East Turkistan Republic’s leadership, know that the future of their Republic had already been secretly negotiated and decided upon by world powers at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. The Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, signed by the Soviet Union and the Republic of China on August 14, 1945, revealed that the Soviet Union had already decided to sacrifice the East Turkistan Republic for more critical interests of national importance for the Soviets. The Soviet Union pledged to cease all aid to the East Turkistan Republic and tacitly gave the green light for the Republic of China to suppress the East Turkistan Republic.

Soviets pressured the East Turkistan Republic’s leadership to enter peace negotiations with the Republic of China. The East Turkistan Republic’s leadership became divided as President Alihan Tore, and his supporters in the East Turkistan Republic’s Government Council fiercely opposed the idea of peace negotiation with China. He condemned the peace negotiations as “an action betraying the interests of the Uyghur people, an action betraying the achievements of the revolution, and an action to court the favor of the Chinese.”

Despite opposition from half of the Government, on October 2, 1945, the East Turkistan Republic issued a resolution responding to the Chinese Government’s call for negotiations. The resolution stated that the East Turkistan Republic was willing to negotiate with the Republic of China on the basis that the East Turkistan Republic would continue to seek independence for all of East Turkistan’s territories.

On January 5, 1946, just three days before the “Eleven Articles of Peace” was signed by the delegation led by Ahmetjan Qasimi and the Republic of China, the Republic of China officially recognized the establishment of the Mongolian People’s Republic (Mongolia). The “Eleven Articles of Peace” called for extended peace talks and the creation of a coalition government formed by Chinese and other Turkic peoples based on ethnic equality. During the peace talks, the faction of the East Turkistan Republic led by President Alihan Tore continued to oppose the peace talks and persuaded the Government Council of the East Turkistan Republic to issue a series of resolutions emphasizing the nature of the East Turkistan Republic as an independent state.

Summary of Resolutions passed:

“If the Chinese government fails to hand over all power to us in compliance with our terms, and continues to implement the policies of the colonialist system, then we must continue to fight. If your objectives are not achieved, we wove to fight on, through bloody sacrifice and war, to liberate the whole of East Turkistan and establish our own eternal state.”

Free East Turkistan [Azat Sherqiy Turkistan], April 4, 1946

The Decline of the ETR

At the start of the peace talks, the Republic of China (Nationalist China) Government in Chongqing sent General Zhang Zhizong, the Director of the Republic of China’s Military Council, and appointed him as the colonial Governor. Along with him came three Uyghurs from Chongqing, Isa Yusuf Aliptekin, Masud Sabri, and Muhammed Emin Bughra, all of whom worked for the Republic of China. Aliptekin was a Senior Adviser in the Republic of China’s Defense Ministry’s Border Affairs Department and was a member of China’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan, as a “Representative of Xinjiang Province.” 

The Republic of China, under the KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party), employed Isa Yusuf Alptekin, Masud Sabri, and Muhammed Emin Bughra, who became to be known as the “Three Gentleman,” to attack the East Turkistan Republic. The “Three Gentleman” had been tasked with persuading the Uyghur and other Turkic people in East Turkistan to oppose East Turkistan’s independence in favor of “autonomy” under Chinese rule. The East Turkistan Republic declared the “Three Gentleman” as “traitors to the people of East Turkistan” and as “puppets of the KMT,” which was using them “to fragment the people’s strength to annihilate our lineage entirely.” 

The “peace talks” with the Republic of China accompanied internal strife in the East Turkistan Republic’s Government Council between the pro-Soviet faction led by Abdulkerim Abbasov and the nationalist faction led by Alihan Tore. With the support of the Soviets, the pro-Soviet faction slowly pushed President Alihan Tore and his supporters aside as the peace talks progressed.

On May 1, 1946, the Soviets proposed a “Final Mediated Plan” that would:

  1. Reform the East Turkistan National Army, and a regiment would be stationed in Urumchi, Kashgar, and Aksu;
  2. A commander-in-chief with unified command over the reformed National Army troops would be installed and would serve as the Deputy Commissioner for Military Affairs in the “Xinjiang Provincial Government”;
  3. The armed forces of the Chinese government would be prohibited from entering the three regions of Ili, Targabatay, and Altay;
  4. The political police force would be disbanded, and local residents would form police organizations for each region;
  5. The number of Chinese government forces in East Turkistan (what Beijing calls “Xinjiang”) would be reduced to the levels as of January 1944.  

As the East Turkistan delegation and Chinese representatives prepared to sign the “Second Addendum to the Peace Terms,” Soviet advisors sent to the East Turkistan Republic started to leave back to the Soviet Union. President Alihan Tore and his followers continued to show opposition to the peace talks but failed to stop them. On June 6, 1946, the “Second Addendum to the Peace Terms” was formally signed. On the same day, President Alihan Tore of the East Turkistan Republic and several of his most trusted followers and staff were detained and escorted to Almaty by representatives of the Soviet Consulate. Alihan Tore was subsequently put under house arrest in Tashkent, where he died in 1976.

With the signing of the “Second Addendum to the Peace Terms,” the East Turkistan Republic, under its new President, Ahmetjan Qasimi, continued to stress East Turkistan’s right to independence. The peace terms called for the downsizing of the East Turkistan Republic’s military forces and the Republic of China in all territories of East Turkistan (what China calls “Xinjiang”).

The ETR would follow through with the agreement and downsized to roughly 12,000 active troops and withdrew most of its forces from Kashgar, Aksu, and elsewhere and stationed them in the three regions of Illi, Targabatay, and Altay. They were allowed to leave a small peacekeeping contingent in Kashgar and Aksu.

In July 1946, a “Xinjiang Provincial Coalition Government” was set up with various leaders of the ETR taking dual roles. The ETR’s President Ahmatjan Qasimi also assumed the position of “Vice-Chairman of the Xinjiang Provincial Government.” The ETR’s Interior Minister Abdulkerim Abbasov also became “Deputy Secretary-General of the Xinjiang Provincial Coalition Government.” Following discontent by the East Turkistani people towards Chinese presence in East Turkistani, as President of the East Turkistan Republic, Ahmatjan Qasimi called for unity and support for the East Turkistan Republic and officially rejected the coalition government and withdrew from it in February 1947.

He had previously led a delegation to the Chinese National Assembly (the Legislative Yuan) in Nanjing to negotiate bi-lateral relations between the East Turkistan Republic and the Republic of China, which didn’t prove fruitful.

He explained that the people of East Turkistan had risen in rebellion only to secure their rights guaranteed under the Chinese constitution. Although the East Turkistan Republic continued to maintain its independence and called for the complete liberation of all of East Turkistan from Chinese rule, it couldn’t engage in any military campaigns due to economic pressure from the Soviet Union and the Republic of China.

The Fall of the ETR

On July 12, 1947, President Ahmetjan Qasimi and Interior Minister Rahimjan Sabir wrote a letter to the Soviet Consul in Urumchi pleading for the Soviet Union and Stalin to protect the interests of East Turkistan and its people. On September 10, 1947, the Soviet Council of Ministers offered four proposals to support the East Turkistan Republic. The proposals included covertly supporting Uyghur rebels in Turpan with military aid, providing immediate military assistance to the East Turkistan Republic, and assisting Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples to expand their anti-Chinese occupation partisan movements in Aksu, Kucha, and Kashgar. However, many of these proposals were never followed through because of Stalin’s objection.

On April 24, 1948, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union privately held a meeting to announce measures to support the East Turkistan Republic. Some of the actions included giving financial and military aid and sending back Uyghurs and other Turkic people who had left East Turkistan to study in the Soviet Union to East Turkistan to help strengthen the administration, economy, and military of the East Turkistan Republic.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union continued to negotiate with Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party over East Turkistan’s status. On February 4, 1949, a meeting between the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communist Party was held. Anastas Mikoyan, the Vice Premier of the Soviet Council of Ministers, met with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Mao raised the issue of “reunifying” Outer Mongolia (independent) and Inner Mongolia (under Chinese control) and incorporating it into his future People’s Republic of China. Mikoyan rejected this proposal, and then Mao mentioned the existence of a Communist Party in East Turkistan, which Mikoyan stated, “there is no Communist Party, but there is a national independence movement.” Mao stressed that he wanted to include “Xinjiang” (East Turkistan) as a part of China. He emphasized that he would “not grant independence but autonomy” to the region.

By June 1949, the Soviet Union had agreed to let Mao take over East Turkistan. On June 27, 1949, Stalin met with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) delegation led by Liu Shiaoqi, the Secretary of the CCP’s Central Committee, and Gao Geng, a Politburo member of the CCP, where a $300 million dollar low-interest loan to China was discussed. Stalin urged the Chinese Communist Party to quickly invade and occupy East Turkistan before the English attempted to intervene. He also stated that the Chinese population in East Turkistan didn’t exceed 5% and recommended the CCP bring up the percentage of the Chinese population to 30% after taking over East Turkistan to develop the region and strengthen China’s border protection.

In August 1949, the Chinese Communist Party sent a small covert reconnaissance team led by Deng Liqun to the East Turkistan Republic’s capital of Ghulja with the help of the Soviets. Meanwhile, the East Turkistan Republic’s senior leadership, including President Ahmetjan Qasim, Secretary-General Abdukerim Abbasov, Commander of the East Turkistan National Army Isaqbek Munonow, Deputy Commander Delilqan Sugurbayev, and their staff totaling 14 people were called to a meeting in Moscow. On August 24, 1945, they boarded a plane in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Soviet Union informed Seypidin Azizi, the Education Minister of the East Turkistan Republic, that their plane “crashed” on August 27, 1949, and there were no survivors. Azizi was told to keep quiet and make preparations to travel to Beijing.

Official records from that period show that an Il-12P airplane of the Aeroflot company crashed on Thursday, August 25, 1949, in the village of Kabansk (Buryat-Mongol Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic) on Mount Kabanya, killing 14 people.

However, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, some former KGB generals and high officers, among them Pavel Sudoplatov, revealed that the five leaders were killed on Stalin’s orders in Moscow on August 27, 1949, after three-day imprisonment in the former Tsar’s stables. The ETR’s leadership had been allegedly arrested upon arrival in Moscow by the Head of MGB, Colonel-General Viktor Abakumov, who personally interrogated the ETR’s leaders, then ordered their execution. Meanwhile, in East Turkistan, some 30 other senior leaders of the East Turkistan Republic were arrested by the Soviets and disappeared.

On September 12, 1949, Mao sent a telegram to Stalin asking for 40 planes to transport an entire division of the PLA into Urumchi to occupy East Turkistan quickly. Seypidin Azizi and two others traveled to Beijing and signed a secret treaty agreeing to incorporate East Turkistan into China. Seypidin Azizi was promised a high-level position in the government that the CCP would create after the Chinese occupied East Turkistan. He was also promised that the PRC would develop East Turkistan and withdraw its forces from East Turkistan within three to five years.

On October 1, 1949, Mao announced the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. On October 12, 1949, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ‘s 2nd Army, led by WAng Zhen, Guo Peng and Wang Enmao at the instruction of Peng Dehuai, crossed the Jiuquan-Yumen-Anxi line separating East Turkistan and China. Thus officially starting the People’s Republic of China’s invasion of East Turkistan.On October 14, 1949, Stalin sent a telegram to Mao, agreeing to airlift an entire division of the PLA into Urumchi, with an expected date of arrival being 1-3 November 1949. On October 14, 1949, Stalin sent a telegram to Mao, agreeing to airlift an entire division of the PLA into Urumchi, with an expected date of arrival being 1-3 November 1949. By October 18, 1949, the PLA had already reached Turpan, and their first units arrived in Urumchi on October 20, 1949. 

Various military leaders of the East Turkistan Republic became anxious and called on the Government to prepare to defend the East Turkistan Republic but were prevented by Seypidin Azizi and the Soviets.

Most of the Republic of China (Nationalist) ‘s puppet “Xinjiang Government” officials and its forces in Urumchi, including the puppet “Governor” Burhan Shahidi and others, suddenly switched sides and welcomed the Chinese Communist Party. On December 7, 1949, the 100,000+ troops of the Republic of China (Nationalist China) stationed around Urumchi were incorporated into the PLA as its 22nd Corps.

Shortly after the PLA had consolidated control in Urumchi and most of the eastern parts of East Turkistan, including Turpan and Qumul, Seypidin publicly announced in mid-December 1949 that the leaders of the East Turkistan Republic had “died in a plane crash on their way to Beijing.”

On December 20, 1949, members of the PLA entered Ghulja, the capital of the East Turkistan Republic. The East Turkistan Republic was officially dissolved on December 22, 1949, merging the East Turkistan National Army into the PLA’s 5th Army Corps. December 22, 1949, marked the end of East Turkistan’s independence and the beginning of the Chinese Communist occupation of East Turkistan, which continues today.

Aftermath

Following the occupation of East Turkistan by the People’s Republic of China, many Uyghurs in East Turkistan, led by Isa Yusuf Alptekin and Muhammed Emin Bughra, fled to India. Isa Yusuf Alptekin, a long-time Chinese loyalist, was previously appointed the “Secretary-General of the Xinjiang Provincial Government” by the KMT-led Republic of China in 1947, and Muhammed Emin Bughra had also been appointed as the “Governor of the Xinjiang Provincial Government” in 1947. 

They arrived in Kashmir in early 1950 with several thousand Uyghurs from Khotan, Kashgar, Urumchi, and other parts of East Turkistan. Upon arriving there, Alptekin began to contact the US, Indian, and Turkish governments, falsely claiming to be the “Secretary General of East Turkistan.”

Yulbars Khan, an Uyghur from Qumul who was also working for the KMT-led Republic of China, led Hui forces to fight against the PLA from 1949-to 1950. After much of his Hui forces deserted and switched sides to the CCP, Yulbars Khan fled to Taiwan. In Taiwan, he was appointed as “Governor of Xinjiang” by Chiang Kai-shek and held the title until he died in 1971.

Meanwhile, Uyghurs and Kazakhs continued to resist Chinese occupation. One of the prominent leaders of resistance was Osman Islam (Batur), who had once been the Governor of Altay under the East Turkistan Republic. His forces continued to engage in guerrilla attacks against the PLA until his capture and execution on April 29, 1951. After Osman Batur’s death, many of his followers fled to India and later resettled in Turkey.

As the PLA marched down into southern East Turkistan, they were met with resistance in Khotan and Kashgar but were quickly able to suppress the resistance. However, small-scale resistance against Chinese occupation continued across East Turkistan. Resistance to Chinese occupation appears to have been brutally suppressed. According to a Urumqi Radio report on January 1, 1952, a total of 120,000 ‘enemies of China’ had been eliminated in East Turkistan. Another report from the same radio station in March 1954 said that 30,000 “local counter-revolutionary insurgents” were eliminated in East Turkistan, making a total of 150,000 killed in the first five years of Chinese occupation.

By 1954, the PRC had managed to control all of East Turkistan fully and began to initiate its colonial policies. Mao ordered the CCP to set up the Bingtuan ‘Xinjiang Paramilitary Production Corps (XPCC)’ by transferring an additional 300,000 Han Chinese soldiers and their families to settle in East Turkistan. The primary goal of the Bingtuan was to colonize East Turkistan’s lands most rich in natural and mineral resources; it also had the duty of assisting the PLA in suppressing rebellions. The Bingtuan (XPCC) has an estimated 3.5 million personnel as of 2020.

Many Uyghur and other Turkic leaders in the government became upset with Chinese rule and wrote numerous letters to Beijing urging them to keep their promises. Mao responded by officially designating East Turkistan as the “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” in October 1955. The PRC gave a few Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic peoples, including former East Turkistan Republic officials, some high positions in the “Autonomous Region.”

An underground East Turkistan Revolutionary Party had been created by former ETR officials calling for the restoration of East Turkistan’s independence. Growing frustrated with the PRC’s oppressive rule, in 1956, 51 prominent Uyghur and other Turkic leaders, led by former East Turkistan National Army General Memtimin Iminov, wrote a letter to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai demanding the PRC to respect its initial promises and withdraw its forces from East Turkistan.

Over a decade later, General Iminov would be detained and killed in a military hospital; the Chinese government stated he died from an illness. The rest of those who signed the letter were also purged, and the PRC began to take an even more brutal approach by arresting tens of thousands of Uyghurs, executing many of them and labeling them as “counter revolutionaries,” “foreign agents,” and “ethnic nationalists.”

Even today, the Chinese governments’ attempts to eradicate East Turkistan and its people have not stopped, and neither has the resistance.