Today marks the 30th Anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal arrest and murder of thousands of innocent democracy activists, including Uyghurs and other East Turkistanis, who gathered in Tiananmen Square to peacefully demand their rights.
Today also marks the 19th Anniversary of the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement’s (ETNAM’s) founder, Salih Hudayar, arriving in the United States as a political refugee fleeing Communist China’s oppression.
Moreover, today marks the 1st Anniversary of ETNAM beginning our demonstrations against the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal occupation of East Turkistan, which were started at the US Capitol and which have awakened a grassroots movement in other major cities across the world. During these demonstrations, we have unequivocally called on the United States and other nations across the Free World to support the aspirations of East Turkistan’s people to be free and Independent.
Present during these student-led demonstrations at Tiananmen Square 30 years ago were Uyghurs like Örkesh Dölet, who famously questioned Premier Li Peng on live television. “I understand it is quite rude of me to interrupt you, Premier, but there are people sitting out there in the square, being hungry, as we sit here and exchange pleasantries. We are only here to discuss concrete matters, sir.” After being interrupted, Premier Li Peng accused the Uyghur of being somewhat impolite, Örkesh Dölet continued. “Sir, you said you are here late [because of traffic congestion]… we’ve actually been calling you to talk to us since April 22nd. It’s not that you are late, it’s that you’re here too late. But that’s fine. It’s good that you are able to come here at all…”
Nearly two weeks later, Chinese officials decided to send in the People’s Liberation Army to crush the peaceful movement.
Since the Massacre at Tiananmen Square, China’s Communist Party has grown bolder. Democracy activists are routinely arrested. Churches, mosques, and temples are being razed. And in East Turkistan (what the Chinese Communist Party calls “Xinjiang”), Chinese occupation forces have engaged in a widespread and systematic endeavor to eradicate all traces of East Turkistan’s ethnically- and culturally-distinct people, hoping that genocidal policies of forced assimilation will reduce the chance of East Turkistanis ever regaining their rightful Independence.
Still, peaceful East Turkistan Independence activists have not lost hope. ETNAM’s founder, Salih Hudayar, says that “Two years before the Soviet Union fell, nobody inside its borders would’ve thought it possible. The same is true in China and its Occupied Territories. East Turkistan will someday be free. Tibet will someday be free. The people of China will someday be free. And until then, we will fight for our people using the tactics of nonviolent resistance. We will not stop. We will only grow in strength and size. For every East Turkistani thrown into a camp, countless other East Turkistanis realize that Independence from this oppression is our only option for survival. The people of China and its Occupied territories, with the help of the Free World, must resist the Chinese Communist Party at every turn, until they fall from power and our nations regain their Independence.”
Another East Turkistan independence activist, Rukiye Turdush, says, “The memory of Tiananmen Square will live forever as hope for a democratic future in China, one that involves respecting the rights and independence of East Turkistan.”
These are voices that deserve to be heard. These are the kinds of voices that ETNAM is trying to elevate. No East Turkistani should be silenced; East Turkistani voices deserve to be protected and respected. The Tiananmen martyrs sought dialogue with the Chinese government. They were met with tanks.
Unfortunately, four days ago, three ethnic-specific groups which do not represent or advocate for all of East Turkistan’s people or for their Independence from China, issued an ultimatum to the good people at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in a bid to censor the message of East Turkistan Independence from an event commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre: disinvite ETNAM – not its speaker, but its organization – or we will not attend.
Kyle Olbert, the Director of the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, says that “all efforts to silence pro-Independence voices – voices which peacefully advocate for Independence for East Turkistan’s people from China’s Communist superstate – are absolutely condemnable, and the Western world shouldn’t stand for it. These are tactics used by the Chinese Communist Party. The brave martyrs of Tiananmen Square gave their lives to defend free speech and dialogue, yet here, 30 years later, the “tanks” of anti-Democracy & anti-Independence forces are still trying to crush young voices. Let me be clear: all Uyghur voices advocating Independence deserve to be protected and respected. The first step towards freeing China’s people from Communist oppression is to free the people of Chinese-Occupied East Turkistan and Tibet.”
Dr. Anders Corr, publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, says, “Honoring the fallen democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989 requires lifting a diverse set of new voices in favor of democracy for China. This includes Uyghurs who explicitly and nonviolently call for independence in East Turkistan. If people in Catalonia, Quebec, and Scotland can advocate for Independence, certainly Uyghurs should also be allowed to do so. This is their right of free speech, and it should not be abridged by organizations that receive U.S. tax dollars.”