Stories from an Ancient Land

Permit me to promote my own new book, which is about the Wa people, who see themselves as the caretakers of the world, because they were the first people on Earth. Today, their ancient land has been annexed by China, and Burma. The book is about Wa cosmology, xenology and sociality, about fieldwork and participant intoxication, about the political anthropology of standing your ground, and about the Chinese appropriation of Wa culture, and much more. Also includes an epilogue on the future of ethnics in the context of the current Chinese neonationalist policy shift, and genocide in Xinjiang (East Turkestan). The book is:

Stories from an Ancient Land: Perspectives on Wa History and Culture. New York/Oxford: Berghahn: August 2021. Series: Asian Anthropologies. ISBN  978-1-78920-887-0; eISBN 978-1-78920-888-7.

Discount code FIS870. Valid until September 30th 2021.

–Cheers, Magnus Fiskesjö

‘Shang-Chi’ debate in China

Source: NYT (9/17/21)
‘Shang-Chi’ Wins a Warm Asia Greeting. Then There’s China.
Marvel’s first Asian superhero movie has yet to be released in the mainland amid fierce debate over its back story and star.
By Jin Yu YoungAmy Chang Chien and Azi Paybarah

Michelle Yeoh and Simu Liu in a scene from “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Credit…Marvel Studios/Disney-Marvel Studios, via Associated Press

Marvel released “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” with China in mind. Simu Liu, the film’s Canadian lead actor, was born in China. Much of its dialogue is in Mandarin. The cast includes Tony Leung, one of the biggest Chinese-speaking movie stars in history.

The studio’s first Asian superhero movie is a hit, drawing praise and ticket sales in East Asia and other global markets. Perhaps the only place where the movie has not been well received — in fact, it has not been received there at all — is mainland China.

Disney, which owns Marvel, has yet to receive clearance from Beijing’s regulators to show the film in the vast but heavily censored movie market. While the reasons aren’t clear, “Shang-Chi” may be a victim of the low point in U.S.-China relations.

China is also pushing back against Western influence, with increasingly vocal nationalists denouncing foreign books and movies and the teaching of English. They have even criticized Mr. Liu for his previous comments about China, which he left in the mid-1990s, when he was a small child. Continue reading

New developments on Xinjiang genocide

Several major new developments as regards the ongoing Chinese genocide against the Uyghur people.

1) A major conference held in Newcastle, England was held 1-3 Sept, 2021, “The #Xinjiang Crisis: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Justice” – full set of session recordings now available as online videos, here. ( … my own paper, on the cultural destruction, was in panel 5).

2) The Uyghur Tribunal concluded its 2nd and final round of hearings in London September 10-13 and has also published the entire hearings online.

The Tribunal is a private pro-bono initiative to interview witnesses (survivors, experts, and more) and accumulate documentation, as an encouragement to world governments who have largely failed to go from expressing “concern” to action against China. The tribunal will publish its conclusions in December. A summary report on the tribunal (and China’s government lashing out against it) is here.

3) Meanwhile, right at the same time, the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet released a momentous 2 sentences statement declaring that (after 4 years of trying), she is giving up on her efforts to send an inspection team to China. Continue reading

China increasingly rejects English

Source: NYT (9/9/21)
‘Reversing Gears’: China Increasingly Rejects English, and the World
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
A movement against Western influence threatens to close off a nation that succeeded in part by welcoming new ideas.
By Li Yuan

Credit…Jialun Deng

As a student at Peking University law school in 1978, Li Keqiang kept both pockets of his jacket stuffed with handwritten paper slips. An English word was written on one side, a former classmate recalled, and the matching Chinese version was written on the other.

Mr. Li, now China’s premier, was part of China’s English-learning craze. A magazine called Learning English sold half a million subscriptions that year. In 1982, about 10 million Chinese households — almost equivalent to Chinese TV ownership at the time — watched “Follow Me,” a BBC English-learning program with lines like: “What’s your name?” “My name is Jane.”

It’s hard to exaggerate the role English has played in changing China’s social, cultural, economic and political landscape. English is almost synonymous with China’s reform and opening-up policies, which transformed an impoverished and hermetic nation into the world’s second-biggest economy.

That’s why it came as a shock to many when the education authorities in Shanghai, the most cosmopolitan city in the country, last month forbade local elementary schools to hold final exams on the English language. Continue reading

Japanese-themed complex closes over online backlash

Source: SCMP (9/3/21)
China shuts Japanese-themed complex after just 2 weeks over online backlash, ‘sensitive’ date concerns
The Tang Little Kyoto project, which is located in Dalian’s Jinpu New Area, was opened two weeks ago and had proved popular with domestic tourists. In October 2020, the local government in Guangdong closed a similar project as it needed to be ‘corrected and renamed’.
By He Huifeng in Guangdong

Tang Little Kyoto is located in the city of Dalian in northeast China. Photo: Weibo

Tang Little Kyoto is located in the city of Dalian in northeast China. Photo: Weibo

A Japanese-themed cultural and residential project in the city of Dalian in northeast China has been closed after just two weeks, with suggestions it is related to a sensitive date in history prior to the second Sino-Japanese war.

Videos and images have emerged on social media in China of the Tang Little Kyoto project being closed as of Thursday following instructions from local authorities.

It recreates a Kyoto-style townscape and had proved popular among domestic tourists who are unable to travel due to ongoing coronavirus-related restrictions. But the project, which is part of a 600,000-square-metre (6.5 million sq ft) complex which began construction in 2019 at a cost of 6 billion yuan (US$928 million) and is expected to be completed in 2024, also drew criticism from the online community in China who accused it of being a Japanese cultural “invasion”.

“The Japan-themed shopping street will not reopen until after September 18. The date is very sensitive to some Chinese … But Japanese-style villas are normal,” said a local property agent, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue. The Manchurian Incident, also known as the Mukden Incident, occurred on September 18, 1931, and saw Japanese troops blow up a railway in northeastern China as an excuse to take over Manchuria. It is remembered in China every year as an act of Japanese aggression. Continue reading

Chinese sports machine

Source: NYT (7/29/21)
The Chinese Sports Machine’s Single Goal: The Most Golds, at Any Cost
China relies on a system that puts tens of thousands of children in government-run training schools. Many of the young athletes are funneled into less prominent sports that Beijing hopes to dominate.
By Hannah Beech

Hou Zhihui of China won weight lifting gold in the women’s 49-kilogram division in Tokyo and shattered three Olympic records, part of a fearsome Chinese squad that aimed to sweep every weight class it was contesting.

Hou Zhihui of China won weight lifting gold in the women’s 49-kilogram division in Tokyo and shattered three Olympic records, part of a fearsome Chinese squad that aimed to sweep every weight class it was contesting. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

TOKYO — Six days a week since she was 12 years old, with only a few days of time away each year, Hou Zhihui has been driven by one mission: heaving more than double her body weight into the air.

On Saturday, at the Tokyo Olympics, Hou’s dedication — sequestered from her family, dogged by near constant pain — paid off. She won gold in the 49-kilogram division and shattered three Olympic records, part of a fearsome Chinese women’s weight lifting squad that aimed to sweep every weight class it was contesting.

“The Chinese weight lifting team is very cohesive, and the support from the entire team is very good,” Hou, 24, said after winning gold. “The only thing we athletes think about is focusing on training.”

China’s sports assembly line is designed for one purpose: churning out gold medals for the glory of the nation. Silver and bronze barely count. By fielding 413 athletes in Tokyo, its largest ever delegation, China aims to land at the top of the gold medal count — even if the Chinese public is increasingly wary of the sacrifices made by individual athletes.

“We must resolutely ensure we are first in gold medals,” Gou Zhongwen, the head of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics. Continue reading

What China scholars can do about Xinjiang crisis

Source: University of Westminster Contemporary China Blog (7/21/21)
What China Studies Scholars Can Do about the Xinjiang Crisis
By Guldana Salimjan

In 2019, at a dinner conversation with several established China scholars, I mentioned that it is dangerous for me to return to China and do further research because of the dire situation in Xinjiang. A professor from China was puzzled, ‘Why is that? I go back to my field site every year!’ I sighed but quickly explained to her, ‘Because right now the government has campaigns targeting Turkic Muslim people, and I am from one of these communities.’ She still expressed disbelief and continued, ‘But you are not Uyghur—they are outrageous.’ I was utterly shocked this time and my mind went blank. A friend and colleague overheard us and intervened, which prompted the professor to defend her remarks: ‘normal Chinese people’ think that Uyghurs ‘are outrageous,’ she added. She offered the excuse that because she conducted fieldwork in eastern China and predominantly Han areas, her knowledge of Xinjiang was based on the ideas of people there. This, she thought, justified her bigoted pronouncements that Uyghurs ‘are outrageous’ and not ‘normal Chinese people.’ In the end, she deferred by saying that she was actually not very informed about Xinjiang and was simply quoting her interlocutors’ opinions. Continue reading

The Han Supremacy

Source: Time Magazine (7/12/21)
The Han supremacy
Beijing’s Ominous Campaign to Define What It Means to Be Chinese

PHOTOGRAPH BY KHADIJA FARAH FOR TIME: Gulzira Auelkhan, a survivor of the notorious “re-education centers” in Xinjiang, China

IN JULY 2017, GULZIRA AUELKHAN’S father fell ill. So she made the short hop from her village in the windswept Kazakhstan countryside into her native China to care for him. Upon arrival in the western province of Xinjiang, however, she was arrested, for no given reason. No charges were ever brought, but she spent the next 15 months being ferried between five different prison camps with barbed wire and watchtowers, during which she was interrogated 19 times and tortured with electric batons. Her interrogators had no clear explanation for her detention. “Once they asked me, ‘Do you have a TV in Kazakhstan?’” says Auelkhan, 42. “‘In which case your ideology has been corrupted.’”

Auelkhan, an ethnic Kazakh Muslim who grew up speaking a Turkic dialect, was forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, salute the Chinese flag and sing songs exulting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) beneath photos of President Xi Jinping. “We all had to eat pork, and I was forced to burn a Koran and a prayer mat,” she says. “There was to be no more praying.” Afterward, she was sent to a labor camp for two months, where she sewed gloves until she says her neck ached and her eyes turned bloodshot. Continue reading

Rahile Dawut ‘secretly jailed’

Renowned anthropologist and folklorist Rahile Dawut “secretly jailed” in China

Rahile Dawut was abducted by the Chinese authorities three years ago while on her way to a conference in Beijing. Since then, no trace. Now, in the last few days it’s been indirectly confirmed that she has been secretly jailed in China — for the details see further below.

Now let’s demand, with an ever stronger voice, that Rahile Dawut be immediately released, along with all the many thousands of other disappeared scholars and intellectuals and other camp detainees, as well as a halt to the entire Chinese state program destroying them and their peoples’ cultures.

Support Rahile Dawut’s daughter in exile, Akida Pulat, in fighting for her mom. Continue reading

Bulldozing Uyghur culture (2)

About companies complicit in Chinese slavery: I don’t know of an updated website listing all of them. Apart from those A. E. Clark listed, the website of The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region also has a lot of information. If anyone knows of better websites for this purpose of tracking companies that are complicit in the Chinese genocide by way of forced labor, or if you create one, please post here or let me know?

I sure would like to see more follow-up. For example, the appropriation of Uyghur women’s hair, including for sale as hair extensions in US stores, has not been followed up on (as far as I know it goes on as before? and hair fashion people have said nothing about it).

The bibliography I have created and keep updating periodically online, has a wealth if items on specific companies (but isn’t complete).

Also, I’ve kept a thread running with updates on forced labor/slavery on the list H-Slavery, the latest instalment is here.

As you see there, there’s multiple references to the investigative work of Laura T. Murphy, who is a leader in the field of tracking these companies and the forced labor programs in China (including on topics such as Skecher shoes, and the solar panels industry). She is a Professor of Human Rights and Contemporary Slavery at the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, Sheffield Hallam University, UK, and testified at the recent Uyghur Tribunal (Prof. Murphy starts at 24:20- with follow-up questions from Tribunal members).


Magnus Fiskesjö <> Continue reading

Red tourism flourishes ahead of centennial

Source: NYT (6/25/21)
‘Red Tourism’ Flourishes in China Ahead of Party Centennial
New and improved attractions dedicated to the Communist Party’s history, or a sanitized version of it, are drawing crowds.
By Sui-Lee Wee and Elsie Chen; Photographs by Gilles Sabrié

Tourists inspecting a sculpture in the Yan’an area, where Mao Zedong and other Chinese Communist Party leaders were based for years.

Tourists inspecting a sculpture in the Yan’an area, where Mao Zedong and other Chinese Communist Party leaders were based for years.

The group of tourists, dressed in replica Red Army costumes, stood in front of a red hammer-and-sickle billboard. With their right fists raised, they pledged their allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party.

“Be ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the party and the people, and never betray the party,” they recited, standing proudly next to a giant statue of Mao Zedong in the northern city of Yan’an, the base of the revolution until 1948. Then, they shuffled off before another group came to do the same.

Mass swearing-in ceremonies aren’t typical group tour activities, but this is “red tourism” in China, where thousands of people flock to places like Yan’an to absorb the official version of the party’s history. At these sites, schoolchildren are told how the Red Army, later renamed the People’s Liberation Army, was created. Tourists gaze at an ensemble of chairs used by Xi Jinping, China’s leader, and other guests when they visited Mao’s home. Retirees take selfies with flower-adorned statues of Mao and Zhu De, the Red Army commander. Continue reading

Bulldozing Uyghur culture (1)

I’d like to thank Magnus Fiskesjö for continuing to write about the extermination of Uyghur culture. He mentioned that a Hilton hotel was built where a mosque had been razed.  I had missed that report.  It made me wish for an accessible and regularly updated website naming Western companies that are complicit.  This would facilitate small but meaningful acts such as sharing information with the manager of one’s local store, for example, and politely asking if he is aware of what his company is doing. Writing to the public-relations teams at such companies, or to major stockholders, is surely useless, but making lower-level employees aware of what they are being associated with— even if there is nothing they can do about it — may prepare the ground for future change.

The excellent work of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute provides much material, Another organization, Save Uighur, proposed action-items in the wake of that report, with a terse update here.

But the problem goes beyond retail products made with forced labor: incidents such as the Hilton in Hotan or Disney’s expression of thanks to the Public Security bureau after filming Mulan in Xinjiang should be included in any compilation.  Regular updates would be important, as well as acknowledging the companies that have terminated such relationships.

Maybe someone is already doing this?

A. E. Clark <>

Bulldozing Uyghur culture

New out today: my article on the Chinese government’s systematic destruction of the cultural heritage of the Uyghur and other native peoples of East Turkistan (Xinjiang). It’s also on how the Chinese campaign actually constitutes evidence that they are committing genocide, as per the UN Genocide Convention. I also comment on the silence of UNESCO, ICOMOS, OurWorldHeritage, and others. Moreover, I comment on the Chinese politicization of archaeology in Xinjiang and beyond (which I wrote about in earlier posts here at MCLC); and I disagree with the article on Chinese archaeology, by Rowan Flad in Washington Post on May 11, 2021 — which was also posted here).

Bulldozing Culture: China’s Systematic Destruction of Uyghur Heritage Reveals Genocidal Intent.” By Magnus Fiskesjö. Cultural Property News, June 23, 2021.


Magnus Fiskesjö <>

How China spreads Xinjiang propaganda

To see the many videos referenced in this piece, go to the NYT link below.–Kirk

Source: NYT (6/22/21)
‘We Are Very Free’: How China Spreads Its Propaganda Version of Life in Xinjiang
By Jeff KaoRaymond ZhongPaul MozurAliza AufrichtigNailah Morgan and Aaron Krolik
This article is published with ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative newsroom.

Recently, the owner of a small store in western China came across some remarks by Mike Pompeo, the former U.S. secretary of state. What he heard made him angry.

A worker in a textile company had the same reaction. So did a retiree in her 80s. And a taxi driver.

Mr. Pompeo had routinely accused China of committing human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, and these four people made videos to express their outrage. They did so in oddly similar ways.

“Pompeo said that we Uyghurs are locked up and have no freedom,” the store owner said.

“There’s nothing like that at all in our Xinjiang,” said the taxi driver.

“We are very free,” the retiree said.

“We are very free now,” the store owner said.

“We are very, very free here,” the taxi driver said.

“Our lives are very happy and very free now,” the textile company worker said.

These and thousands of other videos are meant to look like unfiltered glimpses of life in Xinjiang, the western Chinese region where the Communist Party has carried out repressive policies against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities.

Most of the clips carry no logos or other signs that they are official propaganda. But taken together, the videos begin to reveal clues of broader coordination — such as the English subtitles in clips posted to YouTube and other Western platforms. A monthslong analysis of more than 3,000 of the videos by The New York Times and ProPublica found evidence of an influence campaign orchestrated by the Chinese government. Continue reading