To balance Russia towards the end of the 19th century, the British supported the sweeping of “East Turkistan” by China, under the name of “Xinjiang,” which means new colonies. In 1949, the communist Chinese completely infiltrated East Turkistan and extended their clamp. East Turkistan became a land where natural resources are exploited, military bases are built, nuclear weapons are tested and it was presented as new settlements for the increasing Chinese population. East Turkistan, which extends to the Caspian coast, is an important gateway for China's commercial expansion towards West Turkistan. Rich oil and gas resources, coal, uranium and gold deposits have made “East Turkistan” especially appealing for China as a hunting ground.
There were 300,000 Chinese in the country in 1949 when the “East Turkistan Republic” - which was established in 1944 - was abolished. This number was equal to four percent of the population. Mao's 'cultural revolution' of the 1960s and 1970s meant “population slaughter” before everything. The revolution's relation with culture was nothing but legal acquis -consisting of sinister experiences- created to destroy Uyghur identity. East Turkistan was closed to the outside world, mosques were burnt, Qur'ans were burnt and thousands of Uyghurs were exterminated. The Chinese population significantly increased after the so-called Cultural Revolution –which worked like a slaughtering machine- and now the Chinese make up almost half of East Turkistan's population.
Today, East Turkistan seems like a sore spot that is stuck between the China, Russia and U.S. triangle. As China increases pressure, the people of East Turkistan try to find their way within this devil's equilibrium. While the lack of a “Turkish” and “Muslim” power -which substantially embraces them- strengthens China's hand, it directs Uyghurs to temporary alliances which only provide daily benefits within the balance of the “Big Play.” On the other hand, the U.S. uses the issue of “East Turkistan” and “Tibet” as a lever, whenever it deems it necessary. The Uyghurs - who hang on to the hand lent to them when the Chinese dragon chokes them, in order to breathe- are the unchanging innocent actors of the “Big Play.”
'Muslim Pakistan' is developing its relations with 'Communist China' against 'Hindu India.' The loser of this relation is, of course, East Turkistan. Similarly, the loser of the cooperation between Russia and China, who want to balance the U.S.'s Asia-Pacific policies, is East Turkistan as well. The so-called “war on terrorism” initiated by the U.S. following the September 11 attacks has turned into a tool which legitimizes China's oppressive policies used to suppress Uyghurs. China, whose economy is extremely dependent on oil and natural gas, is also free from the pressure of Gulf regimes –including Iran- which are located right on energy basins. The dereliction of East Turkistan is at a disgraceful magnitude.
The people of East Turkistan who revolted many times from the 1950s to 2000s suffered great losses.
The number of Uyghurs massacred in the Urumqi incidents which started on July 5, 2009 and lasted till July 7 is reported as thousands. Nobody knows the real figures. Let us not forget the Uyghurs, who were lost/massacred on the first days of Ramadan last year. Referring to East Turkistan as an “autonomous region” is only a play on words. East Turkistan is ruled by Ethnic Chinese and Beijing is 5,000 kilometers away from Urumqi. Uyghurs who set off to express their problems are quietly slaughtered and attenuated. The 'Al Qaeda' connection is only a small parenthesis for the Uyghurs, but with China's proficiency it could potentially grow further.