All posts filed under: Social Analysis

Sealed Doors And ‘Positive Energy’: COVID-19 In Xinjiang

Recently a young Han man from Xinjiang who I will call Wu Yi told me a joke his friends in Ürümchi have been repeating since the end of January: “When will people in Xinjiang be allowed to go outside? When the last patient in Wuhan is cured.” Wu Yi and his friends have been grumbling about the way they’re losing money. The addition of checkpoints in 2017 already made it difficult to do business: Wu Yi, who grew up in an affluent family in the city, said his father had to meet business partners from Kazakhstan in places like Shanghai or Beijing. Now even that was impossible. Since January 27, five days before Huanggang, Hubei Province was locked down, Wu Yi’s family has been permitted to leave their apartments only twice per week. Everything is controlled by the auxiliary police (协警 xiéjǐng) and the neighborhood watch office. “Since there was already such a huge police force in Xinjiang for the ‘terrorism’ problem, it was easy for them to lock all of us up,” he said. …

How racist nationalists hijacked Hong Kong’s solidarity rally with Uyghurs

Solidarity with Uyghurs must not be weaponized by Hong Kong’s pro-independence, right-wing localists. The author would like to thank Sophia Chan, Darren Byler, Musafir, Wilfred Chan, JN Chien, JP, Yukiko Kobayashi Lui, Listen Chen, JS, and Vincent Wong for their generative feedback and assistance with the publishing process. Last December, I attended the “Human Rights Rally of Solidarity With Uyghurs” in Hong Kong’s Central District, organized by Students of Power (學生歷量), a group of high school students. This was a significant acknowledgement by Hongkongers of the oppression of Uyghurs and other Muslims such as the Hui, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz communities by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in its northwest territory of Xinjiang.[1] As I would discover, however, what should have been a rally to build much-needed solidarity was instead hijacked by racist nationalists who used it to proselytize their hateful ideology, one which both endangers oppressed communities and poisons Hong Kong’s movement with a destructive politics of division. The movement’s insistence on unity has often sheltered the far-right from challenges as it marshalled nativist …

“I thought it would be convenient to use my brother’s computer to check my email”

In February 2017 Jaudat Abasi, a Tatar man who now lives in Europe, travelled to his former hometown Ürümchi, the capital of China´s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, to visit his mother who was hospitalized after a surgery. He was stunned to see the city dramatically transformed with thousands of armed police and checkpoints. Before he left a few weeks later, his brother Shafkat Abasi was detained. Almost three years on, Shafkat is still imprisoned, and the family recently learned that he received a 10 years sentence.     Jaudat has lived abroad since 2005, but has regularly traveled back to Xinjiang for business, visiting friends and relatives.  As the years went by, he noticed the situation in the region gradually deteriorating with heavy surveillance and restrictions on local ethnic culture and religion.   It began to remind him of the Cultural Revolution when he and his brother were born. But there was an important difference. He said, “At that time many people were imprisoned as well. The difference this time is that all the ethnic minorities are targeted.”    …

A Police State Going into Hiding

Uyghur music played in the center of the Grand Bazaar in 2019 Over the past two years, multiple news reports, academic research, and eyewitness accounts have pieced together a picture of the tight surveillance in the police state the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has become. I experienced some of this surveillance myself during a trip to Urumqi and Xinjiang’s south in the spring of 2018. One year later, in 2019, I was prepared to encounter even more restrictions during a second trip to Ürümchi and two southern cities, where surveillance has been reported to be most severe. To my surprise, I noticed soon after my arrival that much of the visible surveillance measures had been reduced noticeably compared to 2018. This created an illusion of a more relaxed atmosphere, at least on the surface. However, as I was to discover during my travel, surveillance had not decreased but emerged in more discrete ways. Despite still being many, the overall number of surveillance cameras seemed to have declined, at least it didn’t look like that there …