Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Han Chauvinism

Does Han Chauvinism exist in China? This is indeed a controversial topic.

A lot of Han Chinese friends of mine say: How can there be Han chauvinism in China? China only has reverse discrimination. The government has implemented quite a few policies favoring ethnic minorities, e.g. extra points on college entrance exams, reserving local government positions etc. This is all disguised discrimination of the Han; especially in criminal cases, where ethnic minorities less often are arrested, executed and in general get handled leniently, which surely gives the Han a feeling of being treated unfair. Needless to say, the dissatisfaction is justifiable and quite understandable. Even so we have to keep in mind that this so-called big-nationality chauvinism is a typical example of forced assimilation of ethnic minorities. On the basis of this criterion we have to acknowledge that China actually has Han chauvinism.

As everyone knows, in China, regional national autonomy is nothing but an empty title. The CCP continue to carry out compulsory Han assimilation policies, policies which have been further intensified in recent years. In Xinjiang, almost all the leading positions with real power (meaning Party power) are in the hands of the Han. Previously there was a Mr. Sai Fuding who served as CP committee secretary, but after him there has never again been an Uyghur serving as first in command in the autonomous region. In the course of 60 years of CCP rule, CCP has trained numerous of Uyghur cadres, how can it be that they are unable to find a single one capable of serving as CP committee secretary. This indicates that the concerned authorities still are anxious about "If they're not cut from the same cloth, their mindset must be different". How can the Uyghurs just let this go? Since Wang Lequan assumed office they have strengthened restrictions on Uyghur culture and religion, demolishing the old town of Kashgar and other traditional buildings of great historic significance, stipulating for the use of Mandarin Chinese instead of Uyghur language in primary schools, and banning or restricting government personnel right to believe in Islam, including not being allowed to grow a beard, wear a turban or fasting and praying at work. Uyghurs celebrating their own traditional holidays are also being restricted, and son and so forth. This cannot but cause Uyghurs with national consciousness and distinctive ethnic features a strong feeling of being discriminated and repressed. In fact, the policies of the authorities towards Uyghurs are: crack down more often than you relax restrictions. The authorities use a high pressure approach and do not tolerate that ethnic minorities have any kind of emotions. If at a meeting an ethnic minority cadre as much as tries to raise a complaint, he is not going to get promoted, maybe even expelled. To ethnic minorities, if this is not Han chauvinism, then what is?

Let's take the language issue as an example. That the function of language in everyday life is significant, goes without saying. The so-called Chinese language, as a matter of fact, refers to Han Chinese language. Of course, the Han Chinese make up for more than 90% of China's population, so making Han Chinese language the official language is reasonable. But this also leads to disadvantages for other languages, thereby creating unfavorable conditions for ethnic minorities who have other mother tongues. A speaker of Han Chinese language can travel throughout China without any inconvenience (except for only a handful of remote and underdeveloped areas), yet a speaker of Uyghur language or Tibetan will face difficulties as soon as he leaves his hometown. Actually, if Uyghurs go to inland China without being able to speak Han Chinese language they will be very unpopular. Uyghurs perfectly understand this, and will by no means complain. But the problem today is that because of large numbers of Han Chinese people immigrating to Xinjiang, holding dominant positions in an absolute majority of all fields, it has come to such an extent that even in their own hometowns, the Uyghurs are likely to get turned down when applying for jobs if they do not speak Han Chinese language, and even if they do speak it, there may still not be working opportunities for them, because a lot recruitment ads require people to be Han Chinese. From a Uyghur’s point of view, is this not indeed Han chauvinism?

On the web there is circulating an essay called “I’ll tell you about the real Urumqi” by an author which calls himself “Second generation army”. This essay discusses a very interesting phenomenon: In Xinjiang, on Han Chinese holidays, the Uyghurs also get off work. On Uyghur holidays, the Han Chinese go to work as normal. It looks as if the Han Chinese are treated unfair, “but if you think carefully, you’ll discover an unexpected secret. Because of this illustration… In Xinjiang, everything can be done without any concern for Uyghur participation or normal regulations." Thus it can be seen that in their own hometowns Uyghurs are already left behind. A lot of Uyghurs already feel that they have become minorities in their own hometowns; they are marginalized culturally, and are an economically underprivileged group. They feel as if their own home is on the brink of being lost. What’s even worse is that Uyghurs have no channels of communications as to express their dissatisfaction and suffering. If they turn to the authorities, the authorities will often just ignore them, if they publish something online the authorities will simply just charge them with “violation of national unity, and an attempt to split the nation” and take them into custody.

Here, most average Han Chinese are not getting any special treatment, but Uyghurs on the other hand cannot but feel their interests are being violated. A lot of Uyghurs are not jut dissatisfied with the authorities, but also with Han Chinese people. Ethnic relations have become very tense. What really has created this situation is the authorities not paying attention to the needs of the ethnic minorities and carrying out policies of mandatory Sinicism. On the other hand this tells us that we can not solve these problem until we have implemented real minority autonomy.

Author: Hu Ping, editor of Beijing Spring

Link to original essay: http://www.rfa.org/mandarin/pinglun/huping-08312009100006.html

This translation was made for information purposes only. The views expressed in the article are that of the author and him alone.

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