Chinese colonialism in translation

Chinese colonialism in translation: Translation of Uyghur names into mandarin under communist China 

Aziz Isa Elkun

Chinese colonialism in translation

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.  

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Çimenkuş

Aziz İsa Elkün
Translated by Sultan Karakaya

Bu şiir, 2018 yılında suçsuz yere Çin’in soykırım kamplarında gözaltına alınan Çimengül Avut adına yazılmış ve ithaf edilmiştir.

Çimenkuş
Kaşgar’daki Çimenkuş…
Temmuz senden soğumadı,
Ahunluk’ta* ötüp dururdun dün
O yerden izin daha kurumadı.

Şunun için diyorum
Senin sonbaharda solduğun yalan,
Senin hapise girdiğin yalan!

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Happy Birthday to you, Ilham !

On this day he was born
Today his fiftieth golden leaf falls
He is in prison …
Because he fought for our freedom
His sacrifice for us all.

Today is the 51st Birthday of Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur Professor, winner of the Sakharov Prize, and twice Noble Peace Prize nominee. Through his writing, academic research and activities, he has campaigned for the rights of Uyghur people and challenged the Chinese authorities oppressive and apartheid policies which have developed nowadays to “China’s Uyghur Genocide”, The Chinese regime arrested him 6 years ago and jailed him for life.

Ilham, you are the Ilham (the inspiration) of Uyghur people and for everyone in the world who stands for freedom, free speech and dignity!

We will never forget you. In every breath we feel your suffering inside the dark Chinese prison.

We are fighting for your release and we pray for you, you will see the sun shine soon. You were born free, you don’t deserve to be imprisoned! The free world will stand with you always!

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