Uyghur student movement marks 36th anniversary

by Anne Kader





By Nurmemet (Nuri) Musabay on December 12, 2005 



“Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Uyghur student movement”.


Twenty years ago on this day, December 12, 1985, tens of thousands of Uyghur youth aligned on the snowy Urumqi streets and shouted loud against the colonial regime, seeking freedom, liberty, human rights, and democracy. The Uyghur youth expressed their desire for freedom and their brave and indomitable spirit against the colonialists.


On this honorable historic day, I congratulate and express my respect for my fellow students and comrades who stood up at that rally.


Uyghurs have been commemorating this day every year. I also have been commemorating this day with pride and longing every year in different places. Today is my 20th time.


1. The political and social background of the Uyghur homeland before the December 12th student movement


Starting from the end of the 1970s, some of China’s economic and partial political reforms also occurred in our homeland. Even though there was no open economy and development from a direct foreign investment like in the coastal cities in the Chinese provinces, small businesses were nevertheless allowed to some extent. 


The food and clothing situation of our people also did reach the best point since the Chinese occupation, thus people finally didn’t have to worry about food or clothing and started to focus on education and cultural development. 


Scientific-cultural development and Education were restored after having been destroyed during the cultural revolution. Students were finally able to continue their schools and China also restored university education for the public.


On the other hand, as China decreased the role of the Communist party in the coastal cities, they increased it in our homeland. After the ashes of “The Hangman” Wang Zhen were scattered over Tengri-Tagh following his will, Han chauvinism started to grow. Homeless, poverty-stricken Chinese immigrants became more and more enthusiastic about our homeland, and large numbers of them started to arrive with a bold attitude. 


Chinese investors also started to buy off factories, companies, and land in our homeland with the special treatment، guarantees and invitation by the Chinese government and the autonomous region’s puppet government. This increased the unemployment and landlessness of the locals.


As the trick policies of China’s central government continued, such as ‘opening up to the West, helping the poor, alleviating poverty, contracting out counties and industries with good ethnic unity, factory contractor selection, invitation process and hiring of workers, modernization of the four’ and so on, they also increased poverty and reduced land and homeownership of our people. It made a legal pathway for an increasing number of Chinese immigrants, especially thugs and robbers to come and reside in Our homeland.


Knowing and learning about China’s tricks over the years, our people realized these ‘reforms’ by China will also bring malevolence.

As a result, in 1980 and 1981, protests took place in Aksa, Kagilik, Kashgar, Peyziwat, and in Artush, with hopes that China will keep its promises and respect its own constitution. These kinds of small to large-scale protests also occurred in other parts of our homeland.


Intellectuals also thought about our future, published their worries in discreet ways, and reminded us of history over and over again. Yet, they couldn’t express what was in their hearts, and many ended up using alcohol and smoking to pour their grievances. Many of them would tear down at night out of pity.


At that time, a great awakening happened among University students. We decided to debate school and autonomous region government officials on topics like “increasing the quality in Uyghur education, the available amount of materials, providing chances for Uyghur students to study abroad, taking in more Uyghurs for studying for Masters degree, etc.


At night we students debated about the different policies of the central and autonomous regional government: their family planning policy, land policy, factory contracting regulations, hiring and firing regulations of contracted factories, and the pros and cons of how these policies affected the Uyghur people.


When talking about history, we griefed about what we missed and felt proud for great achiements,glorious parts of our history. Whether going for a drink, a weekend concert, or in social dance clubs, in the end, in groups of 4-5, we would discuss our and next generation’s future. 


At dormitories, we talked all night long without sleeping about what we knew, what we had seen, heard, and read. We compared our past with today and the future felt pity for falling from such a civilized and brave nation to a captive under our historic enemy. In the end, we would console ourselves by cursing them with different words.


Endless injustices in our homeland, unequal and dishonorable policies, one after another, by the central and regional puppet government caused more and more students to speak out openly about injustices.


In 1983, all the students went to protests at the Autonomous regional government after neither the school nor police took any action after students of the Agriculture institute had been threatened by Hans around the school area. Many crimes had already occurred.


We also went to the office and the home of the University president, after no changes happened after the students complained about hygiene and quality of school meals at “ Xinjiang” University and in other schools.


In 1985, when students were full of anger and got agitated:

– On the 30th anniversary of the local autonomous administrative areas (that are designed to stir up relations between local ethnicities and a dishonorable autonomous region) the following happened:


-China started to transfer criminals to our homeland.

-It executed a strict family planning policy in our region even though we are minors in our homeland.

-The government gave special permission to Chinese miners to mine, cultivate virgin lands, and exploit undeveloped oil fields as they wished.

– It replaced the sitting office chairman of the autonomous region, whom they didn’t like, without passing the regional people’s congress. A series of humiliating regulations and policies towards Uyghurs made University students gather up and submit their proposal to the superiors of the University and Autonomous region government.


2- Protest preparation and the process

On December 11, 1985, all class leaders and activists in “Xinjiang” University gathered in room 219 of the newly built male dormitory in Qara Yaghach neighborhood and discussed the topics mentioned above.


As a result, we agreed to gather up in the square in front of the University Library building on December 12th, 1985, around 1:00 pm. We intended to give our proposals to our superiors at the University and Autonomous region government. We sent a person to each university to get to know their opinion and agreed to gather in the same place again at 6:00 pm.


But in the evening, the person we had sent came back with failure. We all proposed our opinions on the matter. At first, we decided to strike on the morning of December 12th. We had planned to gather in front of the library building at 8 am and go in front of the autonomous regional government from there. 


Then we had different discussions. We were wondering, if we gathered in front of the University library, the school might close the gate and keep us from getting outside of school. We decided to first get out of school in groups and then gather in front of the Autonomous region people’s congress (People’s square).


Semet XXX was a student of the geography faculty class of 1982. He was from Yrkent county and also the owner of that dormitory room. He summarized all the ideas, proposals, and complaints that had been collected from students to 5 proposals. Later it was changed to 10 then reduced to 6 proposals. The one I submitted to the government was the one with 6 proposals. (Below is the detail).


We sent students to mobilize other students in different universities. This time, we paired up voluntarily. Me and Muhter from the Biology Faculty class of 1982, from Peyziwat country, went to “Xinjiang” Institute of Engineering. 


With the help of our friends and middle school classmates in this particular school, we first invited class leaders from most of the classes to the dormitory room. They were students that had been active in social events. 


We e told them our goals, plans and explained each proposal that we were going to submit to the Autonomous regional government. We also recommended they participate in gathering with us the following day. 


They supported us and promised that they would mobilize all the students. Muhter and I, delighted and excited that our trip was successful, walked back to “Xinjiang” University and arrived around 1 am.


Students who went to “Xinjiang” Agricultural University, “Xinjiang” Normal University, “Xinjiang” Petroleum Institute also came back with success. However, we learned that things didn’t go well for students that went to “Xinjiang” University of Finance and Economics and “Xinjiang” Medical University.


3. The Gathering and protest

On December 12th, around 6:00 AM, we were still sleeping. Suddenly, there were knocks on the dormitory doors. Our professors, class teachers, and faculty superiors came in and told us to go to classrooms immediately. 


Many students were shocked and couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Some students were unaware of the event planned for that day. I also didn’t have a chance to tell my classmates and roommates because we had come in late the previous night. 


We got up earlier than usual, and by the morning the students had learned what would be happening and what had been planned for that day. With the advice and injunction of our teachers, some students went to the university cafeteria for breakfast. However, the cafeteria was still closed at the time. 


University superiors wanted us to finish our breakfast early and settle us in classrooms as soon as possible. Yet, the chefs were unaware of that. By the time Chefs arrived on their normal schedule and start their preparation, many students were already waiting in front of the cafeteria. Students made jokes and laugh about the event while waiting. 


Some of us lined up in front of the Cafeteria, pretending to go back to our dormitory, ignoring dissuasions from teachers, and headed to People’s Square by going via small paths at the back of our school and climbing over the fence.


During this process, female students participated actively. During the night, in candlelight, they made flyers of our proposals and then formed groups of 4 or 5 and headed to the people’s square.


Things went differently in other universities: In “Xinjiang” Normal University, All students participated in the school’s morning exercise on December 12th, which they normally would not attend. Under the supervision of school superiors, they got themselves in the order. They said they were running. First, they ran two laps around the track and the third time they ran straight to the street.


Students at “Xinjiang” Normal university lined up in rows and went straight to the People’s Square on foot after finishing their morning physical exercise.


Around 9 am, we all gathered in front of the Autonomous regional people’s congress, Urumqi City people’s Square. Then we moved to the street where the government is located. The Chinese soldiers also moved along to “Protect” us. The street filled with students. 5 or 6 of us ascended on top of the Iron gate of the Government yard. A group of students also climbed on the top of a small shop in the Southwestern part of the street, holding a banner that a student from Agriculture university had made by tearing open his quilt cover.


Hamiddin Niyaz, The chairman of the Autonomous region came to the students with some Chinese government superiors, and said in a threatening tone as if he was talking to his subordinates:

“ Disperse immediately, (Communist) Party and the Government are providing you free education, whatever you want to say, let your school superiors deliver it to us.”


Students ignored his words. 


Then a Chinese Said: “This doesn’t solve the problem. Send your representative, then we can sit and talk”

But we, the students, holding the papers high on our hands, shouted: “We are not going to be the second Tomur Helipe! Our demand is very clear in this paper, answer that !”. The circle surrounding them got smaller and smaller and they went back to where they came out.


There was no response for an hour. We decided to protest around the street and went back to the People’s square with that banners. One side of the row was still in the street where the Government was located. Some students didn’t want to protest and opposed the idea. Most of us agreed to protest. 


In the end, Saldar Mesum from the Agriculture University and I (I later heard he had passed away) allowed Tursun Nurdun, from Xinjiang Petroleum Institute (we didn’t know each other at that time. He is in Canada now)to climb up on our shoulders. (We didn’t know each other at that time. Now he lives in Canada.)Tursun Nurdun, speaking in his incomplete Uyghur with a mixture of some mandarin, announced that we are going to protest around the street. We, the students on the front of the row, were holding the banner and started to march. 


Going from the South gate of the city, passing Dongkowruk and the newspaper printing house towards the train station, circling the spiral in front of Qiziltagh mall, through West big bridge and north gate, arrived back to People’s square around 4 PM. 


China’s armed forces had already surrounded the square when we arrived. We entered from south of the square in orderly and neat rows. Soldiers stepped backward, dividing the square from the middle forming a line. 


We also formed a line on the other half of the square and stood in front of them. Soldiers stepped back one or two steps. Like the ancient wars in the movies, two sides were standing face to face in a line. We didn’t have anything in our hands. All we had was just our anger and despise. In front of us were the armed forces.


We kept that speed and continued to march forward. There was a ten or twenty-meter distance between us and the soldiers. Students started to shout “ Hurrah! Hurrah!” We sped up and started to run slowly. It seems Chinese soldiers received an order, as they retreated to the yard of the People’s Congress. 


Our “Hurrah” shouts became louder and stronger as we started running forward like attacking an enemy. Some of us ran for fun and some of us out of true rage. As students were pushing from behind, we, the ones at the frontline couldn’t stop ourselves. We crossed the road between the Square and Congress and pressed toward the main gate. Finally, one glass door broke and we got stuck in front of the door. After a while, Song Han Liang, Hamidin Niyaz, and 4-6 other government officials came to the balcony of the building, ready to speak. So we all retreated.


Same words: send a representative.


They said a bunch of things, but none of them were pleasant for us. They spoke, raged, and returned after saying “You all will be responsible if anything goes wrong”. We, students, were tired and hungry after walking a long way in cold weather without even eating breakfast. 


One by one the students at the back of the line went to eat something. But most of the students weren’t sure about whether to stay or go back. Standing made us even colder. We were freezing as had been standing up for a long time. Staying wasn’t an option and it wasn’t useful either. 


To fool us back to school, the school superiors and teachers from different universities prepared buses and warm a meal before we came and were trying to compel us with that.


I stood on a small drift. It seemed that such a vivid and orderly protest of ours was going to end fruitless and in low morale. We had been hoping for a good result, even though I had seen and heard many times how unscrupulous and cruel China is. I knew how much China had persecuted our family and how much sacrifice our family had already made. However, due to my impetuous and hot-blooded personality of the time, and with my enthusiasm at the minute, I decided to risk and meet with government officials. 


I looked around to find a company. Around four or five meters away was Memet Tohti (currently in Canada). It seems he was also thinking about the same thing, he looked at me meaningfully. With a head gesture, we indicated to go inside immediately. Two students from “Xinjiang” Institute of Engineering and one student from “Xinjiang” Agriculture University, a total of three students followed us into the building. 


We felt gloomy the second we entered the building. A Group of Chinese armed forces filled up the building, ran toward us, and surrounded us. After a while, they led us to the second floor. SongHanliang, Hamidin Niyaz, and three or five other superiors welcomed us enthusiastically. Each of them held one of us by the arm as if we ran away, and they started to “educate” us out of “concern”. They reminded us about the “great care“ and “kindness” of the communist party towards students. 


We said that if we didn’t tell a bit of truth and if they were just words, students wouldn’t go back. Then, I stood up, ran toward the balcony of the building to say those words.


The moment I stepped in and held the microphone to say something, students started to accuse me and even curse me with different words. I lost my words, got nervous, and in my anger said something against them. Seeing me like that, Nejmidin, a government secretary-general, who was standing just next to me, came closer and said “calm down, ignore them, they will stop”. He gave me back the microphone and smiled.


Even though I had calmed down a little bit, it was still the first time for me to speak in front of such a big crowd. I got nervous and panicked, and was only able to say these words :

– “This isn’t a market that problems can be solved immediately!”

-” Today we have protested on the streets, gathered there with our righteous demands. In front of all of you, I am submitting our demands to the Government officials”. I handed one paper with the demands to the secretary-general of the Autonomous regional government, who was standing right next to me.


1. Advance democracy in Xinjiang, hold elections democratically.

2. Advance Ethnic education. (“ethnic” here means Uyghur and other local ethnicities)

3. Stop the Nuclear (Atom) bomb tests in Xinjiang (in Lopnur )

4. Stop the government arranged immigration of Hans to Xinjiang

5. Stop the family planning policy (only 2 children allowed, exceeding will be punished by fine or forced abortion) on local ethnicities in Xinjiang

6. Protect the ecological environment (drying climate, desertification of arable land, disappearing natural forests and grasslands under the name of “developing virgin land”, polluted soil, forest, and water source from irresponsible mining and exploiting ) of Xinjiang.


Then I continued:

“ Our demands are not that easy, they (pointing the government officials next to me) couldn’t give a satisfying answer right now. So we will give them one week time to negotiate with their superiors and give us a satisfying answer. If they don’t answer or if their answer is not satisfying, we will gather in this square again and keep doing the protest continuously from next Thursday on!!”. Students applauded and cheered. Seeing this, I returned to myself and went back inside the room. Along with my other companions, we talked to the officials and agreed to talk and negotiate them within a week, with five representatives from each university. The exact date, time, and place of the meeting were to be decided by the government and who would then inform us.



4. The Meeting


Many students caught a cold during the protest on December 12th. I did too. On December 13th, I went to my second elder brother’s house near the Russian club. In the evening, my classmates Anwar Mamat (from Arayuz, Ghulja) and Mewjut, the Student Union leader of Physics Faculty, temporary President of Student Council of Xinjiang University (from Chochek), came to inform me that the President of Xinjiang University Hakim Japper had asked me to visit his office after the dinner. 


I went to the school leader’s office on the first floor of the newly built big school auditorium (theater). Hakim Jappar looked like he was in a bad mood. As soon as he saw me enter the office, he started yelling at me. He told me that he had had a meeting in the government office on that day and that the day after there would be a meeting between government officials and student representatives. “Five student representatives from each school should attend the meeting at the government office tomorrow at 10 am. Now go and find five student representatives!” he said in an ironic and threatening tone.


The next day, on December 14, 1985, at 10 am twenty student representatives headed to the local government with two minibusses from “Xinjiang” University. Some student representatives went voluntarily, some were forcibly pointed by school officials from the student council. 


Our driver mistakenly took us to the Uyghur Autonomous Region Party Committee Building as he didn’t know where the meeting location is. when we eventually arrived in front of the government building, we saw other student representatives from other schools were already there. We were late as we had gone to the wrong location. 


The government staff who welcomed us only allowed five student representatives to attend the meeting. We told him that we will not attend the meeting unless all of us were allowed to attend. While we were arguing, the Vice Chairman of the Autonomous Region Government Iminop Hamut came out, and he allowed all of us to attend the meeting after understating the situation.


Iminop Hamut kindly held another classmate’s and my arms firmly and asked about which region we were from and about our parents. He accompanied us into the venue. The meeting was held in one of the meeting rooms on the third floor of the Uyghur Autonomous Region Government Building. The meeting room was full of people.


Song Han Liang, the Autonomous region party secretary and vice-chairman of Autonomous region representing Autonomous regional government, Hamidin Niyaz, chairman of Autonomous region people’s congress, Janabil, Vice president and vice party secretary, Iminop Hamut, Vice president Nejmidin, Government secretary-general, Nur Teyip, Chief of Autonomous regional Education Department and a few other Chinese sat on one side of the room where the stage is and on the right side of the stage. 


There were two rows in total. We, the student representatives also sat face to face with them on two sides. Around 2 or 3 rows of chiefs and experts of different fields (all Chinese) sat right behind the students in the middle.


We all sat down on our seats. We were all silent as we were frightened like pigeons in the cage. We all got chills because we were sitting with bosses of the jackals in their lair.


Every second person had a microphone. Song HanLiang started the first talk. He talked a lot about “the great caring” and “kindness” of the communist party to the people of “Xinjiang”. He told us not to forget the “kindness” of the communist party, not to care about other stuff, and just study hard to become a useful person to the communist party and among the people.


Then he talked about our first demand.

1. Advance the democracy in Xinjiang, hold elections democratic in Xinjiang.

On this one, he talked long about how close and caring the communist party’s policies were to the people. Tursun Nurdun( from Petroleum Institute, he currently lives in Canada ) asked in Chinese:

“How and who decides for the candidate to be the Autonomous region’s chairman? ”

Song HanLiang answered: “The Chinese communistic party central committee designates the candidate, local people’s congress approves it. This time chairman replacement happened by this rule ”. Students and government officials argued on this topic. Janabil joined, trying to explain why Ismayil Emet was sent to Beijing:

“ Seypidin Eziz violated the working style of the Communist Party, so he was removed from his position and got transferred to Beijing. Ismayil Emet got transferred to Beijing because he did a good job.

Maynur, from the History faculty of Xinjiang University, stood up and asked right after :

“Secretary Jia, can I ask you a question?” after asking permission:

“You said Seypidin made a mistake and got transferred to Beijing. Ismayil Ehet was promoted from his position and got transferred to Beijing. So what kind of place is Beijing? Is it a place to send criminals to punish them? Or the highest leadership of the country? “

Janabil didn’t know what to say and began to stammer in Kazakh while holding his head.

We ( the student representatives ) cheered and applauded, our voices filled the hall. Now we got enlivened and full of enthusiasm. Song Hanliang announced a fifteen minutes break.


We went to the toilet by two or three and said we should be more vivid and debate fearlessly. Some Chinese who sat behind students also came to the corridor and toilet and smoked next to us. We assumed they didn’t understand Uyghur, so we continued our conversation.


2. Advance Xinjiang’s ethnic education!

On this topic, Nur Teyip compared the differences between Education, the number of students, and teachers at school before and after 1949 “liberation” by the communist party.


We compared the Chinese students and ourselves, showed how much our ethnic education got behind the Chinese education system. We expressed our desire to be in the system like the Chinese students had and finish University in four years. We argued that the local ethnicities should have more opportunities to study abroad, universities should accept more Uyghurs for Master’s programs, increase the number of Uyghur language educational materials, and improve the equality between Uyghur and Han Chinese students.


We didn’t take a lunch break. They gave us one skewer of kebab and one Nan. Students finished them quickly. Iminop Hamut, Nejmidin brought their food to us separately and said:

“I am not hungry. You are young, these foods are not enough for you. Share this among yourselves. “


3. Stop the Nuclear bomb testing in Xinjiang (Lopnur county)

We argued on this topic for quite a bit. Students from different universities, respectively from their perspective and expertise, explained the damages the tests had had on people of Xinjiang and the disasters that had happened because of nuclear tests. 


Student representatives:

“In the result of over twenty years of nuclear bombing tests, the ecological environment of the autonomous region has heavily been polluted and Radioactive contamination is also very severe, especially in southern Xinjiang. Various diseases have appeared with a significant increase in numbers. Many people had been sacrificed. 


Every nuclear bombing test brought serious drought, desertification, and other serious environmental pollutions, caused and still causing constant blowing gales and numerous damages to the health and life of many residents in the autonomous region. 


Due to many nuclear tests in our region, many newborn babies have been born with genetic diseases, disability, weak immunity, and unnatural body shapes, affecting the future and health of the next generation. Due to nuclear bombing tests, nature, quality, and components of cash crops and fruits from our region is changing, quantity is also decreasing “


The Government representative said:

“Each of our nuclear tests was done when the wind blows from the west to the east”

Student representatives replied:

“Wind direction in our autonomous region is always southeast. All chemical pollution from each Nuclear bombing test will bring and spread to Southern Xinjiang by the wind.”

Among the Chinese who sat at the back, around twenty of them were experts in different fields.

Around twenty Han Chinese, who sat in the back, were the experts from different fields. Surprisingly, some of them spoke Uyghur better than we do. They translated our words simultaneously and wrote down our factual, data-based professional questions, then handed them to the superiors at the front.


The government representative’s answer was:

“For the sake of state interest and security, regardless of what, we will continue our nuclear tests in Lopnur ”

Student representative said:

“So people of Xinjiang will be sacrificed for the state interest? China is a great nation, how can it not protect itself without the nuclear bomb?”


We had a fierce debate on this topic. Neither side was able to persuade the other and we didn’t give up. Students had the advantage in this debate.


Iminop Hamut, who was smoking and just looking at the students, hadn’t said a word since the meetings started. He suddenly stood up and stopped the debate by saying:

“Other countries have nuclear bombs, why can’t we? We have built it, and need to test it to protect ourselves. What you can do about it?” Everyone started to leave after he said “ Today’s meeting ends now. We will arrange the next one later”.


The debate on these three topics lasted from 11 AM to 11 PM. We didn’t get a satisfying answer. Many students were worried and were waiting for us even though it was already 1 am by the time we arrived back at school. Even the chefs were waiting for us with the special meals they had made.


While we were at the meeting, the ideological “education” on students started at all the schools, and Wang Enmao’s words were delivered to them. Letters from parents who were enthusiastically loyal to the communist party were read. Students were warned of losing the chance of employment and other rights, privileges, and were asked to be loyal to the communist party. Say yes to whatever the party says, like a sheep.


The second meeting was set for the last day of the one-week time period we gave them. This time many student representatives from the first meeting didn’t get invited to the meeting. So we started to prepare for the second protest as we had said before. Exactly one week later, we held our second protest in an orderly and organized manner on Sunday, December 19th.


The student protest in Urumqi on December 12, 1985, inspired many other demonstrations in Hoten, Aksu, Ghulja, Bortala, and other cities.

Demonstrations with fifty to one hundred participants took place almost daily. Within that week students from technical schools and even from high schools attended the protests. Even Uyghur students in Chinese provinces protested to show their support for our protest.


5. The nature and significance of the December 12the student movement


China interpreted the demands of the students and their words during the meeting as separatism, whereas, we saw them as a longing for “independence”. December 12th student movement can be described as the movement with the largest number of intellectuals collectively expressing their determination and idea of independence since China’s occupation.


Even though the term independence wasn’t explicit, but considering the political environment of the time, we expressed our goals with soft language :

-We told them to stop immigration to Xinjiang, instead of stopping the Chinese from coming to our land.

-We told them to advance our local ethnic education, so we wouldn’t lose our identity, to protect our identity and existence. Local ethnicities don’t need a family planning policy, instead of saying we are not Chinese.

-We said we should hold elections democratically, instead of saying you don’t decide who will be our head.

-We said to protect the ecological environment and the geographic state of Xinjiang, instead of saying, this is our land, don’t waste our resources.

– We said you can’t sacrifice the people of Xinjiang in the name of state interest, instead of saying, we have nothing to do with your state.


All our demands can only be achieved when we get back our independence.




December 12th student movement not only had an impact on China’s trick policies on Uyghurs and other local ethnicities since 1949 but also awakened our people, who had been victims of these trick policies. 


We presented the source of misery and summarised the solution to six demands meaningfully. We openly expressed the determination and political ideology of the Uyghur people’s desire for freedom.


As China had sat down for the meeting and treaty with East Turkistan National army in 1946 after it was confronted by 30,000 high morale soldiers on Manas Riverbank, the December 12 student movement made China sit down for the second time. This alarmed China as it showed the power of the people. 


December 12th student movement showed the Uyghurs will unite and can quickly get organized for the sake of the people and interest of their nation (ethnicity). 


Fierce debates during the meeting showed fearless determination, the political talent of Uyghur youths and they also proved that Uyghurs are capable of self-governance/self-ruling.


In 1946, 30,000 troops of East Turkistan’s national army made China sign the 11 article peace treaty. In 1985, they shamelessly refused to continue the meeting. It was because we didn’t carry arms. So the December 12th students movement also showed the tricky, weak but wily nature of China. It also proved correct the following quotes from China’s leader Mao Zedong :

“Trash doesn’t go on its own, you have to sweep it out.”

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”




Part 2

The overall process of the second demonstration on December 19th


As I wrote in part 1, we, the five student representatives went inside the government building and talked with the superiors of the Autonomous regional government. Just like Memet Tohti wrote in his memoir, I voluntarily went to the balcony of the building where we were having our meeting. I gave the paper that listed six demands to Nejmidin, the secretary-general of the Autonomous regional government, and told students:

“Our demands are not that easy, they (pointing the government officials next to me) couldn’t give us a satisfying answer right now. So we will give them one week time to negotiate with their superiors and give us a satisfying answer. If they don’t answer or if their answer is not satisfying, we will gather in this square again and keep protesting continuously from next Sunday on”, I said.


Following the agreement between the Government officials such as Song Han Liang and the five student representatives on December 12th, the government invited us for a meeting on December 14th. (The details are in Part 1)


During the talk on December 14, the government wasn’t able to persuade or scare us. We didn’t look weak against them either, as we kept the upper hand during the debate. To save themselves from this tough spot, Janabil, the vice-secretary of the Communist Party committee of the so-called autonomous regional government, said, “the meeting will continue next time, we will inform you the time later” and they all left the room.


After seeing how the meeting went, we assumed they won’t continue the meeting. Thus, we started to prepare for the second protest as I said in our first demonstration.


Memet Tohti, Alim Rahman, and I thought about how we should do it. We also conferred with Waris Ababekri and Hilil.


Following Hilil’s advice, we gathered at a young teacher’s, Muhter Chong’s house in a building called “Sansengban Lou”.(Muhter Chong had gone to Chengdu to study Japanese by that time, so he left it to Hilil to look after the house. (Muhter Chong is now in the US)


We had our first meeting on December 15th. Hilil, Memet Tohti, Alim Rahman, Waris Ababekri, Shawket, Gheni, Ghoji, Jelil Musa, Bilal, and I (Nurmemet Musabay) participated in this meeting.


Hilil: From the Physics faculty, majored in wireless radio. The class of 1981, originally from Atush. He is currently In the US.

Memet Tohti: From Biology faculty, class of 1982, originally from Kargilik, currently in Canada.

Waris Ababekri: From the Physics faculty, majored in physics, class of 1984. At first, he was in the class of 1983. He got expelled from the University with the excuse of “inciting” the 1988 June 15th student protest. Originally from Urumqi, currently in Urumqi.

Gheni: From Geography faculty, class of 1981, originally from Artush, currently in Urumqi.

Shawket: From Mathematics faculty, class of 1981, originally from Artush, currently in Urumqi.

Ghoji: From Faculty of Law, class of 1982, originally from Ghulja, currently in Ghulja.

Jelil MusaL: From History faculty, class of 1983, originally from Ghulja, currently in the US.

Bilal: From History faculty, class of 1982, originally from Ghulja, currently in Ghulja.


Gheni, Shawket, Ghoji, and Jelil didn’t come to our second meeting.

Since December 15th, the rest of us gathered in this house every day and made preparations for our second demonstration there.


On December 16th, Alim Rahman and I went to “Xinjiang” Medical university, “Xinjiang” Normal University, and “Xinjiang” University of Finance and Economics (current name), to discuss with friends the second demonstration. Those friends had attended the meeting on December 14th. 


We agreed to make preparations in our respective schools but didn’t decide the date and time yet. We agreed to decide the exact date and time later. (I first met Umut Hemit (now in Germany) in our meeting with Government. This time we conferred together).


On December 18th, Alim Rahman and I went to “Xinjiang” Medical university, “Xinjiang” Normal University, and “Xinjiang” University of Finance and Economics again. We informed them that one week notice that we had given to the government, would be over the day after (on December 19th) and that we would gather at the People’s Square the following morning at 8 am. We also told them to make some necessary preparations to make sure the demonstration would be orderly and neat.


Alim Rahman and I arrived back at our school around 11 pm.

The next day morning, Perhat Mijit, the headteacher of our class and political affairs staff of our Physics faculty, came to our dormitory room around 6 am. We were still sleeping and after having woken us he took us to his office and held us there until lunch-time (noon). When he told us to go and eat lunch, we went directly to the people’s square. 


We caught up with the students around the circle in front of “Xinjiang” Medical University. Because we had prepared for the day’s demonstration, we carried multiple big banners and small flyers that we distributed on the streets. 


This time our protest route was longer than the one on December 12th. We passed important neighborhoods and main streets.

When we were passing the “Xinjiang“ Medical university, “Xinjiang“ Institute of Engineering, and “Xinjiang” Petroleum Institute, we saw that school superiors had closed the gate of their school to prevent their students from joining us.


Yet, some students still climbed over the fence and joined us. The number of student demonstrators continued to grow. Even some high school students joined us.


We arrived at the People’s Square again around four or five pm. Students from distant technical schools, No.14 Middle School, and No.17 Middle School were waiting for us at the People’s Square after they couldn’t find us.


After the experiences from the last demonstration and following the command from the Autonomous regional government, and under the leadership of school higher-ups, all schools took very strict measures and prevented a lot of students from joining us. As schools heavily controlled the areas around the school, the number of students gathered wasn’t as large as the one on December 12th.


When we arrived at People’s Square, Government officials were still in the meeting with students inside the government building. As I wrote in part 1, the government chose five students, who are loyal Communist party members, as student representatives for the second meeting.


That day’s meeting was going on with those loyal students that were communist party followers. On that day our one-week time limit had ended.


After we arrived, again, some Uyghur and Han government officials told us to disperse and go home with threats and trick words from the balcony of the building. They also stopped later. As it was winter, it was cold outside. The night fell, and we couldn’t keep staying at the square. 


Some students suggested lighting a bonfire and passing the night at the square. I have no idea, where they came from, but there were two tractors loaded with coal, waiting for us on the street next to the square. 


Considering that the consequences might be dangerous, the majority of us opposed this idea. Finally, we held Shohret high in the middle of the crowd. Shohret concluded the demonstration, saying it’s not good to stay here overnight, and told everyone to end the demonstration and go home. We all left.


One week after our demonstration on December 12 and December 19, investigative teams from the department of education were sent to every school. They started to investigate and interrogate students who played an active role before and after the demonstrations.


As the investigation, scare tactics, and trick interrogations continued, our finals also arrived. We were all busy with our exam preparations day and night. The investigation team also accompanied us day and night, taking us out from our class or dormitory at any time. Their interrogations lasted until we went home in the winter break.


Every time I took an exam, the investigation team members would come to the exam room and tell me:” We will wait for you outside. You will be with us after your exam” and then they would leave. I would be with them for at least half a day after every exam. Two people. sometimes three of them would call me out to an office and would have a “conversation” with me in different forms and manners. 


I studied hard and got good grades in all my courses. They would not have any excuse in case I got a poor grade or failed on any of my courses. Our finals ended and our winter break started. I asked them if I could go home during the winter break. They told me I must register at the local police /neighborhood committee after I go back to my hometown(Ghulja). 


One day after I arrived in Ghulja, I went to our neighborhood committee to report that I had come back home for the break. Twenty-one days later, I went there again and reported all the places I had been to and told them I was going back to school the day after.


The investigation team disappeared after following me around for another month after I got back to school after the winter break. But the supervision on me continued even after I got settled in my workplace. The Cadres department at my work carried it out. This shadow finally disappeared after I left our homeland in December 1991.


*(Note from the translator: Other than apparent grammar errors due to my incompetence in English, there may be some unnatural word choices and sentence structures. Since this is a memoir, I decided not to change the order of the sentences and phrases the author used, even though the literal translation of some phrases may be unnatural in English and might even cause some misunderstanding for the reader. Please consider this as a word-by-word literal translation translated by an amateur. Translated from author’s 20th-anniversary memory in Uyghur, that was posted on Uyghur American Association Web site on December 12, 2005. Thank you)





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