Earlier today, ChinaSMACK posted a translation of a popular topic on several Chinese forums: “Hui Minority Beats Lanzhou Chengguan Onto Knees Crying“. Their translation is excellent, and we suggest you read it thoroughly, however, direct quotations on this site are our original translations unless otherwise noted.
The short version of the story is this: chengguan (presumably ethnically Han) came into a Hui minority area and started bullying street vendors, as they are wont to do. They threw food and tipped over stalls. A crowd began to gather, and when a few people started to attack the chengguan captain, most of the other police officials realized there were too many people in the crowd for them to deal with and fled, leaving the captain to fend for himself.
The captain was surrounded and beaten repeatedly. Food was thrown at him, and he was cursed by the crowd as well. Apparently several people said he should be beaten to death, and he began to plead for his life, saying, “Big brothers, grandpas, I was wrong, please stop beating me.” [translation via ChinaSMACK]
Apparently, the crowd kept growing and remained large as the original post’s author left the scene, so it’s unclear how the situation was resolved or if it even has been resolved. The situation in and of itself may well speak to some racial tensions as it appears to have been a virtual mob of Hui attacking a Han antagonist, however, it’s difficult to comment on that situation without further information. It may well just be a simple case of pent-up anger at the corruption and violence chengguan are internationally famous for.
Perhaps more interesting, though, is the reaction of Chinese netizens to this story. ChinaSMACK translator Joe noted:
Many of the comments on Tianya are bigoted in nature which may highlight the ethnic tensions that exist within China. Negative perceptions exist toward ethnic Hui and Uygurs where they are often stereotyped to be thieves and con artists in China. In addition, many also question the ethnic differences emerge as to why ethnic minorities can resist against authority while most common Chinese submit to it.
Indeed, the Chinese comments are fascinating. Generally speaking, the Chinese internet has nothing but enmity for chengguan. Other recent popular topics about chengguan on the Chinese internet (for example, these two also translated on ChinaSMACK) netizens have compared chengguan to (among other things) the Japanese army and Satan. Here, though, they’re generally much more sympathetic, perhaps because it seems clear the man was beaten quite ruthlessly. And, as Joe reported, they’ve got plenty of bad things to say about the Hui people. Below, we’ve translated a number of the comments from Tianya. They’re not the same comments ChinaSMACK translated, we’re translation only comments with racial undertones (or overtones) here.
The worst ethnic groups:
- Hui people
Haha, there is a reason law in China is enforced differently for minority groups than it is for Han people.
Seeing a whole screen full of white caps [a reference to the white hats many Hui people wear]…perhaps this wasn’t as simple as the chengguan enforcing law through violence.
Lanzhou is a place where Hui people live. Hui people are indeed treated differently.
I still have doubts, the indomitable chengguan could really lose? Looking again, their opponents are the ‘white cap gang’. I suddenly realize I will support the chengguan this one time.
Minority groups are a little terrifying…Xinjiang people sell cakes, Hui people sell snacks…Speaking objectively, the government should be very strict in controlling them.
A crowd of white-capped pigs. Sooner or later we’ll kill you all off.
He ran into a savage/uncivilized ethnic group.
Dirty muslims vs. the Lanzhou chengguan
The Hui people and chengguan, two of our nations disasters! It’s dog fighting dog, just let them bite each other! The chengguan are all bandits, the Hui are all wild animals!
[In response to the above comment] You’re not even as good as a dog!
I’m a Han person. A brainwashed-for-thousands-of-years Han.
Ignorant, savage muslim heretics and shameless savage chengguan together!
[In response to the above comment] Please respect the beliefs of others.
…As to those of you talking about ‘the problem of ethnic minorities’, I have grown up with many minority friends and classmates, including Hui people, and except for their religios beliefs there is no difference between then and us Han people. They took eat, wear clothes, look for a better life, they’re not constantly restraining themselves to keep from stirring up trouble. They are all just common people, don’t turn this into some huge generalizing thing. Yes, some minority people from remote regions have low levels of education and skills, but isn’t that a universal phenomenon in all undeveloped areas? That this situation exists has nothing to do with race/ethnicity, if you think about it. People just strive to feed and support themselves, that’s it.
Regardless of what race they are, if they refuse to be slaves then they are heroes! I admire them.
Ethnic minorities are pretty good, eh? Of course, claiming independence would be unacceptable. Chengguan are dogs!
The above is a fairly good representation of the comments that address issues of ethnicity directly on Tianya, although there are so many that we barely made it halfway through the first page before deciding translating too many more would just clutter things up.
As you can see, there’s an interesting mix of overt racism and open-minded thinking. We opted not to translate many of the subtler comments, but they are more or less the same: some people support the chengguan and imply that they dislike Hui, some people curse the chengguan in a way that implies support for the Hui, perhaps, but it’s difficult to tell.
Some people will recall that we’ve covered issues of race in China here before, with rather explosive results, so let me say one thing very clearly: I am not in any way suggesting that all Chinese people are racist. Nor am I trying to suggest there aren’t racial tensions in America, however, this is a blog about China.
What I am suggesting, and what I was suggesting last time, too, is that this is an issue that should be discussed more openly in China before it leads to (more?) actual violence. From the comments translated above, as well as the comments on ChinaSMACK, it’s obvious that some people have gotten the message about equality, but it’s equally obvious that a lot of people haven’t. That strikes me as dangerous.
For an example of just how dangerous it can be, one need look no further than the riots that occurred in Tibet last year. Whatever you believe about how they started and ended, it’s difficult to deny that ethnic violence did occur, probably in large part because of frustration among Tibetans who feel they aren’t being treated fairly. James Miles, the only Western reporter in Lhasa at the time of the riots, described what he saw wandering around the city, temporarily forgotten by his handlers in the chaos:
What I saw was calculated targeted violence against an ethnic group, or I should say two ethnic groups, primarily ethnic Han Chinese living in Lhasa, but also members of the Muslim Hui minority in Lhasa. And the Huis in Lhasa control much of the meat industry in the city. Those two groups were singled out by ethnic Tibetans. They marked those businesses that they knew to be Tibetan owned with white traditional scarves. Those businesses were left intact. Almost every single other across a wide swathe of the city, not only in the old Tibetan quarter, but also beyond it in areas dominated by the ethnic Han Chinese. Almost every other business was either burned, looted, destroyed, smashed into, the property therein hauled out into the streets, piled up, burned. It was an extraordinary outpouring of ethnic violence of a most unpleasant nature to watch, which surprised some Tibetans watching it. So they themselves were taken aback at the extent of what they saw. And it was not just targeted against property either. Of course many ethnic Han Chinese and Huis fled as soon as this broke out. But those who were caught in the early stages of it were themselves targeted. Stones thrown at them. At one point, I saw them throwing stones at a boy of maybe around 10 years old perhaps cycling along the street. I in fact walked out in front of them and said stop. It was a remarkable explosion of simmering ethnic grievances in the city.
Whether you want One China or a Free Tibet, whether you support or condemn the beating of chengguan, and frankly, whether or not you’re racist, I think everyone can agree that ethnic violence isn’t in the best interests of anyone. It serves neither the Chinese government nor the Chinese people, and by Chinese people, I mean all of them, not just Han. Feudal attitudes about ethnic minorities (and foreigners) might seem harmless or irrelevant when many Chinese can go their entire lives without confronting anyone very different from themselves. Sometimes, they might even be harmless, but is it really worth it to take that chance?
And anyway, is it so bad a thing to admit that there is racism in China and begin taking some steps to deal with it?
Given his willingness to engage in reasoned debate the last time we talked about racism here, we’ve also sent this topic to popular Chinese blogger hecaitou for his comments. If he responds, we’ll add his response here, or perhaps make a new post.