As protests against the “genocide Olympics” continue, 73 years of massacres are added to a bill the CCP should sooner or later pay.
by Ruth Ingram
A quarter of a century has elapsed since innocent protesters were mown down by Chinese police in the Uyghur city of Ghulja in Northwest Xinjiang province on February 3, 1997. Too “insignificant” for the world to take notice, the anniversary usually passes under the radar of international media, but for the small, boisterous crowd gathered outside the Chinese embassy in London last week, it was a salutary moment.
For Rahima Mahmut, director of London’s World Uyghur Congress, its poignancy was heartbreaking. Not only did she lose friends and neighbors in the massacre and subsequent roundups, but she was forced to flee her land. The subsequent loss of family and links with the homeland since 2016 makes the commemoration particularly distressing.
Rahima remembers the incident as if it were yesterday.
“Twenty-five years ago today police violently cracked down on peaceful protesters in Ghulja. They attacked and then arrested hundreds of Uyghurs who were peacefully calling for an end to discrimination and persecution they were suffering under Chinese rule. Those who were present at the protests were haunted and harassed in the months following. The Chinese authorities even sent plain clothed police detectives to Central Asian countries especially Kazakhstan and Kirghizstan to capture Uyghurs who had fled there in fear,” she recalled.
In retrospect, she could see that the tactics of terror, of mass arrests hunting Uyghurs abroad and brutal interrogations were a prelude to the genocide the Uyghurs are now facing today. Reminding the international community that this genocide did not emerge out of nowhere, she cited a string of examples of state violence against her people since 1949, which have accelerated in recent years.
Notably, the April 1990 Baren massacre is remembered for a 200-strong march on the local government office by Uyghur men demanding an end to the mass migration of Han Chinese into the region. Sparked, says one account by the forced abortions of 250 Uyghur women the uprising was eventually quelled by hundreds of armed police and military.
The Urumqi riots in 2009 also started as a peaceful demonstration provoked by the killing of two Uyghur factory workers in inner China, but ended with, some witnesses say, many hundreds killed and thousands arrested or disappeared. The sleepy melon-growing Lukchun township, will forever be marked by the violence and death during the summer of 2013 after dissatisfaction with CCP oppression spilled over into killings and reprisals, leaving around 40 people dead.
Rahima Mahmut regrets the international community’s silence over Ghulja. “The Ghulja massacre is one example of a moment the international community could and should have spoken out,” she said. “The world could have told the Chinese government that they would not turn a blind eye to human rights atrocities but instead they did the opposite, and now it is us, the Uyghurs who face the consequences.”
Since fleeing to the West she is shocked at the “depths to which the Chinese government’s inhumanity would reach.” “Now my fellow Uyghurs back home are forced to endure total surveillance, mass sterilizations, child separations and concentration camps. It is a lasting pain and trauma having to witness these horrors from afar and being unable to contact family members and loved ones back home. It means living in constant fear for their safety and thinking of them every time we hear of another shocking testimony.”
Speaking to the crowd gathered to remember the massacre, she was heartened at the support from Jewish and Christian groups, members of the public and three national Labour Party trade unions whose combined membership of 300,000 stand shoulder to shoulder with Uyghurs.
“A light in this darkness has been the commitment of activists like yourselves,” she said. “Many of you have no direct connection to our homeland but have taken up the cause nonetheless.” Pointing to the Chinese Embassy opposite she said, “The people in that building know that the crimes they are committing have not gone unnoticed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving us hope when we are facing genocide—that can be hard to find.”