What a wonderful story.
Seven members of the Uygur ethnic minority of Xinjiang China on a Chinese organised cultural touring party to Canada left their minders and presented themselves to Canadian officials claiming asylum and seeking refugee status.
The seven, were all members of an official Chinese acrobatic troupe visiting Canada for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
In scenes reminiscent of the Cold War the group clandestinely contacted the local Uygur emigre community and, after having to spell out the name on a nearby football stadium to identify their location, organised their mercy dash for freedom with a no doubt amazed local Uygur.
Later that day whilst their minders were not looking the group rushed to a waiting getaway car and sped off to a possible new life and freedom in Canada.
"We were very afraid and we could hear each other’s heartbeats when we got in the (getaway) car," a group member named Sirajidin told the Toronto Star Newspaper.
The seven, five men and two women are a part of the minority Uygur ethnic group of Xinjiang an “autonomous” region in China’s north west.
The Uygur are a Caucasian, Muslim peoples of Turkic origin numbering some 8.5 million in China and have for long been a victim of gross human rights violations including restrictions on basic freedom of association and religion, false imprisonment and even executions.
Since "9/11" the Chinese have used the "War on Terror" to mask even greater privations aimed at breaking the will of the Uygur who, for a period in the 1990’s, showed a desire to follow their "Turkic brothers" of the former Soviet Central Asian states in achieving independence.
Under the guise of the "War on Terror", the People’s Republic of China have cracked down harshly on any form of dissent by the Uygur in Xinjiang. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have chronicled numerous incidences of false imprisonment, torture and executions whilst the Chinese attempt to portray to the world that, apart from some “Uygur terrorist” activity, all is well among the ethnic groups of its far north west region.
"We performed for the government and they used us to create this image of ethnic unity. We didn’t have a choice. We had no right to oppose," juggler Dilshat Sirajidin told the "Star Newspaper"
The Star goes on to report that yesterday the acrobats were “greeted like heroes” by the entire Uygur community of Toronto at a local restaurant. Most of the close knit Uygur family of Canada are themselves exiles who fled what they called "political persecutions and ethnic discrimination” the Star reported further.
But Toronto was not the only place for Uygurs to be celebrating.
Uygur Internet forums and chat rooms were awash with news of the defections. It brought with it cheers and congratulations and a strange new lease of life among the Uygur in diaspora who plod on relentlessly in the hope of getting the wider world to pay attention to the plight of their brothers in China.
The defections could have not come at a better time for those Uygur as recently reporting of the Uygur situation had increased markedly in the world media perhaps breathing new hope in lungs tired from calling in the wilderness.
Rudolph Nureyevs they may not be but something tells me this group of Uygur performers may have just completed their best show.