April 28, 2012

Full Transcript: Chen Guangcheng Escape Video

This transcript was not translated by me. My Chinese is not that good. It was sent to me by a Chinese friend...

Dear Premier Wen, with great challenge I escaped.  All the rumours and accusations of violence on me and in Linyi, as the litigant, I prove to you all that they’re all true.  The truth is only worse than what’s been spread online.  (00:34)  Premier Wen, I formally raise the following 3 requests from you.  

Screen: strictly punish criminals in accordance to law “Firstly, (I hope) you will personally look into this case.  Appoint investigation team for thorough investigation,  (00:57) and reveal the truth.  Who sent out the order to 70 to 80 county public security and Party cadres to enter into my house and violently beat us up and harm us with out any legal documentation, none of them were wearing uniform, and forbidding us from seeking medical care after being injured in the violence.  Who made this decision?  This must be thoroughly investigated, and must be dealt with in accordance to the law.  Because this thing is too brutal and inhumane, and will be negative to the image of our Party.  (01:33)  Over a dozen man broke into our house and violently beat up my wife.  They pushed her to the ground, covered her in duvet and beat her up for hours.  They also beat me up violently.  (01:52) 

I know many members of the county public security, including Zhang Jian, He Yong, Zhang Shengdong.  And Li Xianli, who beat my wife up several times around the time when I left prison.  (02:04)  And Li Xianqiang, Gao Xingjian, all of whom must be strictly dealt with.  There is another person, family named Xue, I don’t know the given name.  As the litigant I have the following accusations for all of these people who broke the law.  In their process of breaking into the house and beat us up, like Zhang Jian, he is the deputy Party Secretary of our  Shuanghou Township, in charge of Politics and Law.  (02:35)  He announced several times that “we simply don’t need to care about the law, don’t need to care about what’s written on the law.  We don’t need any legal process.  What can you do?” 

Several times, he brought people to our house to loot and beat us up.  Li Xianli, he/she is the one who illegally detained me for a long time with his/her 20 people.  He/she is the head of the first team.  (03:09)  This person beat up my wife several times.  One time he/she chased my wife on the street, took her off from the car and beat her up.  He/she also beat up my mother, extremely cruel and evil.  Li Xianqiang, he knocked my wife down to the ground last year.  He is said to be the staff or maybe head of the Justice Department of our village.  At the time, he severely injured my wife’s left arm.  (03:46)  The person who attacked Bell at the village entrance, according to what I know, is called Zhang Shenghe, who is a staff of our township.  He must be, what people call them online, “Army Coat”.  He stoned CNN in February last year too.  (04:11) 

It’s definitely him, that’s for sure.  I know this.  I heard that many netizens are beaten up by female watch guards.  I wasn’t aware at the time that female guards were hired.  Then I found out that these so called female thugs are all female directors from various villages.  (04:32)  Some of them are relatives of the team leaders, though most of them are village female directors.  There’re many more, I know they’re all from the public security system, even though if they’re not wearing any uniform.  (04:52)  Even though they don’t have any legal documents.  They even declare that we’re not public security, so I asked them who you’re, if not the police.  They say we are sent by the Party to do things for the Party.  I don’t believe in it.  (05:10) 

They might be working for a law-breaking cadre inside the Party.  Through information from various sources, besides 8 people in each of these teams by the village cadres, they hire at least over 20 people in each team.  There’re 3 teams, so that’s at least 70 to 80 people.  This year, because of the attention and participation from kind netizens, there are up to hundreds of people at peak time, creating a full blockade.  (05:48)  the basic structure was, taking my house as the centre point, there is a team (of watchers) in my house, a team outside my house.  The team outside are spread around my house, on four corners and on the roads.  And then, (05:59) there’re people at the entrance of each road leading towards my house.  Starting from the centre point of my house, even to neighbouring villages, on the bridges of neighbouring villages, there’re 7 or 8 people sitting there.  And then, these illegal cadres, using their power at hand, ordered cadres from the nearly village to accompany them there.  And then there’re people hired to patrol around in cars all the time.  The scale of patrol can be as far as 5 kilo metres away from my village.  (06:40)  Or even further. 

There are at least 7 to 8 layers of guards in my village.  All roads into the village are numbered.  As far as I know, there’re at least 28.  When they go to their posts, they’d say, go to #28.  It’s the same on all the road entrances.  (07:06)  There’s really fully armed every where.  I know that there’re up to 100 county security and officials who conducted illegal persecution on us repeated.  I demand thorough investigation on them.  (07:36)

Screen: Protect family safety in accordance to the law 

Even though I am free now, my concern follows immediately, because my family members, my mother, my wife and my child are still in their devil claws.  For a long time, they have continued to conduct this kind of persecution on them.  (07:58)  They might revenge franticly because of my departure.  The persecution might be even more relentless.  The orbital bone of my wife’s left eye was broken by them.  It still shows when you touch it.  Her waist was injured when they beat her up in the house covered inside duvet.  (08:21)  It still shows very obviously if you touch her waist.  And they inhumanly forbid her from getting medical care after the injury.  As an elderly mother, (my mother) was pushed over to the ground by a village party cadre on her own birthday.  (08:56)  She fell on her back and her head hit the door.  She cried heavily.  She said, “You’re doing this because you’re young.”  They said, “that’s right.  The young can do it.  You’re old and can’t defeat us.”  So shameless, so cruel and inhumane, so unjust. 

My child, who’s just a few years old, is followed by 3 people everyday when going to school, and searched.  Everything must be taken out from the school bag, and each page in the books are checked through.  He/she’s watched and not allowed to leave the school or the house.  (09:50)  And the situation in my house, the electricity was cut since 29 July last year, and was only brought back on 14 Feb.  My mother was banned from going to buy food since Feb. last year, making our lives extremely difficult.  That’s why I am extremely worried.  (10:23) 

I call for the friends online to continue your attention (to this case), and increase your level of care, in order to get to know their safety situations.  I call for the Chinese govt to ensure the safety of my family members, from the perspective of protecting the dignity of law and the interests of people.  (10:41) If there’s any problems to my family’s safety, I will continue to seek justice for it.  

Screen: punish corruption according the law (11:00)

Thirdly, people might ask, why did this thing continued for years and has never been resolved?  I’d like to tell everyone here, the decision makers and the executors on the local level don’t want to resolve this issue at all.  The decision makers are worried that their crimes will be exposed, that’s why they don’t want to resolve; for the executors there are huge corruption inside.  (11:30)  I remember in August, when they conducted Cultural Revolution style criticism on me, they said: “You said in the video that 30 million (CNY) was spent (on watching/controlling  Chen).  Do you know that this is 2008’s figure.  Now it’s more than twice the sum!”  (11:46)  “This does not include the money spent on travelling to Beijing to bribe high level officials.  If you are able to, speak it in public!”  That’s what they said.  Many people who’re hired said, “We’re given very little money, the majority is all taken by others.”  This is indeed a great opportunity for them to get rich.  (12:10)  As far as I know, money is allocated from the village to the team leaders.  For each person hired, it is 100 CNY per day.  When these team leaders hire people, they’d tell them that the salary is 100 CNY, but I’ll only give you 90.  I confiscate the 10.  Locally, a day’s labour is around 50 to 60 CNY, but by doing this, you don’t need to give lots of hard work, very safe, you’re fed 3 times a day, they of course are all willing to do it, even for 90 CNY.  (12:47) 

But for a team of 20+ people, the team leader gets 200+ CNY per day, not to mention the govt.  Also, according to my knowledge, during my detention, these people who watched my wife, they purchase the vegetable of their own land for the use of their team.  They sell and buy at the same time, and keep the benefits in between.  People are aware of all of these things, but they have no solution.  (13:27)  According to my knowledge, this fund for maintaining stability, the county can allocate several million CNY to the village.  They’d say, “how much can we get?  The majority are all taken by the leaders, we can only drink some soup.”  It shows how serious the corruption is in this, and how power and money are misused.  (13:56) 

Therefore, I ask Premier Wen to launch investigation into these conducts of corruption and deal with them.  The taxpayers’ money must not be used by illegal local cadres for harming people and harming the image of our Party.  (14:18)  All these shameful conducts are done by them in the name of the Party, and they say that the Party told them to do so.  Premier Wen, many people do not understand all of these illegal conducts.  Is it because of the illegal conducts by the local officials?  Or do they have orders from the central govt?  I think you should give a clear response to the people in the near future.  (14:50)  If thorough investigation is launched and the truth is declared to the general public, then the result will be obvious.  If you continue to ignore it.  I think… how will the public  think? 

posted at 04:47 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (0) | link | HaoHao This!

December 04, 2011

Ai Weiwei iPhone Wallpapers

I'm currently using the following two images as the lock screen wallpaper and home screen wallpaper, respectively, on my iPhone, and thought some of you might like to do the same. Click for the proper iPhone 4/4S resolution versions of each image.

The color version:

The black and white version, darkened to sit behind your icons without unnecessary distraction:

The image is adapted from a project by Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung called The Travelogue of Dr. Brain Damages.

posted at 01:25 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (0) | link | HaoHao This!

April 07, 2010

Me & Ehud

Michael with Ehud Olmert on April 5, 2010.

posted at 05:07 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (92) | link | HaoHao This!

March 30, 2010

An Interesting Article

...can be found here (and here).

posted at 10:06 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (67) | link | HaoHao This!

November 25, 2009

Random Xinjiang Image

Uyghurs arguing on the street in front of my apartment. 2005.

posted at 09:48 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (84) | link | HaoHao This!

October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween. October 31, 2009.

posted at 11:59 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (94) | link | HaoHao This!

March 04, 2009

Who is my carpet?

The mystery of the man on the carpet.

I picked up this carpet (rug?) at a second-hand shop in Beijing yesterday. Can you tell that I'm an impulse buyer?

I have no idea who this is supposed to be. My only guess from browsing through Wikipedia is Mikhail Kasyanov, the former Russian Prime Minister who was pushed out of power by Putin in 2004. Of course, Russia is just a guess... and this guy could be a Serbian or a Turkmen or whatever.

Any good guesses out there? Or better yet, does anyone know who this is? Feel free to pass this photo on to anyone who might be well-informed on the sorts of people whose faces turn up on used carpets.

Comments are working again! Send in your answers below.

posted at 03:49 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (118) | link | HaoHao This!

January 28, 2009

I found Osama bin Laden.

And in Beijing, no less...

I shot this at the Ditan Park Temple Fair yesterday, where I found Osama selling rubber masks and Ox-themed headgear to the masses. The fair was a total zoo, but as this is my first Lunar New Year in Beijing, I had to check it out.

If you look closely, you'll also see a forlorn-looking George W. Bush mask, and a huge inflatable pile of poop... something to do with good luck and this year's zodiac animal.

posted at 09:06 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (107) | link | HaoHao This!

January 26, 2009

I'm Alive. Happy Niu Year.

Another year, another animal crossed-off the Chinese zodiac, as I slowly but surely move towards completing the whole twelve-year cycle.

I shot the above video last night in the square between the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower here in Beijing. It's more than a bit of a cliché to try and wow people not living in China by describing the ferocity of the Lunar New Year fireworks... and I don't really have a good excuse, except that I'd like to add my own personal video to the genre.

The first 20 seconds show what the square looked like when I arrived at about 11:30 pm. The video then cuts to about 2 minutes before midnight, as all hell begins breaking loose.

As if bringing in the Year of the Ox in the perfect Beijing setting wasn't enough, I was also lucky enough to meet Da Shan yesterday... the most famous foreigner ever, period. Now, I can truly say that life is complete. I'd post the photo, but something's wrong with my blog interface and it's not allowing me to upload. I'll post it soon. Click here for the photo!

So, I wish you all health, wealth, and happiness in the New Year!

Err... also, some of you might wonder why I haven't been blogging. The short answer is: I decided to lower my profile after I seemed to be heading towards becoming the target of a human-flesh search engine. The long answer is: how do you keep writing interestingly about Xinjiang while living in Beijing? Only time will tell...

posted at 11:04 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (98) | link | HaoHao This!

December 17, 2008


A proud Uyghur father holding his baby daughter in one hand.

posted at 07:34 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (25) | link | HaoHao This!

December 12, 2008

Luvchina's One-Man Nationalist Fatwa

Somebody really, really cares about me! And he's been nice enough to write a rambling, semi-psychotic diatribe all about me. Think I'm joking?

Well, he cares thiiiiiiiis much:

A Chinese ultranationalist's blog entry about me.

I'll let you check out the post for yourselves. Needless to say it's not a development I can really welcome... but I suppose it's a badge of honor, of sorts.

I've almost certainly dealt with this person before as a commenter. He's likely a Chinese person living in the United States. The dork uses various names on this site, including "tctdh", "sogdia", and "oldwiseman". His blog on sina.com mostly focuses on pictures of his sister (a flight attendant on Air New Zealand) with Chinese celebrities, rants against France, and... a vaguely homoerotic display of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao photos. Hundreds of them.

Really, you should check it out, if only to peer into the mind of a Chinese ultra-nationalist for just a moment. (And yes, that background in the screen grab above is for real.)

Oh yeah... vote for me in the 2008 China Blog Awards! Just click here, and then click the "+" symbol. Do it everyday.

posted at 04:16 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (75) | link | HaoHao This!

December 10, 2008

Pakistan Nukes China. Et la France?

China let Pakistan test a nuclear weapon in Xinjiang on May 26, 1990.

A stumper for your next quiz night: Name all of the countries that have exploded atomic weapons in Xinjiang.

The answer: China and... Pakistan?

Crazy stuff in today's New York Times nuclear book review smorgasbord. The book in question is "The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and Its Proliferation" due out in January.

The authors drop more than one bombshell recovered from the dustbin of atomic history:

Secret cooperation extended to the secluded sites where nations tested their handiwork in thundering blasts. The book says, for instance, that China opened its sprawling desert test site to Pakistan, letting its client test a first bomb there on May 26, 1990.

That alone rewrites atomic history. It casts new light on the reign of Benazir Bhutto as prime minister of Pakistan and helps explain how the country was able to respond so quickly in May 1998 when India conducted five nuclear tests.

“It took only two weeks and three days for the Pakistanis to field and fire a nuclear device of their own,” the book notes.

In another disclosure, the book says China “secretly extended the hospitality of the Lop Nur nuclear test site to the French.”

France!? Say it ain't so, Xiaoping. Well, it couldn't be any worse than this:

The book, in a main disclosure, discusses how China in 1982 made a policy decision to flood the developing world with atomic know-how. Its identified clients include Algeria, Pakistan and North Korea.

Alarmingly, the authors say one of China’s bombs was created as an “export design” that nearly “anybody could build.” The blueprint for the simple plan has traveled from Pakistan to Libya and, the authors say, Iran.

But why would China do something so stupid? Well, old habits are hard to kick. Nikita Khrushchev said in his memoirs that Mao's attitude towards the nuclear holocaust of World War III was, "Hey, even if China loses 300 million people we'll still have plenty left over."

Why did Beijing spread its atomic knowledge so freely? The authors speculate that it either wanted to strengthen the enemies of China’s enemies (for instance, Pakistan as a counterweight to India) or, more chillingly, to encourage nuclear wars or terror in foreign lands from which Beijing would emerge as the “last man standing.”

Sounds like the kind of plan that will definitely work out in the long run.

posted at 12:26 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (33) | link | HaoHao This!

December 05, 2008

Al-Qaeda in China

The Jamestown Foundation has added a new chapter in its never-ending quest to figure out anything solid on organized Uyghur terrorism:

On November 16, a self-proclaimed al-Qaeda spokesman named Muhammad Uighuri claimed that Osama bin Laden has appointed a leader for a previously unknown organization called al-Qaeda in China. Uighuri said the new leader of al-Qaeda for China in general and for Xinjiang province in particular was a Chinese citizen named Abdul Haq Turkistani (Tabnak News Agency, November 16). Despite unsubstantiated claims by China’s security services and Foreign Ministry, there is little proof that al-Qaeda has ever engaged in active operations within China.

The last sentence being the most important, of course.

Between China and al-Qaeda's penchants for both opaqueness and obfuscation, it's fairly safe to say that nobody anywhere knows anything for sure when it comes to ETIM, TIP, etc. (The New Dominion has also been down this path before.)

The structure of TIP and the low profile of its new leader, Abdul Haq Turkistani, coupled with doubts about the identification of ETIM with the TIP have made it difficult to understand the real affiliation of this new group with al-Qaeda....

Given the questionable record of prior claims that the mainly Sufi Muslim Uyghur separatists have aligned themselves with the Salafist al-Qaeda organization, the legitimacy of the present announcement remains uncertain. The actual existence of TIP cannot yet be verified and it is important to note that the name Abdul al-Haq Turkistani did not appear on a list of major Uyghur “terrorists” released in October by China’s Ministry of Public Security (Xinhua, October 21).

In other words, nobody knows jack. (h/t China Notebook)

Also, I've been meaning to tell you to take a look at Xinjiang: Far West China, a blog being run out of Karamay in northern Xinjiang. It has a sort of "Xinjiang for the casual reader" feel that will appeal to those of you looking to get a grasp on my favorite autonomous region. The site brings the number of Xinjiang blogs worth reading up to three!

It's easy. Click the plus sign here to vote for me in the 2008 CHINA BLOG AWARDS.

posted at 08:04 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (60) | link | HaoHao This!

December 04, 2008

LIFE with Sheng Shicai

Xinjiang's warlord/governor Sheng Shicai, 1943, in Dihua (now Urumqi).

One of the great things about the LIFE photo archive on Google is that it's now possible to pair-up old TIME Magazine articles with their long-lost photos. It takes a bit of detective work, but you can dig up a lot of images that illuminate the plain text in TIME.com's archives.

Take the story of old Sheng Shicai 盛世才 (pictured above), Xinjiang's warlord governor from 1933 to 1944. Some of you may remember him for chasing the Pickle King of Islamistan back to Britain ten years earlier. Others may remember him as Stalin's hand pick for Communist Party membership... who then flipped to the Kuomintang in 1942 and executed Chairman Mao's little brother. (Check out some of his regime's currency from 1941.)

TIME'S Chungking correspondent, Theodore White, and LIFE Photographer William Vandivert (later a founder of Magnum) caught up with Sheng during the brief period between his betrayal of the Communists in '42... and his appointment as the Nationalist's Minister of Agriculture & Forestry in 1944 (and subsequent flight to Taiwan in 1949).

What you'll find if you click through below is perhaps the most awesome article ever written about Xinjiang, "Victory Without Arms: Report from Turkestan" published in TIME on October 25, 1943. I've added some formatting — which TIME.com inexplicably does not do — and more importantly added the pertinent photos from the LIFE archive.

Those of you who still need enticing to read the entire article should take a look at this prescient quote:

To yet another problem the world will be highly sensitive: the Chinese treatment of the minority Moslem race, alien in language, religion and culture. Are the Turks, who form 60% of the population, to be steamrollered into the Chinese pattern or inundated and absorbed by tidal waves of Chinese immigration? Or will China try to preserve the minority languages, schools and courts and let the natives participate in their own Government ? Upon her record in Turkestan, China's claim for trusteeship for other retarded racial groups in Asia may stand or fall.

Was that written in 1943? I think I read the same thing the other day in the New York Times. C'mon, click through...

Continue reading "LIFE with Sheng Shicai"

posted at 12:28 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (150) | link | HaoHao This!

December 02, 2008

Beijing Muppets

You know you read too many Beijing blogs when...

... you see a photo of muppets in the New York Times and notice a striking resemblance to a number of prominent bloggers.

From left to right, starting on top, I see:

Nels Frye of Stylites; Jonathan Ansfield of Newsweek/Stone Boat; Jeremiah Jenne of the Granite Studio; and, Anna Sophie Loewenberg of Sexy Beijing.

I'm sure Jim Boyce must be in there, too, but I can't pick out which muppet he is. Any other suggestions?

posted at 06:14 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (58) | link | HaoHao This!

November 25, 2008

The Monkey King's House of Horrors

I've been meaning to post these video clips since I shot them last summer. This Journey to the West (西遊記/Xīyóujì) -themed House of Horrors is the centerpiece of a rather large, unattractive, and unattended amusement park/zoo right in the center of Korla.

It's called Peacock Park after the misnamed Peacock River (based on a misleading transliteration from Uyghur, but that's a long story). The bottom line: this place is a huge waste of space on prime riverside real estate. I don't expect it to last for very long.

This particular attraction was one of my favorite quirky finds in all of Xinjiang. Don't miss the awesome string-pulling and recorded loop technology in action!

One thing I can tell you is that no matter how ridiculous it looks from home, this place was more than a little bit freaky to wander through alone. (Alright, I was scared.) Hang around places like this too often and your life's apt to turn into an ugly scene from a B movie.

A few random photos after the break...

Continue reading "The Monkey King's House of Horrors"

posted at 07:22 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (76) | link | HaoHao This!

November 21, 2008

LIFE in Xinjiang

Like many of you, I've been spending endless hours browsing through Google's newly debuted LIFE photo archive. There are some real Xinjiang gems in there, which I hope to feature here from time to time.

Click on the image above for the complete photo. Old school!

posted at 07:52 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (169) | link | HaoHao This!

November 20, 2008

Mysterious Mummies? Maybe 10 Years Ago.

What is news?

Just from the way it's spelled, there's fairly clearly a connection to new-ness, timeliness, etc. But if you've never heard the story — although it's been floating around for 10, 20... or even 100 years in some circles — does that automatically make it news?

That's the question I have about a current New York Times story that was briefly listed as the front page feature earlier today, titled "The Dead Tell a Tale China Doesn’t Care to Listen To":

URUMQI, China — An exhibit on the first floor of the museum here gives the government’s unambiguous take on the history of this border region: “Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of the territory of China,” says one prominent sign.

But walk upstairs to the second floor, and the ancient corpses on display seem to tell a different story.

One called the Loulan Beauty lies on her back with her shoulder-length hair matted down, her lips pursed in death, her high cheekbones and long nose the most obvious signs that she is not what one thinks of as Chinese.

The Loulan Beauty is one of more than 200 remarkably well-preserved mummies discovered in the western deserts here over the last few decades. The ancient bodies have become protagonists in a very contemporary political dispute over who should control the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Not that I don't get the "hook" to modern-day tensions in Xinjiang, but how is this news? Aurel Stein was picking up European-looking corpses wearing tartan socks a hundred years ago.

And I'm sure this 1998 documentary on the "Mysterious Mummies of China" from the program NOVA wasn't breaking any headlines at the time either:

That Chinese scientist's necrophilia is a bit creepy, no? And did you see the mummy's face?

In the 10 years since that TV program was made, the Loulan Beauty appears to either have a)turned black or b)been shellaced. Here's a comparison:

Has the Loulan Beauty turned black?

Now that's what I call news.

Also note that both the documentary and the Times article both use the same Western scientist, Prof. Victor H. Mair, as a primary source. I could do that! So how about a job, Jim Yardley?

P.S. Wait for the last 30 seconds of the video to hear the announcer call Xinjiang's most prominent ethnic group Wiggers. Priceless.

Continue reading "Mysterious Mummies? Maybe 10 Years Ago."

posted at 12:33 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (168) | link | HaoHao This!

November 19, 2008

Xinjiang Wallpaper

A little taste of Xinjiang for your desktop background. I've included each image in two resolutions: one for people with laptops and regular-sized screens like me (1280 x 800), and one for people with super-big cinema displays (2560 x 1600) and the like.

The images depict, respectively: the colorful bristles of a Uyghur broom; a scene at the Uyghur market in Korla; and, the golden leaves of an autumn Diversifolius Poplar tree in the Taklamakan Desert.

Xinjiang broom bristles
standard resolution / high resolution

Market scene in Korla, Xinjiang
standard resolution / high resolution

Diversifolius Poplar leaves in Xinjiang
standard resolution / high resolution


In other news, I am most definitely the biggest pimp in Beijing.

No, I don't mean that literally. So why then? I met a very nice girl a few weeks ago, and her birthday just happened to be this past Sunday. I was hoping to get her tickets to Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, which is traveling here this week.

But I ran into trouble: the only tickets left were in the Y480-1,280 range, and I definitely wasn't forking over that much cash. So, I entered a contest sponsored by City Weekend to win two VIP tix and backstage passes... and won! Sweeeeet.

How could she possibly resist me? Don't answer that.

posted at 06:25 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (95) | link | HaoHao This!

November 09, 2008

Financial Shit Rolls Down Global Hill

A huge pile of cotton at a collection station in Xinjiang.

I've just returned from the land of sand and mutton... to read reports that the effects of the global financial crisis have finally made it all the way down to those who can least afford it. There are disturbing reports via Xinhua that as much as half of Xinjiang's recent cotton crop is unsold, and with no apparent buyers in site. From AFP:

Half of the autumn cotton harvest in northwest China's Xinjiang region remains unsold as demand from textile and garment makers has weakened amid the global slowdown, state media said Thursday.

Planters in Xinjiang, China's largest cotton plantation area, are left with more than a million tonnes of unsold cotton, as bulging stockpiles have turned dealers into reluctant buyers, the Xinhua news agency said.

Even an offer from policy lender Agricultural Development Bank of China of 22.4 billion yuan (3.3 billion dollars) in credit to potential buyers has failed to trigger any major interest, it said.

What makes things even worse:

Millions of impoverished farmers find seasonal jobs in the region every year picking cotton, [Xinhua] said.

I'm not even that worried about the local farmers, to tell you the truth. They live off the land, have very few costs, and are able to get by even in very lean times.

I'm thinking more about about the hundreds of thousands of young unemployed guys — mostly Uyghurs — who mill around the cities of southern Xinjiang looking for piecemeal work... the sort of men usually found in outdoor pool halls. Most of them have nothing to do for much of the year, but late summer and fall is their busy season: picking pears, apples, but most of all cotton.

And what about the hundred of thousands of impoverished people from Sichuan who have been imported each year in recent years to pick cotton? They're out of a major source of income as well.

So... a mother in North Carolina decides to hold-off purchasing some new jeans or t-shirts at Wal-Mart for her kids; stockpiles build up at warehouses, and Wal-Mart reduces orders; clothing factories shut down in the Pearl River Delta; cotton cloth manufactures pull the plug in Xi'an; and, farmers and itinerant workers go hungry in Xinjiang.

What's next? I'm not making any predictions, especially outside of Xinjiang. But as for Uyghurs, when you mix increased economic desperation with a sense of increased repression in recent months, pressure is being added to an already dangerous situation. Let's hope it doesn't explode.

On the upside, there will probably be less forced cotton picking in the future for Xinjiang kids.

posted at 05:55 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (181) | link | HaoHao This!

November 05, 2008


Barack Obama campaign logo.Well, it's official: Barack Obama is the next President of the United States, and things are suddenly looking a lot better for Americans, especially those of us living overseas.

Why? I think it's safe to say that we've been exposed more frequently to the dislike/hatred of the United States that's grown over the last eight years during the disastrous Bush administration. I'm looking forward to at least four years of some pro-USA love!

Case in point, I just received a short congratulatory message from a Chinese colleague at my place of employment in Beijing:

Congratulations on Obama's successful run for president!! I have been constantly amazed as I follow the elections along the way. What an achievement it truly is... no doubt he'll help restore America's image around the world.

At the same time I can't stop comparing. I can't envision a ethnic Tibetan, Uygur, Hui, or Mogol [sic] gets elected President of China, not in 60 years... that's how far apart the two countries are, in terms of maturity in political institutions.

Anyway, wherever you guys are, I hope you have a great day!

I'm not sure where that "60 years" figure came from, but it's not important today. Good times are here!

posted at 10:33 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (97) | link | HaoHao This!

November 03, 2008

Taklamakan Dune Buggy

WARNING May cause motion sickness.

I'm back in Korla for the week. I went out into the Taklamakan Desert yesterday at Luoburen Cunzhai (罗不人村寨)... a place I've visited once every year that I've been in China so far. (You can look at some picture from 2005 here.)

I'd previously taken a ride on the ultralight aircraft available at the site, but I'd never ridden the dune buggies. To tell you the truth, I was worried that the experience was going to be a bit weak. I mean, how much fun can driving around on sand be?

So I told the driver that I wanted to push the extremeness of the ride all the way to 11 in order to make it fun, and scare the friend I was riding with.

Holy s%#*! The portion that I recorded on video above was a bit tamer than the first half of the ride, when even a manly man like me was pretty sure we were about to flip over and die. It was totally worth Y100 per person.

posted at 08:18 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (95) | link | HaoHao This!

October 28, 2008

Mmm, Brains.

Delicious sheep brains for sale. Kuqa, Xinjiang.

Continue reading "Mmm, Brains."

posted at 07:54 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (93) | link | HaoHao This!

October 27, 2008

The Kebab Stand

Local kebab stand. Korla, Xinjiang. 2006.

Continue reading "The Kebab Stand"

posted at 11:20 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (12) | link | HaoHao This!

October 07, 2008

Gitmo Uyghurs Ordered Released

UPDATE A federal Court of Appeals has blocked the release of 17 Uyghur detainees into the United States, at the request of the Bush Administration. Why does this not surprise me?

Breaking news just coming across the wires, from AP:

A federal judge has ordered the release of a small group of Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo Bay into the United States.

In a landmark decision, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina (ur-BEE'-nuh) said it would be wrong for the Bush administration to continue holding the detainees, known as Uighurs (WEE'gurz), since they are no longer considered enemy combatants.

They have been in custody for almost seven years and have been cleared for release since 2004. Although the Chinese government has demanded custody of the Uighurs, supporters and the Bush administration fear they would be tortured if turned over to Beijing.

On Tuesday, Urbina called the detention unlawful saying the Constitution prohibits indefinite imprisonment without charges.

Of course, this means absolutely nothing, since the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay are not actually under the jurisdiction of US courts... at least according to the Bush administration.

Looks like this seven year saga will continue into the Obama administration.

posted at 09:53 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (208) | link | HaoHao This!

October 02, 2008

Time, Segregation, Opression...

...and other Xinjiang stereotypes. This Christian Science Monitor article has got them all.

Let me count the ways:

1: Xinjiang time is so freaky. I can't believe it!

The screen flashes 5:05 p.m., and for a moment, I fear I’ve missed the ballgame – that I’ve flown 2,400 miles to the heart of China’s “Wild West” for empty bleachers and discarded foam fingers. Then I remember that there are two worlds here in Xinjiang, each with its own definition of time.

2: Han Chinese and Uyghurs both live here. And they're different!

Getting by on two different time zones is easier than you would think, for the Hans and Uighurs live in different neighborhoods, speak different languages, practice different religions, and attend different classes.

3: Shhh! We've got to hide out and sneak around.

We’re at Sister Naidu’s Restaurant, one of the unspoken Uighurs-only eateries on campus...

At Fubar... the filmmaker [explains]... about shooting his documentary in notoriously sealed-off Xinjiang. He recounts growing a mustache and traveling in disguise to villages off limits to foreigners.

4: Uyghurs can't step outside without becoming a suspect.

Suddenly, a police cruiser pulls up to our group of four, lights flashing. One of the officers leans over, looks me in the eye (I’m Han Chinese), points to the two Uighurs, and says, “Are they causing trouble? What are they doing out now?”

Only when the policemen see their ID cards – a bit incredulous that these troublemakers are, in fact, top students at Xinjiang’s best university – do they let us go. Afterward, Parhat shrugs it off: “In Xinjiang, bad things happen every day.”

I'm also told that the TV in the Fubar happens to be 49-inches across, not 70 like the article says; and, tons of Uyghurs hang out there, along with foreigners, Han Chinese, and other local ethnic minorities; and, it's not a sports bar. (Visit their new Kashgar branch on the site of the former Caravan Cafe, next to the Qinibagh Hotel!)

That kind of sloppiness and stereotyping mar what could have been a good story.

Which is too bad, because the story of Uyghurs playing baseball in the least baseball-knowledgeable region of a country that knows nothing about baseball would have been perfect for the New Yorker or some other fine publication, in the right author's hands. Let's just hope this "Diamond in the Dunes" film is better.

The writer obviously went to Xinjiang with preconceived notions of what he wanted to see and write about, and his article reads like he's marking off items on a checklist... one that's been passed around by journalists for years, and is getting a bit boring.

It's not as if there isn't some truth to most of the things he's writing about, but it's hard to imagine that he actually wandered around for just sixteen hours and was presented with situations that just happened to clearly illustrate... Oh, that's oppression. Oh, Xinjiang runs on two different times. Oh, what segregation!

The substance of the story is interesting... who wouldn't want to read about a multi-ethnic Chinese baseball team? But it all seems a bit contrived.

Continue reading "Time, Segregation, Opression..."

posted at 11:30 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (13) | link | HaoHao This!

September 29, 2008

Kashgar Attack Not What It Seemed?

Last month's attack in Kashgar just a few days before the start of the Beijing Olympics was confusing from the start. It was grenades; no, a bomb; no, a truck and machetes. The attackers were finally identified as a 28 year-old taxi driver and a 33 year-old vegetable seller, both Uyghurs. Then, like most interesting stories in China, it faded from public view under a blanket of official silence.

But the New York Times kept digging, tracking down the tourist who took photos of the attack that later showed up on AP.

The photographer is remaining anonymous, but along with a travel companion he/she has given a personal account of the attack that doesn't really fit the official story:

The witnesses said that they heard no loud explosions and that the men wielding the machetes appeared to be paramilitary officers who were attacking other uniformed men.

That raises several questions: Why were the police wielding machetes? Were they retaliating against assailants who had managed to obtain official uniforms? Had the attackers infiltrated the police unit, or was this a conflict between police officers?

“It seemed that the policeman was fighting with another policeman,” one witness said. All of the witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of running afoul of the Chinese authorities....

At around 8 a.m. on Aug. 4, the photographer was packing his bags by the window when he heard a crashing sound, he said. When he looked up, he said, he saw a large truck career into a group of officers across the street after having just hit a short yellow pole.

The photographer said that the truck then hit a telephone or power pole and slammed into the front of the other hotel, the Yiquan, across the street. A man wearing a white short-sleeve shirt tumbled from the driver’s side, he said....

The tourists said the scene turned even more bizarre.

One or two men dressed in green uniforms took out machetes and began hacking away at one or two other men dressed in the same type of uniforms on the ground.

“A lot of confusion came when two gentlemen, it looked like they were military officers — they were wearing military uniforms, too — and it looked like they were hitting other military people on the ground with machetes,” the friend said.

“That instantly confused us,” he said. “All three of us were wondering: ‘Why are they hitting other military people?’ ”

The photographer said that there had been two men in green uniforms on their knees facing his hotel and their hands seemed to be bound behind their backs. Another uniformed man began hitting one of them with a machete, he said.

Of course, eyewitness accounts of traumatic events like the Kashgar attack are notoriously unreliable. Simply put, people see what they want to see when they can't figure out what's going on.

At the very least, though, this adds another level of complexity that we know nothing about. If the driver of the truck (the bloodied guy in the white shirt) was immobilized in the crash, then who were the two military officers getting hacked while their hands were bound behind their backs? Were the attacks coordinated with some of the officers? Were uniforms stolen?

My highly-tuned ethnic radar tells me the guy holding the machete in the photos above is probably a Uyghur, and there's also a slight chance that the guy with the rifle is Uyghur too. I've also highlighted what appears to be the bloodied attacker in the white shirt.

But none of that answers the question: what exactly happened in Kashgar? Be sure to check out this slideshow narrated by one of the eyewitnesses.

Continue reading "Kashgar Attack Not What It Seemed?"

posted at 09:15 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (201) | link | HaoHao This!

September 25, 2008

AIR in Beijing

UPDATE Photos from last night's show:

I was up front by the left side of the stage, so I was only really able to see Nicolas Godin well. Jean-Benoît Dunckel was often hiding behind his piano and keyboards. Also, the security were being real dicks about not allowing photography, so I had to sneak these shots. The last one was just a trippy fluke, but it's my favorite.

The show was pretty good, in my opinion... about as good as you could expect AIR to be live. I don't really know what I was expecting. They played a set consisting of most of the fan favorites, with "Alone in Kyoto" and "Sexy Boy" as encores.

It's tough to be standing up, staring at the stage, and rocking out to slow, dreamy soundscapes. Anyway, I'm glad I went. The general consensus after the show seemed to be that AIR could never match the sonic excellence of their recordings in a live situation.

But still, how could anyone ever get tired of them saying "xie xie" into a vocoder? I'd say their first ever show in China was a success, if not mind-blowing.

Click here if you want a pair of tickets to tonight's sold-out show!

Well, my monthly stipend from the CIA for authoring this blog has come in, and I've decided to treat myself to something nice. I've been a fan of AIR for almost ten years now, but have never had a chance to see them live... until now.

How cool is it that AIR is playing in Beijing? And not at the Worker's Stadium or Star Live, but at little ol' (new) Yugong Yishan. Sure, the tickets are expensive (Y550 in the pre-sale), but I'm considering this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Anyone else going? I'll try to take some photos and post them on Saturday along with a review of the show.

P.S. Check out this RFA article on a topic near and dear to my heart... the rumor about free lunches for Muslims in Xinjiang during Ramadan. I guess it's not a rumor anymore.

posted at 07:40 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (32) | link | HaoHao This!

September 22, 2008

Xinjiang 2021 Watch: Pipeline Edition

Two recent news items have reminded me once again of my Xinjiang 2021 scenario from back in 2006. For those of you who need to get up to date, I'll list all the 2021 updates down below.

If you'll recall, the scenario involved something to do with limiting mosque attendance and religious activities, cross-border terrorist attacks, and an important oil pipeline. The first item on that list was checked off two entries ago with "The Anti-Ramadan Campaign". (Go on, click the link.)

The second check mark comes from that pesky Hong Kong Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, which may or may not be a reliable source:

This Centre has learned that Xinjiang's border defence units suddenly increased their alert level from 3 to 1 yesterday because authorities have received an intelligence report saying that a major surprise attack could occur in the border area within the next few days. Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, is underway in Xinjiang. Because the "23 Explanatory Notes on Illegal Religious Activities" which the Chinese Communists drafted conflicts very seriously with the traditional Ramadan activities of Xinjiang's Muslims, a large-scale clash between the masses of the people and the Chinese Communist authorities could erupt at any time this month.

This Centre has learned that Xinjiang's border defence units were on level 1 alert during the Olympics, but the alert level was downgraded to 3 on 25 August. But border defence units suddenly raised their alert level to 1 yesterday.

It seems entirely plausible to me... but that doesn't really reflect on whether it's true or not. Besides, even if the border patrol has gone on high alert, that's another level of reality completely removed from an actual attack across the border.

Speaking of which, I've got a "fact of the week" for all of you from a recent China Daily article about the complete normalcy of life in Kashgar this Ramadan season. (Check out The New Dominion's deep analysis.) Some of you may know that Xinjiang borders eight nations, but did you know that:

Kashgar prefecture borders Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Tajikistan and Kirghizstan.

Even I didn't know that all of those countries (at least 3 of which are bad-ass) touched Kasghar prefecture, which is small by Xinjiang standards.

Where were we? Right, number three on the list... something to do with an oil pipeline. From Business Week comes a look at how Russia's war with Georgia is affecting the massive oil industry in Kazakhstan, and how China might be the ultimate winner:

On the scorching, scrub-dotted steppe along the east coast of the Caspian Sea, a Chevron-led team is opening up the taps on 50 new wells at the supergiant Tengiz oil field. Fifteen years after snagging rights to the Kazakhstan field, the U.S. oil giant is at last doubling production to 540,000 barrels a day, its largest single source of oil in the world....

Yet getting the oil out of the landlocked country has always been a tricky affair: Russia has blocked, stalled, and restricted the flow of Tengiz oil through its territory since the first day Chevron took over the field. Teaming up with the Kazakhs, Chevron has resorted to shipping some of its oil across the Caspian Sea to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and then via pipeline and railroad to Georgia's Black Sea coast in an effort to avoid Russia. These days, Chevron does ship most of its oil through Russia, but for safety's sake it hopes to build a long, new pipeline across Georgia and export more through that route.

The plans for the corridor, though, were drawn before Russia's summer romp through Georgia. Suddenly, that tiny Caucasian state--embraced by Washington in a bold plan to pry it away from Moscow's grip--seems much less secure....

Next year, China will finish a 400,000-barrel-a-day pipeline from Kazakhstan into its province of Xinjiang. If blockages to shipment through Russia and the Caucasus persist, China may be the only option for Kazakhstan's increased production. It would be ironic if after 15 years of struggle neither Russia nor the U.S. were to be the victor over Central Asia's oil and natural gas, and instead the spoils ended up going East.

Yes, that certainly would be interesting, because it would mean that a major U.S. oil project run by Chevron in Kazakhstan would be transporting its oil across China. (It certainly seems more likely than a Pakistan pipeline at the moment.) Aside from all the political and economic deal making a U.S. pipeline across China would entail, it would also create a very inviting target (or more likely, targets) for the East Turkestan Independence crowd, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and whoever else has beef.

Just imagine it... rivers of oil flowing across the mountains from a Muslim country into the lands of a godless oppressor, made possible with the help of the Great Satan. And all controlled by Jews, of course. Who wouldn't want to blow that thing up?

You can read the full text of the articles below.

Previous 2021 Updates:
2006/12: Xinjiang 2021
2007/01: China's al-Qaeda
2007/02: High Noon in Xinjiang
2008/04: Xinjiang 2021 Watch
2008/09: The Anti-Ramadan Campaign

Continue reading "Xinjiang 2021 Watch: Pipeline Edition"

posted at 09:27 PM Xinjiang time | Comments (135) | link | HaoHao This!

September 11, 2008

Xinjiang PLA Shakeup?

Or maybe not.

I'm just trying to figure out why the BBC's Worldwide Monitoring division would translate this otherwise mundane military personnel press release. The only real clue lies in the translator's emphasis on informing readers that nanjiang (南疆) in this case refers to southern Xinjiang.

The original notice appeared in Hong Kong's pro-CCP Wen Wei Po newspaper, but this is the BBC translation:

The People's Liberation Army [PLA] has recently undergone personnel changes, which involve the Beijing Military Region and several provincial military districts. Of the reshuffle, Lieutenant General Li Wenhua, former political commissar of the Beijing Military Region, will retire from active military service, and be replaced by Major General Huang Jianguo, political commissar of the Nanjiang [southern Xinjiang] Military District.

The obvious implication, if there is one, is that a two-star general responsible for a region of Xinjiang that saw repeated attacks before and during the Olympics is being shuffled off to Beijing as some sort of non-punishment punishment.

It reminds me of a tale I heard in Xinjiang about the president of a Bingtuan-owned agri-business conglomerate... he was caught accepting bribes (big surprise) and was determined to be unfit to continue in his position. So, as punishment, he was moved up to a higher position at Bingtuan headquarters in Urumqi, where he was in the perfect position to accept bribes from the kind of people he used to be. Whaa!? (Doing my Jon Stewart whaa!? face, if you know the one.)

Anyway, this Huang Jianguo fellow was the PLA political commissar for the area that includes both Kashgar and Kuqa. It's a fairly shadowy ranking that more or less says nothing about what he did there. From Wikipedia:

The position of political commissar has also existed and still exists in the People's Liberation Army of China. Usually, the political commissar is a uniformed military officer, although this position has been used to give civilian party officials some experience with the military. The political commissar was head of a party cell within the military; however, military membership in the party has been restricted to the lower ranks since the 1980s. Today the political commissar is largely responsible for administrative tasks such as civilian relations and counseling, and sometimes serves as second-in-command.

So, it's very unclear what exactly the BBC was trying to signal to the ever-curious Xinjiangorati, but I know it's something. Maybe. Anybody?

Continue reading "Xinjiang PLA Shakeup?"

posted at 12:04 AM Xinjiang time | Comments (106) | link | HaoHao This!

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