What I'm Reading About China's Uighur Concentration Camps

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Chinese government has described the detentions as a job training program aimed at providing employment opportunities for some of the country’s poorest people. But a list of more than 100 detained Uighur scholars compiled by exiles includes many prominent poets and writers, university heads and professors of everything from anthropology to Uighur history.
The removal of high-profile Uighur scholars familiar with the Chinese government, and the country’s education and legal systems, is aimed at erasing not only the group’s unique ethnic identity but also its ability to defend such traditions, said a Uighur professor now living in Istanbul who asked not to be identified because of possible risks to family in Xinjiang.
Turkey Demands China Close 'Concentration Camps' Holding Muslim Uighurs | Cagan Koc
The detention and “re-education” of as many as 1 million minority Muslim Uighurs in China’s far west has been condemned by human rights groups and prompted calls for sanctions from U.S. lawmakers, who reject China’s assertion that the camps are voluntary education centers that help purge “ideological diseases.”
Turkey calls on other countries and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take steps to end the “humanitarian tragedy” in Xinjiang, Aksoy said.
China’s brutal crackdown on the Uighur Muslim minority, explained | Jen Kirby for Vox
Uighurs speak their own language — an Asian Turkic language similar to Uzbek — and most practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam. Some activists, including those who seek independence from China, refer to the region as East Turkestan.
Once situated along the ancient Silk Road trading route, Xinjiang is oil- and resource-rich. As it developed along with the rest of China, the region attracted more Han Chinese, a migration encouraged by the Chinese government.
But that demographic shift inflamed ethnic tensions, especially within some of the larger cities. In 2009, for example, riots broke out in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, after Uighurs protested their treatment by the government and the Han majority. About 200 people were killed and hundreds injured during the unrest.
The Chinese government, however, blamed the protests on violent separatist groups — a tactic it would continue to use against the Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities across China.
The Exhibitionist: A guide to the Laogai Museum | Jessica Goldstein for Washington Post
Mao Zedong, inspired by the Soviet gulag model, instituted the Laogai system of forced labor in China in 1949. The Chinese Communist Party does not officially acknowledge the Laogai camps, which continue to operate.
“Reeducation through labor” The museum describes how prisoners in the Laogai are physically and psychologically coerced into accepting Communist Party ideology. “Laojiao,” which means “reeducation through labor,” is a type of administrative detention. Prisoners can be held for up to four years without formal conviction or judicial due process.
Former inmates of China’s Muslim ‘reeducation’ camps tell of brainwashing, torture | Simon Denyer for Washington Post
Inmates had to learn the national anthem and red songs, he said, as well as slogans condemning the “three evil forces” of separatism, extremism and terrorism. “There were so many things to recite, and if you couldn’t recite them, they wouldn’t allow you to eat, sleep or sit,” he said. “They brainwash you; you must become like a robot. Listen to whatever the party says, listen to the party’s words, follow the party.” Some inmates committed suicide, Bekali said. In one report, RFA quoted a Chinese official as justifying the widespread detentions in blunt terms. “You can’t uproot all the weeds hidden among the crops in the field one by one — you need to spray chemicals to kill them all,” the official was quoted as saying. “Reeducating these people is like spraying chemicals on the crops. That is why it is a general reeducation, not limited to a few people.”
China's Hidden Camps | BBC News
There is no mention of the grounds on which the students have been chosen for this “study” or how long the courses last.
But there are clues.
The interviews sound more like confessions.
“I have deeply understood my own mistakes,” one man tells the camera, vowing to be a good citizen “after I get home”.
The main purpose of these facilities, we're told, is to combat extremism, through a mixture of legal theory, work skills and Chinese language training.
That last item shows that whatever you want to call them - schools or camps - the intended target is the same.
The facilities are exclusively for Xinjiang's Muslim minorities, many of whom do not speak Chinese as their mother tongue.
‘Reeducating’ Xinjiang’s Muslims | James Millward for The New York Review of Books
Since 1949, Chinese policies have tended to undermine indigenous Uighur Islam and to enforce, through the party-controlled Islamic Association of China, an idealized version of Islam modeled in part on Sunni practice as promoted by Saudi Arabia. Besides reflecting Beijing’s diplomatic ties with Riyadh, these policies may echo a traditional Chinese notion, derived from experience with Buddhistic millenarianism, that religions have safe “orthodox” and dangerous “heterodox” expressions. Although the CCP has since reversed course and rails against the dangers of “Arabization,” it has not revised its intolerance of Sufi practices in Uighur Islam. By repressing Uighur culture and discriminating against Uighurs, and inadvertently promoting a version of Islam more in line with Saudi practice, the PRC government has increased the attractiveness to Uighurs of Salafi ideas from outside while undermining indigenous defenses against such an ideology. Rahile Dawut, an internationally renowned ethnographer and scholar of Uighur culture and religion at Xinjiang University, could have explained this to Chinese authorities—but she was disappeared in late 2017, another victim of the current mass internment.
China’s Gulag for Muslims | Mustafa Akyol for The New York Times Opinion
There are three answers [to Muslim lenience towards China]. One is that coziness with China, the world’s second-largest economic power, pays. Moreover, China does not shy away from offering its economic assistance as hush money.
A second reason for Muslim silence is that the Chinese government crackdown on Uighurs is based on a premise that law and order can be restored by eradicating enemies of the government and traitors within a society. This is authoritarian language that most Muslim leaders understand well. It is their own language. The third reason is that most Muslims who are likely to feel solidarity with their oppressed coreligionists think of the oppressors as “the West,” defined as the capitalist, hedonist, Zionist civilization led by the Great Satan. These Muslims, particularly the Islamists, believe that all of their coreligionists should unite with other anti-Western forces — a stance that evokes Samuel Huntington’s prediction of a “Confucian-Islamic” alliance against the West in his 1993 article in “Foreign Affairs” titled “The Clash of Civilizations?”

At a loss for words ATM. Heart is heavy.

The Catalogue: No. 25

Monday, February 11, 2019

We mainlanders had a similar reaction to the Hong Kong that we saw in the movies and music videos of the eighties. A life so pampered, while enviable and thrilling, was also morally suspect, reeking of bourgeois individualism and other Western frivolities, such as democracy. In the decades since the handover, mainlanders who once eagerly anticipated the return of Hong Kong have visited this other China and been shunned the moment they open their mouths. The long-lost relatives have been reunited only to find that they have little in common.
Actor Rob Lowe: I was my sick mother's caregiver, don't underestimate the stress caregivers face | USA Today 
Many caregivers aren’t as lucky as I was. A recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving found that a third of caregivers in America do it alone, without any paid or unpaid help — and this uphill battle can lead to a domino effect of health and financial problems for the caregivers themselves.
When you’re caring for a loved one, there’s nothing you won’t do (or sacrifice) to give them as much comfort and peace of mind as you can possibly provide. Often, that means you’ll skip your social obligations, wreck your diet, suffer sleep deprivation, and even risk your career, all to help a loved one through the most difficult time of their life.
Related (mine): Self Care for Caregivers
You can do this. You are so good and brave, and you will never, ever regret this kindness. Do a little bit of what you love when you can. Step back when you need to. You will get through it all. You are the person someone prayed for. You are the reason someone is still alive. You are more than this role. Your life is still your own.

Missing Hope: A Trio of Miscarriages, and What Happened After | Laura Turner for Catapult 
Most of all, they don’t tell you that fear, to reverse a phrase from C. S. Lewis, will feel so like grief, and so you begin to mourn what you have not yet lost, because mourning prematurely is the only way to protect yourself from hope. You steel yourself against strangers who ask when you are due, against diaper commercials and well-meant but too-early baby gifts, against advice from friends about what to do once he’s here. You don’t understand, you think. He will never be here.
The End of the American Chinatown | Alana Semuels for The Atlantic
The developments in Chinatowns may appear to preserve some of this culture, but the new restaurants and apartments are sometimes so expensive that they are no longer accessible to the people who created the community in the first place. In Los Angeles, for instance, the Blossom Plaza apartment complex has red lanterns hanging in the courtyard, which allows Brookfield Properties, which owns the building, to advertise “the look you want in a Chinatown LA apartment.” But even the Blossom Plaza apartments that are set aside as “affordable” may be too expensive for current Chinatown residents; a studio for one person is targeted at people with an income of $20,350, while the median household income in Chinatown is $19,500. Residents of 651 Broadway told me that some of the stores they had depended on are getting pushed out, including two low-cost grocery stores. Instead, there are boba tea shops, art galleries, a wine bar, and a much-heralded new Asian fusion restaurant that features a $144 steak. The neighborhoods may still look like Chinatowns, Leong said, but are really just “Disneyfied” versions of the neighborhoods they once were.
Esmé Weijun Wang on Karaoke, Work Ethic, and Returning to Fiction | R.O. Kwon for Lit Hub
My relationship with ambition is complicated, and you’re right that it’s so different to have ambition for the work itself, versus ambition for what happens with the work once it’s out in the world. I don’t love this about myself, but a lot of my ambition is driven by a form of recognition; it’s also true, though, that I want the work itself to be impeccable, and for it to be up to my own standards. And I’ve also been questioning, lately, whether ambition is even a “good” characteristic to begin with, or if it’s just another outcome of a capitalist society, such as having a strong work ethic. But for now, it’s still a part of me. It still drives me, and I like that it’s a part of me. 

Love always,

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