شەرقىي تۈركىستان سۈرگۈندى ھۆكۈمىتى


Restoring Independence for East Turkistan and its people

شەرقىي تۈركىستان سۈرگۈندى ھۆكۈمىتى


Restoring Independence for East Turkistan and its people

شەرقىي تۈركىستان سۈرگۈندى ھۆكۈمىتى

East Turkistan Government in Exile

Restoring Independence for East Turkistan and its people

THE DIPLOMAT – Erasing Memories, Concealing Evidence: China’s Efforts to Obscure the Uyghur Genocide

The below article was published by The Diplomat, photo credit: Depositphotos

The risk of the Uyghur genocide being forgotten is a grave concern. The CCP has not only employed deliberate and calculated tactics to conceal its genocide and crimes against humanity in East Turkistan but has also orchestrated a campaign to ensure others forget it is happening.

Gregory H. Stanton, the President of Genocide Watch, has formulated a comprehensive framework known as the 10 stages of genocide, outlining the different phases leading up to the occurrence of genocide. It starts with classification as a crucial stage in identifying an enemy, social or ideological outcast to be eradicated, and concludes with denial as the final stage in refuting the perpetration of genocide. 

Due to its magnanimity and impact, genocide is an ongoing process. While it may physically end with the annihilation of a population, it persists in the memories of survivors, spanning generations. Therefore, for those responsible for genocide to disavow their culpability, they must eliminate all traces of its occurrence, including memories. Every genocide requires psychological warfare, with the destruction of victims’ memories being a crucial aspect. The eradication of real memory is replaced with a new psyche, particularly the collective memories of victims, and the memory of others as witnesses to it plays a crucial role in this process. Within this context, let us analyze the Uyghur genocide currently unfolding in East Turkistan, renamed “Xinjiang,” meaning “new territory,” when it was annexed by Communist China in 1949, focusing on the erasure of collective memories as a strategy of the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to evade legal and moral responsibilities for it. This strategy consists of three main components: the destruction of Uyghur infrastructure, culture, and narratives.

Destruction of Uyghur Infrastructure

In 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute released a report identifying and documenting more than 380 detention camps in East Turkistan. This demonstrated the extent to which the CCP had created concentration camps in East Turkistan. A Washington Post article from September 2022 concluded that “the re-education camp program appears to have ended in 2019 under international pressure.” This false assertion is testament to how the Chinese government and the CCP has effectively convinced the international community that there is no longer any genocide happening. However, the latest visit by Matthias Sander and Matthias Kamp from NZZ tells us the situation is far more complex on the ground. The NZZ’s research showed that all the “vocational education and training centers” the journalists visited did indeed appear to be closed, “new high-security prisons have replaced them.” The Chinese government may have seemingly ended the system of re-education camps in East Turkistan, but the mass internment of Uyghur and other Turkic peoples continue in high-security prisons. 

Further, the Chinese government and the CCP has absolved itself of any responsibility for what took place in the concentration camps by successfully convincing the international community that they have closed all the centers or repurposed them as prisons. The key observation here is the transfer of detainees from the concentration camps to prisons. This poses a significant dilemma for Uyghurs: whether to accept the camps being destroyed or transformed into prisons to avoid perpetual trauma or continue to highlight the camps as evidence. 

More importantly, through the conversion to prisons, the distinctiveness of concentration camps is diminished, blending in with the vast prison system, creating a transition in perceptions of Uyghur detainees. Rather than being victims of genocide under international law of the Geneva Genocide Convention, held in concentration camps designed for extermination, they become criminals supposedly subject to legal procedures, who are “receiving criminal punishment.” The critical difference initially being a victim of genocide to then becoming someone deserving of being detained for committing a crime. 

This change creates a twist in the perception of the Uyghurs. Accordingly, the memories of the Uyghur genocide fade into obscurity. From this perspective, it is a deliberate attempt by the Chinese government to destroy the memories of the victims, deny the existence of the genocide, and further portray the victims as criminals. A crucial part of the Uyghur genocide, in this sense, is to obliterate the very narrative and memories that confirm a genocide is occurring.

Destruction of Uyghur Culture

Cultural memory is the strongest emotional link among contemporaries, sharing traditional cultural values; further, it creates intergenerational connections. It cements identity in a cultural milieu, deeply entranced in past traditions and orienting towards the future, contradictorily keeping its self-same, creating a solid foundation throughout change. 

Currently, in East Turkistan, all Uyghur and Kazak textbooks and materials are banned in schools, along with the teaching of the Uyghur and Kazakh languages. To keep a Uyghur book or speak the Uyghur language in schools is, to the Chinese government, a sign of separatism, an age-old excuse to punish Uyghur sentiment, pride, and consciousness. If any book written in the Uyghur language is published in the future, there will be nobody who understands the language to read it. Sadly, it is now a dying language. 

With the prohibition of the Uyghur language comes the destruction of Uyghur literature as the most active, supreme, and everlasting communicative means to spread cultural and aesthetic values among Uyghurs across generations. This has resulted in a dire situation. 

The mass internment of millions of Uyghur adults in concentration camps dubbed as so-called “re-education centers” since 2016 has inflicted immeasurable and potentially irreversible damage upon Uyghur society. Families have been torn apart, and the cultural education that once thrived within homes has been extinguished. Furthermore, the arrest and imprisonment of Uyghur intellectuals and academics has halted any potential dissemination of Uyghur culture through the education system and the works of intellectuals. The impact of these actions is far-reaching and devastating as the intellectual life, excellence, and achievement of the Uyghurs will cease to exist. The way Uyghurs observe, understand, and explain the world they live through intellectual vigor and depth will vanish.

Diminishing of Uyghur Genocide Discussions

There are limited and diminishing discussions regarding the ongoing Uyghur genocide in East Turkistan, with only a few witness testimonies shedding light on the atrocities being committed. While the gravity of this genocide demands greater attention and action, the few testimonies provided are currently overshadowed by a deafening silence and even a growing sense of genocide denial as orchestrated by Chinese trolls on social media. The decrease in discussions of this genocide is rather disturbing. 

This can be partially ascribed to prolonged genocide fatigue. The Uyghur genocide is designed by the Chinese government to unfold in a manner reminiscent of a slow-motion horror film, inflicting protracted suffering on both victims and onlookers. This prolonged nature of the genocide leads to a sense of fatigue, even collective fatigue on the side of victims, where the gravity of the situation is gradually diminished and eventually fades from collective memory. 

As part of the slow-paced genocide, the Chinese government has shifted its focus towards actively encouraging more Han Chinese colonists to resettle in vacant homes, neighborhoods, towns, and cities across East Turkistan, left after by the Uyghurs who disappeared in Chinese camps, solidifying their presence in the region as a permanent fixture of China. This deliberate demographic alteration marks the culmination of the Uyghur genocide, erasing any trace of the Uyghur population’s existence, culture, and history.


The risk of the Uyghur genocide being forgotten is a grave concern. The CCP has not only employed deliberate and calculated tactics to conceal its genocide and crimes against humanity in East Turkistan but has also orchestrated a campaign to ensure others forget it is happening. This forgetfulness appears innocent, as no one can be blamed for it. It is a form of bystander indifference manifested as forgetfulness. The Uyghur genocide is gradually and silently fading away, as if it never occurred in the first place. Tragically, this forgetfulness itself is being normalized to the point where it is being forgotten.


Dr. Mamtimin Ala is an Australian Uyghur based in Sydney and holds the position of President of the East Turkistan Government in Exile. He is the author of Worse than Death: Reflections on the Uyghur Genocide, a seminal work addressing the critical plight of the Uyghurs. For insights and updates, follow him on Twitter: @MamtiminAla

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