When news first broke out about East Turkestan, it felt like a déjà vu of last year’s riots in Lhasa, and subsequently, all over Tibet. But I didn’t realize how similarly the unrest in East Turkestan was affecting the Uyghur community here in Canada until this past weekend.
I was invited to a dinner with guests of Tibetan, Uyghur, Chinese, and Taiwanese backgrounds. As I listened to the Uyghurs express their frustrations about the continuing conflict in their homeland, it sounded eerily similar to what many Tibetans were feeling last year. They were of course, first and foremost worried about their people back home, but they were also disturbed by the reaction they were receiving from the Chinese people.
In China, online forums are filled with hatred towards Uyghurs, calling them “ungrateful”, among many things. While here in Canada, they’ve experienced similar reactions from Chinese bystanders during their protests. I felt the same frustration towards the Chinese last year, however, also had many reach out to me and express their support and wishes for peace. So, with their propaganda, the Chinese government wasn’t only fuelling tensions back in Tibet, but here in Canada as well.
As I sat there that night and looked around me at the wonderfully diverse group of people sharing stories, laughs, and beers, I thought about how if we were 11,816km east of here (yes, I looked it up!), there is no way a gathering like this could happen. Kind of like if you take fuel away from the formula to create fire, the flame would fizzle out, take away China’s communist iron fist and propaganda, and the smoke would clear to make way for peace and harmony. Free Tibet! Free East Turkestan! Free CHINA!