Monday, July 13, 2009

More on the Racism in Western China

In the comment section of the last post on this topic, an Anonymous reader rightly pointed out that the Uighur are also murdering Han Chinese and by most accounts (but not all) are killing more than they're being killed. Some of the murders by Uighur have been truly horrific as well. While I abhor the use of violence to solve political problems and unequivocally condemn the murders on both sides, I did want to elaborate on why I side with the Uighur in this conflict. I outlined some of my rationale in that last comment thread, including,
  • Until 1949, Han made up only 6% of the region's population. Today they make up 40%. That represents a significant migration and a conscious colonization on the part of the Chinese government. And today the Han continue to move there by choice, making them settlers...making it impossible in my opinion to consider them "freedom fighters."
  • Among the most profitable state-sponsored businesses in the region, the bingtuan (large farming and construction projects), employ 1.3 million people of whom only a tiny fraction are Uighur, despite their being the majority. This alone proves state-sponsored discrimination in the workplace.
  • Despite the real murder and violence of the recent riots, there is a history of Han violence against Uighur for trumped up (i.e., false) charges of rape by Uighurs, suggesting a horrific racist element at play here.
  • The Han (even educated Han) openly describe the Uighur in the most degrading of stereotypes.
  • The Chinese government goes so far in its religious oppression of the Uighur as to ensure : "Government workers are not allowed to practice the religion. Imams cannot teach the Koran in private, and study of Arabic is allowed only at designated government schools. Two of Islam’s five pillars — the sacred fasting month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj — are also closely managed: students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan, and passports of Uighurs have been confiscated to force them to join official hajj tours." [They compel them to eat during Ramadan. That alone displays a complete disrespect for their religion.]
  • The Uighur have lived in this region since the 10th century. It is their home. As the Han continue to squeeze them out, they have nowhere else to go.
But to get a sense of why the Uighur are not simply objecting to being assimilated (a fair enough reason, in my opinion), but truly (and rightfully) fighting against the most vile form of racism, check out the following, from James Fallow at The Atlantic. He writes of a sign recently, boldly displayed in a Kashgar restaurant window:
It's an advertisement for restaurant staff at the hotel, in roles from cooks to supervisors. Kashgar, of course, is a historic trading town on the extreme western frontier of China, much closer to Lahore, Kabul, and New Delhi than to Beijing. The original population there would be of Uighur or other Turkic ethnicity, rather than Han Chinese. But the last line of the advertisement says, "This offer is for Han Chinese (汉族) only, ages 18-30."
That the Chinese government permits such blatant racism (something we're told has not existed since the inception of Communist power, but clearly does) puts the responsibility for the unrest squarely on their heads, in my opinion. (Be sure and see Fallow's follow-up, as well, in which outraged Chinese readers write back to tell him he doesn't understand that sign...that it's actually an act of kindness to non-Han citizens)

The same Anonymous reader who I cite above also suggested: "The Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians should also be reminded in no uncertain terms that they are the relatively new kids in [the US] and as such should bring their arrogance quotient down a few notches. Don't throw stones if you live in a glass house." This brand of do-nothing relativism might pass for intellectual honesty in a vacuum, but when people are being murdered as we speak, when ancient city centers are being torn down, when the majority is so clearly being marginalized and denied their rights, despite any mistakes made by our ancestors, today we owe it to those people and even to ourselves to call it what it is: an apology for apartheid.

Where I will point fingers inward, though, is where the other evidence of racism is at play here. It's from a source even more insidious. It is not the response of the Chinese government or the Han to the Uighur culture, but rather the response of the West to the state-sponsored oppression. As Mona Eltahawy notes on The Huffington Post:

Following the news that did make it out of Xinjiang, I thought if only the Uighurs were Buddhists like the Tibetans with whom the Uighurs share almost mirror grievances against Beijing.

If they were Buddhists, Bjork, Sting, Bono and all those other one-named saviors of the world's poor and oppressed would have held "Free Xinjiang" concerts already. But the West continues to largely ignore the Uighurs. Maybe they're not as cuddly as the Tibetans or their leader the Dalai Lama.

Perhaps the U.S. State Department would issue stronger words in their defense if only the Uighurs weren't the wrong kind of minority in a country that produces half the goods we use and which currently lends the wobbly global economy enough money to keep it just this side of total collapse.

The Uighurs aren't Buddhists but are instead Muslims and us Muslims don't get much love these days. You'd think the U.S. at least would be paying a bit more attention to Uighurs after locking up four of their brethren at the prison camp at Guantanamo without charge for seven years.
I've read the most outrageous statements about "that's what you get when Muslims riot" on some right-wing political blogs, never once addressing the racist system under which the Uighur are being forced to live. Such comments are parallel to the mindless defenses of Jim Crow laws we've heard in the US, and those making them should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Further, as outlined in this US State Department briefing (pdf) on the role of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in combating terrorism, the US knows full well, for example, that
the PRC has manipulated the campaign against terrorists to increase oppression of the Uighur people, and has detained and beaten Rebiya Kadeer’s children and imprisoned an ethnic Uighur Canadian.
In other words, the Uighur are being used as pawns, and yet because they don't have the Dalai Lama's PR agent working for them, are widely being ignored by the West. The State Department is well aware of the details (again see the report above), but so far has been relatively silent on the issue. What's taking place in China today is utterly, indefensively violating the human rights of the Uighur and it's time for the Chinese government to acknowledge and correct it. It's past time for Obama and Clinton to condemn it in no uncertain terms.

Labels: china, politics


Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

I'm so tired of fighting for specific causees.

Can we for once and for all declare all over the world that people killing each others are simply MORONS, whatever the situation???

I don't want to have to restart this every 5 years. I know the world NEEDS morons.. There is always a politic event that turn into MORONISM (stupid religious or racist wars) every few years.

Wake up, people!! There is something lying UNDER these stupid molecule state that provide your races, national identities and religions. Life is just one thing, one entity, it is one homeostasis.
respect the living, you morons!

Cedric Caspesyan

7/13/2009 05:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Jacquie Green said...

So, what does one do to help those oppressed by the Chinese government? For some years now, I have refused to buy things made in China. The best way to register our discontent with the policies of the Chinese government with regard to Tibet and the Uighur peoples is to buy products made elsewhere. Write all the letters you want, but if you sit there on your Chinese made chair, in your Chinese cashmere sweater, drinking your juice from Chinese apples, your protest is so much hot air. The rest of the world must pressure the Chinese government with every buying decision we make.

7/13/2009 10:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the way-in for a lot of the people who have done a lot of amazing work for Tibet has been the Dalai Lama's inspiration (including his clear advocacy of non-violence) and/or a connection with Buddhism. This includes the celebrities, a lot of whom have been amazingly generous to the Tibetan cause, and undeniably effective. My guess is that the suffering of the Uighur people is not as present in our consciousness as much as others because it is new to most people in a flood of daily news (not saying this is right). It's important to support both the Tibetan cause and that of the Uighur people. Suffering anywhere is suffering everywhere. Bravo/a to everyone who is shining a light on the injustices and actively working for justice and peace for the Uighur people, for the Tibetans, for the Burmese and for all those who suffer. It's inspiring. The blogging, the letters to the editor, the calls to elected representatives all will make a difference. Not always on our time frame, but they will. As MLK, Jr said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." It's up to each of us to create the movement.

7/14/2009 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think the way-in for a lot of the people who have done a lot of amazing work for Tibet has been the Dalai Lama's inspiration (including his clear advocacy of non-violence) and/or a connection with Buddhism

Good point.

There is no non-violence champion on the Uighur's side (in fact, China is making much of a mythologized Uighur independence group [ETIM] that the US State department has described as a Terrorist group, despite there being no evidence that they have conducted any attacks at all), but the vast majority of Uighur (who, it should be noted are moderate Muslims and not at all interested in extremism by every account) are innocent people simply trying to live their lives and being pushed out of their homes, treated like second-class citizens, and watching their culture be systematically eradicated.

7/14/2009 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

This a detail but above I meant to say that identification based on races, nationalities and religions are stupid, not molecules. Molecules are not stupid.

I don't think muslim is the problem in a lack of response, because we were all horrified with what happened in the Balkans and what was then called a racist war was actually a religious war (the main "trait" of the victims was that they were muslims). Those were also moderate muslims (I'm not even sure Saudi caliphates would consider them muslims).

People who identify strongly with a religion will often meet hostility because the religion often implies that they are the only good people and all the rest are enemies/evil. So religions are a BIG problem in this world (Of course, I'm Lucifer himself for acknowledging so, know what I mean?).

Cedric Casp (not even an atheist)

7/14/2009 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

Might want to rethink That Balkans Thing, CC.

7/14/2009 11:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

This is off-topic but I find related.

In France, a rapper was just cancelled from a festival because of his mysoginist texts. An ex-politician expressed shock at this as he thought it was an attack at freedom of expression.

Now, what I don't understand is that most of Europa, including France and Germany, are banning neo-nazi propaganda (or anything that proclaims the white and heterosexual people are better than others). I think a similar thing should be said about gender. Why is it that in Canada and USA we tolerate expressions of hate because of free speech?

The same should be said about China. Anything that is an expression of hate, toward gender,
ethnicity, sexual orientation, and (dare I say) religions (it has to be hard for me too), should not be tolerated, because behind these hates there is always the underlined message that some people should not be worth having a right to speech. Or to live.

So there,

Cedric Caspesyan

7/15/2009 06:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Well the recent east european films I saw about the Balkans wars always have the bad people screaming "damn muslims!", and in one of them muslims pass a frontier and pretend they aren't muslims so you will excuse my confusion, but it didn't sound like "you have pinkier skin so I don't like you" or anything like that.

Cedric Casp

7/15/2009 02:37:00 PM  

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