The term "Turkistan" appeared in Arabic geographical works in the Middle Ages. It meant "the region of the Turks" and referred to the areas north of the Sir River in Central Asia and the adjoining areas to the east of the river. As time went by, the modern ethnic groups in Central Asia rose one after another and divided up the area. By the 18th century, the geographical term of "Turkistan" hardly appeared in the historical records of the time.
In the early 19th century, imperialist powers during their colonial expansion into Central Asia revived the geographical term "Turkistan". In 1805, Timkovsky, a Russian, used the term "Turkistan" again in a diplomatic mission's report. He called the Tarim Basin in China's Xinjiang as "East Turkistan" or "Chinese Turkistan."
Meanwhile, the British were trying to stop Russia from expanding its influence into South Asia. British historian E. Victor Gordon Kiernan wrote in his book - British diplomacy in China, 1880 to 1885 - that the British Indian Department even suggested that an "independent" Xinjiang friendly to Britain but hostile to Russia would serve as a "buffer" between the two colonial powers.
In the early 20th century and later, a small number of separatists and religious extremists in Xinjiang, influenced by the overseas religious extremism and national chauvinism, politicized the idea of "East Turkistan" and fabricated the history of "East Turkistan", which had not even existed.
They incited all ethnic groups speaking Turki and believing in Islam to join hands to create a theocratic state. They clamored for "opposition to all ethnic groups other than Turks" and for the "annihilation of pagans".
From the early 20th century to the late 1940s, the "East Turkistan" forces created many disturbances with the support of hostile foreign forces. There were also several attempts at separating parts from Xinjiang for an "East Turkistan", but all failed to win substantial local public support.
Since the peaceful liberation of Xinjiang along with the founding of New China, the tiny group of separatists who had fled abroad from Xinjiang collaborated with those at home, and looked for opportunities to carry out activities with the support of international forces that try to divide China.
In the 1990s, influenced by religious extremism, separatism and international terrorism, part of the "East Turkistan" forces both inside and outside China brought terror and violence into their activities to split Xinjiang away from China. These included explosions, assassinations, arsons, poisonings and assaults, seriously jeopardizing the lives, property and security of the Chinese people of various ethnic groups, and social stability in Xinjiang, and posing a threat to the security and stability of the countries and regions concerned.
After the September 11 terror attacks on the US, the voices calling for an international anti-terrorist struggle and cooperation have become louder. So the "East Turkistan" forces have raised the issues of "human rights", "freedom of religion" and "interests of ethnic minorities" to try to dodge the War on Terror and mislead world opinion.