New Delhi – Amid many painful aspects of the spread of Covid-19 in China, one positive outcome is the new comradeship between the people of colonized countries like Tibet, Xinjiang (East Turkistan), Southern Mongolia, and the right-thinking Chinese citizens have come to establish in these painful days. Experts and thought leaders from all of these four groups, who shared a common international webinar platform were of the opinion that to fight the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping, they must join hands.
The Webinar titled “China’s Covid Policy and its Impact on Colonized Peoples” was jointly organised by the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE), World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) on the late evening of Friday, February 10, 2023.
The participants included Ilshat Hassan Kokbore, Vice President of WUC Central Executive; Dr Teng Biao, a leading Chinese Human Rights lawyer and Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago; Enghebatu Togochog, the Director of Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre; and Sonam Tsering, General Secretary of TYC. Vijay Kranti, Chairman CHASE moderated the discussion.
Mr Enghebatu Togochog described how the Covid period was used by Beijing masters to take forward China’s policy of destroying the Mongolian language and Mongolian identity. “President Xi Jinping and his communist regime have used the Zero-Covid policy and the pandemic as a convenient excuse to further increase and to justify the ongoing process of cultural genocide in my occupied country. But this has also resulted in widespread opposition from the Mongolian people. In June 2020 nearly 300 thousand Mongolian students, teachers and ordinary workers took to street demonstrations demanding independence for our country. Even Communist Party members and many government officials of Mongolian ethnicity joined these protests or non-cooperation movements. They included the granddaughter of the paramount leader of Mongolia who also used to be a childhood friend of Xi Jinping. She refused to implement the new language policy. As a result, she was removed from her official position,” he added.
“In early 2021 the Chinese government issued orders to all Mongolian language TV and Radio services to stop Mongolian language programs and replace them with Chinese language programs in order to promote ‘common nationalist Chinese identity’. It has been a tradition in Southern Mongolia to celebrate our new year with traditional Mongolian songs and dances. But this year The Chinese administration removed the celebration-related TV programs altogether. Sculptures and figures of Mongolian historical figures in streets and roads have been pulled down and smashed. They even removed all Mongolian language signs in schools, roads and parks. They have even gone to the extent of removing all Mongolian language books from bookstores and the printing presses have been banned from printing anything in the Mongolian language,” he said.
Presenting the Uyghur perspective of experience during the Covid pandemic under the Chinese occupation, Ilshat Hassan said that the ‘Zero-Covid’ policy of President Xi Jinping provided a more handy opportunity to him and the CCP to further escalate the ongoing process of cultural genocide of the Uyghur people of East Turkistan (i.e. Xinjiang). He described how long-lasting Covid related lockdowns resulted into hunger, suffering and sickness for the Uyghur people. “While the Han settlers in Xinjiang were given all the freedom to go out to collect food and medicine for their families, there was a total ban on the Uyghurs’ movement. When it comes to the distribution of food and medicine to the Uyghurs the Chinese administration would hold it in the name of ‘shortages’. "We have seen videos of Uyghur children crying due to hunger and fever. But they were not allowed to go out for help,” he said.
“For Uyghurs who are living abroad, talking to their families living inside East Turkistan or getting information about them was already very difficult. But during the Covid pandemic, all communications with our homeland were completely cut off. I have my mother and sisters living inside Xinjiang. Since long time I have no way to even find out if they are alive or not. Arresting and torturing family members of exiled people like me is a common practice,” he said.
Ilshates specially underlined the sad fate of Uyghur youths, who are separated from their families and sent to distant Chinese factories and other workplaces where they live like bonded labour. “Inside the factories the Uyghur labour are not controlled by factory owners but by the Chinese police who discipline them, follow them everywhere and punish them for any petty reason,” he added
Dr Teng Biao, as a former Chinese citizen and lawyer who defended cases Tibetans, Uyghurs and Chinese democrats involving freedom of expression, religious freedom and the death penalty, described how the Chinese regime tried to hide the occurrence of Covid virus explosion from Wuhan and then misused its spread for its own selfish goals. “The Communist Party of China should be held responsible for the death of seven million people across the world due to the Wuhan outbreak of the virus. Doctors, citizens and the media people who first reported the outbreak of the virus were arrested to stop the news from going to the world. The disease could have been effectively contained within the Wuhan area if the world was allowed to know about the outbreak of the virus in time. Unfortunately, the collateral damage caused by the virus and the lockdown in China is far more than caused by the disease,” he said.
He spoke about the torturous life which people in Xinjiang and Tibet had to go through due to strong restrictions and shortage of food and medicine which lead to many starvation deaths also. He referred to the case of two Chinese human rights lawyers who had to appear in court to stand for a journalist who was sentenced to four-year imprisonment for writing a report. Talking about the compulsory green or red coat assigned to every person to show whether the person is free from Covid infection or is infected, he said, “As the lawyers were preparing to leave their homes to appear in the court the policies suddenly changed the colour of their coats from green to red just to stop them to move out of home and reach the court. Covid policy in China was practiced more to tighten the dictatorship of the regime than to face the virus.”
Nailing the Chinese government’s lies about the efficacy of the Chinese vaccine Dr Biao said, “Beijing had two reasons to refuse the offer of effective vaccines by Europe and America. One reason was that the Chinese leadership did not want to lose face by admitting the poor quality of the Chinese vaccines. The second reason was corruption. Main Chinese companies that produced vaccines had close links with the top Chinese leadership. It was in their business interest to stop these vaccines from other countries.”
Sonam Tsering spoke about how the Chinese government demonstrated its partiality against the colonized people of Tibet and other colonies. “Soon after the spread of the Covid-19 virus from Wuhan the Chinese government stopped flights to almost all Chinese cities. But the flights to Lhasa continued for a long time. Even when the virus spread in Tibet the health facilities provided to the Tibetans were quite poor as to the Han settlers. In many cases, there was no separate arrangement for healthy and infected Tibetans and all were put together. The Tibetans were forced to live in camps where no proper health facilities existed,” he said.
Sonam pointed out a highly scandalous and inhuman act of the Chinese government in Tibet during the Covid-19 period. “The Chinese government used this medical emergency to camouflage its campaign of collecting blood samples of a million Tibetan citizens for its DNA testing and a database building plan which holds many risks for the Tibetan population in the future. They did not even spare Tibetan children of just five year of age,” he said. “During the Covid years, the Chinese Communist Party has picked up about a million Tibetan children and pushed them into its Party-run residential schools. The main purpose of China is to brainwash the current Tibetan generation to produce future citizens who would be Tibetan in looks but their mind and heart will be Chinese,” he added.