Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Article - Ethnic Minority Uyghur Unrest in Urumqi

Han Chinese fight back

Related: Clashes in China Shed Light on Ethnic Divide (July 7 2009)

Related: Han Chinese protesters seek Muslim Uighur targets (Reuters 7 July 2009)

See how the PLA and Armed Police step in to restore peace

Another Media Tour Goes Very, Very Badly for Chinese Authorities (by Robert Mackey from NY Times)

Related link:

Watch a video report on The Guardian’s Web site, showing a powerful image of an elderly Uighur woman on crutches confronting riot police in Urumqi, China on Tuesday.

As my colleague Edward Wong reports from Urumqi, China, where rioting and ethnic clashes have led to more than 150 deaths, a government-organized tour for foreign and Chinese journalists went badly awry on Tuesday when hundreds of Uighur protesters made an unscheduled appearance:

A wailing crowd of women, joined later by scores of Uighur men, marched down a wide avenue Tuesday with raised fists and tearfully demanded that the police release Uighur men who they said had been seized from their homes after Sunday’s violence. Some women waved the identification cards of men who had been detained.

As journalists watched, the demonstrators smashed the windshield of a police car and several police officers drew their pistols before the entire crowd was encircled by officers and paramilitary troops in riot gear.

Dan Chung and Tania Branigan of The Guardian were also on the media tour and they filed a video report and a slide show showing images of the Uighur protests witnessed by the foreign and Chinese press.

As if to underscore how very badly this attempt at media management by the Chinese government failed, the screen shot at the top of this post from The Guardian’s video report — like a similar photograph, also shot by Mr. Chung for The Guardian — is strangely evocative of the iconic image from the Tiananmen Square protests, of a man confronting a row of Chinese tanks.

In today’s New York Times, Michael Wines reports that Chinese officials arranged the tour as part of a broad effort to manage media perceptions of the unrest. Apparently hoping to do more than just shut off the flow of unwelcome images of protests from appearing on the Web, as Iranian authorities did recently, China invited foreign journalists to take part in the official trip to Urumqi, the site of the unrest, “to know better about the riots.” But China’s ethnic minorities have a habit of not remaining placidly in the background during these sorts of state-managed photo-ops.

Today’s events bring to mind a similarly botched effort just over a year ago, as The Times reported: “Buddhist monks interrupted a government-managed news media tour in western China by waving a Tibetan flag and protesting that the authorities were depriving them of their human rights.” Here is video of those Tibetan monks veering as far off-script during that media tour in April, 2008 as the Uighurs did today in Urumqi:

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