By Tengku Noor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah
PUTRAJAYA, Jan 5 – Malaysia Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has urged the Uyghurs to give up their struggle for independence and make peace with China. He also blasted the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) for condemning Hamas and supporting Israel.
He said that there were things that Malaysia could do and things that it could not do in international relations.
He cited the examples of Singapore and Thailand, which had parts of Malaysia under their rule, and said that Malaysia had to accept that reality.
In an Exclusive Interview with TNS News at his office in Putrajaya recently, he pointed that China was a very powerful and important trading partner for Malaysia and other countries, and that it would be foolish to antagonize it over the Uyghur issue.
He said that China had the right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that the Uyghurs should respect that.
His comments came in response to an open letter from the Centre for Uyghur Studies (CUS), an advocacy group, Executive Director Abdulhakim Idris.
Abdulhakim issued the letter following Mahathir’s call to the Malaysian government and organisations to cut ties with Uyghur activists.
Responding to the letter, Mahathir highlighted the complexities, stating, “There are things that we can do, and there are things that we cannot do. We have to accept that Singapore, for example, although it was a part of Malaysia, today it is a different country. We accept that there are four Malaysian states now ruled by Thailand and we are not fighting to get it back.”
Emphasizing the pragmatism in international relations, he asserted, “We do what we can do but we cannot fight against China. China is a very big trading partner and we want to continue trading with them.”
Mahathir underscored the challenge of Uyghur independence, noting, “They have to find a way of accepting that they cannot become independent anymore because that means fighting against China.
And you fight against China, China is a very strong country. So the people will die, people will get killed, but you cannot achieve independence.”
Drawing parallels with the situation in Taiwan. He expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of fighting against China for independence, stating, Mahathir highlighted Taiwan’s unique situation, “Of course Taiwan is a part of China. You can’t deny that. But it has a different government. And they don’t want to be a part of China.”
He pondered the complexities of the Taiwan-China relationship, acknowledging the strategic interdependence despite political differences, “So the relationship is strange because it is a part of China. Yet it cannot be ruled by China.” Mahathir concluded by cautioning against war, emphasizing the potential harm, “So what they can do is, of course, they can have a war that will kill everybody.
“A lot of damage will be done. And I think the Chinese do not want to destroy Taiwan because Taiwan is investing in China even. So they are trading with China. So the relationship is strange because it is a part of China. Yet it cannot be ruled by China.”
In his letter Abdulhakim had asked Mahathir to retract his statement and apologise to the Uyghur community for being ignorant on the plights of the Ugyhur.
Responding and acknowledging the accusations, the 98 year-old longest serving Malaysia’s prime minister said “Well, I can retract the statement. I can apologize, but the situation will not change.”
Mahathir further explained his stance on Uyghur affairs, “Emphasizing the geopolitical reality, the fact is that Uyghur, the land is now a part of China. To fight against the Chinese would be very costly and very damaging. So sometimes we have to accept being ruled by others because to obtain independence, to get independence is too costly.”
Separately, Mahathir also addressed the Uyghur World Congress’s stance on Hamas, condemning the organization’s classification of Hamas as a terrorist group.
He elaborated on the paradoxical situation, drawing a comparison between the plight of the Palestinians and the Uyghurs.
“We cannot understand that because the Hamas came into being after the founding of Israel. Israel, part of Palestine, was taken to make the state of Israel. And since then, Israel has been killing Palestinians, have been arresting thousands of Palestinians in jail now without trial and has been building settlements on Palestinian lands.
They have been doing all these things, oppressing the Palestinians. And of course, the Palestinians, they want back their land and they decided to fight. But when they decided to fight, the Israelis said this is wrong, they shouldn’t fight.
But it is their land. I don’t know why they should support this because the Palestinians, the Hamas, are in the same position as the Uyghur region.”
Malaysian organizations like ABIM and Uyghur associations, emphasizing that supporting the Uyghurs is essential due to their shared plight.
He countered suggestions of cutting ties, stating, “No, I think it’s wrong to ask for Hamas. They are in the same position as the Uyghurs in China, and they are trying to fight. And of course, you can see how much they suffer.”
Acknowledge the limitations of non-governmental organizations, Mahathir asked: “Can ABIM fight against China? ABIM has no status at all. The only thing that we can do with China is probably to appeal to China, not to oppress the Uyghurs.
“We can do that, but I’m not the government. Government can do that if they want to, but beyond that, what can they do? Can Malaysia fight against China? Even the US also can’t.”
Mahathir stressed the importance of accepting certain realities and urged people to abide by the truth.
He acknowledged the difficulty faced by the Uyghurs, but nevertheless said, “There’s not much we can do.”
- TNS News