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31-05-18, 00:04
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China: Stop Cultural Genocide against Uyghurs!

Torchlight Uyghur Group

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Uyghurs are one of the ancient nations residing at the heartland of the Central Asia. Uyghur civilization possesses long and rich cultural heritage and traditions. Uyghurs play important economic, cultural and historical role between the East and West because of the geographic location of their homeland—East Turkestan, also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region under the current Chinese regime. The multi-ethic, multi-cultural population of East Turkestan is a proof of the Uyghur people’s tolerant and harmonious ways of life and their attitude towards other cultures and civilizations. During their more than 2000 years of history, the Uyghurs have developed their own language, literature, religious identity and their distinctive culture as well as their independent states. Unfortunately, after the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) invasion to East Turkestan in 1949, the CCP has launched a series of systematic cultural assimilation and genocide policies targeting the Uyghur population in East Turkestan. The goal is to prevent the Uyghur people from rebelling against the CCP regime. The implementation pace, scope and strength of such brutal policies have peaked in recent years, and have brought serious damages to the Uyghur culture and the Uyghur people, as briefly described below:

(1)The destruction of the Uyghur language. In the past 60 years, the CCP has modified the Uyghur alphabet for 3 times, such as the use of Chinese Pinyin based alphabet instead of using the Uyghur alphabet in Uyghur literature and education, as well as the complete ban of the Uyghur language in all forms of communication including education and workplace. See, for example: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-muslim-minority-school-language-ban-han-xinjiang-uyghur-hotan-hetian-government-communist-a7873446.html.

One of the sad consequences of these destructive measures is the difficulty of communication between different generations in an Uyghur family as they do not understand each other effectively. Another result is the gradual elimination of the Uyghur language in all layers of formal education, despite the fact that the Uyghurs have developed a successful educational system in their own language from preschool to university levels. The discrimination of the Uyghurs in job opportunities is so open that many companies say in their job ads that they don’t hire Uyghur people even though they have all the qualifications for a position. The discrimination against the Uyghur language reached such a height that even many Uyghur school teachers, civil servants and company workers were laid off only because they speak Uyghur but not Han Chines, even in places where the jobs do not require a person to speak Han Chinese.

(2) The strict control of the Uyghur language publications. The Chinese government’s control has always been very strict on the publication of Uyghur books and on the censorship of authors. Over the years, large numbers of historical and religious books, novels, poems, and even the essays published online that encourage Uyghurs to keep their ethnic identity or those with any hidden or symbolic contents have been confiscated, banned, burned, and taken down, because the Chinese government suspected that these publications hold ideas against the communist ideology. The authors of such publications were fined heavily and majority of them were sentenced to 5-15 years of prison terms. More details about this kind of oppression faced by the Uyghur people can be found in one of our previous petitions that calls the international community to stop China from burning the Uyghur books (https://www.change.org/p/united-nations-stop-china-from-burning-millions-of-uyghur-books).

(3) The forced brainwashing of Uyghur intellectuals. Most of the gifted Uyghur writers and artists have long been used by the Chinese government for its propaganda. They have not been allowed to utilize their knowledge and talents for general public. Since 2017, the Chinese government has forced all the Uyghur intellectuals, civil servants and artists, especially those who became popular and well respected among the Uyghur communities, to write various types of pledges describing their loyalty towards CCP and the Chinese state. This campaign included the Uyghurs who held key positions in local governments, universities and other public sectors. Also, some well-known Uyghur artists were forced to participate in organized trips to the Chinese communist revolutionary bases to increase their knowledge about the Chinese communist ideology and the history of the Chinese communist revolution. They were forced to wear some pre-1949 era uniforms of the Chinese Liberation Army (PLA) and to sing patriotic songs that praise the communist China and its policies. These activities are widely promoted on the Chinese propaganda machines and on social media to support the propaganda of the Chinese government and to “educate” the Uyghurs to become more grateful to the communist party.
See, for example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-30722268 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-china-39297026/the-uighur-pop-singer-trying-to-build-bridges.

(4) The banning of the traditional Uyghur attires. The Chinese government made it illegal for the Uyghurs to wear their traditional dresses in work places and schools. In schools, Uyghur children are being taught in Chinese language-only and are encouraged to dress up in traditional Han-Chinese costumes, especially in official performances. As a result, the Uyghur traditional costumes are now barely worn on stages or in the propaganda activities organized by the government or in schools. Furthermore, following the enforcement of the China's anti-terror law in 2016, the local government came up with strict regulations regarding the dress codes of the Uyghur men and women. The regulations require the Uyghur women to take off their headscarves, and to wear short and open styled dresses in public places. They require the Uyghur men to shave their beards and moustaches. Both gender groups are not allowed to enter any public places, such as hospitals, banks, shopping malls, and ride a bus if not dressed up according to those regulations. The Uyghurs are now required to wear Chinese-style dresses as one of the symbols of civilization even in most heavily populated Uyghur areas. The Uyghurs who dare to challenge the authority about such regulations are either fined or sentenced to long prison terms.
See, for example: https://livingotherwise.com/2018/02/23/images-red-han-culture-uyghur-performers-chinese-new-year/.

(5) The de-legitimization of Halal foods. About foods, the Chinese government has criminalized the usage of “halal” labels in East Turkestan and banned the use of such differentiation in food and drinks sector since 2017, under the name of war against terror. They merged the canteen and cafeterias in schools and workplaces to encourage Han Chinese and Uyghurs or other Muslim people to eat together. The shops and restaurants owned by Uyghurs, who previously did not sell alcohol and cigarettes, were forcefully closed or fined. Their owners were sent to concentration/re-education camps or sentenced to jail terms, even though they did not commit any crimes. See, for example: https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/use-of-halal-logo-in-restaurants-restricted-in-china-s-xinjiang/story-bbTsSmLLHVn51p0aZI0vnM.html.

(6) The Chinese government has speeded up its assimilation policies towards the Uyghurs by introducing so-called “becoming a family” campaign in the Uyghur populated areas. The aim of such campaign is described as ''helping Uyghurs to improve their lives and improve the understanding between the Han and Uyghurs''. With this campaign, Han Chinese officials are placed in Uyghur and Kazakh households regardless of their difference in culture, religion and other backgrounds. Therefore, the Uyghurs are forced to live with the assigned Han Chinese officials and share every aspects of their lives with them for a week, in order to show the harmonious picture of both sides to the government. Most importantly, the Han officials have to keep a close eye on and make record of their “Uyghur relative’s” political views as well as all their behaviors inside their own homes. Some photos and news related to such special relationships became available on various social media, more frequently around the Chinese New Year period. To follow the government orders, Uyghur families were forced to adjust their life styles to their “assigned relatives”, decorate their homes with celebration banners written in Chinese, and prepare Chinese traditional foods to eat together. Furthermore, it is not a hidden fact that the Uyghurs were encouraged to marry Han Chinese nationals. The benefits of such inter-marriage is being widely publicized, including financial assistance to build homes for the couples, children's education and future job opportunities. Therefore, forced inter-marriages have also been used as a propaganda tool by the Chinese government to assimilate the Uyghurs by force. See, for example: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/14/asia/china-xinjiang-home-stays-intl/index.html.

(7) The Chinese government has been trying to destroy some other aspects of the Uyghur culture too. For instance, local governments have banned Islamic names for Uyghur newborns and the kids of ages up to 16 years, and ordered the Uyghurs to change their kids’ names if they are among one of the 28 names specified by the government, including Mohammed and Islam, etc.. Also, the Chinese government has eliminated the Uyghur traditional wedding ceremonies by banning the Nikah (the Islamic marriage contract), using so called “de-radicalization” act. The Uyghurs are now not allowed to read religious texts from Qur'an when an Uyghur passes away. This is particularly true when an Uyghur communist party member gets married or died. This type of extreme regulations of the Chinese government has reached to a point that portraits of Xi Jinping and other top Chinese government leaders were hung up at most visible walls of many mosques, and imams were required to praise the communist leaders in place of the God in everyday prayers. See, for example: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-27/china-bans-list-of-islamic-names-including-muhammad-in-xinjiang-region and https://www.rfa.org/english/news/special/uyghur-oppression/ChenPolicy2.html.

(8) The demolishing of historical Uyghur buildings. The Chinese government has demolished many thousand years old historical buildings in the Uyghur city of Kashgar to erase the Uyghur history, and tried to minimize their importance among the Uyghurs. Many Uyghur families were forced to move from cities to country-sides with little or no reimbursement to their financial losses. Thus, many Uyghur communities have now got scattered and disconnected from one another. Also, some traditional Chinese style tombs and buildings are being built in many cities intentionally to show tourists that these Uyghur areas have been the integral parts of China for very long time. See, for example: http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1913166,00.html.

To conclude, every aspect of the Uyghur lives is now under serious threat because of China's “Strike Hard” campaign, the increasingly harsh anti-human regulations, ethnic assimilation and cultural genocide policies, and the all-time surveillance arranged by the Chinese government. We ask all human rights organizations and individuals around the world to stand up for justice for Uyghurs, to pay attention to the above-mentioned devastating situations in the Uyghur homeland, and end the world-wide silence over the China's genocide against the Uyghurs and their rich culture. It is an alarming fact that China is not only exporting its cheap goods to the West and other countries through “One Belt, One Road” or OBOR strategy, but also transporting its self-centered and hegemonic ideology to those developed and developing nations for their own future. We urge all of you to take a lesson from the damages the Chinese government have caused to the Uyghurs’ ethnic identity and their tradition. Please stand with us, support the true harmony and the co-existence of all different but colorful cultures on this planet Earth! Every effort counts. Please sign and share this petition. Thank you!

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