For history searchers, the uprising in China's Xinjiang province demands a big why?
The Chinese Communist Party [CCP] during the post world war 2 civil war against Chiang Kai chek's Kuomintong, won over the Turkmen to the its side, with the promise of the right of the Turkmen majority in Xiajiang to determine their own destiny. After liberation in 1959, Xinjiang [New Frontier]gained a yellow star in the new Chinese flag, and dubbed 'an autonomous region'. Until the last 20 years, the Han [Chinese] population there remained in single digits. With the acceleration, modernisation, and turning the Socialist economy on to the capitalism road, Xinjiang became a magnet for a steady stream of poor Han immigrants. Today, they represent almost 50 per cent of the population; dominate commerce and government; Mandarin is fast replacing the Turkic based local language as a medium of instruction and government and commerce. Xinjiang is very much a wild frontier for the Chinese since its vast mineral wealth will feed the CCP's engines of growth. By this long winded, potted introduction, when do we get to the Turkmen's right to self determination? The Leninist definition does not square neatly with the outside world's concept of 'right to self determination'. Once in the CCP's grip, renamed Xinjiang [formerly East Turkmenistan]marched in lock step with the rebuilding of China according to Marxist Leninist and later Mao Tse tung principles. In brief, the party ruled; the Congress of People rubber stamped decisions and policies; the army put down unrest.
Any challenge to central authority received an iron fist in return. Well what did the Turkmen receive for the gold star on the flag. For one, no restriction on the number of children a Turkmen family could have. In a world of hundreds of millions of Han, the Turkmen along with the other 54 minorities represent hardly 8 per cent of the population. In health, education, infrastructure improvements, but not in the right to practise Islam nor to preserve national identity or language or customs was channeled into very narrow streams. More, as the Han immigrants came to dominate the economic and cultural life of Xinjiang, the Turkmen or Uyghirs became a source of cheap labour for the factories in southern China. There they met with outright discrimination and the cold face of 'great Han chauvinsim'. As the world has learnt the riots in Xinjiang began as a reaction to the posse like killing of two Uyghirs in Guandong, alledgedly for raping a Chinese woman. Which they did not do. This example of mob justice found a seismic reaction in Xinjiang resulting in the killing of Han and Turkmen alike. Protest lanced the boil of ethnic hurt and discrimination and the feeling more and more, which reality bears out, that Turkmen or Uyghirs were becoming strangers in their own land. But protest and incidents of armed struggle are not new to Xinjiang.The recent release of wrongly imprisoned Uyghirs on Guantanamo for 7 years, has slightly raised the veil of Chinese policies and repression in Xinjiang.
Beijing sees the cause of unrest and challenge to its authority coming from the outside, in the person of Rabiya Kadeer, now residing in America. Unlike good Marxist Leninists, Beijing judges the book by its cover, sweeping under the carpet the true causes of Uyghir revolt and unrest. Consider Rabiya Kadeer herself. Once a shining example of the good Turkmen that the CCP educated and model party member and leader. She followed her marching orders; she proved a good model for a minority entrepreneur who seized gladly on capitalist economic principles; she was a model mother with 11 children. She had everything going for her if she played the CCP's game. Well, she did up to a point, and then like Saul on the road to Damascus, she got 'religion'; she espoused the cause of her people; she was imprisoned, then exiled to the US where she keeps or tries to keep the Ugyhirs case front and centre in the court of public opinion. And for this, she's called her people's 'dalai lama' as a symbol that the Turkmen's national aspiration aren't dead nor forgotten.
It is doubtful had the Eastern Turkmenistan had rejected the CCP's call, it could've survived long the assaults of the People's Army. Soviet Russia which had created Turkmenistan wouldn't not have stepped in, the more especially since the Communist victory in China predicated against this.
So although the CCP under the leadership of Mao Tze tung promised the Uyghirs much, they got a mess of potage in return. But the CCP simply accelerated the trend in China's long history to 'civilise' the barbarians through sinification and marginalisation. And alas short of the CCP's collapse the Ugyhirs will get less than the CCP promised.