Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Uighur Protests continue

Just finished final edits on a piece for the Asia Wall Street Journal on the unrest in Uighur-land and the link to China's censorship policies.  It should be up on line around mid-day here, and in the dead-tree version published in Hong Kong tomorrow.  

The stateside version of the WSJ has an op-ed from Rebiya Kadeer that touches on some of the same themes as my piece, particularly the race-baiting aspect of China's response to this crisis and the Tibetan uprising last year.  To whit: 

The recent Uighur repression has taken on a racial tone. The Chinese government is known for encouraging a nationalistic streak among Han Chinese as it seeks to replace the bankrupt communist ideology it used to promote. This nationalism was in evidence as the Han Chinese mob attacked Uighur workers in Shaoguan.  This official encouragement of reactionary nationalism among Han Chinese makes the path forward very difficult. 

As the violence escalates, so does the pain I feel for the loss of all innocent lives. I fear the Chinese government will not experience this pain as it reports on its version of events in Urumqi. It is this lack of self-examination that further divides Han Chinese and Uighurs.

It is also fascinating to me that Hu Jintao has bailed on the G8 meeting in order to be in China to deal with the situation in Uighur-land.  The protests are spreading to other areas, much as protests spread across the Tibetan plateau after the brutal crackdown in Lhasa last year.  When will the Chinese learn to handle these situations better?  I have to believe that they will at some point because they show a pretty strong capacity to learn on the media management front and apply lessons to improve their approaches over time.  Yet the heavy security response to non-violent protests by ethnic minorities seems immutable, always with the same tragic results for the victims of violence and the negative fall-out for the Chinese.

Silver lining here is Rebiya getting a forum for her moderate and reasonable sounding ideas, and the fact that most media stories are highlighting the Chinese government's race-baiting and censorship, as well as the underlying causes of tensions in the region (China's bad policies on migration, education, language, religion, etc.). 

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