Uyghur Update: December 27th – 4th January

Happy new year! I have started the year by visiting the other side of the world so hopefully this still makes sense despite the jet lag. May 2018 bring more successes and freedom for Uyghurs okay let’s go


Uyghur Region

There is news of prominent Uyghur doctor Dr Halmurat Ghopur being detained.

Here are some photos of the house-sharing project with Uyghur families and Chinese officials. Here is the Chinese report on unity week. I particularly like the last sentence: “Liu also helped Tursenjan shake off poverty, the report said” Cool. Just “shake off” poverty, how nice.

Here’s a video of what appears to be a very small group of villagers conducting a flag raising ceremony:

And for those who know Chinese – here are photos regarding prohibited Uyghur texts.


The Guardian published an article outlining the heavy-handed security measures those in the region are facing right now. The article is a bit like a summary of all the intense journalism that’s been coming out from WSJ and AP over the last few weeks.

Moderate voices silenced

Gerry Shih (AP) released another article, this time on the silencing of moderate voices. He profiles Zhang Haitao, who for years had criticised the government’s treatment of Uyghurs on social media. I don’t think a lot of Uyghur activists even knew him – he was a businessman, not an activist. He is now sentenced to 19 years because he “resisted, attacked and smeared” the Communist Party and its policies on Twitter and WeChat (15 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power) and talked to/provided photos to foreign reporters on the intense police presence in the region (5 years, providing intelligence about China’s anti-terror efforts to foreign organizations). Apparently he had first been arrested for “inciting ethnic hatred” but it was upped to subversion and espionage when he wouldn’t confess. Shih also describes other moderate speakers who were imprisoned:

Ma Like, a Muslim hostel owner in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, was accused in April of “propagating extremism” because he had retweeted two Weibo posts — one about how Chinese policies were alienating Uighurs, the other a veiled reference to restrictions on the Islamic headdress — according to two of Ma’s friends, who provided copies of Ma’s indictment and spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government retaliation.

The prominent Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti was handed a life sentence in 2014 on charges of fanning ethnic hatred, advocating violence and instigating terror on a website he ran. He, too, was known as a moderate who argued against Uighur separatism and stressed the need for dialogue.

But when it comes to Xinjiang, calling for public debate amounts to an intolerable act of defiance, said Wang Lixiong, a Han Chinese writer and dissident.

“The government removes the middle road so it leaves two extremes,” Wang said. “You’re either their mortal enemy or their slave.”

I have heard personal accounts of Han people in the Uyghur region being taken into detention or re-education these days. The problem has grown to encompass not just Uyghurs, but anyone who criticises the government’s policies in any way. Perhaps that is why people are showing more of an interest these days… In any case, the article seems to resonate with a lot of people such as Josh Summers of FarWestChina who says this is exactly why he and others don’t talk about politics.

North Korea + South Africa = “Xinjiang”?

Nathan Vanderklippe also released a new article, this time interviewing scholars who recently visited the region:

“It’s a mix of the North Korean aspiration for total control of thought and action, with the racialized implementation of apartheid South Africa and Chinese AI [artificial intelligence] and surveillance technology,” said Rian Thum, a historian at Loyola University in New Orleans. “It’s a truly remarkable situation, in a global sense.”

He also describes the photos Rian Thum has been posting to his Twitter account recently. The other scholar he interviews is Dr David Brophy:

“Xinjiang very much feels like a military occupation now,” he said, albeit one with an ideological objective. “Every night on TV, there was a lot of footage of oath-swearing ceremonies,” in which people pledged to root out “two-faced people,” the label given to Uyghur Communist Party members not fully devoted to Chinese policy.

“It really gave the feel of a serious purge in process,” said Dr. Brophy, who first went to Xinjiang in 2001, and at one point lived there for a year.

“The Uyghurs are basically being expected to wage war on themselves,” he added.

China Digital Times also released a report outlining these stories and adding that Ilham Tohti’s niece, a 25 year old nurse, was sentenced to 10 years for having a picture and a foreign media article of him on her phone.

Biodata Collection

The Diplomat interviewed Darren Byler on the topic of biodata collection. It’s in a nice Q&A format so it’s easily readable for people who aren’t too familiar on the topic.

Social Credit scoring in China

This isn’t specific to the Uyghur region but: social credit scores are still gaining traction, and there’s even an app you can use to report illegal activity around you in exchange for your ID and location, and in return you can get freebies and coupons.

Natural Gas

This is on of the reasons why China doesn’t want to let go of East Turkestan.


July 5th

Interesting article on the July 5th incident that states that the Chinese government may have had a direct role in perpetuating it.




More on the Uyghurs in Syria narrative – a follow-up article by Shih on how Uyghur activists are trying to prevent new Uyghur refugees from being recruited to terrorist organisations. Again, another fantastic article you should read. There are some really interesting viewpoints and Shih has a really heart-wrenching way of telling stories.


An article by James Millward about publishing on China and being blacklisted/denied travel visas. It is a re-upload from a piece he wrote in 2011, but basically he argues that academics should not self-censor.


For anyone who knows Japanese – there is a long-running Uyghur/Japanese news program available on YouTube called Uyghurlar Awazi.


This video has been circulated a lot lately – it seems to be an interview with a guy who is confessing to spying on the Uyghur community. Apparently he has been sending photos, videos, and information about individuals in the Uyghur community to Chinese government officials. He says the government told him to so that his family would be released from detention, and he was also paid to do so. The video comes with an accompanying audio that warns Uyghurs to be careful of spies and to share the video so that people are aware that this guy is a spy.



More on the peace/trade talks between China-Pakistan-Afghanistan.

An article on… new Chinese movies promoting BRI… featuring Jackie Chan, Mike Tyson, Steven Seagal… and another article on Chinese movies that then goes into relations between China and Trump…


Outside of Politics


UyghurYar – Uyghurgha Yardem (Assistance for Uyghurs) – read more on the initiative here.

Yet another website that is uploading Uyghur books and journals! AltunOq

A new Uyghur language school/day care is opening up in Virginia soon:



An article profiling Sama Uyghur Cuisine (Union City, USA) and its 3 owners. Really nice read on food and identity.

I’ve heard some frustration from those who despise the idea of an entire people, especially a minority, boiling down to just food and music. I can see where that sentiment comes from… but I also agree that food and music are a universal language lol… also someone on Instagram tagged me in this:


She has been posting quite a lot on her travels (and not just about food!) and if that is the sort of difference a restaurant can make then isn’t it good?


More soccer tournament news – this time in USA:



A podcast by Asymptote Journal on some of their favourite poetry they published this year, including translations of Tahir Hamut’s poetry.

Pop Culture

Uyghur actress Dilraba Dilmurat entered The 100 Most Beautiful Faces of 2017 at #26:

(Also Dimash Kudaibergen from Kazakhstan (who went viral recently) came in #76 on the men’s list lol)


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