That’s hardly surprising. Even the 2009 riots which killed over 200 people, and the subsequent mass-executions of Uighur demonstrators, were hugely under-reported compared to press attention that unrest in nations such Burma and Tibet (deservedly) received around the same period. The reasons for this are clear; the robust Chinese Communist Party’s security apparatus in East Turkestan means that genuine information is hard to come by (possibly even more so than in Tibet), whilst the their propaganda programme, misleadingly portraying the independence movement as Islamic fundamentalists in league with Al-Qaeda, has generated a reluctance to write sympathetically of their struggle. Because of these reasons, even coverage such as the BBC’s, which has sought to address the wider picture, is sporadic and sometimes inaccurate (not least by using the Communist Party’s terminology and referring “Xinjiang”).In truth East Turkestan is an occupied nation and the plight of its people, the Uighurs, has been ignored for too long.
Since China annexed the country in 1949 (it was independent until this point) an enormous litany of human rights abuses have been carried out against the Uighur people; including repression of religion, torture and execution of dissidents, coercive birth control policies and instituional police brutality. Uighur culture has been consistently attacked, discrimination in favour of Han migrants is rife and concepts such as fair and open trials are virtually unknown.
Of course bombings and terrorism can never be justified under any circumstances, but we cannot ignore the fact attacks such as yesterday’s come against a back-drop of horrendous oppression which the world has ignored for far too long. The plight of the Uighur people should be addressed and brought to the fore by politicians, activists and members of the international public – not by violence.
Fortunately there have been hugely positive developments in this area over recent years. Media coverage, though still sparse, is improving and initiatives such as Chinese, Tibetan and Uighur Solidarity UK have been effective in bringing this hugely important issue further into the public eye. There is still a long way to go and the world has not yet truly woken up to the Uighur’s struggle, but there is hope that, just like Tibet will one day be free, so too will East Turkestan.