The politician who had to cancel his European trip used to be nicknamed “the Slave” (of the CCP) but is now called “Ertis” (Actor) Tuniyaz.
by Kok Bayraq
The other day, I spoke with a compatriot who lives in a province of China: “Come on, guys! Why are you speaking badly of actor Tuniyaz?” he asked jokingly. When I did not understand, he continued his rant: “Aren’t the British art-loving? What would happen with one more show in London? Don’t British MPs appreciate actors?”
I then learned that he was talking about the puppet governor of the Uyghur Autonomous Region, Erkin Tuniyaz, and his canceled visit to the UK.
Tuniyaz starred in a “theatre” at the United Nations in 2019, in a show that China orchestrated. As the keynote speaker, he announced the closure of the transformation through education camps, which China had long denied even existed, and later presented as “vocational training centers.”
He also claimed at that time, “All trainees of these facilities will have graduated by October 2019.”
In fact, the camps were not closed; they were turned into prisons. More than three million Uyghurs who had been detained indefinitely were sentenced to various lengths of imprisonment without trial. Thus, China protected itself from the international criticism it was exposed to at that time by changing the Uyghurs’ illegal detention to “legal” detention. The name of the camps had changed, not the situation.
Erkin Tuniyaz described this process further during his staged production: “Now, all the trainees have stable jobs and live normal lives.”
In reality, millions of families were torn apart by incarcerations in the camps. Families were driven out of the labor force, and widowed women were indirectly and directly forced to marry Han Chinese immigrants. More than 500,000 “orphans” were sent to orphanages. To hide this situation, information and communication restrictions doubled in the region, and as a result, thousands of Uyghurs abroad were unable to communicate with their relatives in the motherland.
For three years, an entire nation was held hostage. The birth rate of Uyghur population declined vertically in Hotan and Kashgar. Erkin Tuniyaz proclaimed this situation a portion of heaven: “People of all ethnic groups in the XUAR are united as closely as the seeds of a pomegranate.”
His predecessor Shohrat Zakir, who was appointed to the same task in Beijing, could not hide the falsity of his words. He was tense, nervous, and sweaty while answering reporters’ questions. By contrast, Tuniyaz has proved to be a good actor. He has successfully played the role he assumed with a relaxed demeanor, never losing his composure, even when on the UN stage.
According to information Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer received from an insider, Shokret Zakir was dismissed because he did not fulfill his historical duties well; he could not play the game and could not convincingly suggest that the camps in East Turkestan had been closed. Erkin Tuniyaz was promoted to regional chairman for successfully fulfilling this role beyond China’s expectations.
Given that Erkin Tuniyaz never graduated in a university, was not a prominent figure before 2017, and had no major public involvement before speaking at the UN meeting, it seems that the above speculation is not unfounded.
Of course, Tuniyaz’s role in the establishment and management of concentration camps was also prominent, but he was not alone in this Chinese project of the century. The uniqueness of his role, with the testimony of his ethnic identity in defense of the camps, was one of the most important tools of the Uyghur genocide.
China, as a colonial regime, while administering East Turkestan (Xinjiang to China), has made great use not only of its military might, bureaucracy, and immigrant population but also of its puppet officials, mercenary clergy, and corrupt artists among the local population.
Since 1949, when East Turkistan was completely annexed, eight Uyghur figures have been puppet chairmen in the region: Burhan Shahidi (1949–1955), Saifuddin Azizi (1955–1967; 1972–1978), Ismail Amat (1979–1985), Tömür Dawamat (1985–1993), Abdul’ahat Abdulrixit (1993–2003), Ismail Tiliwaldi (2003–2007), Nur Bekri (2007–2015 ), Shohrat Zakir (2015–2021), and Erkin Tuniyaz (2021- present).
All of these Beijing-appointed officials served Chinese immediate needs during different periods of the colonial regime. For example, Burhan Shahidi and Saifuddin Azizi played roles in the capture of East Turkestan by the Chinese Red Army and the dissolution of the East Turkestan national army. İsmail Amat and Tömür Dawamat played roles in the rapid increase in Chinese immigrants in the Uyghur region. Abdul’ahat Abdulrixit and Ismail Tiliwaldi played roles in the fight against ethnic separatism and “terrorism.” Finally, Nur Bekri pioneered the suspension of the Uyghur language in education systems under the name of bilingual policy, and Shohrat Zakir played a historical role in the construction of the camps under the guise of fighting religious extremism.
Erkin Tuniyaz, in his role, came to the rescue of the regime against the international criticism that China faced on the issue of the Uyghur genocide.
These puppet officials are supported by Beijing in the extent and scale of their role; a comfortable standard of living has always been provided for them and their families. Considering the isolation of the region, especially the limited freedom of travel for Uyghurs, visiting foreign countries is not only a duty but also a reward for these puppets. Clearly, that is why our friend was making fun of the “artist” Tuniyaz and “pitying” him when his visit was canceled.
Puppets are known for their soft necks and obedience to Chinese authorities and, conversely, for their stubbornness, arrogance, and brutality toward Uyghurs.
Therefore, Uyghurs see these puppet officials as traitors. Since these views are general and uncontroversial, there are no critical articles or books written about them; only sarcastic nicknames are given.
For example, Tömür Dawamat is nicknamed “Tömür Texse.” “Texse” means “iron plate.” This nickname refers to the term “platter bearer,” which refers to sycophants in Uyghur. Abdul’ahat Abdulrixit is nicknamed “Ablet Omaq.” “Omaq” (cute) refers to babies who always smile and do not upset their parents. He was given this nickname because of his record of never complaining about any unreasonable demands or orders from the Chinese. Ismail Tiliwaldi is called “Ismail Beqiwaldi,” which means “to be adopted” by Chinese authorities. Nur Bekri is referred to as “Wang Bekri” because he did not stray an inch from the line of Wang Feng (a former Han Chinese governor of Xinjiang) at any time. Finally, Shohrat Zakir’s surname, is incompletely pronounced as “Shohrat Za” (coal dust), meaning that he is unnecessary and useless for Uyghur society.
Prior to 2017, while serving in Hotan and elsewhere, Erkin Tuniyaz was known for his shyness before Chinese officials. He was nicknamed “the slave Tuniyaz” at that time, mocking that this attitude contradicted his given name, Erkin (freedom). In recent years, his nickname has changed to “Ertis Tuniyaz” due to his role at the United Nations. “Ertis” in Uyghur comes from the term “artist” in English and also means “actor.”
Therefore, the fact that the British MPs have blocked Erkin Tuniyaz’s visit to the UK, and the USA has sanctioned him, is a true representation of the voice of the Uyghur people, and a sign of genuine sympathy for the suffering of the Uyghurs. It is a fitting slap in the face of all those who support the oppressors and cover up the Uyghur genocide and other crimes against humanity.