In the backdrop of current India-China conflict in the Ladakh’s Galwan valley, a ‘real map of China’ surfaced on the internet. It showed how China has forcefully occupied regions and ethnicities that’s not Chinese, but it is hell bent on making them fall under an absurd ‘one China policy’.
Most of us know about the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and, to some extent, East Turkestan. However, we never hear about the north-eastern part if China, Manchuria. All we know about this word is from the so-called Chinese menu’s Gobhi/chicken Manchurian.
I was surprised to know that Manchuria was once an independent nation and it had its own flourishing language and script, a culture unique to them and, in no way, similar to Chinese expansionism. While trying to find more, I was introduced to an exiled Manchurian independence activist, Bernhardt Silergi, who lives in Munich (Germany) and trying to gather support for the movement.
OpIndia reached out to him and talked on various issues related to Manchuria and its people. Here is an excerpt (with full video interview at the bottom):
OpIndia: When we talk about Chinese expansionist policies and places under its forced control, we seldom hear about Manchuria. Even on internet, there is only a limited amount of literature available. Why?
Silergi: See, we have a history, we had a culture, and we were a peace-loving people living in the north-eastern part of current China. Twenty years after the collapse of the Qing dynasty, Manchuria declared independence in 1932 with the help of Japan. However, in 1945, the Soviets invaded our land, and a year later gave it to China.
Since then, we have been struggling to break free. However, China did everything to suppress our voice and eliminate our existence. Since the WWII, even the mention of Manchuria is non-existent and so, nobody actually knows about is. We are not Chinese. We have a distinct culture, language and identity. We want that back.
OpIndia: Usually, when we talk about regional independence or self-governance, it hovers around two things: a thought of being liberated from some occupation, or get away from the tyranny of the oppressor. Why does Manchuria want to be free from China?
Silergi: As I said above, we want to get our identity back. Tibet and East Turkestan have somehow struggled all these decades and have preserved the culture, language and identity. We don’t have that. Our people have been made to be Chinese, while we are not. The issue of self-identity is at the core.
Coupled with cultural identity, historically, China has ignored our development. You see these big cities and bright lights, but none are from Manchuria… Industries were established on our land but the people were treated poorly. They took our oil, exploited our resources and gave us nothing.
In plain words, China doesn’t care whether we live or die. All they want is our resources. The whole stupidity of Chinese identity is a farce. China as one nation, the Chinese nation, is a fake nation. It is their imperial history of land grabbing and exploiting those areas. We need to oppose that.
OpIndia: Coming back to your activism on Machuria’s independence, how organised you are? How do you people meet, or organise demonstrations… like Tibetans have a govt-in-exile…
Silergi: As of now, we are not that big. This whole notion of freedom and the struggle from Manchurian independence is relatively new. We are taking baby steps, we are letting people know that we exist and need to gather. Presently, our aim is to have an online presence, drive our campaigns and gather support from like minded people.
Tibetans, East Turkestanis, Taiwanese, Hong Kong people are our allies. They know our pain. They feel our struggle. For now, we want the world to know that there is nothing called as ‘one China’, it is an illegally occupied area.
OpIndia: How do you see Chinese expansionist policies, with regards to what’s going on right now. While the world was focussed on India-China face off in Galwan valley, China occupied 33 hectares of Nepalese territory.
Silergi: This is not something new. Since their days of imperialism, China’s has had this policy of grabbing other’s territory. That habit hasn’t gone even after the end of colonialism. They think that this is the way of asserting authority. They tried to make economic inroads with Europe and USA because they couldn’t grab their land.
But the strategy was different. They wanted them to be over-dependent on them. That actually happened but now US is trying to get away. EU might have their own reasons to not to go against China, but you can see now the nations are shifting their businesses out of China. It is going to Vietnam, India and others.
Nations have realised how dangerous and dictatorial China is. New international groups are being formed to counter Chinese influence. This is needed, else they will do anything to expand and put their claim on something that’s not theirs.
OpIndia: How do you see Xi Jinping’s leadership…
Silergi: Oh! He is a dictator who has not seen any wars. So, he doesn’t know what is the cost of a war. He is trying to be seen as some big leader, but no one likes him that ways. Chinese Communist Party has its own issues. He comes from the second generation of leaders in China who don’t know the struggles and ground realities.
That’s why he is acting as a bully and doesn’t care grabbing land even in Nepal. I mean, what is the use of having a few hectares of land in Nepal? Still, he does that. He is a failure.
OpIndia: Any message to the fellow Manchur people?
Silergi: We all need to be present. We need to gather around and present a combined face. Let us start with Twitter and Facebook where we go with the handle @ManchuUnion. You can reach out to me @silergi on Twitter. This is the start. Let us stand together and work for this cause. Let us make the world know our collective plight. These are baby steps, but we need to make a start.
The full video interview can be seen here: