Domestic Media Coverage of Xinjiang Riots’ First Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of last year’s deadly July 5th riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang, where 200 people were killed and another 1,700 injured when rioters — mostly Uyghurs — took to the streets in what seems to have been a protest that got way, way, out of hand. Most of the casualties were Han Chinese, increasing ethnic tensions in an already tense region.

The government responded quickly, blaming external separatist forces for organizing the riots, and quickly shut down the internet and telephone services in Xinjiang completely. Social networking sites supposedly used in the organization of the riots, such as Facebook, were also blocked nationwide. Over the past year, the government has slowly returned internet and other telecommunication services to Xinjiang, a process that Josh Summers has chronicled on his excellent Far West China blog.

The government has also been beefing up security significantly in Urumqi, where the police for has swelled and CCTV (closed-circuit) cameras are being installed that will cover the entire city Big Brother-style.

Everyone knows anniversaries are sensitive affairs in China. So what is the Chinese media reporting on the anniversary, if anything? That, it turns out, depends very much on what you read, and in what language.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, this is all based on what was on their websites’ front pages, as of around 10AM July 5. Obviously, there may well be changes later in the day.

China’s major English papers, the China Daily and the Global Times, both have front page stories on the anniversary. The stories contain a basic overview of the riots and ensuing communications blackout juxtaposed with the stories of Han orphans whose parents were killed by Uyghur rioters. The China Daily quotes only one Uyghur source, briefly, and does not speak to the causes of the riots or the motivations of the rioters. The Global Times article does not quote an Uyghur sources at all (Whoops! It actually does quote one Uyghur source, my apologies). Both papers also ran these stories on the front pages of their print editions.

Still, these fare much better than other domestic English news outlets. The People’s Daily does have several pieces on Xinjiang, but the one that really addresses the riots is just a copy of the China Daily’s piece. Xinhua’s English service doesn’t address the anniversary at all; today’s top stories include pieces on the summer heat, Wimbledon, and a piece on “glamorous female bodyguards worldwide.”

The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong paper, is running an article today questioning some evidence against one of the alleged Urumqi rioters; however, Hong Kong papers are obviously not subject to the same scrutiny as mainland media outlets.

Xinhua’s Chinese service doesn’t seem to mention the anniversary on their front page at all. Neither do the front pages of the Southern Metropolis Daily, the Beijing Daily, or the Xinjiang Daily. The Beijing News didn’t address the story on its website or in the print edition (this is the only Chinese print edition I’ve had time to check so far this morning).

Foreign media have had difficulty reporting on the anniversaries too. Al-Jazeera corresponded Melissa Chan was using Twitter to post updates on their attempts to report in Urumqi yesterday, and wrote that in the morning alone, her team was stopped by police on seven different occasions, and that police were present for every interview they conducted. “Thinking I should get t-shirts made with my press card number and passport details for authorities’ convenience,”, she wrote around noon yesterday.

Western media reports marking the anniversary likely won’t be filed until this evening because of the time difference, but I expect a very different tone in their coverage of the anniversary. (Al Jazeera has run a story already, though).

Can’t load some of the links mentioned in this post? Break free of the GFW and enjoy uncensored internet with Freedur.

0 thoughts on “Domestic Media Coverage of Xinjiang Riots’ First Anniversary”

  1. Dear pug_ster,

    Come on, why even bother to post that link? No one will take it seriously. I’m sure you must know that.

    Impuning the motives of all Western rights groups is ludicrous at best, offensive at worst.


  2. @ pug_ster: Ah yes, thank god for the ZF and its pro-Xinjiang policies. Because all that internet and phone service was just getting in the way of Xinjiang’s economic development…


  3. That Global Times editorial is actually fascinating, in that the last two sentences are:

    “It will resolutely crack down on any criminal act under China’s laws and the Constitution. The reason is simple: No stability, no prosperity.”

    The implicit argument seems to be that separatism is intolerable- that China is indivisible, one nation under the Party- because China is profitable.


  4. What’s most interesting- and understandable, from the government’s point of view- is that English-language Chinese news is consistently more complete on these issues than the papers intended for domestic consumption. I’d like to know how English-reading Chinese people (of whom there must now be quite a few million…) feel when they see this discrepancy. Do people get angry, or do they see anniversaries, international incidents etc as something only foreigners with ulterior motives are interested in?


  5. Chris Hearne, C Custer,

    A simple google:

    It says:

    The World Uyghur Congress, the Uyghur American Association,
    and the National Endowment for Democracy

    cordially invite you to
    the launch of a new report from the Uyghur Human Rights Project,


    and a roundtable discussion on

    Thursday, July 1, 2010
    2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

    Let me know if this is still some kind of urban myth.


  6. “and does not speak to the causes of the riots or the motivations of the rioters.”

    Hmm, maybe it’s the pure racism and Islamic fundamentalist batshittery that caused them to kill millions (8-12 million Han Chinese butchered by “Uighur” and other fanatics) over a hundred years ago in the Dungan Revolt?

    Or maybe the cause is that they came to Xinjiang from Siberia, exterminated the Tocharians, and still haven’t resolved their bloody jihad with the “ones that got away” such as the Chinese, Tibetans and Mongols?


  7. Pingback: Anonymous
  8. pug_ster:
    The discussion in the link is about “the causes and consequences” of Uighur-Han tensions in Xinjiang. Isn’t that a legitimate (even urgent) topic to be discussing (unless you somehow deny that there is any tension)? They even state plainly that most of the casualties of the riot were “reported to be Han Chinese.” Seems fact-based enough for me. Does this group have an agenda? Of course, but you haven’t even started in the direction of proving that they’re interested in destabilizing China.

    In any case, even if you do come up with evidence that that particular organization is some anti-China front group (and I am open to that possibility), you still have to understand that there are many, many other human rights groups working in China full of people that love and adore that country.

    Truth Speaker:

    The number you cited is for all casualties in the war, not just Han casualties. In any case, if we are going to blame everyone today who descended from people that once rebelled against a Chinese government, we are going to have to blame pretty much every Chinese person ever. (Interesting that you characterize the Dungan Revolt as racism; was the Xinhai Rebellion racism against Manchus?)

    Also I am not sure why you put “Uighur” in scare quotes.


  9. Chris Hearne,

    Well, according to the ‘meeting’ which occurred in July 1st. You got the usual characters:

    Rebiya Kadeer – I don’t think I have to explain who she is.
    Carl Gershman – President of NED.
    Bhuchung Tsering – VP of International Campaign for Tibet
    Yang Jianli – Tiananmen Square activist.
    Sophie Richardson – Advocacy Director for Asia, Human Rights Watch

    In mere coincidence, the US government and the Human Rights watch came out with a statement about ‘concern’ about the Uyghurs in the July 5th ‘unrest’ last year. The president of NED who was at this meeting wrote his propaganda piece for the Washington Post about this incident. No, I don’t have any proof what they discussed and their ulterior plans is to destabilize China, but I can guess that they were not debating who is going to win in the next World cup game.


  10. Chris Hearne,

    If you had bothered to look at the link for the agenda for that day:

    4:00 Roundtable Discussion: Chinese government policy, developments on the ground, international perspectives. Are the problems in Xinjiang and Tibet unique to ethnic minorities, or are there under-explored commonalities with other marginalized communities in China?

    And no, I don’t have any proof that their ulterior motives are to destabilize China but I’ll leave it up to your imagination what they are discussing about.


  11. pug_ster:

    I did read the link for the agenda. What I hear you saying is that these people have an agenda (undeniable), so they must have bad motives and want to hurt China (which doesn’t logically follow). It is possible for a group to have strong opinions that may clash with yours, and it still doesn’t mean they necessarily want to destabilize China. If you think that any expression of discontent or concern over ethnic relations is an attempt to destabilize the country, then I suppose I can see why you might come to this conclusion.

    I don’t understand why discussing the commonalities between Xinjiang and Tibet must be some kind of plan to destabilize China. Both are ethnic minorities living in poor areas that have been involved in unrest and violence in recent years. This seems like a perfectly legitimate topic of discussion.

    Put it this way: what kinds of topics could a human rights organization discuss at a conference without running the risk of wanting to destabilize China? Do you think that mentioning the very idea of ethnic tension is off-limits?


  12. Chris Hearne,

    Gee, then what they are doing? Helping China? Every one of them have some kind of gripe against China because they felt oppressed or wrong in some way. Would these ‘experts’ can give a ‘correct’ consensus of how China treats its citizens? It is like if I want to get an accurate assessment of what kind of country America is, would it be accurate if I go to an American Prison and ask the prisoners there?


  13. That’s a very flawed analogy. People in American prisons have been convicted of some crime, in a (relatively) transparent process. The people in these human rights groups have been convicted of no crime whatsoever. (You can get some idea of certain bad aspects of America by looking at its prison system, but that’s neither here nor there).

    In any case, you seem to be saying that we can’t get an accurate picture of whether they have in fact been wronged if we listen to what they say. Obviously I don’t think that we should rely solely on their word that there is something wrong / how it should be solved, but there isn’t anything wrong with a group of alleged victims explaining the way that they were allegedly wronged. Why does a complaint that you were oppressed or wronged mean you are automatically not credible?


  14. “In any case, if we are going to blame everyone today who descended from people that once rebelled against a Chinese government”

    So I suppose Hitler rebelled against a “world Jewish government”? Because that’s a far more accurate description of World War 2 than what you are describing here.

    “(Interesting that you characterize the Dungan Revolt as racism; was the Xinhai Rebellion racism against Manchus?)”

    Considering the “Uighur” aren’t even native to Xinjiang, yes, there’s quite a difference.

    “Also I am not sure why you put “Uighur” in scare quotes.”

    Because they have very little in common with the Uighur of old. The “Uighur” of today are simply people crowded into a random ethnonym by professional Soviet bullshitters. The original Uighur were essentially, as shown by genetic testing, essentially 100% Turk. They were not 30, 40, 50% “West Eurasian” as the “Uighur” of today are.

    There is a difference. In fact the vast majority of Uighur would most accurately trace their ancestors to genocidal mass murderers who invaded China from further West in the 1860s- not the true Uighur of Karakhoja who created that rival empire of the Tang.

    You’ll say genes don’t matter, but are Mexicans Spaniards? Are Arabs Persians?



  15. I have never heard that modern Uighurs are the result of a genocidal foreign invasion in the late 1860s. Please provide some reference some evidence (something relatively reliable).

    Even if that were true, your argument seems to be that they are genetically disposed to do evil. I think that argument just isn’t going to fly with most people for reasons I’m sure you understand. Let me know if I’ve misread your argument.

    Lastly, every single ethnic group in China is ultimately a political designation. Many don’t share historical roots with their predecessors (including many Han people). So what?


  16. Hearnee , most ethnics groups does have historic and cultural roots w/ the Han majority . the vocabulary in their langaunges and folk beliefs .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s