Archive for the ‘August 2009’ Category

Urumqi and Kashgar

八月 4, 2009

Ana Escobedo, founder of the Facebook Cause Save Kashgar, has written a blog article for Saving Antiquities. It can be found at http://safecorner.savingantiquities.org/2009/08/saving-kashgar.html. I like Ana’s article very much, and I have great respect for her dedication. As Ana suggests, it is apparent that a lack of awareness for cultural heritage is directly connected to the social problems behind the July 5 incident. There is a lack of respect for culture that goes back to the Cultural Revolution and earlier. Tianjin is being destroyed, too, like many, many culturally rich places in China. There is no “rational” progress behind much of the demolition, but it’s always a great step forward for the developing companies and the party secretaries in their pay. Yes, many old streets and houses in many cities were in a sorry condition due to decades of neglect. It’s not easy to renovate them. Beijing has finally begun to rebuild some courtyard houses. At the same time they tore down the whole Qianmen area at the south of Tian’anmen Square and replaced it with a sort of Disneyland. Protests and suicides because of the demolitions in various cities have been in the news for years. In China, Southern Weekend (Nanfang Zhoumo) and other media have often reported on housing and cultural heritage problems. Most of the time they are allowed to do that. They cannot report on the arrest of dissidents such as Prof. Ilham Tohti of Central Nationalities University in Beijing. He has been detained since August 8. Amnesty International has issued an appeal for writing petitions in English and Chinese to the Chinese Prime Minister and other figures, because Prof Tohti has not been heard of since his arrest, raising fears for his health. Cases of torture and death in police custody are not unheard of in many parts of China (and other countries, of course). See http://www.chinafreepress.org/publish/Othernews/Petition_for_Ilham_Tohti_under_detention_presented_by_Wang_Lixiong.shtml, or http://bit.ly/q3BX4.
Yes, I think that Ana is right, raising awareness is crucial. One thing that has been lacking on the Uyghur support groups side is an outspoken condemnation of the massive looting and killing on July 5th in Urumqi. Yes, the demonstrations may have been peaceful in the beginning, just like in Lhasa last year, and maybe the police could have prevented them from turning violent, or maybe they could have at least contained them. And yes, thousands of Uyghurs have been arrested, some have been killed, and no one knows how many of them didn’t have any connection to the violence at all. But still: Both the Dalai Lama and Mrs. Rebiya Kadeer should have condemned the looting and killing in Lhasa and in Urumqi. The Dalai Lama said he prayed for victims on all sides, but that’s not enough. And the Uighur support groups such as Save Kashgar should have swiftly and loudly condemned the massive looting and killing by Uyghurs. Instead, Ana told us on Facebook that many Uyghurs may have died in Urumqi. Just that, as far as I have noticed. It was the same lack of awareness that was apparent after the Lhasa riot last year. So maybe there is a lack of awareness on both sides. Anyway, let us try to help in any way we can think of. Unfortunately, social websites such as Facebook and Twitter and their Chinese equivalents have been widely blocked and closed in China. The blocking of Facebook was said to be in response of aggressive Uighur support groups. They were mostly not aggressive at all, but they did fail to condemn the Uyghur looting and killing. As I have mentioned, Chinese media and intellectuals are sometimes able to speak out against social and cultural problems. Sometimes Chinese intellectuals in China can speak out in the international media and get noticed. See Asia Times (7/8/09): http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/KG08Ad02.html, Ghost of Marx haunts China’s riots, By Jian Junbo. We concerned individuals and groups outside of China should support these efforts, and at the same time help to show the connection to Human Rights cases. And we should have condemned the Uyghur looting and killing first, and/or more loudly. The more we show our awareness on this side, the more we are credible on all sides. I never understood why Abu Ghraib was not raised as a central question by the Democrats in the 2004 US election. Where is the connection, you might ask. At least we have Obama now. Well, I think we have to look at and work on the most painful questions on our side first, whoever we are. Yes, I am on the side of Kashgar Old City. And on the side of minorities in my home country Austria. Maybe I should have cited a painful problem in Austria’s contemporary history. We certainly don’t have a shortage there. Anyway, I like Ana’s article very much, and I have great respect for her work. Let us continue writing and signing petitions, and most importantly, like Ana says, raising awareness. Peace!

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