The below article was published by Tech Bullion, photo credit: Salih Hudayar/Tech Bullion
East Turkistan, also known as Xinjiang is strategically located along the Silk Road Economic Belt and has a rich historical and cultural background. In this interview with TechBullion, Salih Hudayar, the current Prime Minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile gives us an overview of the current situation in the region.
Please introduce yourself, tell us your name and a little more about yourself.
I am Salih Hudayar, the current Prime Minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile and leader of the East Turkistan National Movement. Born in East Turkistan, I was forced into exile in the United States at a young age due to the Chinese oppression and occupation of my homeland. Having grown up in the United States, I am now a naturalized American citizen. I have devoted my entire adult life to liberating East Turkistan and its people from the oppressive grip of Chinese rule.
For those who do not know, tell us about East Turkistan, the location, the population and what is the current state of governance.
East Turkistan, referred to as “Xinjiang (“New Territory” or “Colony”)” by China, is an expansive occupied country situated in the heart of Central Asia. Spanning an area of 1.82 million square kilometers—approximately three times the size of Ukraine—it is endowed with abundant natural and mineral resources, including rare earth minerals. East Turkistan constitutes one-fifth of the territories currently controlled by the People’s Republic of China. With a rich history spanning over 6,000 years, East Turkistan has preserved its distinct cultural, territorial, and political identity, except during recent periods of Chinese occupation.
China invaded East Turkistan on October 12, 1949, and subsequently overthrew the independent East Turkistan Republic on December 22 of the same year. Since then, East Turkistan has been enduring Chinese colonization and occupation. The native East Turkistani population primarily consists of Turkic ethnic groups such as Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz, with Uyghurs forming the majority. The Uyghur and other Turkic peoples are currently subjected to policies of assimilation and genocide implemented by the Chinese state and the Chinese Communist Party, which governs East Turkistan with an iron fist.
Could you tell us more about your work for the people of East Turkistan, your campaign for independence, and the impact it has made so far?
In 2017, I founded the East Turkistan National Movement to combat China’s ongoing Uyghur Genocide. My unyielding efforts led to my election as Prime Minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile in 2019. I’ve made legal history by filing the first-ever complaint against Chinese officials at the International Criminal Court, aiming for justice for East Turkistan and its people.
My approach is multifaceted: I liaise with international bodies, governments, and media to highlight East Turkistan’s plight. I also lead international calls to recognize China’s genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, and brought the first ever legal complaint, at the International Criminal Court, against Chinese officials. I tirelessly advocated for sanctions against China and pushed for global recognition of East Turkistan as an occupied country and sough support for the restoration of East Turkistan’s independence. Though the challenges are huge, we’ve seen increased global recognition and criticism of China’s ongoing genocide in East Turkistan. As a result of my efforts, the flame of independence is reigniting across our global diaspora, marking a significant step toward justice and liberation.
What are the current challenges facing East Turkistan and how have the people of East Turkistan been affected by these challenges?
The challenges facing East Turkistan are multifaceted. Economically, despite being rich in natural resources, these assets are systematically exploited by the Chinese state and colonists, leaving the native population mired in poverty. Politically, our people endure a foreign regime that suppresses even the most basic human rights and severely punishes dissent, whether through imprisonment, torture, or execution.
The humanitarian crisis is particularly stark. Over three million Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples are confined in concentration camps, prisons, and forced labor camps, subjected to forced labor, cultural erasure, and various forms of physical and psychological torture. Beyond the confines of these camps, pervasive surveillance and intense policing turn daily life into a maze of fears and indignities
Given this grim landscape, it becomes irrefutably clear that the restoration of East Turkistan’s independence transcends political objectives; it’s a matter of existential urgency. Our people are suffering through a relentless genocide and a policy of deliberate colonization. East Turkistan’s independence is not just an aspiration; it is an urgent necessity for the survival, freedom, and lasting dignity of our people. Only by re-establishing our sovereign state can we halt this ongoing tragedy and secure a future for our nation.
China’s interests in East Turkistan are not merely economic and strategic; they are foundational to its grander ambitions for global supremacy, particularly through its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. East Turkistan is the cornerstone of this initiative, serving as a pivotal gateway that connects China to markets and political spheres in Central Asia, the Middle East, and even into Europe and beyond. The Chinese state’s actions are calculated not just to exploit but to colonize East Turkistan permanently. By engaging in genocide, suppressing our culture and identity, enforcing forced labor, and strategically re-engineering the demographic makeup through the influx of Chinese colonial settlers, China seeks to make East Turkistan an irreversible part of its empire. This is part of a long-term strategy to use East Turkistan as a springboard for further expansion westward into Central Asia and southward into South Asia.
What kind of response do you suggest could help make things better for the people of East Turkistan?
The root of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in East Turkistan lies in China’s invasion and occupation of our homeland. It’s not just a matter of human rights abuses; it’s a matter of colonial domination that needs to be rectified through decolonization and the restoration of East Turkistan’s independence. This grim reality has been largely overlooked by the international community, whose focus often shifts to less uncomfortable topics due to economic ties with China or geopolitical hesitance.
We call for a multi-pronged approach that starts with acknowledging the true nature of the crisis: an illegal occupation and ongoing genocide. Once that’s established, the next logical steps are decolonization and independence, like the support given to Ukraine in its struggle against Russian aggression. This should involve sanctions against China, diplomatic pressures, and legal actions against officials perpetuating these crimes.
Additionally, international coalitions should be formed, both to pressure China and to provide material support to East Turkistan in its struggle for freedom. Inaction is untenable and morally indefensible. Ignoring the crisis not only provides tacit consent for China’s ongoing campaign of genocide, but also sets a perilous precedent that threatens to unravel the fabric of international law and global stability. The world must act, and it must act now—to stop one of the gravest human rights atrocities of our time.
Where are the opportunities for technology in East Turkistan? Is it a place of technological innovations?
Technology in East Turkistan under Chinese rule is a double-edged sword. On one hand, our land is rich in rare earth minerals essential for modern technological advancements, ranging from smartphones to renewable energy systems. On the other hand, this technological potential is twisted into a tool of oppression by the Chinese government. Extensive surveillance systems have been deployed to monitor the everyday lives of our people, turning our cities and towns into open-air prisons.
In an independent East Turkistan, the technological landscape could be vastly different. The opportunities for technological advancements are immense, especially in areas crucial for the future like sustainable development. We envision a country harnessing its rich reserves of rare earth minerals for innovative sectors such as renewable energy and sustainable agriculture, driving not just national but global change.
Freedom from Chinese occupation would allow East Turkestan to pivot from a state where technology is used to suppress, to one where it is used to elevate. The first step towards this future is the decolonization and restoration of East Turkistan’s independence. Only then can technology truly serve as a force for good, rather than a means of subjugation.
What are your hopes and where do you see the future for East Turkistan?
My hopes for the future of East Turkistan are anchored in the indomitable spirit of our people and the righteousness of our cause. I envision a free, democratic East Turkistan that celebrates its rich cultural heritage while embracing modernity. A nation that stands as a beacon of human rights, religious freedom, and social justice. A land where the technological, economic, and human resources are harnessed for the collective prosperity of its citizens, rather than exploited by an occupying power. Restoring East Turkistan’s independence is the foundational pillar upon which these aspirations rest. I believe that once we regain our sovereignty, East Turkistan can emerge as a strong, self-reliant nation. We aim to cultivate partnerships with countries around the globe, not as a subordinate or an exploited territory, but as a sovereign equal contributing positively to international relations and global stability.
However, to manifest this vision into reality, it’s imperative that the international community stand with us in our struggle against Chinese occupation and oppression. We are not just fighting for the liberation of East Turkistan; we are fighting for the principles that should be the bedrock of the international order—justice, human dignity, and the right of all peoples to self-determination.
The road ahead is undoubtedly fraught with challenges, but we are steadfast in our commitment. We are not asking for anything beyond what is granted under international law: the right to live free, in dignity, and in peace on our own land. That is the future I see for East Turkistan—a future worth fighting for.
Is there any other information you would like to share with our readers today?
I want to emphasize that East Turkistan’s struggle is not an isolated issue; it’s a part of a broader pattern of China’s imperial ambitions and human rights atrocities. The international community’s response will set a precedent for how such injustices are dealt with globally.
I urge readers to lend their voice to our cause. Educate yourselves, engage in conversations, and push your governments to act. Public opinion can influence policy, and policy can reshape destinies. East Turkistan’s fight is not just for us; it’s a fight for justice and the future of mankind as whole.