Shinzo Abe: Friend of the oppressed

  • By Kok Bayraq

Istanbul and Washington are the centers of the Uyghur National Movement in exile. Shinzo Abe, the late former prime minister of Japan, was the most supportive world leader for Uighurs.

“Shinzo Abe was a friend of the oppressed and an enemy of injustice,” World Uyghur Congress (WUC) president Rebiya Kadeer said in a condolence message posted online on July 10.

Siding with the world’s most oppressed nation requires a strong sense of justice from a nation’s leader. It also takes great courage to speak out against one of the world’s most violent national leaders — Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) — and recount his mistakes to his face. Kadeer believed Abe cultivated these qualities in himself and contributed not only to the prosperity of Japan, but also to worldwide peace, calling him a “wise, courageous, far-sighted statesman.”

Leaders of Central Asian countries to which Uighurs trace their ancestry have deported, and even murdered, Uighur activists at China’s request. Leaders of Muslim brothers of the Uighurs, such as Egypt and Pakistan, have handed over thousands of Uighur students to China. Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia have also competed for Chinese money by deporting Uighur refugees.

In a written statement, WUC president Dolkun Isa said that Abe “was a genuine ally of the Uyghur people… He helped create the Uyghur Friendship Group in the Japanese Parliament, which is one of the largest parliamentary groups of the Uyghurs in the world today.”

Abe was noted for his frequent meetings with Uighur activists around the world. News archives include photographs of him with dozens of prominent Uighur activists, including Kadeer, Isa, WUC Executive Committee chairman Omer Qanat and Seyit Tumturk. All are considered criminals by China.

Abe was able to show the courage to accept “dangerous” activists that leaders in other countries did not accept because he understood what China is and the threat it poses to the world. He had not forgotten that the Chinese Communist Party had retained its power by suppressing the country’s citizens with tanks in the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. More importantly, he was able to perceive the threat China represents to Japan.

Kutluk Kadeer, who teaches English literature in the Department of Economics and Humanities at the International University of Kagoshima, Japan, talked of the strategic aspect of Abe’s closeness to Uighur activists in addition to the humanitarian point.

“We know from China’s propaganda and policies that its two most dangerous enemies at home are the Uyghurs and the Tibetans; the two most dangerous enemies abroad are the US and Japan,” he said. “Because it has power, China is committing genocide and assimilation of the Uighurs and Tibetans; because it lacks power, China is grinding its teeth and waiting to take action against the US and Japan.”

Abe’s legacy is having created a balanced military position between Japan’s World War II aggression and post-war pacifism. To make this balance, Abe formed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, set up the Japanese National Security Council, and changed the words and tone of the Murayama Statement. He also upheld the value of human rights by supporting the Uighur cause.

Abe’s special efforts not to ignore the Uighur situation and to encourage Uighur activists to take their case to the international stage was an attempt to create a balance between China and the captured nations within China.

Abe was a leader of balance and a role model for shaping the world power balance. His closeness to and support for Uighurs was another manifestation of this legacy.

Kok Bayraq is a Uighur American.