Beauty, Difference, and Expression

The Chinese were early technological pioneers. Their civilization invented gunpowder and fireworks, paper and movable type, the crossbow and the cannon. The Han Chinese have been a part of one of the longest-running civilizations, stretching at least 5000 years into the past.  They have a tremendous history, and an understandable pride.  That’s a beautiful thing, and both of these – the country’s history and pride – will be showcased at the upcoming Olympic games.

But other groups living within China have an equal pride, and are not nearly as excited about the Olympics coming to China.  Recent news has showcased primarily Tibetan protests and resistance, but now ‘Xinjiang rebellions‘ are coming to light.  While I trust the morals of the Chinese government about as far as I can throw them, I have no doubt that the government in this case is doing what it feels is best.  They are probably lying through their teeth to the rest of the world, but it probably seems that rounding up Muslim Turks is protecting their interests.  After all, if the leader of the US can do it with WMDs, why can’t they with terrorist attacks planned for the Games?  It doesn’t matter if there’s any real evidence or not.  If they don’t have a scapegoat, Tibet, Hong Kong, and especially the long-disputed Taiwan could all try to break free of the central government.  I do not blame them for finding that scapegoat in the rural peoples of a remote desert and mostly deserted region who have little or no defense.  While places like Taiwan and Hong Kong have close ties to the outside commercial and political world to draw upon, and Tibet has the Dalai Lama and a rising number of voices throughout the world to protect their interests, what better than a terrorist plot (and a Muslim one, at that) to secure the power, legitimacy, and absolute rule of the current government?  What better way to further reduce freedoms to all protesters, to further silence all dissenting voices?

I have never been to Xinjiang, but I have met several of its people during my stay in China.  While the average Han Chinese will tell you that people from this region are liars, thieves, murderers, and generally not to be trusted, my experience of the people I have met has been far different.  I’ve met sweet young girls with rosy red cheeks too shy, at times, too look me directly in the eye.  I’ve met little shop vendors who put an extra dumpling in my bowl just because I’m obviously not from around here.  I’ve met people who are friendly, and all too willing to talk and share.  But perhaps I’ve only met the cream of the crop that they actually allow outside Xinjiang province.

I also visited the Muslim Quarter of Xian, which was beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the city.  While this one little corner is not doubt very tourist-oriented and probably only a little like Xinjiang itself, it still served as a window into the mix of Chinese and Muslim culture that exists to the Far East.  I loved it.  I loved the decoration of the area outside a working mosque that was a subtle blend of the bright colors and elaborate detail of traditional Chinese glazing and the non-representational designs of Islamic beliefs.  I loved the flat rounds of thick wheaty bread sold in these areas, denser than the more westerly forms of flatbread such as pita or roti and so refreshing after so many sickly-sweet Chinese breads.  I loved the tourists and marketplaces and pilgrims crowding every corner of the area, pushing through dense crowds slowly, the world frantic and sprawling and yet somehow patient within this liveliness.  I loved the noise of street vendors tucked in between faceless, hidden residences and quiet sacred spaces.

It makes me so angry, with all of this rich history, beauty, and diversity, to see the evil going on in the region currently.  If you are Han Chinese, and rightly proud of your culture and heritage, why would you not be equally proud of the Hui, Tatars, Kazahks, Uyghurs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Mongols, and Manchus as well as all the other minority groups that make your country great in its diversity?  Why would you not be attempting to greet them, know them, and understand them a little better, as they could make your life so much richer? If theses people are truly a part of your nation,  rather than a different country altogether, how can you not take pride in them and their beliefs?  As Confucianism originally stated, loyalty is owed to the government that is moral and just.  What of the government that does not treat its own citizens with sympathy, or even justice?

It makes me angry, because it portrays China to the world as an abuser of power.  It makes me angry, because it’s yet another oppression to a  people who have already had more than their share of it.  It makes me angry, that despite the facts given in the article on CNN, despite the clear indication that there is absolutely no proof of a terrorist plot, many will not give it any thought.  Many will just shake their heads at the spread of terrorism to remote regions of Asia, and not realize that the whole thing is most likely political propaganda.  And if not the literate masses of the world, who else will question the manipulation of stereotypes to deflect protests on Tibet and human rights violations by a morally bankrupt government?

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4 Comments

  1. Elaine said,

    April 10, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    How are you? i’m Chinese

  2. Elaine said,

    April 11, 2008 at 12:26 am

    i’m really appreciate that what you said in your first paragraph .
    but i’ll tell you that we Han Chiese people treat the other minority groups equally and we are also proud of them which include their culture and people . you just don’t know that our government give them so many priviliges in many policies ,such as the minority students can get extra scores when they entering the universities while we Han Chinese students can’t , and they also have priviliges in our birth control policy .and so on
    i don’t know how you know we are not “attempting to greet them, know them, and understand them ,” and ” not take pride in them and their beliefs? ” you are absolutly WRONG! you just don’t know our real Chinese , the wrong information that you all get is from your media
    which don’t even obey the basic occupation principle . your media slanted the report , they have done violence to the truth for some political purpose. So you guys have a very deep misunderstanding with our Chinese . we are a kind people to every country every ethnic groups in the whole world ,but what your country have done make us so disappointed!!

  3. sedgehammer said,

    April 11, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Hi Elaine –

    I was glad to get your comments. I appreciate that you think my view is skewed by the media, and that I have no real experience of Chinese people, Chinese government, and Chinese culture. I assume that you think I do not know the truth of the situation because I have never experienced it firsthand. Actually I have lived two years in China. I am aware that minorities are allowed privileges in regards to education and in regards to the one child policy. Do you know why these privileges are given by the government?

    I have had Chinese people in China tell me that those from Xinjiang are bad people, and not to be trusted. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize an entire province in this way – do you? I have had friends (Han Chinese during my time in China) who are not willing to talk to others because of the darkness of their skin or the way they look. Is this getting to know someone? You may be an exception to the general rule, but my experience has been that certain types of people are discriminated against. It is true in my own country as well, and it saddens me. The only way both you and I can stop this prejudice is to educate others about it, which I was trying to do here, since I have some experience with China which other Americans do not.

    I am not sure what you mean by ‘basic occupation principle’, but I don’t think the media has slanted the report for a political purpose. We do not have much information to report, because the Chinese government has not released the details of the case. Perhaps they have some reason for this, such as alerting terrorist groups to what the government knows. Perhaps the Chinese government is completely just in this case. But if the government cannot release the facts, how will we ever know? I do not think it is fair to the Chinese people that their government looks bad because they will not release the evidence of this case to the world media.

  4. April 13, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    […] The Sedgehammer writes: If you are Han Chinese, and rightly proud of your culture and heritage, why would you not be equally proud of the Hui, Tatars, Kazahks, Uyghurs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Mongols, and Manchus as well as all the other minority groups that make your country great in its diversity?  Why would you not be attempting to greet them, know them, and understand them a little better, as they could make your life so much richer? If these people are truly a part of your nation, rather than a different country altogether, how can you not take pride in them and their beliefs? […]


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