Author: Gene A. Bunin

Making the Xinjiang authorities dance: 40 examples of publicized cases

For the past half-year and probably longer, I’ve admittedly been a broken record in replaying the same mantra when talking of what works in getting the oh-so-scary Xinjiang authorities to somehow curb their seemingly unbridled madness. China’s Achilles heel, I’ve continued to say, is its image, and as an insidious system that pretends to do everything “by the law” what it fears more than anything is loud, outspoken transparency. Speak out, document, and bring as much attention to the issues they want to keep hidden even when they threaten the worst and you will see results… I’ve said over and over and over. And the louder they threaten, the stronger the sign that you’re doing something correctly. That belief came to me on an instinctive level from my first-hand experience of being kicked out without ever officially being kicked out, and would for many months remain an instinct, coupled with some abstract theory and probably some wishful thinking – as a grassroots person, I needed to believe that I was not powerless against this behemoth, …

Responses to Unanswered Questions at UC Berkeley

Editorial Note: Below is a letter written to Chinese international students at UC Berkeley following an event concerning the mass internment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims that was held in March 2019. The author of the letter sent it to me after The Daily Californian declined to publish it. Following the letter I have replied to the letter in the hopes that we can open a dialogue regarding what is happening in Xinjiang. I hope readers will feel free to respond below in the comments section. A Question Unanswered On Wednesday, March 6th, 2019, a shouting match took place at UC Berkeley. The Berkeley Law Human Rights Center was hosting Rushan Abbas and Dr. Darren Byler to talk about the Uyghur crisis in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang. The lecture hall at Boalt 110, which seats 166, had people sitting in the aisles and standing against the walls. Organizers said it was the best-attended talk in the Human Rights Center’s history. Nevertheless, for fear of surveillance on attendees cell-phone use was forbidden within the room. Rushan Abbas, a thin, middle-aged …

A Road to Forgetting: Friendship and Memory in China’s Belt and Road Initiative

In the midst of the mass detention of ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz in the so-called ‘reeducation camps’ in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, a Sino-Kazakh coproduction based on the life of Chinese musician Xian Xinghai is close to release. The Composer portrays the friendship between Xian—the mind behind the Yellow River Cantata and On the Taihang Mountains, classic patriotic ‘red’ songs that every middle school student in China learns to sing—and a Kazakh composer named Bakhitzhan Baykadamov. It is not the first time that the life of Xian has been depicted on the silver screen. Previous iterations include a film directed by Wang Hengli in 1994 and a TV drama directed by Duan Guoping in 2005, both of which were entitled Xian Xinghai and mostly depicted his years studying in Paris and his transformation into a ‘people’s musician’ (人民音乐家). Now that Kazakhstan is one of the most strategic partners of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it is not surprising that The Composer focuses instead on Xian’s life in Kazakhstan. The film was originally inspired by Xi Jinping’s 2013 keynote speech at Nazarbayev …

Streaming Mainstreaming Stories: A Day of Solidarity with Uyghurs

On April 26, scholars will hold a series of events called “Mainstreaming Stories: A Day of Solidarity with Uyghurs” at locations around the world. In twelve locations they will discuss the ongoing state of emergency in the Uyghur and Kazakh homelands. Timothy Grose (Rose-Hulman Institute, Indiana); Sandrine Catris (Augusta University, Georgia) Magnus Fiskesjö (Cornell University, New York) James Liebold (LaTrobe University, Australia) June Dreyer (University of Miami, Florida) Kristian Petersen (Old Dominion University, Virgina) Vanessa Frangville (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium Sophie Richardson (Human Rights Watch) Rian Thum (Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana) Rachel Harris (University of London, United Kingdom) Mustafa Kérim (Indiana University, Indiana) Hannah Theaker (University of Oxford, United Kingdom) A guest speaker at the University of Denver, Colorado These events on three continents will offer students and communities members a chance to hear and discuss the evidence of the mass internment of as many as 1.5 million Uyghurs and Kazakhs and the effects and implications of this mass trauma. It will also give audiences a chance to get involved in actively opposing these processes. For all of you who won’t …