Harmonious Xinjiang? No Petition?

Posted: 2011年02月2日 in Original Thoughts
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Petition 上访/请愿 is an old form of doing justice in China that is supplementary to legal procedures or begs the state/officials to investigate certain cases often neglected at local levels.   One of the most recent petition-related cases is about a village head Qian Yunhui 钱云会 in Wenzhou 温州 who led his villagers to petition for 6 years and was therefore arrested three times.  He is merely one of thousand of petitioners across China but gains national and even international attention for his “accidental” death caused by a truck.(http://v.ifeng.com/society/20101 … -a7a406d40031.shtml).
The controversy at the center of this case is not only the background of the victim but also the nature of his death. It is stated that some people witnessed that Mr. Qian was murdered by 3 or 4 persons who forcefully put Mr. Qian into the truck and created a traffic accident. The suspects naturally go to local governments or officials. These witnesses are now believed to be silenced by local government and are unable to speak out the truth. At the same time, local Wenzhou police department insists after “investigation” that Mr. Qian’s death is a traffic accident, having nothing to do with murdering.

This event occurred in the commercial center of Wenzhou in coastal China and causes such hot debates between the rulers and the ruled. One cannot help thinking of petition cases in northwest China where Muslims are populated. The well-documented representative petitions involving Muslims can be dated back to the early 18th century that a Ma Yinghuan 马应焕 of Hezhou attempted to present his petition accusing Khafiyya founder Ma Laichi 马来迟 to the Qianlong emperor at Xizhimen 西直门 in Beijing.  The result of this first Muslim petition in the Qing period is ironic that the petitioner Ma Yinghuan was later sentenced to exile three thousand li from his hometown.

One unforgettable petition in modern time regarding Muslims and Islam is in 1989 when Muslims protested against Salman Rushdie for his insult on Islam. When many Muslims from NW provinces attempted to go to Beijing for petitioning, they were stopped by Chinese military forces and several Muslims jumped into the Huang River 湟水 to avoid the blockade but tragically died.

Xinjiang scholars and waters have heard too much about “terrorism” and “terrorists” but little about petition from the Chinese government in recent years.  Is Xinjiang more harmonious than Wenzhou or other interior regions or is petition just a Chinese/Han tradition for justice?   A recent visit to Uyghur village reveals one of the secrets of why Xinjiang petition is hardly heard.  This secret is to prevent petition from the very bottom of the society.  As the photo indicates, the Chinese government regulates harsh restrictions on petitions and publicizes it at almost every Uyghur village to silence the Uyghur discrimination and discontent.   Although petition in general is not welcomed and hated by the Chinese governments, Han in interior regions can sporadically do it or talk about it, while in Xinjiang such behaviors can be easily labeled and attacked as terrorism.


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