Ronen Sahar
Contributor | Former Diplomat

Interview: Salih Hudayar, PM of the East Turkestan Government-in-Exile

Prime Minister Salih Hudayar leads a demonstration in front of the U.S. State Department Urging the U.S. to Act against China's Uyghur Genocide (East Turkistan National Movement)
Prime Minister Salih Hudayar leads a demonstration in front of the U.S. State Department Urging the U.S. to Act against China's Uyghur Genocide (East Turkistan National Movement)
In general, there is not an adequate international response to the alleged genocide carried out by China in East Turkestan, which has dominated since 1949. Although the USA, EU and NATO make harsh statements from time to time, this does not prevent the Chinese Government from restricting the personal rights of the people of East Turkestan and keeping them in isolation.
At the same time, the people of East Turkestan are divided into many denominators. There is no organization that fully represents East Turkestan, but there is a fact that the East Turkestan Government-in-Exile is the only official institution for this region. Salih Hudayar, who has lived in the USA for many years and carried out important works for East Turkestan despite his young age and is the Prime Minister of the current government, answered my questions about his country.
Do you believe the realization of East Turkestan’s independence is feasible in the future?
In 1945, no one believed the Jews would re-establish their own state two years after the Holocaust, nor did anyone in 1987 believe that the Soviet Union would fall and many of the captive nations would obtain independence after 1991. Even in early 2022, many of the brightest politicians and strategists believed that Ukraine would fall to Russia within days or weeks, but we have seen that with proper international assistance, even a small “weaker” nation like Ukraine can overcome a mighty empire like Russia. Similarly, East Turkistan’s independence is a not a dream but a reality, it is a matter of how and when, not if. We believe that with proper international support East Turkistan’s independence can and will be restored.
What is the legal framework that supports the claim for East Turkestan’s independence?
East Turkistan was historically an independent nation, and the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples have a lengthy history of statehood dating back to the establishment of ancient Tocharian and-Hun Turkic city states and kingdoms in East Turkistan. Contrary to China’s false claims, East Turkistan was never a part of China; in fact the Chinese refer to East Turkistan as “Xinjiang,” which means “New Territory,” clearing indicating that East Turkistan is an Occupied Country. On October 12, 1949 when the People’s Liberation Army of the Chinese Communist Party belligerently invaded East Turkistan, the East Turkistan Republic was an independent state that met all four Montevideo Convention criteria for statehood. The East Turkistan-Sino conflict is not an “internal conflict” as Beijing likes to claim, but rather an international conflict between two distinct nations.
As the East Turkestan Exiled Government, do you receive financial or intelligence assistance from entities such as the United States, the European Union, NATO, or any other organizations?
The East Turkistan Government in Exile has not received any material or intelligence support from any nation, let alone the United States, the European Union, or NATO. We hope governments that recognize China’s existential threat to international security and democracy will collaborate with us and provide us with adequate resources to counter China.
What are your perspectives on the utilization of East Turkestan as a leverage by the United States in its conflict with China?
To date, the United States has not seriously contemplated cooperating with East Turkistan to combat the threat posed by China to both nations. We hope that the U.S. will understand the strategic importance of East Turkistan to its efforts to resist Chinese global hegemony. East Turkistanis look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership between the United States and East Turkistan to counter China’s threat to both nations and the whole of the international community.
Recognizing the well-documented human rights violations in East Turkestan, could this be classified as a case of genocide? Which countries acknowledge it as such?
In a systematic effort to eradicate the existence, identity, and culture of the Uyghur / Turkic people, the Chinese government is committing all of the crimes defined as genocide by the UN Genocide Convention of 1948. The Chinese government’s genocide crimes include summary executions, organ harvesting, physical and psychological torture, mass internment of over 3 million Uyghur and other Turkic peoples in concentration camps, prisons, and slave labor camps, and systematic forced sterilization, forced abortions, forced marriages, and even forced family separation of nearly one million Uyghur children.  To date, the U.S. Government along with the Parliaments of the Canada, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, and the UK have officially recognize China’s ongoing genocide of Uyghur and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan.
What measures are you undertaking to ensure justice for your country and its citizens?
Aside from fighting for East Turkistan’s independence, we are pursuing justice for our country and its people through international bodies and treaties. The East Turkistan Government in Exile and the East Turkistan National Movement jointly filed a legal complaint at the International Criminal Court on July 6, 2020, to hold Chinese leaders accountable for their ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan. We hope that the international community will support East Turkistan’s efforts to attain justice and accountability in the same manner that it is supporting Ukraine’s efforts.

We hope that meetings can be arranged with the Israeli government and parliament to foster friendship and cooperation between East Turkistan and Israel.

As a young leader, what are your future plans and aspirations?
As an East Turkistani leader, I wish to find strong supporters and partners around the world who will aid us in our mission restore East Turkistan’s independence. I envision a secular and pluralistic independent East Turkistan Republic that will play an important role in advancing human rights, freedom, and democracy in the Eurasian continent while also fulfilling its traditional role of connecting East and West and making significant contributions towards a prosperous future for all of humanity.
With which countries are you engaging in negotiations, and which countries are you currently experiencing political conflicts with?
We are engaging with governments, parliaments, and organizations primarily in western nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, as well as India and Japan, all of which share some of our concerns regarding China and our values regarding human rights and freedom. To be clear, we have no “political conflict” or any other form of conflict with any country other than China. However, we are extremely wary of countries that have intelligence and security cooperation with China.
Have you held any official meetings with the Israeli Government?
Sadly, we have not met with the Israeli government. However, we have conducted a number of meetings and events with Jewish and pro-Israel organizations in the United States who have demonstrated solidarity with East Turkistan’s plight.  We hope that meetings can be arranged with the Israeli government and parliament to foster friendship and cooperation between East Turkistan and Israel. I believe we can learn a great deal from the Jewish experience and their endeavors to regain their homeland and maintain Israel’s independence.
What are your observations regarding Turkey’s position and approach towards your cause?
Türkiye and its people share cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and historical ties with East Turkestan and its people, but it is regrettable that Türkiye is actively and secretly collaborating with China to undermine our fight for national independence. Turkey ought to have been among the nations recognizing the ongoing genocide and recognizing East Turkistan as an occupied country, but it has increasingly pursued closer ties with China at the expense of East Turkistan. Therefore, we are not surprised by the efforts of some Turkish NGOs with close ties to the Turkish government to undermine our exile government and our struggle for independence. Nevertheless, we trust that there are still some politicians and groups in Türkiye who embrace Ataturk’s vision of a free and independent East Turkistan.
How does ETGE sustain its financial resources?
Due to the lack of meaningful external support, the East Turkistan Government in Exile is underfunded and unable to reach its full potential. As a result, we rely solely on private donations from our global diaspora community and individuals sympathetic to East Turkistan’s struggle for independence.
In what ways can individuals support your cause and the East Turkestan case at the International Criminal Court?
People can support us by urging their elected officials to back East Turkistan’s efforts to obtain justice at the International Criminal Court and our just fight for complete national independence. Additionally, they can assist by volunteering with us or donating to our ICC case.
About the Author
He worked in Middle East, Russia and Albania as an expert at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. He also served as a consultant to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in the past and advises many individuals and institutions on issues such as the defense industry and intelligence.