Xinjiang in Le Figaro

Le Figaro publishes a solid dispatch from Turkey; translation below:

Laure Marchand, “Istanbul, capitale des refugies ouigours [Istanbul, capital of Uighur refugees],” Le Figaro, 20 July 2009, p. 6.

More than 300,000 members strong, the Uighur diaspora is able to count on the sympathy of Turkish public opinion, but Ankara spares its critiques against Peking for economic reasons.


Installed in a stampeded bazaar, Abulresit, a Uighur shopkeeper, does not address a single word to his neighbor, the Chinese grocer, whom he openly detests…[Of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, he states:] “We are the same blood, we are brothers.  This gave me the courage to speak on the telephone with my family, now staying in Kashgar.  This morning, I finally succeeded in connecting, but they immediately hung up, as they were to afraid to speak.”

This person who fled Xinjiang in 1997 and his whole circle were not lacking an outlet for demonstrations in Istanbul.  In the past week, there were burning of Chinese toys outside of the Chinese consulate and the hanging of banners in favor of “East Turkestan independence” on the esplanade of the great mosque of Beyazit.   In these days, thousands of Turks and representatives of the Uighur diaspora — more than 300,000 are members of their associations — filed through dozens of Turkish cities, responding to the appeal of Islamic and nationalist organizations.  Since the 5 July, the uproar provoked a wave of sympathy within Turkish public opinion for their distant cousins in Xinjiang, muslims who speak a Turkic language.  They are also reviving the ardor of nostalgia for pan-turkism, an ideology which promotes the unification of all the Turkic people.

But after seeing this surrender to emotionalism, fed by the photos in various publications, Ankara, confronted by the wrath [courroux, n.m.] of the Chinese authorities, will henceforth moderate its critiques.

“]PIC_3529“A sort of genocide”

As is his habit, it is the the prime minister who has had an especially harsh summer.    Upon his return from the G8 summit in Italy, Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Bejing was culpable for “a sort of genocide” in its opposition to the Uighurs.  The Minister of Industry and Commerce called for a boycott of Chinese goods, though afterwards he had to backpedal [faire machine arriere] and affirm that he was only expressing a personal opinion.  Embarrassed, the Foreign Ministry multiplied its declarations in an effort to reduce the tensions.  Its spokesperson borrowed the attitude of the Chinese authorities who “try to do their best to approach these events calmly [avec sang-froid]” and discarded [balaye] the possibility of bringing the repression of the Uighurs before the Security Council, where Turkey has a non-permanent seat.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan had evoked this possibility.  The chief diplomat, Ahmet Davutoglu, similarly picked up his telephone to assure his Chinese counterpart that Turkey respects the territorial integrity of China and had no intention to meddle in its internal affairs.  Yang Jiechi explained to him that the uproar in Xinjiang was orchestrated by the “three evil forces.”  That is to say, according to the Chinese news agency, “extremism, separatism, and terrorism.”  Ankara uses a similar terminology of qualification for Turkish Kurds who sympathize with the rebels of the PKK (Workers’ Party of Kurdistan).

Diplomatic Cacophony

In total, this diplomatic cacophony intervenes at the moment when various Turks are trying to reinforce their position in the Chinese market.  In the month of June, the President of the Republic, Abdullah Gul, went to China; this was the first visit of a Turkish head of state in fifteen years.  In visiting Urumuqi, he stopped in a traditional Uighur home.  In Beijing, he signed commercial contracts of a value of 1.5 billion dollars.

“Turkey has been dead for a very long time, and appears to be unable to face its own problems,” moans Hidayet Oguzhan, president of the Association for East Turkestan Solidarity and Education, situated in an askew [guingois] apartment above a beauty institute in Istanbul.  “This time, raised our voices, but damn [helas], I think that they [the Turkish government] will forget us rather rapidly under the pressure from Beijing.”  In the 1990s, the Uighur diaspora lost the right to use the phrase “East Turkestan” in its official activities.  In 2006, Ankara decided to no longer provide a visa to Rebia Kadeer, chief in the line of Uighur resistance, and now exiled in the United States.  The Prime Minister assures that a new visa will be granted in the event that she makes a new request.

translation by Adam Cathcart

7/25 Update: The New Dominion blog provides some further interesting analysis on the responses of Chinese bloggers to the various statements of Turkish leaders in support of the Uighurs.

Violence in Xinjiang: The View from Linjiang City, Jilin / 临江市

Views of Xinjiang violence from other ethnic zones

Often lost in the shuffle of news reports about Xinjiang is inter-minority relations; that is to say, how do various other Chinese minorities, or shaoshu minzu / 少数民族 view the actions in Xinjiang?  This would seem to be a consequential question for the CCP and for foreign observers who prognosticate future fragmentation for the PRC.  After all, “a spark can start a prairie fire,” and social movements have in the past shown a strange propensity to mingle together in opposition to the party-state.

In short, I think the answer is that the Uighurs have received no moral or physical support from their fellow minority groups.  In fact, it might be said that the Uighurs are hardly seen as meritorious or justified in their actions by other minority groups.  Skepticism towards the Uighurs among, say, ethnic Koreans, may be due to Xinhua’s clever and persistent reporting which fails to give readers/viewers any idea of the genesis of the rebellion (the “spark” applied at the factory brawl in Guangzhou in June) and portrays the rioters as elements of a foreign power.  Or it may be due to a certain passivity in China’s political milieu: why does this person stand up, make a ruckus, and thereby raise the level of surveillance on me?

(The same phenomenon emerges in conversations with practicing Buddhists and Tai Qi teachers in northeast China about Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong; the very constituency which might support his right to practice his religion has fallen under suspicion due to Li’s agitations, and thus complain about him, rather than the state authorities who are presumably justified in their crackdowns. )

But what about in Tibet?  Has any serious reporting come out of Lhasa or Dharamsala in the aftermath of July 7 to suggest that the Uighurs have developed linkages with, or borrowed techniques from, Tibetan resistance to Han assimilation?  Again, I believe it is unlikely.  Particularly at a time when the Uighurs are being demonized by the CCP media, even if they harbored some kind of latent emotional support for their northwestern metaphorical brethren, the Tibetans would be irrational to express it.   And one can only imagine that the riots in Xinjiang set the police in Lhasa and Qinghai a bit on edge.  If any readers have seen reporting on this issue, please comment!

Linjiang City Hall; it lights up at night in mockery of the North Koreans across the river

Linjiang City Hall; it lights up at night in mockery of the North Koreans across the river

I was fortunate to spend an extended period in June and early July in the border regions between the PRC and the DPRK (North Korea), meaning that I was reading about and trying to process the Xinjiang violence in that extreme northeastern milieu.

Putting on my shoes at a public bath in Linjiang, Jilin province, a little city on the upper reaches of the Yalu river, I participated in the following conversation:

40-something Han guy mopping the floor [40HG]: “Hey, did you hear about the revolt in Xinjiang?”

Youngish American professor [YAP]: “No.  What happened?”

40HG: “Oh, a bunch of terrorists came in and starting killing people; it was really bad.”

YAP: “Really?”

40HG: “Yes, I saw it on television; then it was on the Global Times website too.”

Matronly Korean cashier [MKC]:  “Terrorists?  Was it the, the Dalai Lama?”

40HG: “The Dalai Lama? No he’s in Xizang [Tibet], not Xinjiang.”

MKC: “Ohhhhh, I thought it was him.  Wasn’t he the big terrorist?”

40HG: “Sure, but not with this thing.  He’s in Tibet.”

YAP: “So what’s happening now?”

40HG: [Smiling]  “Oh, the government is smashing them [真压他们]; it’s not going to last long.”

Later that night, a major rain cleared out most people from a big outdoor market.  Underneath a tent whose pockets were sagging deeply with water, I had a long conversation with a noodle-maker about international politics which touched on Xinjiang.  “This is a small thing [就是个小事],” he said dismissively of the Uighur action.  “The government will handle it and it will be over soon.”   His eyes blazed a bit, but not in support of some revolution. He then turned back to complain about policy privileges granted to Korean minorities in his small city.

Although Xinhua sought to whip up sentiment on this issue and link the Uighurs to foreign wirepullers (more on that subsequently), it appears that the violence in Xinjiang is stimulating nowhere near the passions that the Tibetan uprising did in spring of 2008.

Remembering Tiananmen and 1989 in Europe [2]

While Germans tend to recall their support and admiration for the Chinese students in June 1989, it is worth recalling that the CCP’s use of violence against protesting students prompted a crisis within the still-massive socialist camp at the time, and, moreover, that there were some civilians in East Germany who somewhat reluctantly supported the East German and Chinese government line on the student crackdown.

I was perusing through a file on “Rock Music Activities in East Germany” file in the Bundesarchiv in Berlin when I came across the following item which demonstrates solidarity with the East German regime’s support of the Chinese crackdown on the students.  But it does so in a rather wistful manner.

It is an open letter by Thomas Thimm of Blankenburg, dated 14 June 1989, addressed to the “Liebe Mitglieder der Rockgruppe ‘City’ [Dear Members of the Rock Group 'City'].  Thimm thanks the band for the 9 June 1989 concert in his hometown, but notes that he walked home “with mixed feelings.”

Das ich nach dem Konzert mit sehr gemischten Gefuehlen den Heimweg antrat, lag nicht an Eurer wolgemerkt ausgezeichneten Musik, sondern an den Wordbeitraegen Toni Krahls.

I trod the road homeward  after the concert with very mixed feelings; these [emotions] were not due to your well-remarked and outstanding music, but were rather due to the remarks made by Toni Krahls.

Ich bin auf das Aeusserste empoert, dass er die amtlichen Meldungen der chinesischen Partie-und Staatsfuehrung zu den Conterrevoutionanaeren Ausschreitungen, die in unserem Medien veroeffentlicht werden, als Maerchen bezeichnete.

[TBT/To Be Translated]

Dabei muesste auch dem letzten, der die Bilder aus China in Fersehen gesehen hat, klargeworden sein, dass es nicht die Soldaten waren, die brutal gewützt haben, sondern ein aufgeputscheter extremistischer Mob (Konterrevolutionaere is hier das treffendste Wort) die den Streik der Studenten auf den Tiananmenplatz scham-und gewisslos ausnutzen, um die gesellschaffliche Verhaeltnisse in China aendern zu wollen.

Therefore every last person who saw the images from China on the television should be clear: it was not the soldiers who engaged in brutality, it was instead the putschist and extremist mob (counterrevolutionary is here the appropriate word) which used the shameless and ignorant strike of the students on Tiananmen Square to alter the societal  circumstances in China.

Selbst in BRD.

Fehrnsehen wurde dies allein daran deutlich, dass die Kommentare zu den gezeigten Bildern in keine Weise ueberstimmten.  Nun ueberrasht es mich nicht, dass westliche Journalisten nicht objectiv berichten (koennen), aber dafuer umso mehr, dass Ihr ihre Berichte als die Wahrheit anerkennt.  Anbei ueber sende ich Euch das Foto der ‘Jungen Welt’ vom 12 June und ein Artikel der ‘Jungen Welt’ vom 9 Juni, der besonders deutlich macht, wie ernst es die BRD-Journalisten mit der Wahrheit nehmen.   (“Was ist Wahrheit?”)


The author then goes on to note that East Germany may be flawed, but it is his motherland, and thus he does not read Der Spiegel but rather Junge Welt.


and in the meantime

If all of the Teutonic sludge being slung around this blog is getting a bit heavy for you, then be comforted.  Prose was composed to the accompaniment of the oft-beloved, more often criticized, German rapper Bushido.   Bushido is a bit of a fraud — for all of his bravado and mini-forays into crudities, he still lives with his mom in Berlin — but I am simply very motivated by the tempo, tambre, and overall ethos particular song, and the Super Mario visual theme just puts the whole thing on the right pitch.   Among the best lines in here are “ich habe die Hauptstadt auf die Karte gesetzt” (I put the capitol on the map: Berlin!) and “du machst nicht was ich nichtgestern gut gemacht hat” (there’s nothing you can do that I didn’t already do yesterday).  But the best, a lyric in the chorus which I someday aspire to “bite” or sample in my own academic rap work, is “nimm die Zeitung an” (pick up the newspaper!).

NOTE: If you don’t like rap, are repelled by gangster lyrics in German by a guy who actually lives with his mom and is in truth a model Confucianist, or believe that Super Mario should only be viewed with the original score, then please refrain from clicking on the link.