Thursday, July 9, 2009

Unresolved Issues

This morning China Central Television (CCTV) was showing pictures of calm on the streets of Urumqi. There were no scenes of soldiers, nor any remnants of burned out cars, blood-stained streets or damage. It looked as if the city had a complete makeover literally overnight and reporters were in different areas, showing it was business as usual in the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Reporters talked to Chinese who said things were good now because order and peace had been restored, and even a few Uyghurs (middle-aged women) spoke in their native tongue to also say calm had returned to the city.

There were also lineups at blood bank stations, with mainly young Han Chinese people lining up to give blood. They said they were doing it to help others. But how would they feel if they knew their blood was donated to a Uyghur?

Meanwhile, President Hu Jintao has returned to Beijing, but none of the senior leaders have made any public comments about the ethnic unrest.

Some China watchers think Hu should do a big public relations stunt and go to Urumqi and visit with both sides and offer to talk to Uyghurs and find some sort of conciliation. It was in the 1990s that the central government urged Han Chinese to "Go West", increasing the percentage of Han Chinese in the area from 6 percent in 1990 to 40 percent today.

The preferential treatment the government gave the Han Chinese left the Uyghurs feeling their livelihoods and their identities threatened, thus resulting in the recent riots, possibly the worst violence since 1989.

This shows the Go West policy has failed, and shows the failure of the government to understand or even care to empathize with its ethnic minorities.

However, Beijing seems to be doing a great job in whipping up nationalism once again.

Young people here are angered by the violent acts against Han Chinese and the media are trying to find any way they can to discredit Uyghurs and Rebiya Kadeer, whom they blame for sparking the unrest.

State media are claiming that Kadeer showed photographs on Al Jazeera that were actually from a different incident that happened last month in Hubei Province. They are also saying that there is a group on the social networking site Facebook that is urging Uyghurs to protest at Chinese embassies around the world, with messages of "Free East Turkistan!"

What is even more interesting are those Chinese students living overseas who are angered by the foreign media reports they are reading, even though foreign journalists in China have been allowed to go to Urumqi to cover the riots.

Despite having complete free access to the Internet and all kinds of news sources, these overseas students are even more nationalistic, than when they were in China. They seem to live in a bubble, unwilling to face or understand the truth about the Chinese government. It seems only a handful are really disillusioned and don't want to come back, or are cynical about their government.

But in the meantime, while Chinese media are trying to show all is find and well in Urumqi, it's because Uyghurs are too scared to venture out, but their grievances remain. Only the government can resolve the situation. But somehow one thinks it may not happen anytime soon.

1 comment:

~Christina~ said...

I followed this on CNN and it outraged me!! Some people eat up what they are fed on TV... and its a shame!