Lhapal Gyal on the State of Tibetan Cinema

Source: Radii (9/21/22)
Award-Winning Filmmaker Lhapal Gyal on the State of Tibetan Cinema
By Runjie Wang

A vanguard of Tibetan new wave cinema, filmmaker Pema Tseden is internationally renowned for exploring subjectivity and modernity in Tibetan culture. His oeuvre has sparked considerable interest in Tibetan cinema while paving the path for a handful of disciples, among whom tricenarian Lhapal Gyal is gaining significant recognition.

Hailing from Hainan Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Northwest China’s Qinghai province, Gyal was motivated to study film after watching Tseden’s directorial debut, The Silent Holy Stones (2005), in high school. The two eventually connected, and Tseden encouraged Gyal to immerse himself in literature, the backbone of filmmaking.

The aspiring filmmaker then gained the opportunity to cut his teeth by working as an assistant director while Tseden was filming Tharlo (2015).

Then, in 2018, Gyal made waves with his debut feature film, Wangdrak’s Rain Boots, which was selected for the Berlin International Film Festival’s Generation section (films touching on youth culture). The film also earned him the title of ‘Best Director’ at the 12th edition of the FIRST International Film Festival in 2018.

The hour-and-a-half-long film sketches out the inner world of an introverted child living in a Tibetan village and his deep desire for rain after receiving a pair of rain boots. However, the child’s yearning for rain runs in opposition to the desire of other villagers, who want clear skies for the harvest.

Wangdrak’s Rain Boots’ minimalist aesthetics and narrative, marked by a childlike innocence, are reminiscent of Iranian classics such as Abbas Kiarostami’s Where Is the Friend’s House? (1987) and Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven (1997).

More on: https://radii.co/article/lhapal-gyal-tibetan-cinema

Posted by: Roderic Wang <rodericwang@gmail.com>

Diversifying Tibetan Cinema

Source: The China Project (11/4/22)
Diversifying Tibetan cinema: Q&A with Jigme Trinley, director of ‘One and Four’
Jigme Trinley is an up-and-coming director and the son of the pioneering auteur of Tibetan cinema, Pema Tseden. We discussed what makes Tibetan films Tibetan, the creative process of making his award-winning feature debut, and his experience of “attending” international film festivals in the time of COVID.
By Amarsanaa Battulga

A still from “One and Four”

Jigme Trinley (久美成列 Jiǔměi Chéngliè), a 25-year-old Beijing Film Academy graduate, first appeared on the radar of Sinophone cinema when his feature debut One and Four (一个和四个 Yīgè hé sìgè) premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival last November.

This stylish thriller defies what audiences have come to associate with Tibetan films. There are no mystical rites, no spiritual contemplation, no existential reflection — at least not explicitly. Instead, Trinley treats viewers to guns, poachers, police, and a car chase, all set on a snowy mountain and in a wooden cabin where a forest ranger is visited by strangers one after another.

Continue reading

Did Xi forget the Uighurs?

Strong comments below on the intentional absence of the ongoing Uyghur genocide in Xi’s main Party speech. However, it does not comment on the curious aspect that Western media mostly went along with the silence, about the ongoing genocide–which was initiated and is being carried out under Xi Jinping’s orders.–Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Source: Taipei Times (10/28/22)
Did Xi Jinping forget the Uighurs?
By Kok Bayraq

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) did not mention Uighurs in his two-hour report during the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th National Congress, which is not in line with the international attention his Uighur policy has received. The European Parliament has adopted a resolution saying China’s treatment of people in Xinjiang, where the Uighurs live, amounts to “crimes against humanity and genocide.” The US has also called China’s actions in Xinjiang a “genocide.”

Xi did not forget the Uighurs. He intentionally avoided mentioning the issue. It is impossible to justify genocide: If you try to cover blood, it would seep out. If it is seen, people would focus on it. The only way for a murderer to escape punishment is to hide the murder scene from the world. When then-UN high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet visited China in May, Beijing delayed her visit, changed the purpose of the visit from an independent investigation to an exchange of views and forced her not to release the long-awaited Uighur report until the final minutes of her tenure in August. Another attempt to hide the Uighurs from the world was China’s efforts at the UN Human Rights Council to reject holding a debate on alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. This was an acknowledgment that if they discussed the Uighur situation, they knew they would lose. Continue reading

One Nation under Xi

Source: NYT (10/11/22)
One Nation Under Xi: How China’s Leader Is Remaking Its Identity
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The leader’s nationalist effort to meld ethnic groups, an agenda increasingly central to his rule, is seen as a bulwark against internal divisions and threats from the West.
By Chris BuckleyVivian Wang and Joy Dong

The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, meeting with members of ethnic groups in 2015.

The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, meeting with members of ethnic groups in 2015. Credit…Yao Dawei/Xinhua, via Getty Images

Across Tibetan villages in southwest China, Communist Party officials have been spreading the top leader Xi Jinping’s gospel of national unity: that every ethnic group must fuse into one indivisible China with a shared heritage dating back over 5,000 years.

Thousands of officials in Ganzi, a Tibetan region of Sichuan Province, have been paired with families to collect information and give out gifts of rice, cooking oil and beatific portraits of Mr. Xi — all to hammer home his message of an encompassing Chinese identity, from Xinjiang in the west to the contested island of Taiwan in the east.

“In the future I’ll be a member of your family, too,” Shen Yang, the Communist Party secretary of Ganzi, called Kardze in Tibetan, told one household, according to a local newspaper.

The nationalist impulse behind this campaign is increasingly central to Mr. Xi’s efforts to reshape China, with far-reaching consequences for education, social policy and politics. While appeals to the motherland have long been part of the party’s tool kit, Mr. Xi has taken the imperative to new heights, calling for a unified “community of Chinese nationhood” as a bulwark against threats at home and abroad. Continue reading

New viral game that WeChat is going bonkers over

Source: The China Project (9/16/22)
Sheep a Sheep is the new viral game that WeChat is going bonkers over
A nearly impossible mobile game that only took a team of three to make is making millions of people in China lose their minds.
By Zhao Yuanyuan

Sheep a Sheep

Remember Jump and Jump (跳一跳 tiàoyītiào)? The one-touch mini game within the Chinese ubiquitous social app WeChat that was a cultural phenomenon in 2018? Neither do we. Because now there’s a new mobile game that has taken China by storm, one satisfying tile merge at a time.

Enter yánglegèyáng 羊了个羊, which, loosely translated into English, means “Sheep a Sheep.” Accessed via WeChat’s mini program platform, the ridiculously addictive game was released in early September, but it wasn’t until this week that its popularity exploded. As of this morning, Sheep a Sheep has amassed over 60 million players. For comparison, Genshin Impact (原神 yuánshén), the popular action role-playing game that was developed and published by Shanghai-based developer miHoYo in September 2020, currently enjoys an international player base of approximately 60 million users, a number that Sheep a Sheep achieved in just a few weeks.

Elsewhere on the Chinese internet, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the game. On Weibo, Sheep a Sheep has spurred nearly 20 trending hashtags, with the most popular one generating more than 2.6 billion views. On short-video app Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese twin, videos about the title have racked up north of 3.7 billion plays. At multiple points in the past few days, the game crashed as it was overwhelmed by an excessive number of players. Continue reading

The Backstreets

Source: NYT (9/14/22)
A Uyghur Author and Translator Were Detained. Now, Their Novel Speaks For Them.
Writing and translating “The Backstreets,” a book about the oppressive environment faced by Uyghurs in China, was a danger to those involved.
By Tiffany May

Perhat Tursun in Xinjiang, 2010.

Perhat Tursun in Xinjiang, 2010. Credit…Nijat Hushur

Perhat Tursun was eager for his novel, “The Backstreets,” to come out in the United States. It would be the first Uyghur novel to appear in English, and he considered the grim tale of one man’s struggle within an oppressive environment one of his most consequential works.

But Darren Byler, who translated the volume and is a leading scholar on Uyghur culture and Chinese surveillance, was reluctant to go ahead. The text was ready by 2015, but the crackdown on Uyghurs living in China’s far western region of Xinjiang left him concerned for Tursun, and for his Uyghur co-translator. Publishing the book in English, he feared, might heighten their exposure.

Hundreds of Uyghur intellectuals were detained in China as part of a repression campaign targeting predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities that started in 2016, then escalated. Researchers say that as many as one million or more Uyghurs and Kazakhs were sent to indoctrination camps that the government called vocational training programs. Expressions of cultural identity or faith were heavily restricted. The United Nations said that the detentions could be considered “crimes against humanity.”

By 2018, Tursun and Byler’s co-translator, a Uyghur man who asked to remain anonymous, were among those who disappeared into the camps. The New York Times confirmed the co-translator’s identity with Byler and with the book’s publisher, and is withholding his name to protect him from retaliation from the state. Continue reading

China’s quiet fury over Xinjiang

Source: China Media Project (9/2/22)
China’s Quiet Fury Over Xinjiang
We have been told that China is furious over the UN report on human rights in Xinjiang. But the revealing fact is that so far Chinese media have spoken only to the rest of the world — and virtually zero mention of the report can be found inside the country.
By David Bandurski

Wang Wenbin

The release from the UN Human Rights Office on Wednesday of a report pointing to “serious human rights violations” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region came with the Chinese government’s anger baked right in. A state response shared by the UN in its release said the report “wantonly smears and slanders China, and interferes in China’s internal affairs.”

China vented its fury again yesterday during a regular foreign ministry press conference. Asked what steps the government would take to address the concerns raised by the UN, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin waved the report off as a “so-called assessment,” alleging that it had been “orchestrated and produced by the US and some Western forces.” Its real objective, he said repeatedly, was to “contain China.”

Reacting to the response, international media outlets made fury a part of the story. China had “lashed out,” reported the Washington Post. France24 spoke of China’s “furious riposte.” And an Associated Press story shared on scores of sites had everyone asking: “Why is China so angry?”

But perhaps the most revealing fact to note today, 48 hours after the release of the Xinjiang report, is that there has been almost no reporting at all inside China. If the external messaging of the China’s leadership has been all about pique, its internal messaging has been about creating a vacuum. Continue reading

The Uyghur experience

Source: BruceHumes.com (9/1/22)
The Uyghur Experience: Connecting the Dots in September 2022
By Bruce Humes

Three important publications are launching this month, offering insight into what it means to be Uyghur today:

Editions Jentayu (info@editions-jentayu.fr) will soon launch Littérature Ouïghour (scroll down in that site to find) a special issue dedicated to contemporary Uyghur writing in French translation. Authors include Memtimin Hoshur and his visionary short story on problematic mustaches; Perhat Tursun; Helide Isra’il; Gülnisa Erdal; Gül Ay; Istanbul-based Muyesser Abdulehed on Uyghur poetry; anthropologist Darren Byler introducing Uyghur prose; and Alexandre Papas, historian of Islamic mysticism and Central Asia, on Uyghur orality.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachellet — on the final day in this role —finally released the commission’s 48-page Assessment of Human Rights Concerns in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China. Concludes the long-awaited report: Serious human rights violations have been committed in XUAR in the context of the Government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-“extremism” strategies. The implementation of these strategies, and associated policies in XUAR has led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights. These patterns of restrictions are characterized by a discriminatory component, as the underlying acts often directly or indirectly affect Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities. Continue reading

UN report on abuses against Uyghurs

Source: NYT (9/1/22)
For Uyghurs, U.N. Report on China’s Abuses is a Long-Awaited Vindication
The report’s assessment that China’s crackdown in Xinjiang could amount to “crimes against humanity” gives new momentum to a campaign to pressure Beijing.
By Austin Ramzy

Uyghur supporters at a 2019 rally in Washington calling for sanctions against China.

Uyghur supporters at a 2019 rally in Washington calling for sanctions against China. Credit…Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

HONG KONG — At first China said there was “no such thing” as re-education centers that held vast numbers of people in its far western Xinjiang region. Then, as more reports emerged of the detention of hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and of members of other largely Muslim groups, Beijing acknowledged the camps’ existence, but described them as vocational training centers.

When overseas Uyghurs spoke out about the authorities’ abuses in Xinjiang, China targeted their families back home, sentencing their relatives to long prison terms, and using the full weight of state media and prominent Chinese diplomats to denounce the activists as liars and frauds.

For the many Uyghur activists who have campaigned — often at great personal cost — to bring China’s intense crackdown in Xinjiang to light, a United Nations report released on Wednesday that largely validated their claims was a powerful, if long-delayed, vindication.

The 48-page report, which said that China has committed grave human rights abuses in Xinjiang, sharply undercuts Beijing’s aggressive efforts to discredit Uyghurs who dared to speak out. It also gives new momentum to the Uyghur activists’ cause and an opportunity for rights campaigners to put the issue before the U.N. Human Rights Council later this month and increase pressure on businesses to distance themselves from China. Continue reading

The aesthetics of humiliation

Some really perceptive observations here below, from the Uyghur writer Kok Bayraq, on the leaked, secret Xinjiang Police Files and how they reveal the intentional humiliation of the innocent victims. Kok Bayraq also has written about the few detainees seen with tears in their eyes, a rare and dangerous thing, since the Chinese police punish any emotional expressions of suffering in the camps.

Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Source: Bitter Winter (7/8/22)
Uyghur Detainees’ Clothing: The Aesthetics of Humiliation
Detainees are photographed with their jackets draped over their shoulders. This has a precise humiliating meaning in both Uyghur and Chinese culture.
By Kok Bayraq

All images from the Xinjiang Police Files.

All images from the Xinjiang Police Files.

When it comes to inhuman scenes in the Xinjiang Police Files, most people may think of the elderly, children in tears, and anxious faces among detainees. For me, as a Uyghur reporter, another scene came to my mind—detainees with jackets draped over their shoulders and open, wrinkled collars.

Draping a jacket over one’s shoulders in public is considered a disgrace in Uyghur society, especially for women. It is not considered acceptable by the Chinese state code either.

Therefore, the pictures in the police files containing a group of women with jackets (likely provided by the police) draped over their shoulders show what is obviously an extraordinary situation. Continue reading

Popular Culture in China’s Early Reform Era

A new special issue “Popular Culture in China’s Early Reform Era, 1978-1989” edited by Zhao Ma was published in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies in July 2022.


Revisiting popular culture in China’s early reform era, 1978–1989: a historical overview
Zhao Ma

Embodying beauty, desiring the world: dress and fashion in the 1980s’ China
By Yuqian Yan

Between the past and the future: the rise of nationalist discourse at the 1983 CCTV Spring Festival Gala
By Min Wang

Mysterious Buddha, popular cinema, and the new Chinese film culture in the early 1980s
By Li Yang

Airing the Gospel: Christian radio broadcast and multiple narratives in early reform-era China
By Joseph Tse-Hei Lee & Christie Chui-Shan Chow Continue reading

Govt boarding schools as a tool of genocide

Please note this upcoming public seminar that should be of burning interest to those angry and protesting similar crimes in Canada, the US, and other countries in the past. Learn about how these crimes are being committed today, now, against hundreds of thousands of ethnic-minority children in China–Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Government Boarding Schools as a Tool of Genocide in the 21st Century: Uyghur and Tibetan Family Separation
Tuesday, July 26, 2022 | 1:00–2:00 p.m. EDT

No registration required, watch via UHRP Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. For full links and more info, see: https://uhrp.org/event/boarding-schools/.

From July 24 to 29, Pope Francis is visiting Canada, when he will publicly apologize for the suffering and abuse in the Catholic boarding schools for Canada’s indigenous peoples, following his historic apology at the Vatican in April. In May 2022, the U.S. government released an unprecedented report on 53 burial sites at 408 boarding schools for Native American children across 37 states, operating between 1819 and 1969. These historic crimes are recognized as causing lifelong and generational trauma.

Now in the 21st Century, the Chinese government is operating a vast system of colonial boarding schools in Tibet, including at least 50 mandatory boarding preschools holding 100,000 Tibetan children, ages 4 to 6. The Chinese government is also operating mandatory boarding schools for Uyghur children as part of its genocidal policies, in a systematic effort to separate Uyghur children from their families, affecting an estimated 900,000 children. Please join us for a discussion of the implications of these crimes and the need for a policy response. Continue reading

Chinese-Kazakh writer struggles to rebuild life

For more on the famous Kazakh poet Shakarim Qudayberdiuli, who is disrespected by the uneducated Chinese police in the story below, see the Wikipedia entry. Personal footnote: Every time I am reminded about how Chinese language is stuffed down the throat of concentration camp detainees by uncouth uneducated guards, I think about how to unlearn Chinese. Maybe I should try what my Chinese student friends told me in the 1980s, about their method for un-learning the state propaganda crap they were forced to learn at university: After the exam they went out into the park, and had an intensive forgetting session, a cross-examination designed to make each other forget everything, by giving ‘wrong’ answers, and clean out their brains.–Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

Source: RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty (7/17/22)
Chinese-Kazakh Writer, Businesswoman Struggles To Rebuild Life After Abuse In Xinjiang Camp
By Nurtai Lakhanuly and Farangis Najibullah, RFERL

Before she was imprisoned in her native Xinjiang, Zhazira Asenqyzy was known as a poet and writer as well as a successful businesswoman.

Before she was imprisoned in her native Xinjiang, Zhazira Asenqyzy was known as a poet and writer as well as a successful businesswoman.

In her hometown of Jeminay in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, Zhazira Asenqyzy was known as a poet and writer as well as a successful businesswoman.

Asenqyzy’s works — published in local newspapers — were popular among her follow ethnic Kazakhs. With three profitable commercial ventures, including a furniture company that employed dozens of workers, Asenqyzy wanted for nothing.

But Asenqyzy’s world was turned upside down when she was taken from her family home one early morning in May 2017 and thrown into one of Xinjiang’s notorious internment camps.

“I was having breakfast with my family when an [ethnic] Kazakh man, an employee of the Jeminay district security services, called and asked me to come to his office,” Asenqyzy recalled. “‘Bring your passport with you,’ he told me.” Continue reading

Genocide and Cultural Genocide in China

Here is my latest on China’s ongoing genocide — explaining how it’s really both genocide, according to the UN Convention, and cultural genocide — including the mass assault on Uyghur and other ethnic academics, intellectuals, and artists — and also, on the important potential of the ICC in prosecuting the perpetrators:

Genocide and Cultural Genocide in China.” By Magnus Fiskesjö. YetAgain [UK], June 28, 2022.

Magnus Fiskesjö <magnus.fiskesjo@cornell.edu>