Saturday, September 5, 2009
Ethnic Unrest In China Continues - with Fall-Out
It doesn't take a genius to predict that we haven't heard the last of this, and the inept response of the Han Chinese majority is only adding fuel to the fire. Darlings, trust me, firing a party underling to cover up for the gross incompetence of a politburo member isn't going to cut it in this situation in the long run (and it may not be as long as they think). China a Ousts Top City Official in Wake of Unrest By KEITH BRADSHER and XIYUN YANG Published: September 5, 2009 HONG KONG — The top Communist official in Urumqi in western China was dismissed on Saturday as a large deployment of the military police appeared to have brought a measure of peace to the city after two days of large street protests. Li Zhi, the party secretary of Urumqi, lost his post, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday evening. He became the most senior person to be removed since ethnic tensions erupted there in rioting in July. Beijing officials also sent to Urumqi a special medical inspection unit from the People’s Liberation Army to investigate reports that people had been stabbed with needles. It is somewhat unusual for China’s leaders to replace a senior local official so quickly after protests — in this case, while large deployments of armed police officers are still blocking intersections in Urumqi and most shops are still closed. The Beijing leadership has often sought to avoid giving the impression of giving in to public pressure. The removal of Mr. Li “shows that Xinjiang is viewed as a strategic region where there cannot be the kind of social protests we have seen in recent days,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. The latest protests were notable for including large crowds of people who specifically called on Friday for the removal of Mr. Li’s boss, Wang Lequan, the powerful party secretary of restive Xinjiang region, of which Urumqi is the capital. Mr. Wang, a member of the Politburo believed to be a close ally of President Hu Jintao, has run the nominally autonomous region for 15 years and is famous within China for taking a hard line toward minorities. “They want to protect Wang Lequan, because firing a Politburo member would send a message they do not want to send,” namely that hard-line policies toward ethnic minorities can be questioned, said Li Cheng, the research director of the Brookings Institution’s China Center. Rest of article. I think the unintentionally funniest line in this article is the one about the special medical inspection unit! And just what are they going to say - even if they uncover the truth that probably 99.9% of the people who were reportedly pricked with needles weren't pricked by needles at all! You can be sure they aren't going to tell the truth, even if they wish to. Urumchi is, of course, famous for red-haired, blue-eyed mummies found buried in the desert outside the city proper in the 1970's, but rumored to have existed for thousands of years before then. NOVA did a special on them a few years back, you can probably find it online. Western scholars have yet to receive free access to the mummies, which are maintained under, I am given to believe, not very good conditions to their conservation. The mummies are a delicate subject in modern China as they predate the Han Chinese presence in northwestern China by a couple thousand years at least, and maybe more. I understand the oldest Urumchi mummy burials are some 4,000 years old. The Han Chinese did not establish a presence in the area until the Han Dynasty c. 220 BCE - 220 CE, with the establishment of the gate-way city of Dunshuang on the Silk Road. And, to be fair, not all of the mummies uncovered had red hair and blue eyes, but I believe it has been pretty much established by other archaeological evidence that many of the Urumchi mummies are related to people who originated far to the west and may have migrated east in one or more waves over a couple thousand years, beginning in 2500 BCE or so. Something the Han Chinese Communist rulers do not wish to acknowledge. Some of the mummies were buried in woven plaids which I understand are remarkably similar to the clan plaids worn by the people who eventually settled in northern Scotland. Some of the mummies (female and male), possibly shamans, tentatively identified as such because of the grave goods with which they were buried, were uncovered wearing tall pointed hats made of felt - similar to how we depict "witches" in the west today (think of the hat worn by the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 movie classic "The Wizard of Oz") - in addition to small woven cloth or felt bags filled with medicinal herbs (including cannabis) and herbs prized for their magical qualities, as well as other talismans. If my memory serves, a few of the 'shamans' were buried with colored throwing sticks -- perhaps for use in divination? The photo above is an example of one of the tall felt hats recovered from a mummy burial. Rather reminds me of that talking hat in the Harry Potter movies... So, the history of non-Han people in the Tarim Basin area is long-standing with links back to peoples of non-Han Chinese stock is ancient. An informative article, with several photographs, including the heart-breaking image of the red-haired infant, gives a good overview.