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China: Some surprises, some old news in Xinjiang

Security forces were protecting, rather than harassing, international journalists covering riots in northwestern Xinjiang this week--a welcome change. A few have reported official interference since Sunday. But during previous outbursts of ethnic unrest in China's Tibetan and Uighur autonomous regions, security forces have repeatedly antagonized and expelled the foreign press corps. Foreign reporters this week have instead been welcomed to the regional capital, Urumqi, allowed a privileged enclave of Internet access, and corralled on an official tour of the city's ravaged center. 

Official news agency Xinhua, which has downplayed news of anti-government violence in the past, is enthusiastically monitoring the rising death toll, now past 150. And after eyewitnesses overwhelmed censors with news updates on social networking sites, the mainstream Chinese media embraced images of the clashes between the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority and Han Chinese residents that were spreading online.

There, however, the surprises end. The numbers and the graphic pictures are stoking the Han majority's outrage against the Uighur protesters, who the government alleges have been coordinated by exile groups abroad. (Exiled Uighurs countered that theory, saying video of initially peaceful protests against Chinese rule had also been posted online, according to international news reports. But that message has yet to make the cut in state-sanctioned broadcasts.)

Meanwhile, in photographs that flooded the international press today, it's hard not to notice that the protesters are largely depicted as scarved women and their children while the Han Chinese are shown as armored security forces and hoards of young men carrying spades and stakes. Doubtless these pictures do not tell the full story of what unfolded in Xinjiang this weekend. But their impact, in coding the protagonists for an audience used to seeing authoritarian states oppressing minorities, will be hard to undo.

Sources on the ground who might help us navigate these conflicting scenarios are apparently hard to come by. "Getting any Uighurs in Urumqi to talk on Monday was impossible," Peter Ford wrote in the Christian Science Monitor, summing up the repressive atmosphere in Xinjiang as "the hardest place I have ever worked."

If you think this is reminiscent of Tibet, you aren't the only one. Separatism, the catchall government explanation for unrest in Xinjiang as well as Tibet, gains currency from anti-terror rhetoric when used with reminders of the Uighur community's Muslim identity. And the most depressingly familiar aspect of the media coverage so far is the rhetoric wheeled out by Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily today, under the title "Unveiled Rebiya Kadeer: a Uighur Dalai Lama."

Rebiya Kadeer is a 62-year-old former businesswoman and mother of 11, who was imprisoned for six years in China and now leads Uighur organizations in the U.S., according to The Associated Press. In the Daily's inflammatory analysis she is "an ironclad separatist colluding with terrorists and Islamic extremists." Furthermore, matching its evocation of the Tibetan "Dalai clique" almost word for word, the Daily suggests that the "Rebiya Kadeer group" is responsible for the "beating, smashing, looting, and burning" in Xinjiang. Kadeer denies the allegations.

Yawn. When anti-separatist editorials are practically copied-and-pasted from earlier uprisings, you know the government's media strategy, despite tentative amendments for some foreigners, has yet to transform.  

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China needs a secure border. Across the border in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the biggest war in the world. Funding for the Uighur National Congress has roots in the US Congress. China has reason to be selective about the news. Yes there is censorship. Can you imagine what the US would do if minorities in one of our states had similar issues and organization? I was asked whether I had pictures. I showed them to my Chinese leader. At the airport the pictures of many Han Chinese carrying sticks were removed from the camera inside my checked-in luggage. At the post office where I mailed boxes, every single person in line was asked if they had any pictures or videos in their packages from Xinjiang--this was in Hunan. I was a teacher traveling through Urumqi.

Anti-Human, China's Attack upon Islam-Killing of a Muslim Man?

Is China's action by this execution an Attack upon Human civilization, upon Humane conduct,

upon Human values, an ATTACK upon the rest of us?

As a result of this 'Barbaric Act' is China no longer a World player? Has China failed to

evolve into the principals and values of the 21st century? What message are you sending out

to the rest of the World, China?
Is the death by lethal injection of a mentally ill British Muslim man, Mr.Akmal Shaikh (aged

53) by China, a anti-Islamist and anti-Muslimist act, anti-Christian act, anti-Human act?
Clearly, by the conduct of Mr. Shaikh's past actions we can conclude that, this man was

suffering from a mental condition. Clearly, he was duped and deceived by evil persons into

entering China with a suitcase full of drugs. No experienced person within drug trafficking

would have acted in such a manner, for fear of discovery. Chinese officials would have

known this, they are experienced in such matters from past experiences and, had known the

pattern used by such criminals and that, Mr.Akmal Shaikh did not fit such a pattern. There

was no previous history of Drugs (taking or trafficking) by this man.

This would have been known by not only those Chinese border control police but also by the
Chinese judiciary and also by the ruling political leaders of China. The British embassy,

British Foreign Office ministers, Prime Minister Gordon Brown made 27 Appeals for Clemency

from the execution of this individual but, China did not want to listen. Mr. Gordon Brown

did not make a direct appeal to the Chinese Premier for Clemency, why?
Why did NOT the leaders of other EU countries make a direct appeal for mercy , for CLEMENCY

to the Chinese Premier? By failing to act re Clemency, are these EU leaders also guilty of

being anti-Muslimist, anti-Christian, anti-Humane? Were these (EU leaders) by their

reasoning and failure to act, influenced by trade and financial implications with China, at

the expense of Justice, at the expense of a Human life?

What was China's reason to pick upon this innocent, confused Muslim man? What was China's

motive, reasons for this 'barbaric act on a man who was incompetent' this unnecessary loss

of a human life? What was China's reason to pick upon such a lowly and impoverished

The only logical reason was that China wanted to make an example of this Muslim man. China

wanted to send out a message to the World. So what was, is China's message, to appease the

USA leaders re Muslims and/or were the motives really to do with drug trafficking? Was the

motive, to send a message, via the execution of this man that, China is anti-Muslim?

America (USA) due to their financial burden was already beholden (US deficit) to China thus

the Chinese leaders knew that there would not be any condemnation from the Obama (US)

administration. Thus, China went ahead with the 'murder' of this Muslim man...

hi Madeline, I am an Italian teacher of history, I am organizing some meetings with my students high school with journalists, writers, art directors on the theme of the liberty of press in the world. Could you tell what your organization make? Could you speak about China? Can I interview you through a connection internet with web cam on February 10 h. 16,30 (Italian Time)? thanks for the kind collaboration, antonio volpe