By Musa Uçan -July 1, 2020
Controversy on East Turkistan, what China calls Xinjiang, has come to the forefront of global politics with frequent tensions and human rights violations in recent years.
Reports on China’s systematic assimilation of Uyghur Turks by locking them up in concentration camps and forcing a “bi-lingual policy” as a result of its paranoid security concept like “rehabilitation before the committing of a crime” similar to that in the movie The Minority Report, has caused an unending outrage across the Turkic world.
The 350 million people in Turkic world, particularly those in Turkey, in recent years have begun seriously debating China’s claims that it is “fighting against terrorism” in East Turkistan.
Shortly after the September 11 Attacks, China verbally supported the United States and its planned operations against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, which it had accused of harboring “Uyghur separatists.” Another country which China accused of hosting Uyghur “terrorists” is Pakistan, which China has very close ties with including its Jaamat al Islam (Islamic Party).
When looking at China’s reasonable “statement of solidarity,” there are some strange realities regarding China and its relationship with the Taliban which it accused of “harboring radical Uyghur separatists.” A year prior to the September 11 Attacks, China didn’t sign onto a UN Security Council resolution that imposed an economic embargo, especially on military and technological equipment to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Moreover, China’s strange position on the Taliban would not stop there and with time, evidence of China’s secret relationship with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda began to emerge.
According to an article published by Pakistan’s Daily Ausaf newspaper in August 1998, based on Taliban sources, 40 of the 75 Tomahawk missiles fired by the United States into Al-Qaeda camps and Taliban positions failed to explode. The details of the situation which was shrouded by secrecy would be revealed in 2001 following the capture of two members of Al-Qaeda, Lasen Bin Geni and Kehmais Essid, in simultaneous anti-terror operation carried out by Italian and Germany counter-terrorism teams in the two countries. The interrogation of these two men who ran Al-Qaeda cells in Germany and Italy revealed shocking information that China has bought the un-exploded Tomahawk missiles from Bin Laden.
Bin Geni mentioned that he first met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan during his meeting with Essid. It was during this meeting that he learned that Bin Laden used his good relationship with China to sell the unexploded missiles to China for $10 million and directed Omar Zayan to create a mujahedeen army in Chechnya. China, however had rejected the allegations back in 1999 claiming it was “baseless and there was no evidence.”
That same year, in 2001, following the UN Security Council’s resolution enacting a technology and arms embargo on the Taliban, a scandal erupted in which it was reported that China’s Huawei company through its office in India had sold technology to the Taliban. This led the Indian government to deport 180 Huawei employees. China which during those days strongly denied its relationship with the Taliban has changed to where it no longer denies its relationship.
China, which had accused the Taliban of “harboring” the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP, which is listed as a terrorist organization by many countries, has rolled out the red carpet for the Taliban and began open cooperation with the Taliban many in areas. Not stopping there, in 2009, China which had previously accused the Jammat al Islam (Islamic Party) of Pakistan of having harbored “separatists” also made agreements with the Jammat which state, “both parties will collaborate in the fields of justice, development, security and solidarity.” That same year, Dai Xu, a Senior PLA Airforce Colonel and Professor at the PLA’s National Defense University, delivered a lecture on China’s National Defense Strategy where he highlighted China’s fears regarding East Turkistan and the Uyghurs and openly praised Bin Laden “for keeping America distracted while China developed itself.”
Syria which was turned into a blood bath following the Arab Spring, became a resurrection for the TIP. Abdul Haq, one of the key figures in the Mujahidden Shura Council, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, would experience its strongest period since its existence. TIP which is allegedly loyal to both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and has participated in numerous battles with the Al-Nusrah Front (Al-Qaeda in Syria), had setup its own mini caliphate-like government in the town of Jisr-al Shughur and its surroundings. Interestingly, while China claimed that TIP was responsible for the bloody attack in Kunming in 2014, which TIP rejected, it is obvious based on TIP’s propaganda videos that TIP attacks have largely been against NATO forces.
In 2015, when TIP gained strength in Syria, China used these developments to increase political pressure on Turkey. In December 2015, China passed a new anti-terrorism law that established counter-terrorism teams and gave them broad powers to “identifying terrorist activities and radical people and fighting them at home and abroad.” Despite that this law and the counter terrorism teams were similar to those in the EU and the United States, Western countries raised concerns that China’s new anti-terrorism law would be “abused” due to the fact that China is an authoritarian state. Indeed, it was exactly what happened. Since that day, China began to detain millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples into concentration camps for “re-education” for simply greeting one another with “Assalamu Aleykum,” giving their children Islamic names, reading the standard Quran that was not the official censored version issued by the state, having travel abroad, having grown a beard, having contacted people overseas, and having relatives overseas.
China’s policy in East Turkistan has ultimately labeled Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic peoples as potential “radical terrorists” regardless of whether they were artists, musicians, academics, scientists, athletes, and businessmen and women. East Turkistan has been turned into a massive police state parallel to George Orwell’s 1984, where people are constantly being monitored by CCTV cameras enhanced with artificial intelligence, police checkpoints every 500 meters, mandatory tracking applications in the phones of Uyghurs, and travel from one city to another has been strictly restricted unless approved by the government. China has sent over 1.12 million Chinese officials to live in the homes of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, some even sleeping with the women, all under the guise of “integrating them into Chinese society” and “promoting ethnic unity.” Hundreds of thousands of Uyghur and Turkic children have been forcibly separated from their families and sent to state-run boarding schools and orphanages to be raised as “loyal Chinese citizens.” Hundreds if not thousands of people have been executed without formal trials and evidence. All of these atrocities have created uproar across the world, especially in Turkey.
That being said, how could it be that 20,000 Salafi militants were able to flee from the world’s most militarized and intelligence intensive region to Syria without being noticed? When this question is asked it will easily reveal the responsibility of China in cultivating Salafi terrorists who have caused many to suffer across the world, including people in Turkey. According to China, these terrorists came to Syria with the help of Turkey and others in the West. China alleges that TIP has a special unit dedicated to “liberating Palestine from Israeli occupation,” wants to split China and everyone but China is responsible for TIP becoming the organization that is.
Despite having security measures that prevent people from being able to move from one city to another in East Turkistan, over 20,000 radicals appear to have magically left East Turkistan to Syria, and everyone but China is to blame for this. China’s close ties with the Taliban and Jaamat al Islami of Pakistan, who protected, nurtured and trained TIP, along with the unanswered question of “how 20,000 militants and their families left China?” reveals that China’s fight against terrorism is only a game and pretext used to engage in genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples.
East Turkistan has been among the top three crucial issues in terms of China’s internal security policy for the past 15 years and more recently its national defense strategy. While using “internal security” and “national defense,” as a basis for its actions, China has developed a “counter-terrorism strategy” that has turned into a paradox with questions and dubious relations to destroy the presence of Turkic peoples in the ancient Turkic homeland which has been inhabited by Turkic peoples for over 6,000 years. What was once an independent nation has in the past century become an occupied territory and China has been seeking to erase the existence of Turkic peoples in the land with its deceptive games and brutal policies as the world continues to watch in silence.
China has been deceiving the world with unanswered questions, contradictory relations, dirty political games, as it attempts to assimilate if not eradicate its ancient enemies, the Turkic peoples, whose fear had previously forced China to build its Great Wall. In light of these facts, if steps are not taken to reveal the truth about East Turkistan issue, it will not only be China that will be responsible for this great human tragedy in the 21st century, but all of humanity, including the Western world and Turkey.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
The author is an analyst reporting on international affairs and global politics for Turkish think-tank MİSAK (National Strategic Research Council).