Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

International Affairs

First Advisor

Aysegul Aydin

Abstract

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), locally and historically recognized as East Turkestan, in northwestern China has been experiencing rising ethnic tension between the ethnically Turkic-Muslim Uyghur population and the Chinese majority population, the Han. Due to China's means to fully integrate the region and silence opposition, the Uyghurs have been severely harmed by China's accelerated repressive policies, human rights violations, rapid infrastructure development, and incentivized Han migration. Just south of Xinjiang in Tibet, the Tibetan population has been experiencing similar circumstances of oppression inflicted by the Chinese state and have been able to obtain international social support that has established international campaign advocating for Tibetan independence from China. However, the Uyghurs have remained largely invisible by the international community. The purpose of this thesis is to understand why the Uyghurs have been unable to rally international social support in their movement against Chinese oppression, using Tibet as a control to understand how social movements can achieve social support. It works to define the idea of international social support as a form of intervention due to populations’, particularly from Western countries, abilities to pressure their governments to take a stand on issues that exist abroad. The global media’s coverage and depictions, emphasizing the Uyghurs has violent terrorists instead of an oppressed population, were found to be the most critical determinants to explain the Uyghurs’ lack of support. The case of the Uyghurs ultimately displays the idea of ‘Islamophic’ rhetoric used by the media and in return, an entire population that has been fighting to end the oppression of their people has been tied to a single identity and motive—terrorism.