Opening a window to exchange, building a bridge of communication: Uyghur Human Rights Project launches a Chinese website

By Lu Xiao Xun, Guest Contributor

Controlling the political, cultural and social information contained in language is a tactic of any dictatorship. China is world-famous for its control of newspapers, TV, radio, Internet, microblogs, text messaging, blogs, e-mail, and virtually every other form of communicating information. The Cisco-technology driven “Golden Shield” project to control images, sounds and data revealed the censorship and information control encountered by China’s citizens and the Chinese-speaking world in the 21st century. The vast majority of Han people’s voices, for example their hopes for freedom and democracy, their hatred for monopolies on power and official corruption, and their despair when basic human rights and civil liberties are deprived, are frequently suppressed by officials’ tremendous propaganda machinery, screened, tracked and searched by internet police.

With a population of more than 10 million, Uyghurs have a different language, history, culture, and religion, and in addition to being subjected to the normal level of information control and repression, they also face racism, slander and insults pervading official propaganda. Because of language differences, in the Chinese-speaking world the Chinese government’s massive propaganda machine overwhelmingly uses national security and sovereignty as an excuse to describe Uyghurs as “terrorists,” thus attempting to hijack the Chinese speaking world’s understanding and evaluation of Uyghurs, and thereby concealing the racist and colonialist nature of their own policies towards Uyghurs.

But throughout history, the Chinese-speaking world and Chinese society has established a brilliant culture and a long history, admiring basic moral principles of “propriety, justice, integrity and honor.” In the face of injustice, the Chinese-speaking world has had no lack of people with higher ideals to bravely step forward, point out problems and castigate officials; not only is Han society rich in its sense of basic justice and value system, the Chinese language itself is also rich in its ability to describe a sense of justice, and Han Chinese have long distinguished “praise and censure,” demonstrating the language’s sensitivity to right and wrong.

However, today, as the hearts and humanity of the Uyghurs suffer the ravaging of Xinjiang, because of the authorities’ information blockade, smothering of opinions, and travel restrictions, the Chinese-speaking world hears nearly only stereotyped and repetitive officials reports, among them there is no lack of ideological attacks (similar to those encountered in Han Chinese society previously during the Cultural Revolution), and furthermore there is no lack of official lackeys making rootless, source-less and base-less statements of official flattery, which is no more than common hearsay. In short, the Chinese-language narrative about Uyghurs is basically marked by a government control, an ideological focus, racism and Han chauvinism. In this grand narrative constructed by officials, the Uyghur people are abducted, compressed, and defamed as enemies of the Han Chinese, and the morality of those who support Uyghurs’ basic appeals is generalized as “anti Chinese,” “hostile forces.” The Chinese language as the carrier of this systematized propaganda and preaching not only distorts basic Uyghur people’s history and reality, it also degrades the wisdom, judgment, value system and morality that the Chinese language provides to the Han Chinese.

Amidst this situation in which Uyghur people are left speechless in the Chinese language world, the Uyghur Human Rights Project aims to resolve funding and staffing challenges and overcome the difficult process of establishing this communication bridge.  We expect this Chinese language website firstly will be able to provide Uyghurs, and all those interested in the history, culture, the tragic fates of some Uyghurs (like “standing executions” and “enforced disappearances”) and in basic facts and information about the undermining of Uyghur dignity (like being unable to apply for a passport, men not allowed to wear beards, women not allowed to wear headscarves).  At the same time it will present Chinese officials, especially the “public security authorities” as representative of a powerful force and the paradox of how in fighting “the three evil forces” they expend precious state resources on corrupt behavior (such as purchasing “Mercedes” cars in the Xinjiang desert to fight terrorism, and set up so-called “security” checkpoints to basically monopolize the circulation of agricultural products).

Next, by providing these basic facts and information about the current situation, UHRP hopes that through the value of conversing, considering, and appraising the various forms of suffering and adversity facing the Uyghur people in the Chinese language, it will be even easier for Han people to put themselves in Uyghur shoes, easier for them to relate with one another and think independently.   Thus, this window and this bridge is a connection between Han and Uyghur hearts, an exchange between the Han and Uyghur people, a form of communication between thoughtful Han public intellectuals and Uyghur rights activists, and a cultural exchange between Han culture and Turkic and Islamic culture. We trust that this form of exchange will contribute to breaking powerful groups who rely on “anti-terrorism” to get rich and scholars in the establishment of China’s official speech system who rely on “projects” to get rich, to break Chinese officials’ hypocrisy of cultural exchange and ethnic equality, which on the one hand entails propaganda about different cultures coexisting and ethnic equality in China, and on the other hand entails the execution of colonial policies of assimilation and racism in Xinjiang. We hope that this Chinese language transmission will promote the realization of holistic exchange and communication between Hans and Uyghurs, these two mighty ethnic groups and cultures, to achieve mutual forgiveness and compassion, to mutually achieve and safeguard the fundamental value and dignity not only of the Uyghur and Han but of all of humanity.

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