Activist Lily Harding has warned that Xinjiang is likely to become another Bangladesh with a population that dreads Chinese Communist Party (CCP) control and yearns for a stable democratic republic.
She was speaking in reference to the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War during which the Pakistani Army began to commit the barbaric genocide on innocent Bengali population, particularly the minority Hindu population in then East Pakistan (Bangladesh).
Harding says that Xinjiang also known as East Turkistan is strategically important to China’s economic development goals, however, its people are of no use for its government.
“Like, true colonialists, China views this land and these people in economic terms only. Government officials targeted the most wealthy Uyghurs, putting them in camps, then appropriated their property and bank accounts. They even sought to make money off of the very bodies of these people by sex trafficking them, selling their hair to Americans, and marketing their organs to rich Saudis and organ tourists,” says Harding.
The Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking minority from Central Asia, are a distinct ethnic group from Han Chinese, with Urumqi being closer to Kabul than Beijing.
In 2009, the most infamous riots broke out in the streets of Urumqi, Xinjiang which pitted Uyghur Muslims against Han Chinese. The activist says the CCP government has turned the entire region into a highly controlled, open-air prison after the Urumqi riots in 2009.
“Facial recognition cameras were put up every six to ten meters pointing in multiple directions. There was nowhere you could go in East Turkistan that was not monitored and recorded. Groups of police officers stood on the sidewalks and demanded that passersby give them their cell phones to scan,” she said.
Harding, who had lived in Xinjiang’s Urumchi, before escaping the country, explains the tough control and restrictions imposed in the region in order to monitor the population.
“I was living in Urumchi, Xinjiang’s capital where everyone was missing someone in their family. People whose families were not from Urumchi were missing at least half of their adult family members. Whole families had their homes demolished and then disappeared,” she says.
She says she could save herself from police officers monitoring everybody by keeping her head down and staying low key.
“The police were everywhere. People were very frightened. If the police found something they didn’t like on your phones such as religious apps or foreign apps or a VPN, they would go to your house a week or two later, and you would disappear. There was nowhere to hide. They spied using every form of technology they had. China used your phone’s GPS to track you, all your apps, and they have thousands of employees that keep track of this information,” Harding says.
Harding called upon the world to recognize their struggle for autonomy, human rights, equality, and independence and will help establish democracy in East Turkistan by diplomatically recognizing their in-exile government.
“The people of East Turkistan wish to be able to live their lives in peace. Most of the world has turned their backs on them for the promise of Chinese money. We need to help them build a better future,” she added.