By: Zilala Mamat
Never again. An incessant phrase said to console those who have suffered. However, actions speak louder than words, and things have yet to change. History repeats itself as tragedies persist and the world turns its back until there is nothing left to do but mourn.
In July of 2009, six Uyghur men at a toy factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong were accused of raping two Han women. Although evidence was unable to be found and the allegations were later discovered to be only a rumor, Han Chinese mobs from inside and outside the factory attacked the accused Uyghur laborers, killing two and beating several others. Uyghur residents in Xinjiang then assembled peacefully to voice the discontent they held for the murders of the Uyghur laborers. However, the protestors were faced with taunts and threats from the police and eventually, tensions rose and brawls broke out. The demonstration quickly turned violent with police forces utilizing batons, tasers, tear gas and firearms upon the unarmed crowd. As night soon swept over the city of Urumqi, the bloodshed did not cease. Under the blanket of darkness, thousands of Uyghurs were arbitrarily detained, houses were searched, and many were killed.
The 2009 Urumqi Massacre unraveled rapidly out of control and even after its end, the event haunted the residents of Urumqi for days and even years to come. Masked and labeled as an act of terrorism, the Chinese government painted the Uyghur population a scapegoat of the calamity and proclaimed to the world that not only were the Uyghurs to be blamed for the atrocity but they were also were imminent dangers to society.
A decade later, history repeated itself. Millions flooded the streets of Hong Kong in June of 2019 protesting the Extradition Bill, a law that, if passed, would undermine the autonomy of the region. And yet, despite the great distraught the bill brought upon the citizens, the Chinese government chose to retaliate with violence. The afflictions during the later days of the protests mirrored those that occurred throughout the 2009 Urumqi Massacre. Police forces utilized tear gas, firearms, and other weapons against the, again, unarmed civilians. Even after the initial event, the Chinese government chose to tighten their grip upon Hong Kong rather than initiate peaceful reforms. The detention of famous writers, activists, and participants spiked as the government exerted efforts to try to muffle the voice of the people, again reflecting the same occurrences during 2009.
2009 and 2019, both years of an intense struggle for justice and freedom in China. A sense of determination still lingers, and although the past cannot be changed, the future lays malleable in the hands of the world. “Never again” should be a reality.
"I'm Zilala Mamat, and I'm a junior residing in Northern Virginia. I have always been passionate about advocating for human rights issues; I'm primarily focused on the Uyghur crisis, sex trafficking in Southeast Asia, and labor exploitation in the Middle East. During my free time, I like to write, read, listen to music, and watch Netflix!"