Stop China from Burning Millions of Uyghur Books!
Torchlight Uyghur Group
According to a report by ChinaAid on April 2nd, 2018 (http://www.chinaaid.net/2018/04/blog-post_2.html?m=1 ), the Chinese government started confiscating and burning Uyghur-language books in various parts of East Turkestan. The regime ordered the Uyghur students and their parents to bring the Uyghur-language books from their houses, and warned them that they will be arrested if there are any books found when their houses are searched. Although similar policies have been implemented in East Turkestan over the years, the more recent confiscations and burnings focused especially on the books about the pre-1949 history of East Turkestan, and the Uyghurs who kept those books were heavily prosecuted.
As one of the ancient peoples in the heart of Central Asia, Uyghurs have rich cultural heritage and literary tradition. During the 19th and the early 20th centuries, Western explorers travelled to East Turkestan, the homeland of Uyghurs, and collected vast amount of cultural and literary relics, some of which are currently in display in prominent museums and libraries in various European countries. However, Uyghurs are now facing unprecedented and unimaginable ethnic oppression and cultural genocide by the Chinese government. Indeed, Uyghurs are the most culturally oppressed people in the world today, in the 21st Century.
The Chinese communist regime has carried out numerous large-scale book burning and cultural heritage destruction policies after its occupation of East Turkestan in 1949. Since 2017, another wave of large-scale book confiscation and book burning is being carried out as part of the Chinese regime’s cultural genocide policy against Uyghurs in East Turkestan.
According to the Chinese chronicles, the first book burning started during the reign of Qin Shihuang (“The First Emperor of China”) in order to purge his dissents. After occupying East Turkestan in 1949, the Chinese communist regime has been carrying out cultural genocide against Uyghurs in order to keep Uyghurs culturally backward and to eliminate their ethnic identity. During the so-called “Cultural Revolution” (1966-1976), most of the historical documents and literary treasures of the Uyghurs were destroyed. The thousand-year old Uyghur Arabic alphabet was outlawed and replaced by an alphabet based on the Chinese Pinyin system. At the same time, the books in the Uyghur Arabic Alphabet were labeled as “reactionary” and were confiscated and burned. After a brief period of revival of Uyghur culture and literature during the 1980s, the Uyghur language books once again started facing inspection and confiscation since the 1990s.
According to a 2002 report by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) (http://unpo.org/article/101), the Chinese regime confiscated and burned more than 730 types of books in Kashgar, East Turkestan. Those books included such works as “A Brief History of the Huns” and “Ancient Uyghur Literature” by famous Uyghur author and historian Turghun Almas. Among the hundreds of thousands of books burned, there were 32,320 copies of a single book titled “Ancient Uyghur Craftsmanship”. This book was deemed “dangerous” and banned just because it contained historical documents about traditional Uyghur hand craftsmanship, such as paper making. In the same year, Uyghur language books published by the Kashgar Uyghur Publishing House were inspected and 330 types of books were deemed “problematic”. Those books were stopped from future re-printing and were confiscated and burned.
After banning and burning of Uyghur history books by Turghun Almas in the 1990s, the Chinese regime has continued its attack on Uyghur cultural heritage in the name of so-called “fight against separatism, terrorism” and “maintaining stability”. Since 2000, the Chinese regime has replaced the Uyghur language instruction in education by Chinese in the name of “Bilingual Education” policy and excluded the Uyghur language from all educational, governmental and financial fields in East Turkestan. After the appointment of Chen Quanguo as the Communist Party Secretary in East Turkestan, the Uyghur language was outlawed as a medium in the entire educational field in 2017. Meanwhile, the Chinese regime started openly attacking religious freedom of Uyghurs without any restraints and expanded confiscation and burning of Islamic religious books, including the Holy Qur’an. Currently, a historically unprecedented book burning and cultural purging operation is ongoing in East Turkestan: not only the Chinese regime is banning and burning the Uyghur language books, but it also giving out 5 to 20 year jail terms for those Uyghurs who either read or kept the banned books. More than one million Uyghurs are currently being detained in so-called “Re-Education” concentration camps or jails, and most of those Uyghurs were detained because of their religious beliefs and/or because they were highly educated.
According to Chinese democracy activists, the more recent book burning being carried out by the Chinese regime in East Turkestan can be considered as the re-enactment of the so-called “Cultural Revolution” among the Uyghurs. According to a report by Nicholas Bequelin and published by the Human Rights in China (HRIC) (https://www.hrichina.org/sites/default/files/PDFs/CRF.1.2004/b1_Criminalizing1.2004.pdf), in 2002, the Chinese regime banned 52 out of the 118 magazines published in East Turkestan at the time because of their “sensitive” contents. According to a November 2, 2006 report by Tangritagh (Tian’shan) Net, an official Chinese propaganda website, so-called “Autonomous Regional” Government in East Turkestan organized a “One Hundred-Day Crackdown Against Illegal Publications” special meeting and burned 215,943 copies of Uyghur-language books.
Among the blacklisted, banned and confiscated materials, the vast majority is books about Uyghur history, culture and Islam, and the rest includes Uyghur-related pictures, audio-video materials, praying rugs, etc. At the beginning, Uyghurs were ordered to hand in those banned items. Later, the Chinese regime started searching the Uyghur houses for those items. After the spread of the news of house-to-house search and confiscation of the Holy Qur’an in Urumchi in 2017, some people reported seeing thousands of discarded Qur’an in the Urumchi River and in the Uyghur Cemetery outside Urumchi. The most recent book banning and burning by the Chinese regime reached to a new extreme with the arrests of authors, editors, singers, artists, and religious scholars. Some of the retired editors were also arrested for the work that they did before their retirement. In June, 2017, the Chinese regime broke into the house of 80-year old Uyghur author/writer Mirzahid Kerimi and confiscated historical novels he authored and other books in his house.
In addition to destroying the Uyghur language books and cultural heritage of the Uyghurs, the Chinese regime is now conducting another form of cultural genocide – Digital Book Burning. After the 2009 Urumchi Massacre, more than 100 Uyghur language websites were closed down and their administrators were arrested. Starting from 2017, some of the Uygur language websites that were operational since 2011 were once again completely shut down. A significant numbers of Uyghurs were investigated and/or arrested after their personal information got leaked by the confiscated websites. In addition, unknown numbers of Uyghurs were arrested because of the “illegal” information stored in their phones and laptops. Uyghurs are now forced by the Chinese regime to install surveillance software on their cell phones and other personal devices. Those who refuse to install will be severely punished. (https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/report-uyghurs-in-china-forced-to-install-surveillance-app-that-leaves-their-data-unsecured-04102018164341.html ).
In this day and age, there are not many places in the World other than East Turkestan, where people can be arbitrarily detained, arrested and severely punished just because they have read a book. The Uyghur people in East Turkestan, under the fascist and racist policy of the Chinese regime, is facing such a savage and inhuman treatment just for reading a book and having a thought. The burning of the Uyghur language books, the eradication of the Uyghur cultural heritage and the punishment of the Uyghur authors are not only an affront to Uyghurs, but also an unforgivable insult to any human being who loves and cherishes freedom and knowledge. Such criminal action of the Chinese regime against Uyghurs is also a cultural genocide against humanity.
We, the Uyghurs, are powerless and helpless at the moment in our fight against the Chinese government’s atrocities, and cannot fight this battle for our survival alone. We need the support of all the justice-loving people in the world. If tens of thousands of people from around the world sign our petition, it may be possible that the United Nations will make a commitment and will act to stop the tragedy that the Uyghur people are facing today.
Please join us in our fight to end the appalling atrocities happening in East Turkestan. Please spread the word so that people around the world could learn about the cultural genocide happening in East Turkestan. Please sign and share this petition. Thank you!