Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Repulsive Racism in Western China

It is time for the rest of the world to call on the leaders of China to stem the brutal racism and ethnic inequality running rampant in the Western region of that country and recently leading to riots and murder. The conflict is sourced in two circumstances the Chinese government has complete control over: 1) the state's encouragement of Han Chinese to move to that region en masse and 2) their oppression of the Uighur's religious freedom. Both of these could be better managed, leading to less conflict, with education. At this point, the lack of understanding between the Uighur, who have lived there for centuries, and the Han, who come seeking jobs and a higher standard of living, is fueling a perfectly repulsive brand of racism and getting scores of people killed. The Chinese government is directly responsible for this and must be called on now to correct it. The Han wishing to move to the region should first be taught to understand and respect the ways of the Uighur. There are major cultural differences between the two that the Chinese government should have foreseen would cause conflict.

It's not enough for the Chinese government to crack down on the protests either. The Uighur, in particular, have insanely long memories and, as Bambino (whose people are closely related to the Uighur) notes, they actually enjoy revenge. The bloodshed will only be temporarily suspended through a crackdown. The resentments will not dissipate without educational efforts.

Among the other correctable factors leading the Uighur to resent the Han is the Chinese government's moronically shortsighted decision to bulldoze their ancient city centers. Using the danger of earthquakes as the rationale, they are leveling the heritage of a people who have survived this way just fine for ages:
For hundreds of years, Uighur shopkeepers have been selling bread and firewood along the edges of Kashgar's old town to families whose ancestors bought their traditional mud-brick homes with gold coin and handed them down through the generations.

Now, this labyrinth of ancient courtyard homes and narrow, winding streets is endangered by the latest government plan to modernize a way of life that officials consider dangerous and backward.

Left behind are piles of brick and rubble, houses without roofs and hurt feelings. It is the most recent fault line to develop between Chinese rulers and Xinjiang province's majority ethnic Uighur population, a Turkic-speaking people who have long chafed under Beijing's rule and who worry that their culture is slowly disappearing.

Like Tibetans, Uighurs resent the influx of Han Chinese immigrants who dominate government and economic positions and have pushed for more autonomy and economic opportunity.

Not only is the government destroying the Uighur's heritage, but they are also foolishly reducing an important tourist attraction and architectural landmark to rubble. Assimilation is the government's obvious goal in their efforts to move the Uighur out of their ancestors' homes and into cookie-cutter high-rise apartments. No amount of lip service to safety is going to convince a people who've survived for centuries they're better off in concrete honeycombs. The Chinese government should work with Uighur leaders to identify and then preserve (and fortify) significant sections of the old city centers.

Finally, despite how they feel about the Uighur's religion, I suspect the Chinese government is going to have to make peace with their desire to observe it. Not only is their continued religious oppression likely to attract agitators from other countries the more they open their borders (as they must) for trade throughout the region, but I suspect the Uighur themselves will see acceptance of their faith and rituals as a sign of respect that will go a long way toward easing tensions.

Again, these are not people who forget transgressions against them...they will seek revenge. Unless the Chinese government is willing to essentially wipe them out, they should begin educational and cultural efforts now. They should also remind the Han in no uncertain terms that they are the relatively new kids in the region and as such should bring their arrogance quotient down a few notches.

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11 Comments:

Blogger namastenancy said...

Even under Communism, the Chinese government acts as if China (and the Chinese) are the center of the world and that Chinese culture is the only one that is valuable. It's interesting (and tragic) how ancient beliefs in the supremacy of Chinese civilization continue into the 21st century.

7/07/2009 04:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kill em all let a norse god sort em out

7/07/2009 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Is the Chinese belief in the supremacy of their civilization any different from American exceptionalism? The belief that we're a "shining city on a hill" for the rest of the world, and it's our destiny to remake the rest of the world in our image? Would any true American doubt that the rest of the world wants to be like us?

Yes, it's right for Americans to denounce the Chinese treatment of Uighurs, but have we really made everything right - yet - for our own Uighurs, the Indians? Have all their traditional homelands and sacred places been returned to them?

I guess that would be impractical and an injustice to non-Indians.

Empire sucks.

7/08/2009 09:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Thugs will be thugs.

You walk in the street and you constantly meet them. Their face say "I would be a thug even in the most perfect of worlds". It's the evil seed that is part of nature.


Cedric C

7/08/2009 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger namastenancy said...

Criticizing the current Chinese government and it's behavior toward "minorities" doesn't mean that one doesn't also criticize any similar actions by the US government - or any other government for that matter.

7/08/2009 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

When you've got 900 million citizens and the government is constantly stealing their land and bulldozing their homes in the interests of mall culture for the party favorites and phony entrepreneurs, there is this trickle on effect...

All those peasants who need to go somewhere with a little helping hand (or Han) from the state, - they end up on the outer, where they're told they can better themselves. All they have to do is subdue the natives and pretty soon they'll feel at home. This is a long standing practice actually, it used to be called colonialism.

Yes China's borders or definition turn out to be every bit as elastic as the rest of the world. The Uighurs and Tibetans are not Chinese, racially or culturally. The Han are not interested in sharing a nation - there's not enough of that to go around as it is - so they remain intent on oppression and extermination.

But it's not like you can cede these people a few reservations, either. We're not talking a few nomadic tribes. Frankly, I'm hoping this is the fraying at the edges that will eventually unravel a much bigger fabric.

7/09/2009 10:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why stop with the Han Chinese? The Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians should also be reminded in no uncertain terms that they are the relatively new kids in this country and as such should bring their arrogance quotient down a few notches. Don't throw stones if you live in a glass house.

7/11/2009 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians should also be reminded in no uncertain terms that they are the relatively new kids in this country and as such should bring their arrogance quotient down a few notches. Don't throw stones if you live in a glass house.

Ugh...there is no conceivable way that previous American errors justify the Han arrogance that is translating into marauding gangs of pipe wielding thugs beating on Uighurs. ...there are people being MURDERED in the streets of Kashgar RIGHT NOW!!!! Making worthless references to previous human errors as if that somehow morally frees anyone from any actions today makes you a parking barrier of a human being in my opinion, something living people must walk around because you don't have the common sense to get out of the way.

7/11/2009 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Marauding gangs of pipe wielding thugs beating on Uighurs?" Or could it possbily be "marauding gangs of pipe wielding thugs beating on the Hans?" Please make sure to remember who are MURDERING whom! please keep in mind the absolute majority of the killed were Hans, NOT Uighurs. It was also the Uighurs who killed some of their innocent Han victims by slicing their heads off. I guess the concept of "someone's terrorists are someone else's freedom fighters" holds true everywhere.

7/11/2009 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Please make sure to remember who are MURDERING whom! please keep in mind the absolute majority of the killed were Hans, NOT Uighurs.

I'm not sure about the numbers just yet (accounts differ widely, with some reporting more deaths of Uighurs than the total numbers reported elsewhere), but your account of Uighur mob cutting the heads off a Han and his son is repeated in the London Times. That is obviously despicable.

But there is unquestionably blood on both sides' hands, and, I'm sorry but I side politically (even as I'm horrified by how that's played itself out in the streets) with the Uighur. You seem to be siding with the Han.

As for who is a "freedom fighter," though, there is no escaping the facts that

* 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.

So while I won't defend the violence (and most certainly condemn the murders), I won't let the anti-Muslim sentiment driving much of the slant of this story stand unchallenged when the facts clearly point to the Uighur as the predominant victims in this conflict.

7/12/2009 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

Right on, Edward!

7/13/2009 11:09:00 PM  

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