Both #A4Revolution or #WhitePaper Revolution and #UyghurGenocide, along with #UrumchiFire, became the most active hashtags on social media in last two weeks. Those hashtags are widely used by protestors both inside and outside China. The people around the world walked out to the streets in all major cities and carried out their pro-democracy and anti-CCP protests since November 25 , a day after the unattended fire took 44 incident lives in Tianshan district of Urumchi, the capital city of East Turkistan (aka occupied Xinjiang Province of China). Globally this large-scale protest is recognised as White Paper Revolution. It is also the largest anti-CCP movement since 1989 Student Movement and estimated as much as three times more people inside China have participated this two weeks long protests.
The protests inside China very quickly spread to nearly 30 cities and more than 80 universities. People are holding iconic A4 size blank white papers and expressed their anger towards China’s highly controlled and oppressive Covid-19 lockdown measurements. The ordinary citizens chanted “Xi Jinping step down”, “CCP step down”, “we need reform, not crackdown”, “give back our livelihood”, and “end Covid lockdown”. Some Chinese self-taught hackers even managed to get into the Chinese Government’s website and have turned their websites into black background with white colour hashtag #OpWhitePaper.
Student protesters came up with four demands: allow to have mourning ceremony for those who died in #UrumchiFire; stop blanket style antigen tests and return to normality; release all arrested rights activists; and allow to freedom of speech. The latest hotspot of #A4Revoluton was Wuhan University and the protest had happened on December 5 for a few hours before it was silenced. The students chanted “transparent process, keep going to the end”. Less than 24 hours after the demonstration, the local authorities sealed student dormitories inside Wuhan University and prevented them from leaving their dormitory rooms and holding public gatherings. The large-scale demonstrations, under the name of white paper revolution at large, had ended on December as a result of the Chinese police’s mass arrest and crackdown on public gatherings in all major cities. Those students, who were leading the demonstrations in last two weeks, are still missing.
As usual and not surprisingly, China has used following three methods to repress and control the protestors: Controlling information flow in public arena and preventing them from having normal communication on social media platform; Spreading fake news on foreign interference and influence on the protests held inside China and legitimising their own act of brutal crackdown on ordinary citizens who were merely expressing their frustration over government’s misconduct and incompetence under the name of their “zero covid-19 policy”. Mass cleansing and arrest of protesters and their leaders.
International communities and media almost forgot what triggered the white paper revolution in the first place. Those 44 innocent Uyghur people, who were burnt alive to their death in nearly four hours of lengthy ordeal, were almost shadowed by the revolution. The Chinese Government has been implementing its “zero covid-19 policy” in different parts of inner China and it is no secret to international community. When the same policy has been implemented in East Turkistan in August 2022, it wasn’t just simply covid-19 lockdown and preventive measure to spread of Covid-19 Omicron variant virus. Evidently it became the ways of controlling people’s movement and turned into starvation genocide. All major cities in East Turkistan have been put under strict covid-19 lockdown measure. Residential buildings were barricaded from outside and houses inside buildings were also locked up from outside. So no one can escape or walk out of their houses, even if there is an emergency.
Deplorable Living conditions
Uyghur people were targeted during the lockdown and received very obvious different treatments than Han majority. The local authorities proclaimed that the Uyghur families have been receiving enough food and their medical needs are met. In reality, Uyghur people were and are still taken to the facilities with inhumane conditions and forced them to stay there for more than a month. It is public knowledge that covid quarantine doesn’t require more than two weeks of quarantine. In one video clip in widely seen shared in Weixin, a middle age Uyghur mother stated that she has been held in such inhumane and cold condition for more than 80 days. She was merely taken to so-called quarantine facility under the suspicion of having on tracted Covid from others, although her antigen test showed as negative.
More and more videos managed to get out of East Turkistan via Douyin, Chinese version of Ticktok, Weixin and many other social media platforms. Uyghur activists have been closely watching dire situation of Uyghur families who were kept in lockdown for more than two months till recently. During more than 100 days of lockdown, Uyghur people have suffered from food shortage and starvation. Elders hang themselves in order to let younger ones to eat remaining food to stay alive. Children got sick and sicker as a result of malnutrition. Children have suffered from having persistent high temperature, bleeding noses and not receiving enough, and adequate medical attention when needed. Local hospitals refused to take any patient and claimed that hospital beds are full and no capacity to treat those who became sick. We have witnessed people jumping out of windows and taking up their lives. Pregnant women couldn’t give births at the maternity ward under doctor’s supervision. It was disturbing to see six full term mothers kept outside Hospital gate in the city of Ghulja back in September as the authorities wouldn’t let them in. No one knows how many people died inside houses, neighbourhood committee officials quietly took them out and buried them without having any property rituals or their relatives’ presence. The fire in Tianshan district (Tangritagh Rayoni in Uyghur language) of Urumchi was a disaster waiting to happen. When the fire broke out in one of the units in level 15, the Uyghur mother of seven-years-old rang neighbourhood committee official and asked for help.
They came to the unit and saw the fire in the bedroom. They shut the bedroom’s door and took that Uyghur mum with a child out of the house. The mother begged that if they could help, she would be able to put off the fire by herself, because it was only in one room and fire hadn’t spread yet. However, the staff refused to help her and claimed that it is fire fighters’ jobs but not theirs. Fire trucks arrived but were unable to come closer to the building, because of the barricades and blockages built in the last 100 days to keep people inside and prevent them from freely walking around. There were even sand bags piled up in some entry points. And residents’ cars parked on roadside. By the time, the paths were cleared out, nearly three hours passed by. The fire went up to twentieth floor and down to 14th floor too. Nearly 20 units were burnt and nothing left. Cry for help of those people from burning units and pleas were sent to social media and neighbourhood communication platforms. No one came to their aid. Not only each unit’s main door was locked and prevented people from escaping on time, fire escape staircases were locked up too. No one from those fire brigade trucks came up and opened up those fire escape staircase doors. This is the least thing those fire fighters could have done at that time. Some residents managed to escape and sustained various degrees of injuries. Severe cases were taken to nearby hospitals for urgent treatment.
Is this fire and death of 44 of innocent Uyghur people preventable? Yes, it was. It is a common sense to open up the door and let people out of the burning building. What shocked Uyghur community in diaspora the most and hit the core of consciousness was that the local authorities openly and shamelessly claimed that only 10 people died and it was purely residents’ fault as they didn’t have enough awareness on fire safety. Don’t forget fire brigades and trucks parked near residential building for more that three hours without taking any action. Soon social media platforms in both inside and outside Urumchi were exploded with information how fire brigades and police were watching Uyghur people dying.
So does the Uyghur people in the neighbourhood. This neighbourhood is popular amongst Uyghur people, because is the heartland of Uyghur neighbourhood in Urumchi. People in the neighbourhood were also angry, because no one was able to rescue their neighbours. Once again, their doors were also locked and it was impossible to come out of their houses too. Anger from the public erupted in Urumchi. People rallied to the Urumchi city government building and burst into the building. The protesters were Han and not many Uyghurs amongst them. Can one imagine what may happen, if Uyghurs were rallied and walked into the Government building? No doubt, they will be shot dead on the spot. The first mourning for those 44 Uyghur people was held in Urumchi Middle Road in Shanghai; it turned into protest. Others in different cities followed Shanghai protesters’ footstep. Urumchi Middle Road sign became another sensation of the protests both inside and outside China too. Soon the local authority has removed the road sign and replaced with abbreviation version of the road sign.
It became the ways of controlling people’s movement and turned into starvation genocide. All major cities in East Turkistan have been put under strict covid-19 lockdown measure. Residential buildings were barricaded from outside and houses inside buildings were also locked up from outside. So no one can escape or walk out of their houses, even if there is an emergency
Certainly, protests in both in Urumchi and Beijing have caught Beijing’s attention. The Government agreed to consider all four demands of protesters. Whereas us, as Uyghurs in diaspora, once again learnt the brutality of the Chinese Government towards our people back home is beyond our imagination. We never thought that we would watch our brothers and sisters burnt to their death through social media, whilst we are still fighting for those over three million Uyghur people unlawfully held inside the camps across East Turkistan.
The large-scale demonstrations under the name of white paper revolution at large had ended on December as a result of the Chinese police’s mass arrest and crackdown on public gatherings in all major cities. Those students who were leading the demonstrations in last two weeks are still missing
China’s pro-democracy protests are happening around the world. So does our communities in different countries and continents. We came up with blue paper campaign and displayed the words “Regaining independence is the only way out for Uyghur people”, “independence of East Turkistan” and many more. The pro-democracy protestors started to pay attention to our messages and added strong messages of our cause into their demonstrations. They even openly spoke that their pro-democracy protests won’t be able to hide the Chinese authorities’ crime against humanity and how they treated Uyghur people in last decades. As Uyghur community in diaspora, we would like to hear those messages from the Han Chinese themselves. The lost of those 44 people is merely one of many lost in the past five years; however, our journey for fighting for our very existence and dignity will be a tough journey in next five years.
East Turkistan has very clear four sessions and autumn is the harvesting session. However, harvesting for Uyghur farmers, people of East Turkistan at large, didn’t happen this year. Farmers lost their livelihood for 2023 winter. Many are concerned how our people may get through the harsh winter without proper source of heating and food. No income from harvesting means no food and proper heating for those poor farmers. Some experts have estimated that those four months of lockdown put back East Turksitani Economy for four decades and made it sit back to last century’s 80s’ level. That can be seen through food shortage and not having access to adequate medical service as we speak.
Most importantly, the democracy inside China can’t be achieved without addressing real cause of China’s systemic genocide inside East Turkistan. This time around, death of 44 innocent Uyghur people has ignited countrywide White Paper Revolution in China. As more and more Han major population learn about CCP’s genocidal act and crime against humanity in occupied Xinjiang, #UyghurGenocide may become the major cause of Chinese Gen Z led political revolution or social reform inside China. Total solidary of East Turkistan can only be achieved by people of East Turkistan fight for their lands and the State.