Japan’s Prewar Uyghur Policy

English Article
Translation / 翻訳

There are a series of diplomatic boycotts who do not send government officials to the Beijing Olympics in protest of human rights violations such as the suppression of Uighurs in China. Chinese Islam, such as Uighurs, who are not very familiar to Japan, but before the war, there were a Japanese officer who was deeply sympathetic to the circumstances of Chinese Muslims such as Uighurs.

After winning the Russo-Japanese War, Japan’s interest went further west of China from Manchuria. Major Tsutomu Hino, who was said to be the best Chinese expert in the Army, aiming for Xinjiang.  In December 1907, he passed between Lanzhou and Ganzhou. This is where the Hui people (Muslims) broke out between 1862 and 1875. When Hino asked, Muslim villagers were chased by Han Chinese, and the village was desolate and abandoned houses were left unattended.

Still, looking at the Hui people who continue to live in the area, Hino said as follows.

Is the state of peace and safety of the Hui people today really peaceful? I cannot help but doubt it very much….The Han Chinese insult the Hui people, especially as the inferior race. It is extremely harsh to see how Han treat Hui. I mean, they are taken away from the fertile land and actually live in the desolate mountainous land…. The state of peace on the surface here is only for the sign of causing a rebellion of angry waves (rebellion of the people) on other days.

In this way, Major Hino witnessed the tragedy of Islamic people who had been displaced from their homeland by the advance of the Han Chinese, and foresaw their ominous future. It seems as if they are talking about the fate of the Uighurs in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, who are now about to be deprived of their religious and cultural identities due to the migration of Han Chinese.

Tsuyoshi Hino

Japan was interested in Xinjiang because of concerns that Russia could eventually have similar intentions in Mongolia and Manchuria if it had a sphere of influence in the region. Major Hino’s Xinjiang reconnaissance also responded to such concerns in Japan.

After that, in the 1930s when the Sino-Japanese War began, Japan’s interest became more and more toward Xinjiang. At that time, Japan had a policy of marrying Japanese women and Uighurs in order to emphasize Xinjiang. “The Woman of Chador” by Sumiko Suzuki (Nippon Weekly Publishing Co., Ltd., September 1959) became topic with introduction of Professor Shinji Maejima who was a pioneer in Islamic studies in Japan . It conveys the reality of Japan’s Xinjiang policy, which was not well known.

Sumiko Suzuki’s “The Woman of Chador”

The author married a Uighur man and gave birth to three children in response to a Japanese military Uighur craft. After the defeat, she moved to the hinterland of China with her family, but divorced her husband, was arrested by the Kuomintang for being a Japanese spy, and broke up with his children. After that, she entered the Communist Party prison and received ideological education, but was released and returned to Japan. It is rare for a woman to be involved in the pre-war military’s Islamic policy, and it truly represents a turbulent life that was at the mercy of history.

Uyghur Actress Dilraba Dilmurat
English Article
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