August 27, 2009
Now that some time has elapsed, it is useful to revisit the troubles that broke out in Urumqi on early July. These comments are not judgmental and are intended to expose the lack of mutual understanding and misperceptions between Europeans and Chinese, and the need for dialogue in all sectors of society and at all levels.
The key negative feelings which prevail are:
By the Chinese:
• The troubles were orchestrated by a separatist clique based outside China and organised by its branches inside the country.
• The Europeans did not express the support for the restoration of order which the Chinese believe they deserved.
• The Europeans did not show the same condemnation of Uighur terrorists as they do for alleged human rights violations generally in China.
• The muted reaction in Europe was partially due to prejudiced reporting in the media.
• The Uighurs should be satisfied with their double-digit growth economy, their 23 000 mosques and an administration in which more than half the civil servants come from ethnic minorities.
By the Europeans:
• The troubles were internal and Chinese allegations of external interference are unsubstantiated.
• The Chinese authorities used disproportionate force and subsequent imprisonment.
• Although, unlike Tibet, the media were invited into Urumqi at the outset, restrictions were subsequently placed on them and they were not prepared to accept official versions of events.
• Whatever the immediate reason for the outbreak of violence, Chinese policy towards the Uighurs has been repressive.
Some comments on the foregoing:
• Europeans should look more closely whether American NGOs provide financial and other support for Rebiya Nadeer and the Uighur Congress.
• Are the Chinese authorities sufficiently sensitive to the Uighurs? If not, is this due to Beijing’s policy and/or the manner of its application locally?
• Is it in Chinese interests to give to European journalists, greater freedom to report, despite the risks involved?
• Language restricts Europeans from having a greater understanding of Chinese public opinion, and learning Chinese should be strongly promoted.
• The Chinese authorities must improve their communications to Europeans.
• We all need always to try to understand how the other side sees the issue and the context in which it is seen. This is where misperceptions arise, frequently distorted by political activists.