The below article was published by UPI, photo credit: Bonnie Cash/ UPI
July 5 (UPI) — On Wednesday’s 14th anniversary of what is known as the Uramchi Massacre, a group of Uyghurs demonstrated outside of the White House to protest what they said is China’s continued genocide against their people.
The protest was organized by the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, a nonprofit organization that seeks the independence of the Uyghurs from China. The Uyghur people are an ethnic minority in China made up mostly of Muslims native to the region who speak their own language.
“Time to stop the genocide. Time to stop the genocide,” protesters chanted while carrying the white and blue flags of East Turkistan, the name used by Uyghurs for what they claim is an occupied sovereign nation in what is officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.
The East Turkistan government-in-exile was declared in 2004 and is based in Washington, D.C. It is not recognized by the United States or other governments worldwide. Exile governments are political groups that claim to have legitimate sovereignty of a nation but are unable to exercise that claim.
The protesters used the messages of the U.S. Independence Day to call for the administration of President Joe Biden and other governments worldwide to recognize East Turkistan as an occupied sovereign nation.
The genocide of the Uyghur people has grown exponentially since the Uramchi Massacre, protesters said, leading to increased calls for the independence of East Turkistan.
The likelihood of East Turkistan being considered an occupied country are slim, as the United States maintains its One China Policy regarding Taiwan; but, the Uyghur people make the claim on the basis that two previous iterations of an East Turkistan Republic briefly existed before and after World War II.
“We, the East Turkistani people, resolutely uphold our unfailing desire to restore our freedom and independence. But we cannot do this alone,” the advocacy coordinator for East Turkistan National Awakening Movement said in his speech.
The demonstrators played the national anthems for the United States and for the hopeful breakaway government of East Turkistan.
“East Turkistan has not been a part of China and never will be,” one of the demonstrators said in a speech Wednesday.
Aziz Sulayman, a member of the parliament of the East Turkistan government-in-exile group, said the protesters had gathered to mourn those who died during the “horrific” massacre.
Uramchi, the capital city of the natural resource-rich region, suffered from what the World Uyghur Congress has described as a “massacre” in 2009. The World Uyghur Congress is an international organization established in Germany to promote democracy in the Uyghur region.
The so-called massacre left 138 Han Chinese people and 46 Uyghur people dead, according to the Chinese government, though the World Uyghur Congress contests those figures.
Tensions between Uyghur and Han Chinese people in the region were high after Uyghur workers at a toy factory were accused of raping two Han Chinese girls. Chinese officials later said there was no evidence to support the rape allegations.
Uyghur and Han Chinese workers at the Guangdong toy factory clashed on June 25, 2009, leading to deaths and injuries of the Uyghur workers. The Chinese government said two Uyghur workers were killed.
“The WUC believes that this is an incorrect representation of what happened,” the World Uyghur Congress, which was later blamed for planning subsequent riots, said in a statement.
“It is unlikely that one accusation posted on the Internet can mobilize several thousands of Han workers to take up iron pipes and other weapons, to come to the factory campus, and to start beating any Uyghur worker, in most cases until they died.”
After the violence at the toy factory, Uyghur people gathered at the Grand Bazaar in Uramchi to protest on July 5, 2009, but the protests soon turned violent.
The cause for what led to the violence has remained unclear, though accusations have been made to suggest that Chinese military forces fired on the Uyghurs.
The World Uyghur Congress claimed at the time that “scores” of the protesters were killed and dozens were injured by Chinese security forces.
Since 2017, China has been credibly and repeatedly accused of arbitrarily detaining more than a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in so-called re-education camps in Xinjiang.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, the United States, under President Donald Trump, declared that China’s treatment of Uygurs amounted to genocide.
The United States maintains China has arbitrarily imprisoned Uyghurs in Xinjiang, where they are subjected to forced sterilization, torture, forced labor and draconian restrictions on freedom of religion, expression and movement.
“On July 5, 2009, the streets of Uramchi were stained with the blood of innocent Uyghur men, women and children. The world was in horror of the Chinese authorities’ brutal crackdown resulting in the loss of countless lives,” Sulayman said.
“July 5 is a somber occasion that compels us to reflect on the painful truth that the Uramchi massacre was not only a tragedy in [and] of itself but a precursor to the ongoing genocide in East Turkistan.”
Sulayman called on the world to recognize that the Uramchi massacre was “not an isolated event” and foreshadowed the “relentless campaign” that has unfolded and “escalated” since that incident.
Sulayman said that the Uyghur people have since faced mass enslavement, forced abortions, forced sterilizations, state-sponsored rape and executions by the Chinese government.
“Many governments around the world recognize the genocide but fail to take meaningful action,” Sulayman said. “Empty words and hollow condemnations are simply not enough.”
Sulayman said Turkistani concerns are falling on deaf ears and that the Uyghur people continue to suffer.
“The international community must first recognize East Turkistan as an occupied country and not a part of China,” Sulayman said. “By acknowledging its occupation, governments send a powerful message.”
In March, Salih Hudayar — the prime minister of the Uyghur exile government of East Turkistan — called for the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for China’s President Xi Jinping for the genocide of his people.