By Tahir Imin Uyghurian
The Urumqi July 5th deadly unrest (Many Uyghurs prefer to call it as massacre as well) marks a significant turning point in China’s Uyghur policy and has had far-reaching consequences for Uyghur history, their struggle for freedom, and resistance against China’s colonialism in occupied Uyghurstan (also known as East Turkistan) and its inhumane policies towards the Uyghur people. This event followed a series of strict and hardline policies targeting Uyghurs, including the mass detention of religious scholars and youth in the southern regions, the relocation of Uyghur youth to mainland Chinese factories, and a massive influx of Han Chinese migrants. These policies exacerbated Uyghur resistance, leading to violent incidents and actions against the Chinese government, ultimately making Uyghurs more vulnerable and disadvantaged.
The July 5th incident also marked a clear divide between Uyghurs and Han Chinese, eroding mutual trust and fostering widespread animosity. The Chinese government and security forces encouraged Han Chinese to report any expressions of Uyghur sentiment, further isolating and marginalizing the Uyghur community. Meanwhile, Han Chinese migrants became more pro-government and anti-Uyghur, assuming management positions in government offices and benefiting from pro-Han Chinese economic policies. This division drew a distinct line between Uyghurs and Han settlers, supported by the CCP regime.
Internationally, the Urumqi incident brought China’s cruel policies against the Uyghurs into the spotlight, especially following the treatment of Uyghurs at Guantanamo Bay. This exposure forced many Uyghurs to leave their homeland and accelerated China’s genocidal policies against the Uyghur population.
The July 5th incident also resulted in major policy changes by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). A special working group on Uyghur issues called the “Central Xinjiang Work Symposium” was established, with Hu Jintao delivering a significant speech at the meeting. The CCP replaced Wang Luquan, the party secretary in power during the unrest and known for his brutal tactics, with Zhang Chunxian. The CCP emphasized economic development as a means to stabilize the region, launching the “pairing-assistance to Xinjiang” initiative. Additionally, there was a strengthened crackdown on the so-called “three evil forces” and the introduction of a second generation of “ethnic policies” aimed at assimilating ethnic groups such as Uyghurs and Tibetans. The establishment of so-called “Vocational Centers” to detain millions of Uyghurs, which later evolved into the Uyghur genocide, also began during this period.
Furthermore, the Urumqi massacre gave more prominence and voice to Uyghur groups in the diaspora. The Chinese government’s accusations against Uyghur organizations and activists around the world led to increased media attention and recognition by international observers as key actors in the Uyghur issue.
Overall, the Urumqi July 5th Massacre and Riot marked a significant turning point in China’s Uyghur policy, fueling ethnic tensions, international scrutiny, major policy changes, and increased visibility for Uyghur organizations globally.