More Ethnic Strife in China

In many ways, I can see that the Peoples Republic of China is at a similar stage as was the British Empire one hundred years ago. Presiding over one fifth of the world’s population, she had access to vast natural and financial resources but desperately needed more to sustain her present growth; although there were leanings towards emancipation and representative governance, she was predominately non-democratic.

In my previous missive, I rambled on about historical ethnic conflict and bloody insurrection during the expansion of the Chinese Empire during the Great Qing period from the 17th – early 20th Centuries. Current events in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, the easternmost province in the PRC are a reminder.

The name derives from term suggesting New Frontier in the Manchu language, as spoken by Turkic nomadic upstarts from the West who moved East , set up shop and then tamed the Wild West. Like something worthy of Terry Pratchett, ethnic Manchus have been almost fully incorporated into the Han-dominated mainstream and retain little beyond a few pieces of graffiti and their own cuisine.

A majority of the 20 millions inhabitants of Xinjiang are Uighur (pronounced Wicker, as in the Caithness-style but with GH(ost)). Like the Hui Chinese, as I mentioned before, they are Muslim and died in large numbers during Qing expanionalism. Unlike the Hui Chinese, however, they are not ethnically and linguistically Sino-Tibetan but Turkic Central Asian.

BBC News reports on ongoing urban disturbances in Urumqi, the regional capital. This being China, where declaring oneself to be in opposition to the Government takes real moral courage undreamt of across the fauxialist West, details are sketchy, but it is accepted to have flared-up on 5 July. A protest by Uighur inhabitants was held in response to the deaths of two Uighur men in Shaoguan City, Guangduo province during a brawl following (subsequently disproved) rumours of a Uighur rape-pack attacking two Han girls.

Aware of the frequently harsh Chinese judiciary system, I hope it identifies whomever was responsible for these false allegations which were clearly intended as incitement. What took place in Urumqi, however, appears far more disturbing as Uighurs are alleged to have run amok in the original sense. And, disconcertingly, in the culturally-accepted sense across much of Indo-China and the Indonesian islands in which Han Chinese were targeted.

Han-run businesses and state property are reported to have been destroyed, and Han inhabitants attacked and a number killed. One grisly report I read was of a young Han woman seen with her hand hacked-off and a similar attempt on her face.

urumqi riots

Further loss of life, it has to be remembered, has come from the Chinese military’s response against Uighurs. This is not a state security arm encumbered by concerns for civilian casualties, as seen in its endorsement of the grotesque UN Human Rights Council which declared over Sri Lanka’s destruction of the LTTE along with tens of thousands of uninvolved civilians as a “domestic matter that does not merit outside interference”.

As part of the spirit of the times, such news events are not complete without the image of a lone elderly woman braving tanks.

uighur women

The generally reliable Voltaire’s Priest at Shiraz Socialist reduces events to a desire of Uighur self-determination to break free of “China’s brutal hegemony”. In the comments box, VP asks if support for self-determination by Palestinian Arabs should not extend to supporting that of Uighurs.

The clue should be in their names. One population group resides in and around the eastern Mediterranean; the other six thousand miles away deep in the lost heart of Asia. Many bad ideas regarding human governance and societal change appeared during the 19th and 20th Centuries. If we are lucky, a bad idea returns merely as bird shite. If we are unlucky, it returns as bombs.

VP and his comrades at Shiraz Socialist have been right to reject the thuggish segue into antisemitism and political psychopathy surrounding the increasingly erroneously-named anti-war Left, but using catchwords such as hegemony as axiomically bad immediately suggests a fondness for discredited systems.

VP goes on to refer to a “particularly sinister turn” of Han-led reprisals. Yes, this is alarming, but the attacks on Han-as-Han came first and, as Andrew Coates recounts, anti-Han racism has a very bloody pedigree.

All Chinese politically machinations are opaque, necessitating a great deal of kreminology: Uighur events even more so. For some time, there has been a low-level insurgency in and around Xinjiang, including an ad hoc attempt by a Uighur woman to blow-up an internal flight. This resulted in, as stated in The Times, an unusually detailed response from Chinese state officials.

Mick Hartley has devoted some effort to events in Xinjiang. Recently, he discussed the release and resettlement of Uighur detainees at Guantanamo. I have definite opinions on Guantanamo, but Hartley’s assertion that there was no evidence of involvement in terrorist or insurgent groups was not necessarily borne out by the reports. There was no evidence of their plotting against *US* targets, or those of her allies, which is not necessarily the same thing.

These men are assumed to have been connected to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement which may or may not have a jihadist element, and which is reported to have plotted attacks on the Beijing Olympics. Hartley discussed related separatist movements here.

It should be noted that his [Hartley’s] statement that East Turkistan and Xinjiang are interchangeable is not fully accurate. East Turkistan historically referred to the territory south of the Tien Shan mountain range, in the extreme west of Xinjiang; whilst the territory to the north was Dzungaria.

Shiraz Socialist and Mick Hartley do not follow the group-think of reflexively anti-Western politics, exemplified by John Wight of Socialist Unity who recently eulogized the Islamic Republic of Iran, but there is a natural tendency of humans to believe in stupid things. Reports coming out of China and Xinjiang are too unclear to draw definite conclusions and, having rejected the foul anti-Americanism and ‘anti-Zionism’ of Wight et al., I would be disappointed to see them sating their desire for internationalism and defunct ideologies in viewing as the new evil hegemony the Chinese state.

One hundred years ago, the British Empire had many flaws, but it would have been odd to have seen the English shop-owners portrayed as being part of the ruling-elite.

On a final note, commenter Apollo on Socialist Unity asks the following pertinent question:

Anything to come on the demonstrations in China? Hoping to hear from John Wight on the subject.

My guess is that he is looking for the involvement of the Kaifeng Jews.


One Response to “More Ethnic Strife in China”

  1. Wilted Tulips « A Rabbit's Eye View of the Hyperborean North Says:

    […] there have been no suggestions of anti-Chinese violence (similar to some of the causes behind the Urumqui Riots of July […]

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