In this paper I focus on the historical and contemporary context and conception of Uyghur names and places in translation under the Manchu Qing dynasty, Chinese Nationalists and Chinese communist rulers of the region in the last two centuries. More recently this has combined with the current so called ”Bilingual education” policies that have unofficially abandonned Uyghur language instruction in Uyghur education to produce a real threat to Uyghur identity and sense of ownership over this territory.
It is useful to remind ourselves that similar procedures and methods were applied by the British and Russian empires during their vast colonial exapnsion over the last three centuries, and it is now aggressively copied and implemented by China in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
I ask whether the Chinese state can ultimately achieve its Sinification of Uyghur geographical place names, or whether Uyghurs will be able to preserve the Uyghur language names that currently co-exist with the Chinese names in the Uyghur region.
With the lack of Uyghur language representation in the Chinese offical press and in international media, will there be any future change in the current understanding, usage and representation of Uyghur language names and Mandarin names in the Uyghur region. It is likely that the situation will become still more problematic after China’s recent more agressive implementation of Chinese language usage among the Uyghur people.
If we look at history we can see that western colonial powers were able to obtain the wealth by depending on their warship and cannons. In return they introduced their own culture and languages to the the local inhabitants and even renamed the indigenous peoples names and their towns. This all ultimately helped to achieve a full colonization of the subject countries.
As contact with his family in China dwindled and ethnic Uighurs fleeing Xinjiang brought disturbing stories, Aziz Isa Elkun, a poet, academic and activist who lives in London, began speaking out about their plight.
Using Google Earth, he tracked down the site where his father was buried in 2017; the cemetery had been demolished, seemingly part of a pattern of erasing Uighur culture. CNN ran a story about the apparent destruction of more than 100 Uighur graveyards, featuring Mr Elkun and his story.
Days later CGTN, the international arm of the Chinese state broadcaster, interviewed Mr Elkun’s frail mother. She led a crew through a new “eco-friendly” cemetery. “We voluntarily applied to move the old grave here,” she said.