The Chinese government considers all support for the East Turkestan independence movement to fall under the definitions of "terrorism, extremism, and separatism". Currently, the movement is supported by both militant Islamic extremist groups, such as the Turkistan Islamic Party, and certain advocacy groups, such as the World Uyghur Congress, which generally do not have verifiable links to terrorism but are also designated as terrorist organizations by China.
The most common name for Xinjiang used by independence advocates is "East Turkestan" (or "Uyghurstan"). There is no consensus among secessionists about whether to use "East Turkestan" or "Uyghurstan"; "East Turkestan" has the advantage of also being the name of two historic political entities in the region, while Uyghurstan appeals to modern ideas of ethnic self-determination. Uyghurstan is also a difference in emphasis in that it excludes more peoples in Xinjiang than just the Han, but the "East Turkestan" movement is still a Uyghur phenomenon. The name "East Turkestan" is not currently used in an official sense by most sovereign states and intergovernmental organizations.
The Kokandi Yaqub Beg invaded Kashgar during the Dungan revolt to establish an independent state after taking advantage of local rebellions.
Also during the Dungan revolt, the Taranchi Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang initially cooperated with the Dungans (Chinese Muslims) when they rose in revolt, but turned on them, because the Dungans, mindful of their Chinese heritage attempted to subject the entire region to their rule. The Taranchi massacred the Dungans at Kuldja and drove the rest through Talk pass to the Ili valley.
Within the People's Republic of China (1949–present)
Since the Chinese economic reform from the late 1970s has exacerbated uneven regional development, more Uyghurs have migrated to Xinjiang cities and some Hans have also migrated to Xinjiang for independent economic advancement. Increased ethnic contact and labor competition coincided with Uyghur separatist terrorism from the 1990s, such as the 1997 Ürümqi bus bombings.
A police roundup of suspected separatists during Ramadan resulted in large demonstrations that turned violent in February 1997 in an episode known as the Ghulja Incident that led to at least 9 deaths. The Urumqi bus bombs of 25 February 1997, perhaps a response to the crackdown that followed the Ghulja Incident, killed 9 and injured 68. Speaking on separatist violence, Erkin Alptekin, a former East Turkestan National Congress chairman and prominent Uyghur activist, said "We must emphasise dialogue and warn our youth against the use of violence because it de-legitimises our movement".
Despite much talk of separatism and terrorism in Xinjiang, especially after the 9-11 attacks in the United States and the US invasion of Afghanistan, the situation in Xinjiang was quiet from the late nineties through mid-2006. In 2005, Uighur author Nurmemet Yasin was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for inciting separatism following his publication of an allegorical short story, "The Blue Pigeon".
Anti-China protest by Uyghurs in Turkey in 2015
Rebiya Kadeer claimed that Turkey is hampered from interfering with Uyghurs because it recognizes that the Kurdish-Turkish conflict may receive interference from China in retaliation.
Views on independence
Arguments in favor of independence
Several proponents of independence state that the Uyghurs have had a defined history in Xinjiang for "over 4000 years", a claim which has neither been proven nor disproven. There are historical arguments for the independence of Xinjiang, such as the argument that the People’s Republic of China is a colonialoccupier of Xinjiang, rather than the sovereign state which has traditionally ruled over Xinjiang. Evidence for this argument usually consists of claims that the PRC is not the legitimate successor state to either the ROC (now based in Taiwan) or the previous imperialdynasty of China, which is the Qing dynasty, or that previous regimes were also illegitimate.
Some Uyghur nationalist historians such as Turghun Almas claim that Uyghurs were distinct and independent from Chinese for 6000 years, and that all non-Uyghur peoples are non-indigenous immigrants to Xinjiang. However, the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) established military colonies (tuntian) and commanderies (duhufu) to control Xinjiang from 120 BCE, while the Tang Dynasty (618–907) also controlled much of Xinjiang until the An Lushan rebellion. Chinese historians refute Uyghur nationalist claims by pointing out the 2000-year history of Han settlement in Xinjiang, documenting the history of Mongol, Kazakh, Uzbek, Manchu, Hui, Xibo indigenes in Xinjiang, and by emphasizing the relatively late "westward migration" of the Huigu (equated with "Uyghur" by the PRC government) people from Mongolia the 9th century. The name "Uyghur" was associated with a Buddhist people in the Tarim Basin in the 9th century, but completely disappeared by the 15th century, until it was revived by the Soviet Union in the 20th century.
Chinese government views
The Chinese government considers all support for the East Turkestan independence movement to fall under the definitions of "terrorism, extremism, and separatism". The Chinese government fears that independence movements are largely funded and led by outside forces that seek to weaken China. China claims that despite such movements, Xinjiang has made great economic strides, building up its infrastructure, improving its education system and increasing the average life expectancy.
Republic of China (Taiwan) views
Chinese Muslim General Ma Bufang, the Republic of China's (Taiwan) ambassador to Saudi Arabia between 1957 and 1961, in response to a request by a former Uyghur Mufti living in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Ahad Hamed for accommodations to be granted to Uyghurs living outside of China who held Republic of China passports, sent the following letter, which rejected Abdul Ahad Hamed's demands and his usage of the term "East Turkestan", upholding the official position of the Republic of China (Taiwan) that Xinjiang was a part of China and that it did not recognize the East Turkestan independence movement.
Support for independence
ETGIE members at Capitol Hill on 14 September 2004
In general, the wide variety of groups who seek independence can be distinguished by the type of government they advocate and the role they believe an independent East Turkestan should play in international affairs. One of the most noticeable events towards the East Turkestan independence movement was the establishment of the East Turkistan Government in Exile by a group of immigrants led by Anwar Yusuf Turani in Washington D.C. on 14 September 2004.
Many of the Turkic peoples of the Ili region of Xinjiang had close cultural, political, and economic ties with Russia and then the Soviet Union. Many of them were educated in the Soviet Union and a community of Russian settlers lived in the region. As a result, many of the Turkic rebels fled to the Soviet Union and obtained Soviet assistance in creating the Sinkiang Turkic People's Liberation Committee (STPNLC) in 1943 to revolt against Kuomintang rule during the Ili Rebellion. The pro-Soviet Uyghur who later became leader of the revolt and the Second East Turkestan Republic, Ehmetjan Qasim, was Soviet educated and described as "Stalin's man".
The Soviet Union incited separatist activities in Xinjiang through propaganda, encouraging Kazakhs to flee to the Soviet Union and attacking China. China responded by reinforcing the Xinjiang-Soviet border area specifically with Han Bingtuan militia and farmers. The Soviet Union supported Uyghur nationalist propaganda and Uyghur separatist movements against China. The Soviet historians claimed that the Uyghur native land was Xinjiang and Uyghur nationalism was promoted by Soviet versions of history on turcology. The East Turkestan People's Party received support from the Soviet Union. During the 1970s, the Soviets supported the URFET to fight the Chinese.
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