A Pakistani journalist wrote a little bit on the life of Uyghur people in Urumchi. It doesn’t really say much except that not all Uyghurs feel oppressed, no one really talks about politics, and Pakistani visitors are welcomed by security. I guess it is important to see that there are Uyghur people who are just living their lives. It’s nice to know that not everyone feels China’s policies are an excessive restriction of human rights. Perhaps right now, ignorance is bliss for those who live there.
However, there is still a part of me that doesn’t really understand the point of this article. It offers a narrative that isn’t constantly screaming about how we are oppressed, yes, but it’s not like we ever said we’re not allowed to pray in the provided, government-sponsored, Chinese flag-baring mosques. We’re just not allowed to pray at home, if we work for the government or are a Party member, if we’re younger than 18, if we pray in a way that is not allowed by the government, in a non-Sinicised way, or taught by Imams who do not follow strict government guidelines. But we’re allowed to pray.
Old people with beards are okay, but young men are suspicious. The hijab style worn in the photos are okay because they’re not the “extremist” style. Our culture is allowed to thrive and be seen as beautiful and exotic but only if it isn’t subversive to the government’s Uyghur narrative.
I don’t want Uyghur news to only be about the abuse we receive, but I think the answer to that is to write stories that are more nuanced, rather just having two contrasting viewpoints.
Yet, this ties in really interestingly with these Tweets I found recently. The first talks of a Chinese girl’s experience attempting to travel with her Uyghur friend – she could not book any hotels because none would allow her friend to stay. One response to this led to an article published earlier this year by Uyghurs (part of the Xinjiang Communist Youth League) who apparently justified this system of “apartheid”.
The authors of the article say that we Uyghurs are being treated this way because of a small group of “scum”, and that we should cooperate as best we can (with the difficulties of booking hotels, extra security, difficulties with renting, etc) until the “Three Evil Forces” and the “terrorist” label is completely dissociated from us. Uyghurs are a simple, kind, patriotic, grateful, hospitable people with a splendid culture, and our public image has been marred by these “people”. This bares an interesting resemblance to what Muslims face in the West – we are discriminated against because we bare resemblance to those who carry out terror attacks in the name of Islam, and we do not want to be associated with this small, dangerous minority. However, while these Uyghurs are angry at their minority, they seem to believe that the punishment every other Uyghur faces is justified and necessary. In contrast, Muslims in the West are speaking out against any sort of discrimination and oppose any sort of law that will use “extremism” or “counter-terrorism” as an excuse to legalise discrimination based on race or religion.
The article continues on to say that we are an inalienable part of China since ancient times, and that China is the motherland that looks after us and keeps us safe, and we are so incredibly grateful for that. How could we possibly abandon her? This is factually untrue and pure, rehearsed, oft-repeated propaganda so I’ll just ignore it…
They defend Islam and say it’s a peaceful religion. They quote the Qur’an to prove this and then state that ignorance is a terrible thing. Again, very similar to what the Muslims in the West are saying, and I agree. We shouldn’t be associated with terrorists, and most major religions advocate peace. However, I assume if I asked whether they think that China’s discriminatory practices are the reasons why some of these people may have turned to violence, they would continue to say that the proper response to this sort of government treatment is to comply with the government until society deems us safe…
The fourth point is, why not learn Mandarin? Those who refuse to learn it are stubborn and lazy. I agree with the good points of learning Mandarin they mention (not so hot on the whole motherland, sharing culture, splendid Chinese culture stuff but whatever). They only ask “Who says they want to eliminate Uyghur and eliminate Uyghur culture?” but don’t continue down that line, which is the main point I would have wanted them to talk about. I am not against learning Mandarin or English – you do get better opportunities. I am against the steady removal of Uyghur-language learning. It’s not like Uyghurs in the past haven’t been able to study their fields in the Uyghur language and then move to different countries to pursue their field in other languages. Learning an international language is great for expanding your horizons, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of having Uyghur spoken only in Uyghur literature or culture classes. What if I wanted to learn science in Uyghurche? Will that be possible in the next few years?
The fifth and last point was the most onerous and least pleasant to read, personally: “Who gave us a happy life today?” Apparently it was only when New China and Comrade Xi Jinping stepped in that we started to live without worry. They even mention famous historical figures who “repayed” the Motherland. I am a bit confused as to why they mention people like Amannisakhan, who was a couple hundred years before the Qing empire first invaded but… anyway… this last paragraph:
…we must establish a correct world outlook, outlook on life and values, listen to the party talk, follow the party, make due contributions to realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, realize the goal of social stability and long-term peace and stability in Xinjiang, and write the youth of Xinjiang to realize the Chinese nation The Great Revival of the Chinese Dream in Xinjiang. Let us work hard together!
Fascinating. This is probably a taste of the sort of thing they are teaching in those reeducation camps. This is public propaganda. It has just enough truth in there for all the factual inaccuracies to seem true. The problem is, these people probably believe everything they write. This is exactly why China is revamping their education policies right now. It is an excellent form of control. How can you get people to believe that the removal of their freedoms are justified and necessary? I bet they also think that human rights is a suspicious Western construct. As someone who has grown up questioning authority it is so interesting to read from people who would never do so.
I could, perhaps, understand it from a religious perspective – but this isn’t religion. No matter how cult-like it is, the Party does not claim to be God. And yet it is an all-encompassing power, always watching, always knowing, wanting to protect, punishing them when they step out of line, when they have the wrong thoughts, and constantly claiming that it wants and knows what’s best for them. All the citizens must do is believe and have faith in the Party… the Party are the people who gave them peace and harmony in times of discord… the ones who will keep them safe… we just need to never question them…
Oh boy, that went straight to 1984. I suppose it’s a little like religion?
The difference, from my personal experiences from going to Islamic school, is that all my Islamic teachers would tell us: question the Qur’an (the Qur’an should be able to stand up to questioning if it is true), never bow to anyone other than Allah, never bow to any person. You must respect your parents but if they tell you to do something wrong then disobey. I mean, to me, that was clear permission to only have faith in God and not any man-made state or law. Question teachers (religious or otherwise), question leaders, rebel against tyranny; that was what I grew up with. But these Uyghurs don’t have any distinction between people and faith. There is just the Party who gives and gives and gives and only wants loyalty in return. They worship the Party in gratitude.
Writing this, I realise I am talking to Uyghur people who side with the Chinese Communist Party. I don’t hate them, and I can see why they might want to join that team. Their views are not convincing enough for me to agree with them, but in writing this I feel a little sad that we can’t have this sort of discourse in person. I cannot go to where they are and have a proper debate about these sorts of issues because I will probably be arrested. Do they believe in freedom of speech? It seems like social criticism is fine as long as it isn’t too political.
If I think of it in a way where white supremacists in the US would be imprisoned for promoting their dangerous ideas, it makes a little sense. The question, I guess, is what constitutes as a danger to the safety of the people? I agree with locking up a Nazi who tells people to kill all Jews (an Uyghur calling for the genocide of all Chinese citizens should probably be locked up). But should the US be allowed to lock up Texan secessionists for simply wanting to be a separate country? Or, what if the parts of USA that used to be Mexico wanted to go back to Mexico?
For me, it is instinctive to say that it is wrong for the US to have internment camps and no-fly lists for Muslims, but what if they did it for actual KKK and Nazis? I suppose the question is, where would they draw the line between your casual white conservative racist and a real Nazi threat?
Right now, China puts regular Uyghurs in re-education camps until their ideas align with state ideas. Surely it is wrong for the US to put anyone who exhibits signs of racism in re-education camps – like China, you would end up with thousands of people in detainment. (Not that Uyghurs wanting to oppose government policies is the same as the structural racism in Western countries, but for the sake of argument). But what about actual KKK members? Does China see me as a Nazi? Do they really think my ideas and beliefs are that dangerous? I do not want to declare myself as superior to another race and call for mass genocide. But is that what China thinks we want to do? We are being punished for things they believe we are going to do based on our political views. Do they not see that letting us talk out our frustrations would be better than completely shutting us up? Was brainwashing really the best long-term compromise they could think of?
I suppose the short answer is they really don’t care. The idea is similar to the idea of creating a perfect race. Kill everyone with defects and undesirable traits, let the pretty, docile, grateful people breed. Kill any mutations. Perhaps they know it is impossible to completely eliminate everything they want to kill, but they keep it at bay by culling anything outside the average and keeping the rest confined. They will create the narrative that people who are much, much less extreme than me (and I’m not that extreme…) are just as bad as terrorists and will lock them up for the “safety” of the majority. The majority will agree because they are afraid or apathetic, or agree that people who think differently will behave differently and those who behave differently are a threat to peace. Literally:
People’s thinking determines their actions, actions become habits, habits affect people’s growth. The young people are the future and hope of the motherland. Everyone should correct their thinking and take every step of the road to life. General Secretary Xi Jinping sent a message to young people that they are in the period of forming and establishing values. This is like wearing clothes and buttons. If the first button is wrong, the remaining buttons will be wrong.
Policing thought has been presented to the public as normal and correct and logical. Do they really think the Party’s way of thinking is the only correct way to think? How…
That was a really random tangent. Anyway, my point is, I’m a little sad that I can’t have a conversation with these Uyghur communist youth league people. I have so many questions.