Ablat Abdurreshit Berqi and “Boycott Brick Tea” (3) – Uyghur

In the 1980s, most Uyghurs who went to secondary school in the Uyghur region can still remember hearing about the “Boston Tea Party” in their world history course. In this momentous event in American history, the British Empire’s duty-free sale of tea imported from colonies such as China and India in another colony, the United States, was opposed by the “Boys of Liberty” organization, a group of rights and rights claimants from 13 states. They protested the continuation of such tax-free trade, and on December 16, 1773, they demonstrated in Boston. Then the blood-thirsty protesters climbed onto the tea ships docked at the Boston pier and dumped a huge number of boxes of tea into the sea.

The American Revolution, which was inspired by the “Boston Tea Party”, led to the 13 states at that time rebelling against the British Empire and demanding independence, eventually paving the way for the establishment of the United States of America under the auspices of the British Empire. Three years later, on July 4, 1776, the “Declaration of Independence” was declared and the independent United States was officially born.

More than two centuries after those events, in the middle of the 1990s, another “tea event” similar in nature gradually began to attract the attention of people from all walks of life in the Uyghur region. In this, the tea that Uyghurs have been drinking for the past 30-40 years and known as “black tea” or “brik tea” has penetrated into the life of Uyghurs to such an extent that some people even become addicted to tea after drinking “atkan chai” prepared with this tea. Inevitably, this tea had formed a huge market environment in the Uyghur region.

Although the tea factories producing these teas in the Chinese provinces bring huge profits from this market every year, some people were surprised that this tea is not consumed by the Chinese people, but it is only sold in the Uyghur region, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and other places. But for the first time in 1994, some Uyghur Muslims began to stress that the purity of these teas, and more importantly, the chemicals in them, could cause serious harm to the human body. When talking about this, one of the active participants of the “Black Tea Boycott” movement at that time, Habibula Izchi, who was engaged in business in the Uyghur tea market at that time, briefly recalled the situation at that time.

With the direct encouragement of Hossein from the late Uyghur intelligentsia, a group of Uyghur volunteers embarked on the “Sprinkling Brick Tea” campaign. In addition, the production of a scientific report on the chemical composition of “Brick Tea” indirectly indicated that this was a correct idea. When asked about this, Habibullah Izchi briefly explained the details.

When the material evidence was fully collected, Ablat Abdurashit Berki used his writing talent to write a review article on “Black tea and the consciousness of Uyghur exclusion”. Also, in the Chinese newspapers and magazines published in the Chinese provinces at that time, some Chinese authors published review articles about the harm of “Brik Chai” to the human body, and the English translations of these articles were widely publicized. Habibullah Izchi gave a detailed account of this.

The “Black Tea Boycott” movement started by Uyghur elders and intellectuals quickly gained social effect and pushed “Brick Tea” out of the market. This opened up a wide field for the Uyghur tea business. This general trend has confused the Chinese government. For this reason, in order to prevent it from becoming “sustainable” for other social movements, it quickly moved to “refusal” of this movement. Ablat Abdurashit was also registered as a “suspicious person”. Habibullah recalled the circumstances of that time.

It is for these reasons that it took ten to twenty years for Ablat Abdurashit to get a passport. In 2017, before he returned from Israel, his wife and child’s passports were confiscated, and Ablat’s desire to show them abroad during his doctoral work was completely ruined. Also, because Ablat was abroad, his family could not be exempted from the endless interrogations of the Residents’ Committee as “recruited”. Ablat, who heard about these things, insisted that “compatriots also need us”, so he rejected the strong recommendations of his friends to go abroad and returned to Urumqi. That’s how the tragedy began.

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