China: Further unrest; “hostile forces Westernising China”; territorial dispute with Japan

Updated On: Jan 04, 2012

China experienced further turmoil, this time in northwestern China, shortly after riots rocked the southern province of Guangdong. In the background of civil unrest, President Hu Jintao in an article claimed that “hostile forces” were attempting to “divide and Westernise” China using “culture and ideology”, rhetoric signalling a likely further clampdown on China’s mass media. Meanwhile, China’s territorial dispute with Japan has returned to the fore again after Japanese politicians landed on one of the disputed islets.

Unrest erupts in northwest China over demolition of mosque

Hundreds of Muslims in northwestern China clahsed with police after the demolition of a mosque by the authorities who declared the mosque an “illegal structure,” with numerous civilian injuries and two deaths reported.

The unrest took place in Taoshan village in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a sparsely populated area in northwestern China.

The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said around 50 people were injured and more than 100 people were detained after China’s Muslim Hui minority attempted to prevent the demolition. According to villagers, the police tried to control the crowd with teargas and water cannons.

The Hui, one of several Muslim minority groups in China, include descendants of Muslim immigrants from Central Asia and members of China's majority Han ethnicity who converted to Islam, along with several other groups.

The latest clash is uncommon because the Hui are considered more assimilated than other Muslim minorities such as the Uighurs and are allowed more freedom to practice their religion by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Although they themselves complain of discrimination, they have sometimes sided with Chinese authorities against other minority groups, especially the Tibetans.

Mosques and churches are closely monitored by the Chinese Communist Party, which is wary of religious worship and limits the power of religious institutions.

According to the wife of the imam of the mosque, Zhe Tao, the mosque dated back to the 19th Century and had been legally registered with the authorities. She feared the destruction of the mosque would sour ethnic relations.  “Obviously this will have an impact on relations between Hui and government,” she said.

The Chinese media had no mention of the incident as of Tuesday night. The latest turmoil comes shortly after Guangdong province was rocked by notable incidences of social unrest, especially in the towns of Wukan and Haimen.

Report: China unrest over mosque demolition in Ningxia (BBC, 2 Jan 2012)

Report: Muslim villagers angry in mosque incident (LA Times, 3 Jan 2012)

Report: Crowd Riots over Mosque Demolition in China (Time, 2 Jan 2012)

Chinese President warns against “Westernisation” by “hostile international powers”

As unrest in China is attracting interest worldwide, Chinese President Hu Jintao has warned that “hostile” powers are attempting to “Westernise” the country and called for greater efforts to boost China's cultural influence internationally.

President Hu's remarks were published in the latest edition of Communist Party magazine Seeking the Truth. President Hu wrote in the article that “Hostile international powers are strengthening their efforts to Westernise and divide us.” He noted that “ideological and cultural fields” are their main targets, and called for “powerful measures to prevent and deal with [the efforts of hostile powers].”

At the same time, he urged greater efforts to strengthen Chinese culture to meet the “growing spiritual and cultural demands of the people” in China.

President Hu said, “The overall strength of Chinese culture and its international influence is not commensurate with China's international status… The international culture of the West is strong while we are weak.”

President Hu’s articles suggested that China is not expected to lift stringent restrictions on the imports of some cultural products. Each year film regulators only allow 20 foreign movies to potentially make a profit off their box office take in China. Chinese leaders have nonetheless complained that Western expressions of popular culture and art appear more well-liked than those from China.

The authorities have long been pushing state-run media to be more competitive and less dependent on state subsidies, leading to reporting that is more critical of the government and racier television programmes. The internet has also seen a mushrooming of microblogging sites, leading to an erosion of the government’s ability to regulate public opinion.

The authorities, nervous about such a loss in media control, have begun to tighten the reins. In October, officials ordered stricter control of social networking sites and greater oversight over the media, along with new limits imposed on the number of “overly entertaining and vulgar” reality and talent shows aired on television.

Beijing has also reportedly prepared 45 billion yuan ($7.2 billion) to finance the growth of state-owned media groups such as CCTV, Xinhua and China Radio International.

Report: Hu warns Chinese culture being 'Westernised' (AFP, 3 Jan 2012)

Report: Hu Says West Is Trying to Divide China by Using Ideology, Cultural Weapons(Bloomberg, 3 Jan 2012)

Report: China’s President Lashes Out at Western Culture (NY Times, 3 Jan 2012)

China protests after Japanese politicians visit disputed islet

In international news, several Japanese lawmakers have been spotted landing on a disputed islet in the East China Sea, a move that could again heighten simmering tensions between China and Japan over the territorial dispute.

Japanese authorities say four municipal politicians from Okinawa arrived Tuesday on Uotsuri island, 170 kilometres northeast of Taiwan, and spent about two-and-a-half hours there. Some Japanese lawmakers are pushing Japan’s claim to a string uninhabited islands which are also claimed by China and Taiwan. The islands are called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

The visit has triggered protests from the Chinese foreign ministry, which reiterated its “indisputable sovereignty” over the islands. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei was quoted by Xinhua as saying on Tuesday, “I would like to reiterate that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands which have been an inherent part of China since ancient times.”

Japan has claimed the islands since the late 19th century after annexing Okinawa. The US, while recognising Japanese administrative control of the islands, has avoided taking a position on what it calls the islands’ “ultimate sovereignty.”

Report: Japanese Lawmakers Visit Island Also Claimed by China (Voice of America, 3 Jan 2012)

Report: China reiterates its “indisputable sovereignty” over Diaoyu Islands (Xinhua, 3 Jan 2012)

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