Month: March 2020

How racist nationalists hijacked Hong Kong’s solidarity rally with Uyghurs

Solidarity with Uyghurs must not be weaponized by Hong Kong’s pro-independence, right-wing localists. The author would like to thank Sophia Chan, Darren Byler, Musafir, Wilfred Chan, JN Chien, JP, Yukiko Kobayashi Lui, Listen Chen, JS, and Vincent Wong for their generative feedback and assistance with the publishing process. Last December, I attended the “Human Rights Rally of Solidarity With Uyghurs” in Hong Kong’s Central District, organized by Students of Power (學生歷量), a group of high school students. This was a significant acknowledgement by Hongkongers of the oppression of Uyghurs and other Muslims such as the Hui, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz communities by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in its northwest territory of Xinjiang.[1] As I would discover, however, what should have been a rally to build much-needed solidarity was instead hijacked by racist nationalists who used it to proselytize their hateful ideology, one which both endangers oppressed communities and poisons Hong Kong’s movement with a destructive politics of division. The movement’s insistence on unity has often sheltered the far-right from challenges as it marshalled nativist …

Scenes from the Disappearance of Perhat Tursun, a Preeminent Modernist Uyghur Author

Perhat was disappeared at the height of his powers by the Chinese state, a victim of the government’s re-education campaign in Xinjiang. Perhat Tursun is a slight man with a receding hairline. To look at him, you wouldn’t know that he is one of the most influential contemporary Uyghur authors in the world. When I met him for the first time at a reception for a Uyghur-language publishing house in February 2015, his importance was clear from the way other Uyghurs looked at him as he moved through the crowd. He cut a wide swath. After we chatted for a bit at the reception, he said he was really bored. He hated formal gatherings and performing for strangers. He left immediately after the ceremony was finished, glad-handing and mumbling under his breath as he shuffled through the banquet hall. Many people stopped to shake his hand as we walked together to his house. His house was on the 26th floor of a new apartment building owned by the Uyghur grocery franchise Arman. Many Uyghur celebrities lived in the …

“I thought it would be convenient to use my brother’s computer to check my email”

In February 2017 Jaudat Abasi, a Tatar man who now lives in Europe, travelled to his former hometown Ürümchi, the capital of China´s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, to visit his mother who was hospitalized after a surgery. He was stunned to see the city dramatically transformed with thousands of armed police and checkpoints. Before he left a few weeks later, his brother Shafkat Abasi was detained. Almost three years on, Shafkat is still imprisoned, and the family recently learned that he received a 10 years sentence.     Jaudat has lived abroad since 2005, but has regularly traveled back to Xinjiang for business, visiting friends and relatives.  As the years went by, he noticed the situation in the region gradually deteriorating with heavy surveillance and restrictions on local ethnic culture and religion.   It began to remind him of the Cultural Revolution when he and his brother were born. But there was an important difference. He said, “At that time many people were imprisoned as well. The difference this time is that all the ethnic minorities are targeted.”    …