Thursday, March 20, 2008

Concerted Campaign Against China

With China's resurgence on the world stage and its hour of well-deserved glory approaching at Beijing Olympics this summer, those opposed to China are out in force to spoil it for the Chinese people.

The efforts to recruit athletes to stage protests in front of the news media during the Olympics and the recent troubles in Tibet and Western China do not appear to be spontaneous. The West-based Free Tibet and Team Darfur movements and their media-savvy supporters, including many celebrities, athletes and actors, are attempting to foment trouble in China before, during and after the Olympics.

The pressure is building up on national Olympic committees as well. The US Olympic Committee has come under criticism for its stance on protests. In response, the Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said no U.S. athlete would be reprimanded or censured for expressing a critical opinion about China's human rights record, so long as it is done in an appropriate setting. The code of conduct that 2008 U.S. Olympians will sign asks them only to respect the terms of the Olympic Charter.

A growing number of athletes from all over the world have been signed up by Team Darfur, an organization committed to raising awareness about the crisis in Sudan.
It wants to put pressure on the Sudanese authorities, and also those countries, like China, that do business with Sudan. Team Darfur plans to highlight the issue at the Beijing Olympics. Canada's former Olympic swimmer Nicky Dryden, a Team Darfur campaigner, wants athletes to make a stand during the Beijing Games.

Steven Spielberg, a high-profile Hollywood producer and director, has decided to relinquish his role in producing the Opening and Closing ceremonies for the Beijing Games. Now there are fears that his withdrawal may be followed by that of other western stars associated with the Games. There was speculation yesterday that the music producer Quincy Jones, who is writing the theme tune, might pull out. A spokesman described the reports as “speculation” but added that Jones was “keeping an eye on the situation”.

What really worry the Chinese authorities are the growing calls for a boycott of the Games. A poll of nearly 2,500 people for The Sunday Times today shows strong support for Spielberg’s stand, with 49% saying they would back a boycott by British athletes, against 33% who said such a boycott would be wrong. The poll found that 75% thought Spielberg was right to pull out and just 12% thought he was wrong.

In Lhasa, where howling Tibetan mobs turned on ethnic Han Chinese and Hui Muslims last Friday in the worst violence in nearly 20 years. Many businesses owned by the Han Chinese and Hui Muslims were attacked and burned. It should be noted here that most Hui are similar in culture to Han Chinese with the exception that they practice Islam, and have some distinctive cultural characteristics as a result. For example, as Muslims, they follow Islamic dietary laws and reject the consumption of pork, the most common meat consumed in Chinese culture, and have also given rise to their variation of Chinese cuisine, Chinese Islamic cuisine. Their mode of dress also differs only in that adult males wear white caps and females wear headscarves or (occasionally) veils, as is the case in most Islamic cultures.

News agencies report that a homemade bomb was thrown at a paramilitary vehicle yesterday. Police fired teargas to disperse onlookers and schools were ordered to close early. It was unclear how many people were hurt. Residents said four police were killed or wounded but officials would not comment.

The Chinese premier has accused the Dalai Lama of organized violence by the Tibet government in exile along with its western supporters. The scenes of violence perpetrated on the streets of Tibet and neighboring provinces raise questions about the non-violence preached by the Dalai Lama and his supporters. The Dalai Lama, speaking to the media in India, has denied supporting violence. He has offered to resign if the violence continues.

But the anti-Chinese protests and violence across Tibet and in neighboring provinces have continued where many Tibetans live. According to the news reports from a remote corner of Gansu province, hundreds of Tibetans on horseback galloped through a town shouting “Come back Dalai Lama” and “Free the Panchen Lama”, before ripping down a Chinese flag and raising a Tibetan snow lion banner.

Both the Indian and Nepalese governments have taken steps to curb the Tibetans and other international protesters attempting to use their soil for protests and marches against China.

Regardless of one's political views on Darfur, Tibet or China policies, it is not hard to conclude that the efforts to disrupt Beijing Olympics are being orchestrated by a coalition of well-known anti-Chinese individuals and organizations with an ax to grind. It is a shame that sports and politics are being mixed to the detriment of promoting a better understanding through international sporting events. This campaign directed at China is likely to damage the Olympics movement and the athletes around the world.


Riaz Haq said...

In his book "On China", Henry Kissinger mentions the name of Zeng He, a 15th century Muslim admiral, who commanded the first Chinese Navy and made seven major expeditions under Emperor Yongle during Ming dynasty.

He was the great great great grandson of Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar, a Persian who served in the administration of the Mongolian Empire and was appointed governor of Yunnan during the early Yuan Dynasty.

Kissinger says that the world history would have been very different if the Chinese emperors who succeeded Yongle had not decided to end the expeditions.

Riaz Haq said...

It's a little known fact that Chinese Adm Zheng He was Muslim.

Here's an excerpt from Henry Kissinger's book "On China" about Zheg He:

" the early years of the Ming Dynasty, between 1405 and 1433, China launched one of history's most remarkable and mysterious enterprises: Admiral Zheng He set out in fleets of technologically unparalleled "treasure ships" to destinations as far as Java, India, the Horn of Africa, and the Strait of Hormuz. At the time of Zheng's voyages, the European age of exploration had not yet begun. China's fleet possessed what would have a unbridgeable technological advantage in the size, sophistication and of its vessels, it dwarfed the Spanish Armada (which was still 150 years away).

Historians still debate the purpose of these missions. Zheng He was a singular figure in the age of exploration: a Chinese Muslim eunuch conscripted into the imperial service as a child, he fits no historical precedent."

Riaz Haq said...

Light Government Touch Lets #China’s Hui #Muslims Practice #Islam in the Open and Flourish

Asked about the Chinese government’s light touch here, Liu Jun, 37, the chief imam at the Banqiao Daotang Islamic School, offered a knowing smile.

“Muslims from other parts of China who come here, especially from Xinjiang, can’t believe how free we are, and they don’t want to leave,” he said, referring to the far-west borderlands that are home to China’s beleaguered Uighur ethnic minority. “Life for the Hui is very good.”

With an estimated Muslim population of 23 million, China has more followers of Islam than many Arab countries. Roughly half of them live in Xinjiang, an oil-rich expanse of Central Asia where a cycle of violence and government repression has alarmed human rights advocates and unnerved Beijing over worries about the spread of Islamic extremism.

But here in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a relatively recent administrative construct that is the official heartland of China’s Hui Muslim community, that kind of strife is almost nonexistent, as are the limitations on religion that critics say are fueling Uighur discontent.

Throughout Ningxia and the adjacent Gansu Province, new filigreed mosques soar over even the smallest villages, adolescent boys and girls spend their days studying the Quran at religious schools, and muezzin summon the faithful via loudspeakers — a marked contrast to mosques in Xinjiang, where the local authorities often forbid amplified calls to prayer.

In Hui strongholds like Linxia, a city in Gansu known as China’s “Little Mecca,” there are mosques on every other block and women can sometimes be seen with veils, a sartorial choice that can lead to detention in Xinjiang.

“It’s easy to live an intensely Muslim life here,” said Ma Habibu, 67, a retired truck driver, whose surname, Ma, with its phonetic resemblance to the name Mohammed, is common among the Hui. “Even government officials here are very devout and study the Quran every day.”

Descendants of Persian and Arab traders who settled along the Silk Road and took Chinese wives, the nation’s 10 million Hui are a minority primarily defined by their faith and, in some cases, solely their culinary habits. Compared with the Uighurs, they have also demonstrated a remarkable ability to coexist with the Communist Party, an organization hard-wired to distrust those whose first loyalty belongs to a higher power.

Unlike the Uighurs, who speak a Turkic dialect and whose Eurasian features set them apart from the country’s Han Chinese majority, the Hui speak Chinese and are often indistinguishable from their non-Muslim neighbors. In much of China, the white caps worn by men and the head scarves worn by women are all that give them away. In many places, the Hui have so thoroughly assimilated that their only connection to Islam is a vestigial aversion to pork.

Most subscribe to a moderate brand of Islam, though tradition frowns upon intermarriage — Hui men who break convention by marrying outside the faith often demand that their wives convert to Islam.

Their loyalty to the Communist Party has been well rewarded. In places like Linxia, people can easily obtain passports and about half of the senior officials are ethnic Hui, according to local residents. In Xinjiang, by contrast, most important government posts go to the Han, and young Uighurs find it hard to get passports to travel abroad. Government workers in Xinjiang who go to mosques or fast during the holy month of Ramadan often find themselves unemployed.

But even in Ningxia and Gansu, official tolerance has its limits. During a recent five-day journey through Hui communities that fleck the arid foothills of the Tibetan plateau, several imams said proselytizing to non-Muslims was forbidden, as was contact with Islamic organizations outside China. Accepting overseas donations for the construction of a mosque was also sure to invite trouble from the authorities.

Riaz Haq said...

#China's #Muslim explorer Admiral Zheng He may have reached #America before #Columbus, says new book … via @Yahoo

Does a 600-year-old Chinese map prove that Christopher Columbus was not the first international explorer to navigate the New World?

In his book “Who Discovered America?,” published Tuesday, author Gavin Menzies says the settling of North America by nonnative peoples is more complex than previously thought.

‘The traditional story of Columbus discovering the New World is absolute fantasy, it’s fairy tales,” Menzies, 76, said in an interview with the Daily Mail.

However, not everyone is sold on the theory. Menzies has been derided as a “pseudo-historian” by critics, who say his claims are grandiose and not based in historical fact. Menzies has primarily focused his studies on when and how North America was first explored but he has also argued that the mythological city of Atlantis was real.

Menzies also has passionate supporters — his previous books have been best-sellers, and proponents of his theories have donated millions to his efforts, allowing him to hire a number of experts to join in his investigations.

Menzies says that the Chinese map, found in a bookstore and created in the 18th century, is attributed to Chinese Admiral Zheng He and shows a detailed map of America dating back to 1418. That would place Zheng He’s efforts some 70 years ahead of Columbus. In fact, Menzies says Columbus used a copy of Zheng He's map to plot his own voyage.

Zheng He — a Muslim eunuch — is arguably the most famous explorer in Chinese history. Deployed by the emperor, He led Chinese fleets on voyages of discovery that helped expand the empire’s knowledge of the world to include previously unknown areas in the Middle East and Africa. His influence over Asian culture was so strong that he is still considered a god in parts of Indonesia.

An appraiser from Christie’s has authenticated the map itself, but there is currently no way of proving the map was based on images drafted in the 1400s. However, Menzies says that certain observations on the map, including descriptions of communities and other cultural landmarks in Peru, coincide with known data from that period.

In addition, Menzies makes an even broader claim in his book, saying that Chinese sailors were the first to cross the Pacific Ocean 40,000 years ago. Menzies says there is DNA evidence to support his claim.

So how does Menzies believe the Chinese pulled off such a giant historical accomplishment thousands of years before anyone else?

“If you just go out in a plastic bathtub, the currents will just carry you there,” Menzies told the Mail. “They just came with the current, it’s as simple as that.”

The current historical version of events says that individuals from what is now Asia crossed into North America via a land bridge extending from the Bering Strait.

Critics of Menzies point out that he holds no degrees or professional training as a historian. But the Daily Mail says he “can no longer be called an amateur” after his most recent efforts.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s Geo TV reporter finds #China’s Uighur #Muslims are free to practice their faith …

Chinese province of Xinjiang mostly features in the news for violence and repressive measures against Muslims but for 21-year-old Dilshad, an ethnic Uighur, life is as good as it could be in any area of the world.

“Look at me, do I look like an oppressed person?” he said in broken English while speaking to this correspondent outside a cinema hall. Clad in a stylish shirt and jeans, Dilshad was there to watch a new movie along with five other friends including two girls, all appeared to be of same age. They look like a happy group.

“Trust me! We (Muslims) are having a good life here,” he said annoyingly after my repeated prodding. Initially, Dilshad was reluctant to talk about problems of Muslims in the largest province of China which borders five Muslims countries including Pakistan.

Western media often reports discrimination against Muslims in this part of China which is home to the Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighur minority who make up about eight million of the province's 19 million people.

Earlier this year, some media reports also mentioned that Chinese government is barring Muslims from performing religious duties such as praying in mosques, fasting in Ramazan or even using Islamic names for their children.

But Dilshad and his friends insisted such media reports are incorrect. They pointed towards several mosques in downtown Urumqi and traditional Uighur areas where Muslims can be seen offering prayers and performing their religious duties.

“Most of our mosques have been built with government donations. If the reports that China wants to curtail our religious freedoms are true why would they fund our mosques?” Tahir, who was accompanying Dilshad, asked rhetorically.

However, the presence of large number of security guards and frequent barricades in this remote city indicate all is not well in the city.

According to local and international media, hundreds of people have been killed in terror attacks and clashes between police and separatists in the region prompting heavy security at public places.

Visitors are frisked and identified outside the busy places, markets, hotels and even the mosques by the armed security guards appointed by the government.

While global social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google are banned in the city like the rest of China, the internet is painfully slow in the provincial capital and there is no 4G service available on smartphones.

Xinjiang is considered a less developed province of otherwise thriving China. But even this less developed province could be easily compared with Pakistan’s most developed province in terms of infrastructure and facilities had it not been troubled with such heavy security arrangements.

But local residents say heavy security is the cost they are happy to pay for peace in the region. Dilshad, who studies forensic, wants to join police service after graduation.

“I want to be a good cop and prove that Muslims are playing role in China’s development,” he said, asking this correspondent to write good things about China.

At a nearby restaurant, three Muslim waitresses were busy serving customers with delicious lamb friend rice and other local dishes while donning Muslim headscarves.

“Assalam-o-Alikum” I greeted them while entering the restaurant located near the International Grand Bazaar Xinjiang. “Walikum Salam” they replied with pleasant surprise and immediately asked where I am from? Knowing that I am from Pakistan, they bowed their heads with respect and started taking orders. There are two mosques near the Grand Bazaar.

About a dozen local Muslims are seen offering Zuhr prayer behind the Imam. The mosque is equipped with all the facilities that are available in Islamabad mosques.