Kok Bayraq | Bitter Winter
During the anti-COVID-19 lockdown, Uyghurs are dying of hunger or for lack of medicines. Is this just bad planning by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), or is it deliberate?
Last weekend, Uyghur organizations held protests in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC and called on the Chinese government to take the necessary measures to stop the famine in East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang), which has been caused by the COVID-19 lockdown in the region. As a response to the protests, both domestic and international, for the first time, Ghulja and Korla city governments have admitted their responsibility for their mistakes in enforcing the lockdown measures.
The Uyghurs, who had long been silent on social media and only expressed their grievances using symbolic gestures and pictures, began voicing their opposition for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown was implemented in East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang), especially in the last couple of weeks. In an area where posting negative news can lead to being jailed for 7–15 years, these comments are still emerging, and they reflect how truly dangerous the situation is.
Consider some of the most recent social media posts:
“I didn’t do this before. I have no choice. Look, my children are starving. We have been drinking cold water for three days. If you don’t believe me, search for my house. Check my refrigerator. I have no choice.” (A helpless father and three starving children appear in the scene.)
“All four [of] my children got sick. All of them have a temperature of 40 degrees. If you don’t [provide] medicine, my children will die … You have locked us [in]. You have [a] responsibility to take care of my children. No one [has come] to visit us for five days now. I will do something if you don’t care …”
“Hey, cadres (Chinese cadres in the region), you’re full of food (series of vulgar words). You all have money. We know that you don’t worry if you stay [at] home [for] a year because you have [an] iron plate (government salary), but we don’t. We have to earn money to care [for] our children. Our crops in the fields are dead. Do you want to kill us too? Listen to me, cruel cadres, show me the redlined papers (official documents) of the central government. If you were told to kill us, come and kill us with guns. Don’t [make us] suffer by starving, Xi Jinping and the CCP. Look at this situation. We are dying. We are being killed. Is this your order?”
While most Han Chinese residents in the region are state officials, and the rest are citizens who have gotten rich from the CCP policies, 80% of Uyghurs are farmers, and the remainder are people who earn their living by running small businesses. In most Uyghur families, 1–2 adults are being held in a prison or camp. Thus, one week after the lockdown, the reactions of Uyghur residents began to ring out. It began with pictures of helplessness—people locked in their houses. This was followed by couplets and poems describing the situation. Now they are crying and yelling.
Daughter: “My dear mother, my stomach hurts so much, and I’m scared. I feel like I’m going to die … please come to rescue me.”
Mother: “Please endure, be diligent, and be patient.”
The person who posted: “This was a 16-year-old girl. She had no one to look after her at home, and she had hidden heart disease. She died, and she was just a teenager …”
A small group demonstrated in front of the police.
Residents: “We are hungry, we are hungry, and we can’t bear it. We are the residents of Bal Street, Ghulja City, Caraway Community.”
Policeman: “Disperse, put down your signs, and go to your houses…”
Resident: “Look, my brother, Akhmet is dead. His body is frozen. He seems to have been dead for a few days.” He shouts at the cadres of Chinese, “Is it okay [to] just throw the medicine to [our] home through the window? Why don’t you come into the room and check him? People, be aware that my brother has died because of [the] lockdown!”
What I have shown are just a few of the hundreds of videos posted on TikTok saved by Uyghurs in exile. Also, in another post, there is a picture of an old man standing on the window ledge of his apartment on the top floor of a high-rise building and shouting, “I’m hungry, I’m fed up with this life.” In another video, a woman is standing at the window of a high-rise building and is about to commit suicide. The human consequences of this incident, which in the video is 15 second long, are unknown.
According to Radio Free Asia, a cadre revealed that he knows 12 people who died in 10 days due to a lack of medicine and nutrition (the true number may be higher, he implied). Among them, Mawlan Siddiq (62), Sawut Tursun (50), and one Gulbakram (40) were identified.
So far, these posts have been deleted from TikTok in China, and the issue is not discussed in any news thread in the Chinese media or in documents and notices from the authorities. The international media are certainly clueless.
The Chinese officials are scapegoating “dishonest” local cadres, accusing them of corruption. However, corruption and dishonesty were fueled and promoted for decades in East Turkestan by the same Chinese authorities, and honesty was even looked at suspiciously as conductive to rebellion against the state.
Why does this starvation happen? Is it because two ethnic groups with totally different languages and cultures cannot coexist peacefully in one country, since one does not know, understand, or feel the pain of the other?
Is it because, for the past 70 years, the CCP has repeatedly proven, for the Chinese regime, that the preservation of its image is above all else, even the safety and existence of its “citizens”?
Or, is it, as some observers believe, because China has invented a new path to genocide through slow death? From this point of view, by ignoring this famine, is China speeding up and expanding the scale of the Uyghur genocide?
Is it because of the nature of the Uyghur issue? The former boss of the region, Wang Lechuan, stated that the struggle between the “evil forces” (Uyghurs) and China was a “struggle of life or death”? So, is the lockdown is an opportunity for China to kill more of its perceived enemies?
Whatever the reason, it is inappropriate and inhumane to remain silent. The voice of the ETNAM (East Turkistan National Awakening Movement) leader, Mr. Salih Hudayar, in the demonstration, is worth hearing: “We call on the international community, including the U.S. Government, to swiftly intervene and stop China’s ongoing genocide, forced starvation, and other crimes against humanity in East Turkestan.”