LIMPING ON TWO LEGS: UYGHUR DIASPORA ORGANIZATIONS AND THE PROSPECTS FOR EASTERN TURKESTAN INDEPENDENCE

Yitzhak SHICHOR


Yitzhak Shichor, Professor of Political Science and East Asian Studies, University of Haifa; Senior Fellow, the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace; Professor Emeritus, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Jerusalem, Israel)


Introduction

Walking on two legs (liangtiaotui zoulu), that is trying to promote two policies, often contradictory, at the same time, is a Chinese political term and as such may not be very popular among Uyghurs. Nonetheless, it is the best expression I can use to define the current state of the Eastern Turkestan independence movementin a positive, rather than a negative sense. Apparently, this expression denotes a split or a break. Indeed, the Uyghur Diaspora has been divided into a number of organizations and associations that have been established throughout the years, especially since the early 1990s. They held a number of congresses and other meetings and managed to place the issue of Eastern Turkestan independence on the international agenda using advanced communications media, petitions and demonstrations and personal activism. Yet, their actual success has been quite limited primarilybut by no means onlydue to repeated splits and internal rivalries. Attempts to create a universal, acceptable, representative and powerful organization that would provide an umbrella for all the other particular associations and that would have an international impact and a recognized world leader (similar to the Dalai Lama), had by and large failed.

This situation was supposed to have changed in April 2004 when a new umbrella organization called the World Uyghur Congress was


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