A grassroots mobilization helped those suffering during the COVID-19 lockdown, proving that repression has not broken the indomitable Uyghur spirit.
by Kok Bayraq
This edict has been put into practice in East Turkestan (Xinjiang to China) in many ways since 2017, including mass detention, kidnapping, mass surveillance, separation of families, forced labor, and violations of reproductive rights.
In recent weeks, during the COVID-19 lockdown period in Ghulja City, Uyghurs have exhibited their strong lineage and connections by conducting an unprecedented aid campaign against the hunger crisis of the residents in the city.
Evidence of their unbroken ties can be seen in many recent social media posts:
“I have prepared 2,000 loaves of bread and 2 tons of meat to help the starving people in the lockdown of the city of Ghulja, but the residents’ committee won’t let me do that. Look, what’s wrong with what I want to do?”
“I am a small entrepreneur. I can’t stand the crying of hungry mothers and children in Ghulja. I want to sell my factory to help them.”
“I have prepared 10,000 yuan, and I will help Ghulja. Those who are collecting donations, please contact me. Please, don’t think that what I’m doing is for fame. Don’t call it patriotism either. Just think of it as a personal matter, because what happened to my brothers in Ghulja today will happen to me tomorrow, and I’m doing this so that I won’t be alone and needy at that time.”
What Xi Jinping originally wanted was to cut off Uyghurs by “breaking their connections,”—the love and brotherhood among the Uyghurs. To break them apart, he has sent thousands of leading intellectuals, such as Abduqadir Jalalidin, Yalkun Rozi, Zulpiqar Ozbash, and others, who nurtured the spirit of brotherhood among the Uyghurs, to detention camps. From the messages above, it seems that the camps have not achieved their original purpose. The Uyghurs have declared that their lineage has not been broken, despite six years of hardships since the establishment of the camps.
An elementary school teacher
“My students have breakfast in the classroom. Each student is given a piece of bread, a carton of milk, and an egg. Today, [the] students only ate [the] bread. I asked why [they] didn’t eat [their] eggs and drink their milk. ‘Please send it to the mothers and children in Ghulja,’ replied the class president.”
Three daily meals are served in boarding schools, called “Angels Schools,” in the Uyghur region. The students in these schools were separated from their families when their parents were sent to the camps. Today, more than 500,000 children are studying at these “Angels School.” Every day, these children are taught that their parents are bad, and they are told not to be like them. Their parents’ greatest sin is their adherence to Uyghur traditions.
From the gestures of the students, we can see that Xi Jinping was able to physically separate the children from their parents but not from their inherent goodness. The children’s roots remain unbroken. I believe this shows that the seed sown by God in the human soul is more fruitful than the seed planted by hate (here, via the state).
“Today, 100 trucks of goods arrived in Ghulja from all over Xinjiang. As the trucks were entering the city streets, the residents came to their windows and called out, ‘Thank you, my people.’ Truck drivers also greeted residents by stopping their vehicles and descending to the ground; the eyes of the residents and the drivers alike were filled with tears. This is an unforgettable moment in my life. Because I was witnessing [what] wonderful people we are!!! Another thing that struck me was [that] all [the] residents did not accept more food than they needed, and some even gestured to impoverished communities to give it to those more vulnerable than themselves.”
The scene reminded me of a military parade. It is not a government paid campaign. It is not at the direction of any civil organization. It is the actions of normal citizens who organized on TikTok. By saying he wanted “to break their connections,” Xi Jinping meant breaking their ability to organize. To do this, he has jailed many educational and public leaders, such as Taşpolat Teyip, Halmurat Ghopur, Sattar Sawut, Abdurahman Ebey, Arslan Abdulla, and Qurban Mamut. Fortunately, the seeds of connection they planted are still sprouting through social media.
“I can’t sleep because of [my] excitement. I watch our brothers collect donations from all sides. I have so much to say, but all I can say is, ‘Thanks, my people.’”
Hundreds of similar responses reflect the national pride, love, and unity of the Uyghurs. Xi Jinping had sent poets Perhat Tursun and Gulnisa Imin and writer Ehtem Omer, who were educating on and advocating for this spirit, to prisons to destroy their voices.
However, national consciousness has been formed not only by national education and literature but also by national, ethnic, and state oppression. The misfortunes that have befallen the Uyghurs over the last six years have strengthened and reinforced the common feelings and consciousness that have always existed in this nation and its people.
As always, the Chinese may arrest and imprison philanthropists participating in this aid campaign on charges of separatism or terrorism after a certain period of time. They may also accuse bloggers of spreading gossip or leaking state secrets. However, the voices in the posts above prove that arresting and killing are not solutions to colonialism and ethnic issues. They show that it is impossible to break the lineage and roots of a people united for thousands of years, especially in the 21st century, where technology can act as an ally.
Once China realizes this truth, it will acknowledge its failure. It will stop the Uyghur genocide and take steps to escape the punishment of history.