Security forces were protecting, rather than harassing, international
journalists covering riots in northwestern Xinjiang this week--a welcome change.
A few have reported
official interference since Sunday. But during previous outbursts of ethnic
Official news agency Xinhua, which has downplayed news of anti-government violence in the past, is enthusiastically monitoring the rising death toll, now past 150. And after eyewitnesses overwhelmed censors with news updates on social networking sites, the mainstream Chinese media embraced images of the clashes between the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority and Han Chinese residents that were spreading online.
There, however, the surprises end. The numbers and the graphic pictures are stoking the Han majority's outrage against the Uighur protesters, who the government alleges have been coordinated by exile groups abroad. (Exiled Uighurs countered that theory, saying video of initially peaceful protests against Chinese rule had also been posted online, according to international news reports. But that message has yet to make the cut in state-sanctioned broadcasts.)
Meanwhile, in photographs that flooded the international press today, it's hard not to notice that the protesters are largely depicted as scarved women and their children while the Han Chinese are shown as armored security forces and hoards of young men carrying spades and stakes. Doubtless these pictures do not tell the full story of what unfolded in Xinjiang this weekend. But their impact, in coding the protagonists for an audience used to seeing authoritarian states oppressing minorities, will be hard to undo.
Sources on the ground who might help us navigate these
conflicting scenarios are apparently hard to come by. "Getting any Uighurs in
If you think this is reminiscent of
Rebiya Kadeer is a 62-year-old former businesswoman and mother of 11, who
was imprisoned for six years in
Yawn. When anti-separatist editorials are practically copied-and-pasted from earlier uprisings, you know the government's media strategy, despite tentative amendments for some foreigners, has yet to transform.