Once the lonely protester became well-known and no longer so lonely, provocateurs manifested themselves. Here is the story in his own words.
by Abdurehim Gheni Uyghur
On December 18, I spoke with the Dutch police on the phone about an incident that happened last month. The police officers said they are on the case and will call me for an interview soon.
What happened, exactly? My protests finally attracted the attention of the Chinese, and a reaction followed.
On November 24, 44 Uyghurs died due to a fire breakout in Urumqi, East Turkistan (Ch. Xinjiang), while China was in a harsh Zero-COVID mode. China had imposed a strict lockdown in the region and residents had been prevented from getting out of their houses for over a hundred days.
The extreme lockdown policy was the direct cause of the fire and the loss of many lives. When the building caught fire, all emergency exits in the building were locked and chained as an anti-COVID measure. Fire trucks were not able to get close to the building as they were blocked by the fence installed to lock up residents, resulting in a fatal delay in the rescue.
Uyghur and Chinese diaspora held vigils around the world, demanding investigations from international organizations and asking to hold China accountable for this tragedy.
One of the vigils was organized by Chinese activists from the Netherlands and held at Dam Square in Amsterdam on November 27 at 6 p.m. I was one of the organizers as representative of the “Stichting Support Uyghurs” organization.
Many gathered in the event to mourn the victims. I put together the photographs of those who died in the fire and brought them to the event, then arranged and placed them on the ground along with flowers and candles. People were taking pictures and videos. We stood in the center, holding flags of East Turkestan and photos related to this disaster.
During the vigil, there was a Uyghur livestreaming the event in English on Facebook. When he stated that the goal of this vigil was to condemn the Chinese government’s irresponsibility, a Chinese lady came to him and lamented that they were disgracing her government. The Uyghur demonstrator told the woman she was free to leave if she did not like the statements.
The Chinese lady then asked the protester whether he was Chinese, to which he replied that he wasn’t and that he would be ashamed to be Chinese. The conversations were recorded in the live video.
Following the livestream, I picked up the photos and stood in front of that Uyghur. Two Chinese squeezed in suddenly with their posters obviously prepared in advance, and shouted in Chinese to the crowd in front of them, “Do not trust these Uyghurs! They are murderers!”.
Videos of the confrontation: https://twitter.com/i/status/1597240665632407553
Although furious, we stood still, pretending that we had heard nothing. We were aware of the huge media influence that could potentially be spread by the 300-some people who participated in the vigil. There would be posts related to this event on various social media platforms, and we hoped to raise awareness of the Uyghur cause.
The Chinese lady did not stop, however. She began insulting the Uyghur who was live streaming, pulling his scarf while yelling that he was a terrorist and a murderer. We then shouted back in Chinese “Why do you keep barking like a dog? China is the sick man of Asia!”. Other Chinese people pounced on us after hearing this. I immediately started live streaming and attempted to persuade them.
I said, “If you really care about Uyghurs, why didn’t you hold any international events to stand against the Chinese government, when millions of Uyghur ware locked up in the camps and being treated inhumanely? You need to acknowledge that this is Uyghur genocide!” That divided the Chinese on the square in two, with one side supporting us, and the other disagreeing.
It did not take long for the Dutch police to arrive. They had witnessed what happened and came over to expel those two who started the dispute.
Coming home from the vigil, I posted the event on Twitter. There were already posts on Twitter from Chinese people expressing their solidarity with the Uyghurs and sending their apologies. We have collected these letters/posts as evidence. On the other hand, there were also a lot of tweets posted to humiliate us.
I received a call from Amsterdam Police Station the following day and provided information regarding the protest held at Dam Square. I also met with police staff in person to hand in related evidence and videos and request police protection for my personal safety.