What would a Uighur version of Joshua Wong or the Dalai Lama look like?
It will look much less relatable to a Western audience than those two.
Uighur tend to physically ressemble their close neighbours the Afghans, who have been depicted as savage butchers from at least 3 decades by Western media.
It could be a woman, but she will wear a veil which is also problematic for a Western audience who usually sees that as a sign of oppression.
The main problem to create an icon for the Western audience is that Uighurs aren ‘t Buddhist, they are Muslim. Promoting a Muslim as a defensor of freedom goes against another enormous media trend of depicting Muslims as enemies of freedom. You have to start to explain that the world is complicated, and your binary discourse immediately falls apart. For instance you have to explain why there were Uighur dissidents in Guantanamo, and how terrorists differ from dissidents.
Too much explaining endanger media and politics institutions. That is why you see blurry pics of camps instead of proper interviews with Uighur dissidents in exile.
This text was originally published in quora.