Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quietly, nine Xinjiang protesters are executed in China

Report from the Guardian:

"The worst ethnic unrest in decades began on 5 July when minority Uighurs attacked Han people, who make up China's dominant ethnicity, only to face retaliatory attacks two days later. Many Uighurs resent Beijing's heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, the traditional homeland of their Turkic Muslim ethnicity.

Four months later Xinjiang remains smothered in heavy security, with internet access cut and direct overseas phone calls blocked.

The official China News Service has reported that the nine were executed after a final review of the verdicts by the supreme people's court as required by law. It gave no specific date or other details. Earlier reports had identified those condemned as eight Uighurs and one Han.

The executions did not come especially quickly for China, which puts more people to death than any other country. Politically sensitive cases are often decided in weeks, especially when they involve major unrest.

The nine had been convicted of murder and other crimes committed during the riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital. China blames the rioting on overseas-based groups agitating for broader rights for Uighurs in Xinjiang."

However, I wanted to see the story from the China side, so I went to the China Daily international website. Surprisingly, I could find no mention of the executions.

Personally I am opposed to the death penalty anyway, so any report of state executions in any country make unpleasant reading but there is something especially disturbing about this story, specifically how little information is released.

You would think that for a court to convict these people and sentence them to death there must be some pretty damning evidence against them. For example, if a murderer is sentenced to death in the United States, the minute details of the case will have been reported for weeks or even months previously. Anyone following the case will be usually well informed on precisely what the alleged offender is meant to have done and what evidence there was to support the charges.

In the case of these executed prisoners, the Guardian says hardly details of what they did, how they did it, or when they did it have been released. Earlier government statements had said some of the accused had been charged with murder but besides the accusation, virtually nothing else is known. Apparently even the date they were executed has not been disclosed.

Every country has a right to maintain law and order but this amount of darkness and secrecy surrounding executions is wrong, in my opinion. Letting the public know what these people did and the evidence against them would only add legitimacy to China's actions. So why the secrecy?

Story: The Guardian
Story: The Himalayan Times

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Changing Sound of Chinatown

I read an interesting report in the New York Times that could equally apply to the UK Chinese community.

Most bbcs are descended from a generation that migrated from Hong Kong in the 1960s and 70s, and many Chinatowns around the world were founded by migrants from Cantonese-speaking regions of South China as well as Hong Kong. Cantonese can therefore be regarded as the main language of the world's dispersed Chinese population.

But all that could be about to change as Chinese migration is now predominantly made up of Mandarin speakers and they naturally gravitate towards existing Chinese community hubs rather than generating their own. So bit by bit, Chinatowns around the world are becoming Mandarin-ized. This effect is already well under way in London's Chinatown as I'm sure many readers will have noticed.

For those of us who are Cantonese Chinese, there is a real and strange prospect of going to Chinatown one day and not understanding what half the Chinese people there are saying! Weird, huh?

Immigration reform in 1965 opened the door to a huge influx of Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong, and Cantonese became the dominant tongue. But since the 1990s, the vast majority of new Chinese immigrants have come from mainland China, especially Fujian Province, and tend to speak Mandarin along with their regional dialects.

“I can’t even order food on East Broadway,” said Jan Lee, 44, a furniture designer who has lived all his life in Chinatown and speaks Cantonese. “They don’t speak English; I don’t speak Mandarin. I’m just as lost as everyone else.”

Story: New York Times

Related: Memories fading, places changing