Uyghur Update: 18th – 27th December

This one isn’t as in-depth as it could be because it’s holiday season aka family season ie I am t i r e d. Happy holidays, China wants to ban Christmas lol.


The Uyghur Region

Regular life


XJ Daily 12/25: “Eat Together; Live Together; Work Together; Study Together” slogan in celebration of the “Ethnic Unity ‘Family Ties’ Week”

The “relatives’ week” has begun! Local officials will be living with Uyghur families in rural areas to eat, drink, and work together, such fun. Much bond. As the article points out, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened – similar programs occurred during Ramadan, for example, and it is clearly a way to survey the population and keep an eye on who is inclined to religious practice or some sort of “subversion”. Watch more people be moved into re-education by the end of the year…


In fact, more Kazakh people have already been detained.

Last week Gerry Shih wrote about the surveillance state – this week RFA confirmed that one of the Uyghur students he wrote about has died in state prison, along with another student.

Here are a list of political prisoners in East Turkestan according to the U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China’s Political Prisoner Database.


China will be handing out rewards to anyone who reports “terrorists” and “extremists” but also “two-faced” people. Surely they have better things to spend this much money on? But no, they’re hiring even more police.

The Wall Street Journal released a widely shared article titled Twelve Days in Xinjiang: How China’s Surveillance State Overwhelms Daily Life. It is really well-written and well worth your time to go through it in its entirety rather than have me summarise it. It includes photos of what they are describing and really good graphics such as this one:


The article is accompanied by a video which shows the WSJ team going through “China’s total surveillance state” and is a really good 8 minutes for those who need to see to believe. In it, they interview Tahir Hamut (side note: I could never have guessed this is where he would end up when I started reading his poems at the beginning of the year) and he gives really interesting insight from someone who has lived this reality. He also shares this form all the citizens of the region had to fill out, which scores you as “safe”, “average”, or “unsafe”:


Annotations in red added by The Wall Street Journal. Notes: * Xinjiang considers it suspicious for Uighurs to visit a list of 26 mostly Muslim countries, including Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. ** “Persons of interest” refers to people on the police watch list; “special population” is a common euphemism for Uighurs seen as separatists risks. Sources: Tahir Hamut (provided the form), Uighur Istiqlal TV and Adrian Zenz (confirmation of 26-country list).

One of the authors provides more info on his Twitter account, and here are comments from another Xinjiang reporter. One reporter says that the points matter because only those with high points can vouch for those who are being deemed suspicious.


More on China’s DNA database plus comments from the author of the article.

The Epoch Times has picked up on the news that there are fears that biometric data collection may be used for organ harvesting purposes.


I’m not sure how Twitter feels about being used as a political tool for so many countries but yeah so China:

China anti-terrorism expert proposes beefing up state-run media Twitter accounts with positive Xinjiang coverage and asking Twitter to change service rules, to combat “fake news” passed about by Uighur activists



This is a new article by Nathan Vanderklippe of The Globe and Mail but it is blocked by a paywall so here’s the description for those interested but don’t have a subscription:

Expanding on a playbook used to squelch dissent in Tibet, and employing Mao-era techniques of social engineering, China is systematically rounding up thousands of Muslim citizens in the country’s far western Xinjiang region and quietly submitting them to ‘re-education.’ Nathan VanderKlippe reports.

Abduweli Ayup (based in Turkey) seems to be starting a letter campaign for those people who are being sent to re-education camps. I’m not sure if we are to send letters individually or if it would be better to create a campaign where we can add the names of our relatives to an ever-expanding list, but here is the general format they have proposed:

Fax: +41 22 917 90 06

Quick Response Desk
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
8-14 avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10

Dear OHCHR Officer,

My name is <insert name>. The following are my relatives who were taken to a re-education camp in China six month ago, without any explanation. I have recently learned from Associated Press’s news that a young Uyghur man whose name is Yasinjan disappeared in a re-education camp and soon after Radio Free Asia confirmed that Yasinjan and another young man were killed in the re-education camp. I have had no contact with my relatives, and I am extremely worried about their safety. I learned from unofficial sources that almost half of the Uyghur population are taken to so-called China’s re-education camp. Uyghurs in re-education camps include women, children, and elderly people. They are suffering from extensive torture, forcible disappearance, and some of them end up with mysterious dead or abused for organ harvesting. I would like to ask Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights take urgent action for this case to save these innocent people’s life.

  • Rishat Ablikim, male, age 55, resided in Ghulja
  • Munire Mijit, female, age 25, resided in Urumchi
  • Buhelchem Rishat, female, age 60, Urumchi


<name>, <date>

Chinese Response

China responded to articles from last week with a video of their own. They say that surveillance (ex/ CCTV) is a Western invention and the West shouldn’t criticize China when they use it. However, they didn’t comment on anything else? The cameras are literally the least of our problems. If all they did was watch, and use surveillance cameras to track down actual criminals, no one would care. That’s not the biggest issue here. But nah, all our problems are just “some of the fake news Trump rants about.”

Apparently China is being open about the levels of surveillance and the restrictions on human rights on Uyghurs because 1. they are confidently rejecting Western human rights and 2. they want to use Western media to ‘strike fear’ in Uyghur ‘terrorists’ outside of China. I don’t really want to dwell on this op-ed because I am tired and it sounds dumb. But I do agree that China seems less worried that the world is seeing what they are doing. Ever since the rise of the right-wing in Europe and Trump in the US, it seems like China is confident it can get away with abusing human dignity without any significant retribution.




Rahima Mahmut spoke as an audience member about China’s intentions in a panel discussion called CPEC: Diplomatic debt-trap or economic game-changer for South Asia?’ – organized by The European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) at Royal Asiatic Society in London on the 15th of December 2017.


Apparently China is serious about sending troops to Syria to fight Uyghurs.

Gerry Shih also released a new article for AP: Anger with China drives Uighurs to Syria fight. A fascinating read on some of the Uyghurs who were driven to Syria to fight against China. I urge you to read the whole thing and understand the nuances provided. I still stand by what I said about China exaggerating the threat of Uyghur militancy. But it is interesting to read from the perspectives of China, Uyghur activists, and Uyghur militants. More comments from the author’s Twitter.


Belt and Road

A new book called China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its Impact in Central Asia was released by the Central Asia Program (George Washington University):

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2013 at Nazarbayev University. It is therefore natural that, for its launch, the NAC-NU Central Asia Studies Program, in partnership with GW’s Central Asia Program, seeks to disentangle the puzzle of the Belt and Road Initiative and its impact on Central Asia. 

Selected from over 130 proposals, the papers brought together here offer a complex and nuanced analysis of China’s New Silk Road project: its aims, the challenges facing it, and its reception in Central Asia. Combining methodological and theoretical approaches drawn from disciplines as varied as economics and sociology, and operating at both micro and macro levels, this collection of papers provides the most up-to-date research on China’s BRI in Central Asia. 

It also represents the first step toward the creation of a new research hub at Nazarbayev University, aiming to forge new bonds between junior, mid-career, and senior scholars who hail from different regions of the world and belong to different intellectual traditions.

Representatives from Afghanistan and Pakistan met with Chinese officials and agreed to “work together to tackle the threat of terrorism” in East Turkistan… and other security stuff

Here’s an article on the difficulties of trade from the Kazakh border and how this may hinder BRI ambitions.



Outside of Politics


I came across this Google Drive with a whole bunch of Uyghur books for anyone interested in reading.

Documents and papers

I found out the Central Asia Program at George Washington University has an Uyghur Studies Initiative which is pretty cool! So far they have a list of studies and academic papers and links to past conferences.

New declassified documents reveal official estimates of the death toll at the Tiananmen Square Massacre. There’s a comment at the end by Rose Tang that is :(.


A performance: Ozhal Muqam, Jula, Senem // Sufis on the Silk Road // Nava’i at the Asia House in London, UK.


The Uyghur Australian soccer tournament was held over the 25th-27th December. This year it took place in Adelaide, SA, and the teams were Adelaide (A team), Adelaide (B team), Melbourne and Sydney. There are some live videos here and photos from the event here: 1, 234. The trophies are looking better every year lol! Adelaide (A) won, followed by Sydney, Adelaide (B) and Melbourne. My favourite part was on the first day where both Melbourne and Sydney teams needed more players; Adelaide supplemented both, and Sydney let a girl (Dana) on to the team! She scored one goal and assisted another and Sydney won that match! This means there is no excuse – PROVIDE MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR GIRLS TO PLAY!!!



There is a new thing happening called UyghurYar, a sort of organisation created to help Uyghur children and youth. I think we will be hearing more about this later.


Rian Thum continues his photo journey on Twitter so follow along for some cool pics.


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