COMMUNIST CHINA'S CONTROL
As we have seen, there are many economic reasons why East Turkestan is
very important to China. That country's interest in east Turkestan goes
back thousands of years and the region has frequently been occupied by
China, either fully or in part.
Mao saluting his army after the communists
had captured Beijing.
The latest Chinese occupation, that is still in existence today, began
in the middle of the 1700s. The civil conflicts in East Turkestan in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries not only damaged popular unity, but
also weakened the state itself. At the same time, the Manchus came to
power in China and the Manchu dynasty began. Throughout their rule, East
Turkestan was run by centrally appointed governors and bureaucrats. In
1911 the Manchu Empire was overthrown and replaced by the Chinese Republic
under Sun Yat Sen, the leader of the Kuomintang party, and East Turkestan
was totally enslaved.
The cruelty inflicted on the people of East Turkestan by the Kuomintang
regime led to a popular uprising and a declaration of independence in
1931. Up until then, the Muslims of East Turkestan, aware of the political
realities of the time, avoided any initiatives aimed at securing independence.
It was not only China that had its sights set on the region, but Soviet
Russia was also waiting for a chance to take it over. The people of East
Turkestan were aware of this (and of the sufferings the Russians had inflicted
on the Muslims of West Turkestan) and for this reason preferred to accept
the status quo rather than fall into communist hands. However, the 1931
move towards independence left the Muslims facing the very threat they
had feared. China was able to put the movement down only with help from
Soviet Russia, and a large part of the region came under Soviet control.
That interesting outcome was the result of a number of developments:
China realized that it would be unable to quell the East Turkestan uprising
on its own, and signed a secret agreement with Soviet Russia. As a result
it acquired weapons and troops from the Russians. Despite this move, however,
it still proved impossible to put the uprising down. In 1933, the Red
Army invaded East Turkestan by land and defeated the Muslim forces. Following
a number of battles in 1934-1937, East Turkestan found itself under de
facto Soviet rule. The savagery and oppression inflicted on the peoples
of the Soviet republics were now visited on the Muslims of East Turkestan.
The Red Army carried out mass killings, tore down mosques, and even raped
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the Russians withdrew their
forces from East Turkestan. As the nationalist Chinese government was
defeated by Mao's communist guerillas in various regions of the country,
it fled to Formosa (Taiwan). China fell to the communists, and East Turkestan
Within the course of that process, the people of East Turkestan once
more made a bid for independence, and the independent Republic of East
Turkestan was declared in 1944, though it only lasted until Mao took control
of China in 1949.
THE "RED" AGE IN EAST TURKESTAN
The communists slaughtered thousands
of innocent people during their take-over in China.
The first communist government in the world came to power in Russia.
The Muslims of East Turkestan closely followed the developments in West
Turkestan (Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Tajik) territories under
Soviet domination, with which they shared common borders and historical,
religious, ethnic and cultural links. In particular, those such as the
late Isa Yusuf Alptekin (who served in West Turkestan and witnessed the
communist Russian oppression at first hand), warned both the Chinese government
and the Muslims of East Turkestan against the communist menace. It was
a common communist tactic to pay lip service to such concepts as equality,
social justice and the freedoms of nations until they came to power, at
which time things change. Equality would be replaced by the orders of
the Politbureau, social justice by exploitation, and freedoms by expulsions,
torture, labor camps, and mass executions.
Indeed, those same developments were
experienced in East Turkestan. At the 7th Congress in 1945, before coming
to power, Mao declared that when the communists did come to power, they
would allow different ethnic groups to determine their own futures and
establish their own administrations.23 As soon as they
came to power, however, they ignored those promises and declared: "For
two thousand years Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of an indivisible
China; therefore, there would be no sense in dividing China into federated
republics; this is a demand hostile to history and socialism…"24
Cruelty and oppression followed. First, the leaders of the Republic of
East Turkestan were killed in a mysterious plane crash on their way to
a meeting with Chairman Mao. Later, the Red Chinese government, which
regarded East Turkestan as part of its own territory (and was unwilling
to let it go) set about a ruthless slaughter of the Muslim population.
The first war was waged against the Muslims' beliefs. Schools providing
religious instruction were closed, religious leaders were arrested, and
the majority of them were killed. Portraits of Mao and Communist Party
flags were hung up in mosques, and Muslims were ordered to show them due
respect. Some Muslims were arrested and executed on the pretext of being
pan-Turkish, others of being pan-Islamic. Another aspect of the repression
was forced exile. Many Muslims who were forced off their lands died en
route because of the weather conditions. Between 1949 and 1952, 2.8 million
East Turkestan Muslims were killed by various means. The figure was 3.5
million between 1952 and 1957, 6.7 million between 1958 and 1960, and
13.3 million between 1961 and 1965.
slaughter and torture are integral parts of the communist regime.
Scenes of this savagery against the Muslims of East Turkestan are
also frequently witnessed in China itself.
As the Muslims were being systematically exterminated, Chinese were brought
in to replace them in an attempt to prevent Muslims' rightful claims to
their own land. Another method employed by the Mao regime, which wanted
to turn East Turkestan into a province of China, was "family planning"
by means of forced abortions. This communist brutality, which is still
going on today, will be considered in more detail in subsequent chapters
of this book.
Prominent Names In East Turkestan's
Struggle For Freedom
The beginning of the twentieth century was a time when
national and spiritual feelings in East Turkestan began to stir.
This "national awakening" of the Uighur Turks came about thanks
to Abdulqadir Damulla, who began his activities following a trip
to Muslim countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Syria. One of the
most important needs of the time was for the people to be made aware
of their sacred values and historical heritage. Damulla opened a
school called the Matla'ul Hidayat, and began to teach the young
people of East Turkestan about their history, as well as helping
to raise the popular consciousness by means of the books he published.
Following Damulla, the struggle in East Turkestan was taken on by
the "the Three Masters," Isa Yusuf Alptekin, Muhammed Emin Bugra,
and Mesud Sabri Baykuzu. Baykuzu's struggle ended with his arrest
by the communist Chinese administration in 1951 (and he was killed
by lethal injection the following year). Alptekin and Bugra continued
the struggle until the very end of their lives.
Isa Yusuf Alptekin
Alptekin served as the secretary of the East Turkestan
Provincial Government, itself subordinate to China, and spent his
whole life speaking about the rightful claims of East Turkestan
on international platforms and trying to free the Muslims. He started
working at the Chinese Consulate in West Turkestan at the age of
26. This was a time when the Soviet oppression of the Turkish Muslims
of West Turkestan was at its height, and saw the start of Alptekin's
struggle as he witnessed communist mentality and practice first
hand. Throughout his time in West Turkestan, he established contacts
with people who supported independence for East Turkestan (but had
to carry out his activities in secret).
One of the subjects Alptekin was most concerned with
was protecting the people from communism. He even made contacts
within the Chinese government in the belief that this would enable
him to operate more effectively against communism. He also represented
his country at the Chinese parliament between 1936 and 1945. When
the communists first seized Beijing and then marched towards East
Turkestan, Alptekin was forced to abandon his country. In 1954 he
settled in Istanbul and began to work from there. He traveled to
many countries in order to tell the world about the suffering in
East Turkestan, and to host conferences, attend panels, and give
speeches at universities.
Muhammed Emin Bugra's name went down in the history
of the East Turkestan struggle with his extensive work Dogu Turkistan
Tarihi (The History of East Turkestan). He personally served in
the 1931 independence movement, and was instrumental in freeing
such cities as Hotan and Yarkent from Chinese occupation. He served
as a minister in the East Turkestan state established in 1944, and
sought asylum in India shortly before the Chinese invasion. From
there he moved to Turkey, and carried on the fight from there.
The lifelong struggle waged with honor by these patriots
is still going on today. There are currently some 20 associations
and organizations active on East Turkestan's behalf in the international
arena. These all work together under the umbrella of the East Turkestan
National Council (ETNC), and are working to have the voice of the
people of East Turkestan heard by the outside world.